Archive for July 25th, 2008

Muralitharan leaves India in tatters

India 159 for 6 (Gambhir 39, Murali 4-38) trail Sri Lanka 600 for 6 dec (Dilshan 127*) by 441 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
How they were out

The SSC track was woken out of its slumber by Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis, after Sri Lanka’s batsmen had given them a 600-run mountain for background, and the new-ball bowlers had tried to take the shine off the ball. Once the spinners came on, everyone was left either mesmerised or stunned. By the time bad light stopped play on the third day, Sri Lanka had reduced India to 159 for 6, still needing 242 to avoid the follow-on.

Full report to follow

Tea India 73 for 1 (Gambhir 34*, Dravid 14*) trail Sri Lanka 600 for 6 dec (Dilshan 127*) by 527 runs

And the run orgy continued. Tillakaratne Dilshan revelled in the SSC fun, scoring his first century in three years and setting up Sri Lanka’s declaration at 600 for 6, leaving India 54 overs to negotiate on the third day. The Indian batsmen started merrily, but after Virender Sehwag’s dismissal they became more circumspect to reach 73 for 1 by tea.

The day began with India trying to slow the scoring down and delay the inevitable declaration for as long as possible. But Dilshan, who resumed the day on 20 off 55 balls, had different ideas. He rocked back and cut the first ball of the day for three to cover, and then clipped the first ball of the next over for two. The outfield was slow, India soon employed an in-and-out field, and Dilshan set into a one-day mould, tipping and running, finding gaps in the outfield for two, and going for an occasional boundary. All through, only his head gear changed: from helmet to bare head to the floppy hat. The floppy hat was his only discomfort, falling off whenever he sprinted for quick runs.

The true show of intent came in the 10th over of the day, when Dilshan cut Zaheer Khan for a boundary and followed it with a Twenty20-style paddle. In his next over, Zaheer reached his most expensive figures in Test cricket, beating the 3 for 135 he had conceded against Pakistan in Faisalabad in 2005-06.

Both Indian spinners went round the stumps to Dilshan, with a 6-3 on-side field at times. There was momentary control, but Dilshan pulled and swept effectively, hitting Kumble for a four and a six in one over to move to 89. He brought up his fifth Test hundred with a slog-sweep in the over before lunch.

The only chance for India arrived early on when Thilan Samaraweera ended his innings tamely by guiding Zaheer to VVS Laxman at gully. Samaraweera would be kicking himself for not having converted his overnight century into a big one, as batting seemed easy on the sun-baked pitch. Harbhajan showed encouraging signs by getting a nice loop and offbreak going, but as usual the spin was too slow. There was enough time for the batsmen to recover even after getting beaten in the flight. And when Harbhajan did get the edge, off Dilshan, it landed short of Gautam Gambhir at leg slip.

While Prasanna Jayawardene missed out with 30, Chaminda Vaas and Dilshan added a quick 55. Vaas played two exquisite back-foot drives off Zaheer, in a spell where Sri Lanka took five boundaries in five overs.

After 162 overs on the field, Virender Sehwag and Gambhir finally got a chance to bat. The featherbed of a pitch allowed the pair to get into their stride quickly and Sehwag was especially aggressive, hitting five boundaries in the first five overs. But he threw it away when he failed to control a hook off Nuwan Kulasekera, which landed down Malinda Warnapura’s throat at deep square-leg.

