Archive for the ‘Architecture’ Category

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.

Burj Dubai

Posted on: July 24, 2008

Soon to be the world’s tallest building, the Burj Dubai is now over 130 stories tall. Here’s a long exposure from my friend’s balcony in a nearby residential tower.
Projected to be world’s tallest building and world’s tallest free-standing structure on completion in late 2008 or 2009. As of July 2007, the Burj Dubai – still under construction – became the tallest building in the world.

“SOM announced today that the construction of the Burj Dubai has reached the 150th floor level at 1,821 feet (555 meters), surpassing the height of the CN Tower in Toronto, Canada, which was previously the world’s tallest free-standing structure at 1,815 feet (553 meters). The CN Tower is a communications tower and was completed in 1976.”

Building Details
Area 3.7 million square feet (344,000 square meters)
Stories 162
Height 808 meters (2,651 feet) to spire; 630 meters (2,067 feet) to top of roof; 624 meters (2,047 feet) to top floor.
Program Mixed-use skyscraper including hotel, apartments, commercial offices.

THE ATLANTIS Hotel, when it opens in September of this year is set to become one of the world’s greatest attractions as the flagship resort on the iconic Palm Island.

With such a huge project comes astronomical expectation so City Times ventured into Atlantis for the unveiling of the ocean-themed lobby centrepiece created by artist Dale Chihuly to gauge what we can expect from this modern feat of construction.

Dale Chihuly is an American artist whose name has become synonymous with intensely detailed and spectacularly coloured glasswork creations. Sol Kerzner, Chairman of the Board of Kerzner International Holdings Limited, the company which built Atlantis, commissioned Mr Chihuly to create his first installation in the Middle East. The result was a glass sculpture that brings the essence of the sea and its inhabitants to life. The piece, which took approximately a year to create, is a 10-metre high sculpture with over 3000 pieces of intenselycoloured blown glass ranging from fiery oranges and reds to tranquil blues and greens. Dale’s creation will be surrounded by a reflection pool.

“This is a totally unique idea for us” said Chihuly when he spoke to City Times. He continued, “My inspiration for the sculpture came from the beautiful architecture of the building and the crystal blue water and sky that surrounds the hotel. I created this piece for the Atlantis Hotel because I had worked with Sol Kerzner on the Atlantis Paradise Island Resort in the Bahamas. We had a successful relationship there so he approached me to work on this project in Dubai. I began with the idea inspired by the hotel itself which quickly progressed into the blowing of individual glass parts. I then had to mock up the piece in my studio and finally install it on-site. The whole process took about a year.” With such a large piece we wondered if Dale completed the project alone.

“No,” he replied, “I have a team of glassblowers and installation experts. With a team involved there can often be complications but everything went very smoothly with this project.

The end result is exactly how I imagined it to be and I am very happy with it.

Dubai is a wonderful country with incredible emerging architecture. I am excited to see how the art scene develops over the next couple of years. I am very happy to have my artwork displayed at the resort and hope visitors will enjoy it for years to come.” With regards to future projects Mr Chihuly remained candid but promised he will not be resting on his laurels for long. Such an impressive piece of art in the lobby alone, one can only indicate that the Atlantis Hotel will be testament to the impressive record Dubai already has in the hospitality industry. When it opens its doors patrons are in for a treat.
Source: Khaleej Times

November 2020

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