Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Taj, the Pride of India

Taj Mahal is the most visited monument in India, and it is not possible for any writer in India to write about his travels and not to visit the Taj. So I dedicate some lines to this wonderful, magnificent, marvelous…monument of the Mughal era in India. Made of white marble, it is one of the most beautiful buildings in the world. And more, it commemorates the love of a Mughal Emperor for his wife.

The Taj is engulfed by a myriad of myths and legends. Not surprising at all for a building of such repute does have such stories associated with it. Such structures of unmatched beauty invariably attract myths to encircle them. I would discuss here some myths associated with this monument.

Black Taj Mahal
A stream of historians holds that Emperor Shah Jahan wanted to build a black Taj on the other side of Yamuna. He intended to make a building which contrasted the white Taj and served as his own mausoleum. This, as said, has been recorded by Tavernier, a contemporary French merchant. Proponents of this theory cite the irregular position of the cenotaph of Shahjahan in the Taj. They also claim that the Mehtab Burj and the wall adjoining it are the remains of the intended plan. Who knows!

Sinking Taj Mahal
Though the architects of this wonderful building tried their best to make it flawless cracks developed into it just after four years of its making. In 1652, in a letter to Shah Jahan, Prince Aurangzeb, the future Emperor, mentioned these cracks. Shah Jahan got the cracks repaired as soon as he came to know of them. However, the cracks reappeared in 1810. In British days, a survey revealed that the plinth of the mausoleum on the riverside is lower than on the South by a few centimeters. This led to the theory that the structure was sinking towards the riverside slowly.

Taj a Shiva Temple
As all know, the Taj is an elegy written in marble, but some people claim that the Taj was once a Shiva temple, then known as Tejo Mahalaya. Emperor Shah Jehan, highly impressed by the elegant building, coerced Jai Singh, the king of Jaipur, to hand over it to him. He then remodelled Tejo Mahalaya as a monument to commemorate his beloved wife Shah Jehan. Professor PN Oak, the author of ‘Taj Mahal: The True Story’ is a major proponent of this theory.

The Italian Architect!
Some historians, particularly from Europe, claim that an Italian jeweler named Geronimo Veroneo was the real architect of the Taj Mahal. Veroneo was an Italian jeweler specializing in designing necklaces and bracelets. The theory of his being the architect of the monument seems preposterous, at least to me. At the widest stretch of imagination, he could have got a bit of a role in its making.

Architect's Hands Chopped Off
A weird theory states that Shahjahan had the hands of his chief architect chopped off to prevent him building another such structure. It is, as I think, just rubbish. There is nothing in history to substantiate it.

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