Just before tea, the much-anticipated happened: Ajantha Mendis was introduced. In three overs, he got Gambhir to jab at sliders twice, but Gambhir had his way too when he feasted on two full tosses. With his last ball before tea, he beat Rahul Dravid with a legbreak, and presently the dull match came alive


2009 Audi Q5

By Joe DeMatio

Automobile Magazine has just driven the all-new, 2009 Audi Q5, a vehicle that made its world debut this past April at the Beijing auto show and which is Audi’s answer to the BMW X3. The Q5 is the latest luxury entry in the small crossover SUV market segment that has grown rapidly in recent years and which is expected to continue expanding as more and more Americans ditch their full-size SUVs for smaller crossovers that drive better, achieve better fuel economy, and yet retain many of the utility and all-weather features of traditional SUVs. While vehicles as myriad as the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape, Saturn Vue, and Hyundai Santa Fe serve the mainstream part of this market segment, the 2009 Audi Q5 joins the likes of the BMW X3, the Acura RDX, and the Land Rover LR2 in serving the luxury slice of the small-crossover segment. When it goes on sale here in February or March of 2009, it will also be joined by the all-new Mercedes-Benz GLK and the all-new Volvo XC60. Like those vehicles, the Q5 attempts to let its drivers have it all: attractive, modern styling; a powerful but efficient drivetrain; a luxurious, versatile interior; a full complement of safety equipment; and a sporty driving experience. Now that we’ve driven the U.S.-spec version of the 2009 Q5 in Valencia, Spain, let’s see how successful Audi was in meeting those goals.

Not just another pretty face.

To our eyes, the Q5 is a very handsome, even pretty, vehicle, with good proportions and exquisite detailing in items like the LED headlights and taillamps. Audi’s modern, so-called shield grille dominates the front-end styling, and it makes for a very attractive face. In America, the Q5 will be offered exclusively with a full chrome treatment for the grille, whereas in other markets it is available in glossy black and matte gray guise as well. The European market also is offered an off-road styling package with polished front scuff plates, but at launch, Audi of America will not offer that here. Eighteen-, nineteen-, and twenty-inch wheels will be offered, and all of them are attractive, save for a twenty-inch chrome wheel (twenty-inch aluminum are also available).

In Spain, where Audi enjoys a higher luxury-brand awareness and regard than BMW and Mercedes-Benz (so claims Audi) and where Audi A3s and A4s are a very common site, people on the streets of Valencia took favorable notice of the Q5. We expect that Americans will like it, as well.

Step in, sit down, enjoy.

Anyone who has sat inside the 2009 Audi Q5’s big brother, the Q7, or for that matter in the new, 2009 Audi A4 or Audi’s flagship, the R8 supercoupe, will instantly recognize the Q5’s interior design theme, instrument panel, and controls. As in all contemporary Audi models, the Q5’s interior is beautifully rendered in quality plastics, supple leather, and precisely engineered controls. It’s a very pleasant place to be.

For the U.S. market, many features will of course be standard, such as power seats, windows, and locks; leather upholstery, a ten-speaker stereo, 60/40-split rear seats that recline and also slide fore and aft by four inches; and a new-and-improved version of Audi’s MMI, or Multi-Media Interface, system that controls climate, radio, and navigation functions through a central knob and a display screen.

Audi of America plans two major options packages plus a number of stand-alone options.

The first options package will include bi-xenon headlights and a power-operated tailgate, among other items. (Cornering headlights will not be offered.)

The second options package will offer keyless start, a blind-spot detection system, nineteen-inch wheels, and a 14-speaker, 504-watt, Bang & Olufsen stereo system.
Among the stand-alone options are:

* An all-new navigation system, bundled with a rearview camera, that is likely to cost about $2400;
* A panoramic sunroof, which Audi claims is the biggest in the segment;
* The aforementioned Bang & Olufsen stereo, which will probably cost about $1000;
* An S Line exterior appearance package, which includes twenty-inch wheels;
* The aforementioned twenty-inch chrome wheels;
* Adaptive cruise control;
* Audi Drive Select, which allows the driver to choose among three levels of tuning for three dynamic parameters: powertrain, suspension, and steering. This option is likely to cost close to $3000; more details on it are below.

Get lost? Not with Audi’s new, advanced, 3D navigation system.

The screen display for the optional navigation system is among the best we’ve seen. It provides three-dimensional-style images of buildings and topography that’s similar to what you see on Google Earth. Audi of America has not yet confirmed, but we expect they will offer a traffic-reporting function as well; the Euro-spec vehicles we drove in Spain had the feature.

The MMI interface itself is pretty much the same as it currently is in other Audis, which is to say largely quite intuitive and easy to use, at least when compared with BMW’s iDrive. As with all such systems, there’s a learning curve, although we expect most owners will master what they need fairly quickly. With one new feature, if you have the MMI screen set to display the navigation map and you then change the settings for climate control, the stereo, or the seat heaters, a small inset box will pop up on the left or right side of the nav screen temporarily. In previous iterations of MMI, these temporary indicators would take up the entire nav screen. It’s a small but welcome detail.

The navigation system ditches DVD storage drives in favor of a 40-gigabyte, hard-drive storage system that can accommodate more detailed maps of the entire continental United States than we have seen in the past, plus many more POIs (points of interest, such as restaurants). The system also allows you to set aside several gigabytes of storage space for up to 2000 tracks of MP3 music. Naturally, full iPod connectivity is available, wherein you can use the MMI controller to access play lists.

Standard V-6 power and Quattro all-wheel drive. But how about that turbo four-cylinder, Audi?

In a decision that clearly was made well before gasoline crested $4 per gallon, the U.S.-market will be offered exclusively with Audi’s 3.2-liter, direct-injection V-6, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission – there’s no four-cylinder model. Since the 2009 Audi Q5 does not go on sale until next winter, Audi is months away from receiving official EPA fuel economy ratings, but Audi of America product planning head Filip Brabec says that their preliminary expectations are 17 mpg city, 24 highway for the V-6.

In Spain, we drove a Q5 equipped with the V-6 and Audi’s upcoming S Tronic seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, which performed brilliantly, with sharp off-the-line throttle response and crisp, rev-matching upshifts. Unfortunately, the S Tronic will not be offered in the U.S.-market Q5, at least initially, but our past experience with Audi’s six-speed Tiptronic automatic, the sole U.S. Q5 transmission, has been largely favorable. In any case, with 270 hp and 243 lb-ft of torque, the V-6 offers plenty of performance for the Q5; Audi claims a 0-to-62-mph time of 6.8 seconds. The top speed will be limited to 130 mph due to tire specifications.

We also had the opportunity to drive a Q5 fitted with Audi’s superb 2.0 TFSI turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which is newly available in the 2009 Audi A4 but which at this juncture Audi of America will not offer in the Q5. With 211 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, it takes the Q5 to 62 mph in 7.2 seconds, according to Audi, and it suffers little in driving performance when compared with the V-6. It’s clear when speaking to Audi officials that they wish this engine would be available from the get-go when the Q5 goes on sale in the United States in February or March 2009, but it won’t be. However, Audi of America’s Brabec allows that any engine that already is engineered for the A4 chassis (which underpins the Q5) could fairly easily be homologated for U.S. duty. Our prediction: the 2.0 TFSI will be brought to the United States just as soon as Audi of America can make a business case to its parent, Audi AG.

Naturally, Audi’s Quattro all-wheel-drive system is standard, and here it offers a 40:60 front:rear torque split. Although the Q5 is clearly not intended to be a rock-crawling off-roader, Audi maintains that it has the capability to tackle most off-pavement tasks that owners will throw at it. Ground clearance is 7.9 inches, the approach and departure angles are both 25.0 inches, and the Q5, Audi claims, can climb hills with up to 31 degrees of incline. Hill-descent control is standard.

Take control: Dial in your preferences for the chassis, the steering, and the powertrain response.

Audi Drive Select, a stand-alone option that will cost close to $3000 when the Q5 arrives in America, allows the driver to choose among three settings – comfort, normal, or sport – for throttle response, power assistance for the steering, and shift points for the transmission. The driver can mix and match his or her choices for each parameter or create a custom program.

The Drive Select system can be augmented with electronically adjustable suspension dampers and with Dynamic Steering. Audi’s version of BMW’s Active Steering, it varies the steering ratio and power assistance continuously. In concert with Drive Select, we found that it made a substantial difference in the Q5’s steering feel, giving it very fast response with minimal lock-to-lock, especially at low speeds.

The Q5 puts the “sport” back into “sport-utility.”

The Q5 is based on the same platform as the new Audi A4, so it’s perhaps no surprise that this new crossover drives more like a sport sedan than an SUV. In that vein, it’s a lot like the new Infiniti FX50 and the BMW X6: SUVs with a whole new level of driving prowess.

From the first turn of the steering wheel on our test car, we noticed the faster, firmer-feeling steering, a welcome change from what you find in many Audis. This was thanks to the Audi Driver Select program, and although that option is rather expensive, we’d want it in our Q5.

Body control and grip are superb, but not at the expense of ride quality over rough pavement (and we did find some rough pavement around Valencia, surfaces that were every bit as bad as what we have back home in southeast Michigan). On smooth pavement, the Q5 rides very well, if firmly, without undue harshness. We were very comfortable riding in both the front passenger’s seat and the driver’s seat.

The Q5’s V-6 sounds great as you rev it to the limit in each gear. It offers plenty of torque, and great throttle response off the line. As noted above, it’s a shame that we won’t get Audi’s new S Tronic 7-speed transmission for the Q5, but Audi officials say that they prefer to introduce that transmission on a sportier vehicle than a crossover. We imagine that, eventually, it will also trickle down to the Q5.

A standout performance in a new class of crossovers.

We came away very impressed by the 2009 Audi Q5. It clearly has surpassed the aging BMW X3 in terms of exterior styling, interior ambience, drivability, and comfort. Audi will face plenty of challengers in this segment, though, from the new Mercedes GLK and Volvo XC60, as well as from the existing entries from Acura, Land Rover, and BMW. Buyers in this category might also consider the new Audi A4 Avant, which shares its platform with the Q5. Although we like the Q5 as it is, we hope Audi of America finds a way to offer it soon with the superb 2.0 TFSI four-cylinder turbocharged engine and perhaps also the 3.0-liter TDI V-6 diesel that is debuting this winter in the Q5’s larger sibling, the Q7.

Click here to read about Joe DeMatio’s conversation with Audi of America’s product planner, Filip Brabec.

2009 Audi Q5

Base price (estimated): $39,000
On sale: February or March 2009

Engine: 3.2-liter DOHC 24-valve V-6
Horsepower: 270 hp @ 6500 rpm
Torque: 243 lb-ft @ 3000 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Drive: Four-wheel

L x W x H: 182.2 x 74.0 x 65.1 in
Legroom F/R: n/a
Headroom F/R: n/a
Cargo capacity (seats up/down): 19.1/55.1 cu ft
Curb Weight: 3836 lb
Fuel economy (Audi-estimated, preliminary city/highway): 17/24 mpg

Latest News – Automobile

Ford Reveals More Future Product Plans
Let the restructuring begin. Ford has revealed more details about product and production changes it has in store for 2010 and beyond.
• Forever Young: Collectors Celebrate 100 Years of the ‘Tin Lizzie’
The Ford Model T’s 100-year anniversary is being celebrated at the 2008 Centennial Model T Party in Richmond, Indiana.
• Derek Bell on Porsche’s New PDK Dual-Clutch Transmission
We ask Derek Bell about his experience with PDK in Group C racing, and his opinion of the production version that will be launched on the 2009 911.
• 2008 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb
Nobuhiro “Monster” Tajima still stands as the King of the Mountain, though poor conditions kept him from breaking the ten-minute barrier.

Ford Reveals More Future Product Plans
Let the restructuring begin. Ford has revealed more details about product and production changes it has in store for 2010 and beyond.
Forever Young: Collectors Celebrate 100 Years of the ‘Tin Lizzie’
The Ford Model T’s 100-year anniversary is being celebrated at the 2008 Centennial Model T Party in Richmond, Indiana.
Derek Bell on Porsche’s New PDK Dual-Clutch Transmission
We ask Derek Bell about his experience with PDK in Group C racing, and his opinion of the production version that will be launched on the 2009 911.
2008 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb
Nobuhiro “Monster” Tajima still stands as the King of the Mountain, though poor conditions kept him from breaking the ten-minute barrier.

Taj Mahal

Posted on: July 25, 2008

The Taj Platform
The reign of Shahjahan from 1628 to 1658 was the golden age of Mughal architecture in India that produced a series of noble buildings. But, the most prominent and undoubtedly magnificent of all these was Taj Mahal built by him in the memory of his favorite wife Mumtaz Mahal. There are very few buildings in the world with which so many of legends and literature has been produced and so many architects to take credit of the design of this symbol of love.

Architecturally, Taj was the greatest peace of architecture that Mughals produced, but it is a natural growth from the tomb of Humayun and to a lesser extent from certain other, prominent is the Tomb of Itmad-ud-Daulah in Agra itself. But it is far superior to any of them in the dignity of its grouping and disposition, in the masterly contrast between the central dome and the slender minarets, in the chaste refinement and painstaking craftsmanship of its details, and above all in the splendor of its materials. The design of Taj is more Persian and less Indian than any building we have encountered, but it is again difficult to find any thing of Taj’s stature in Persia (Iran).

History of Agra

Agra has a rich historical background, which is amply evident from the numerous historical monuments in and around the city. The earliest reference for Agra comes from the epical age, when Mahabharata refer Agra as Agravana. In the sources prior to this, Agra has been referred as Arya Griha or the abode of the Aryans. The first person who referred Agra by its modern name was Ptolemy.
Though the heritage of Agra city is linked with the Mughal dynasty, numerous other rulers also contributed to the rich past of this city. Modern Agra was founded by Sikandar Lodhi (Lodhi dynasty; Delhi Sultanate) in the 16th century. Babar (founder of the Mughal dynasty) also stayed for sometime in Agra and introduced the concept of square Persian-styled gardens here. Emperor Akbar built the Agra fort and Fatehpur Sikri near Agra. Fatehpur Sikri remained his capital for around fifteen years after which the city was left isolated in mysterious circumstances. Jahangir beautified Agra with palaces and gardens despite spending most of his time in Kashmir with which he was passionately attached.
Agra came to its own when Shahjahan ascended to the throne of Mughal Empire. He marked the zenith of Mughal architecture, when he built the Taj in memory of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal. In his later years, Shahjahan shifted his capital to the new city of Shahjahanabad in Delhi and ruled from there. Shahjahan was dethroned in 1658 by his son, Aurangzeb who imprisoned him in the Agra Fort. Aurangzeb shifted the capital back to Agra till his death. After the death of Aurangzeb, Mughal Empire could not touch its peak and many regional kingdoms emerged. The post-Mughal era of Agra saw the rule of the Jats, Marathas and finally the British taking over the city.

Shahjahan – The Man Who Built Taj Mahal

Year of Birth – 1592
Real Name – Khurram
Father – Emperor Jahangir
Mother – Princess Manmati
Marriage – Married Arjumand Bano (Mumtaz Mahal) in 1612. She died in 1631, giving birth to his 14th children.
Died – 1666
Rule Period – 1627 to 1658

Shahjahan was the fifth Mughal emperor and most prolific builder in Indian history.Shahjahanascended to the throne when Mughal Empire had reached its zenith. Son of Jahangir and grandson of Akbar – the greatest Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahan became ruler in 1627 at the age of 35 years. The first step that he took after ascending to the throne was to expand his empire to the South. He defeated the Nizamshahi Kingdom after an alliance with the Adilshahi Dynasty (also from South India) and annexed a large part of the former’s kingdom. Later he tried to repeat his successes in North – West Frontier Region including Kandhar, Balkh, and Badakshan, but could not succeed.

More than anything else, Shahjahan is known for his architectural beauties he created in India, especially Taj Mahal – The Eternal Symbol of Love. Apart from Taj Mahal, Shah Jahan also built a number of other great buildings in Delhi and Agra, including Jama Masjid of Delhi, the largest mosque in India. He rebuilt Red Fort of Delhi and added many of his styles like use of precious stones and marble. His interest in architecture started quite early in life when at the age of 15, he redesigned palatial apartment in Kabul.

Shahjahan remained emperor until 1657 only, when he was taken ill. This started a civil war for succession between his sons in which Aurangzeb emerged victorious. Aurangzeb imprisoned Shajahan and put him in the Agra Fort. He was allowed to view Taj Mahal (situated across Yamuna from Agra Fort) from his private chamber every evening. After eight years of continuous imprisonment, he died in captivity in 1666 at the age of 74.

Mumtaz Mahal – The Inspiration

Mumtaz Mahal or Arjumand Banu was the woman in whose memory the Taj Mahal was built. Perhaps, there is no better and grand monument built in the history of human civilization dedicated to love. Arjumand Banu was daughter of Asaf Khan and when she married Shahjahan at the age of 14 years, imperial city of Agra was already agog with the stories of her beauty. She was third wife of Prince Khurram or Shahjahan and the principle one throughout their life. She became Mumtaz Mahal in 1612 after her marriage and remained an inseparable companion of her husband till her death. As a symbol of her faith and love she bore Shahjahan 14 children and died during the birth of last child.For the love and affection she showed to her husband, Mumtaz Mahal received highest honor of the land – the royal seal – Mehr Uzaz from Shahjahan, the emperor. According to the legends, stories of her virtue spread all over the Mughal Empire.

The emperor and his pregnant empress moved towards Maharashtra or Deccan in the year 1630 to suppress the Lodi Empire that was gaining strength at that time. This was going to be the last journey that Mumtaz Mahal ever took. She breathed her last after delivering their 14th child (a daughter) in the city of Burhanpur on June 17, 1631. It is said that Mumtaz Mahal on her deathbed asked Shahjahan to create a symbol of their love for posterity and her loyal husband accepted it immediately. Though many historians are not agree with this story saying that it was the grief-stricken emperor himself who decided to built the most memorable symbol of love in the world.

It took her husband 22 years and most of his royal treasury to built a monument befitting the memory of his beloved wife.In the name of Mumtaz Mahal stands the most beautiful building in the universe, that monument of love, purity and unparalleled beauty called the Taj Mahal.

Taj Legends – The Italian Architect of Taj

Was the main architect of Taj, an Italian jeweler named Geronimo Veroneo? Though the claim was never proved, but it certainly created a lot of controversies. The claim has been mostly advocated by the European writers though there is not much in support of this theory in India.

According to the story, unwilling to allow the native artisans all the credit for excellence in creating the most magnificent building in the world, Father Manrique in 1641 advanced the preposterous claim of the Italian jeweler Geronimo Veroneo as architect of Taj Mahal. Father Manrique was an Augustinian Friar who came to Lahore for the release of one Father Antony who was captured by the Mughals. And yes, there was an Italian jeweler by the name of Geronimo Veroneo, who lived in Agra for some time. If ever this Italian jeweler was really commissioned, he was overawed by the mammoth work and cost, and wisely ran away to Surat in 1632 when the project had just started. Shahjahan had asked Veroneo, says Manrique, to spend two crores. The jeweler who only designed necklaces and bracelets proved thoroughly incompetent for the royal project and vanished from the scene, escaping the Emperor’s ire but providing much mirth and chuckles to the native artisans. Even if we accept that Veroneo had a part in designing the Taj, it is somehow unthinkable to have only one designer for this great monument. In most probability, he was just one of the many who worked on Taj Mahal at that time.

Veroneo later died on the way while he was going to Lahore and buried in the Roman Catholic Cemetery of Agra. There had for long been a belief that this architect of the Taj lay buried in the cemetery, but no one knew where. Then in 1945, Father Hyacinth, Superior Regular of Agra scraped the moss of a tombstone, revealing the simple epitaph: “Here lies Jerome Veronio, who died at Lahore.”

Taj Mahal – History and Legends

On June 17, 1631 Mumtaz Mahal died, after delivering her fourteenth child “Gauharar”. Shahjahan stood dazed, unable to comprehend the situation. She had died leaving all her children, mother, and relations to his care. But he had promised her never to remarry and to build the grandest mausoleum over her grave. Her body received a temporary burial in the Zainabadi Garden in Burhanpur and in six months time removed to Agra. Shahjahan had already acquired from Raja Jai Singh a plot of land on the riverside. Here was to be built the Taj Mahal. Work on the tomb started in a frenzy with thousands of artisans and laborers toiling ceaselessly. The first anniversary urs was held in June 1632 amid royal pomp and show, attended by Shahjahan and Jahanara. The Mughal Emperor was a picture of grief.

On the second urs on May 26, 1633 the mausoleum had taken shape and the crypt chamber and the surrounding works accomplished. Peter Mundy’s eyewitness account relates: “There is already about her Tomb a rail of gold. The building is begun and goes on with excessive labor and cost, prosecuted with extraordinary diligence. Gold and silver esteemed common Metal, and Marble but as ordinary stones. He intends as some think, to remove all the City hither, causing hills to be made level because they might not hinder the prospect of it, places appointed for streets, shops, etc. Dwellings, commanding Merchants, shopkeepers, Artificers to Inhabit (it) where they begin to repair and called by her name, Tage Gunge ‘Taj Ganj”. This fabulous gold railing made of 40,000 tolas of gold and encrusted with precious gems and diamonds, enclosed the grave lying under magnificent golden constellation of orbs and lamps.

Shahjahan issued farmans to Raja Jai Singh ordering immediate and constant supply of the Makrana marble for the tomb. An inclined two and a half mile long road ramp was built to carry huge marble slabs to the top. In absence of wood, the scaffolding was of brick. The mausoleum rose higher with every sunset. In nearly six years time the main edifice of the tomb was complete. In the words of Ustad Ahmad Lahori, chief architect of the project: ” And above this inner dome, which is radiant like the heart of angels, has been raised another heaven-touching, a guava-shaped (amrudi shakl) dome…crowning this dome of heavenly rank, the circumference of whose outer girth is 110 yards high flittering like the sun with its summit rising to a total height of 107 yards above the (level of the) ground.”

The legendary gold railing was subsequently replaced by an octagonal latticed screen (Mahajar-i-mushababbak) of the most marvelous craftsmanship with an entrance fashioned of jasper after the Turkish style, joined with gilded fasteners. It costed 10,000 rupees but is the most splendid work of art, well worth its weight in gold. It stands enclosing the two cenotaphs.

Humayun’s Tomb and the tomb of Abdul Rahim Khan-i-Khana in Delhi had served as model for the Taj with their dome-topped structure raised on a high platform. Akbar’s tomb at Sikandara lent its dominant four-pillar design. Its splendid calligraphic ornamentation by Amanat Khan inspired Shahjahan to entrust the Taj ornamentation to the same artist. The tomb of Itmad-ud-Daula at Agra, built by Nurjahan for her father, had the most innovative and grand pietra dura decoration, a mosaic of exquisitely colored hard precious stones inlaid into the white marble. The lyrical rhythm of the floral motifs had an amazing beauty, which the Taj greatly emulated. The crypt and the cenotaphs at the Taj carry pietra dura decoration of a fabulous unexcelled elegance. In those days the cost of the Taj worked out to 50 lakhs and the annual revenue of 30 villages was earmarked for the regular maintenance of the mausoleum.

Unwilling to allow the native artisans all the credit for this excellence, Father Manrique in 1641 advanced the preposterous claim of the Italian jeweler Geronimo Veroneo as the architect. But this claim could never be proved and remained a legend only.

July 2008

Blog Stats

  • 323,172 hits