History of Taj Mahal
Did you know
Being one of the most beautiful buildings in the world, the Tajmahal in Agra has always been a subject of curiosity for many. As a result some beliefs, legends and myths have engulfed the Tajmahal. These beliefs, legends and myths have added on to the popularity of the Tajmahal. Fueling to the curiosity are the blocked rooms and passages whose secrets are guarded by the Government of India.
Some of the common myths that have been aired from the ages and continue to confound the historians are:
‘The Taj is sinking’ ‘The story of a second Taj - Italian Architect’
‘ Third set of Graves’
THE TAJ IS SINKING
One myth that rises above all myths is that the Tajmahal in Agra is sinking. Though the architect of the tajmahal was aimed at giving maximum strength and stability to the tomb and even minutest of details were worked out. However inspite of all these precautions cracks developed into it only after four years of its construction. These cracks were repaired with immediate action but the reason of these cracks was not discovered.
Again in the year 1810 it was noticed that cracks have developed to dangerous proportions. With effect to this an Advisory Committee on the restoration and conservation of the monument was set up and a survey with reference to these cracks was undertaken. From this survey the possibility of the disaster was revealed. It was discovered that the plinth on the northern side (or the river side) is lower than on the south by 3.5 cms. This discovery showed that the building was inclined towards the riverside. Cracks were there on the exterior walls but were not noticed. Also cracks were present on the second storey vaults of the marble structure and, on a much larger scale, in the underground vaults below the northern side.
It is believed that these long series of cracks in the underground vaults may have been due to the crushing of the lime on account of the excessive weights or what seems more probable, is my be due to the sinking of the whole structure towards the riverside. Such a sinking of the Tajmahal would shift the load out of balance slowly and gradually and the unequal settlement would crack the weak points, particularly the summits of the vaults and arches, which is actually happening in the underground. It is this shift, which is giving birth to the myth that the Tajmahal is sinking.
But a structure that stands on the edge of water has a natural tendency to move towards more open side where the higher edge always acts as a strong buttress, thrusting it in the opposite direction. This could be the case with Tajmahal, which is standing on the riverbank. The available date concludes that it is the whole mass that is gradually sinking and not just a part of it.
Another legend that is associated with the Tajmahal is that corresponding to this sparklingly white marvel of marble, Shahjahan had planned to build another Tajmahal in entirely in black marble. The monument in black marble was to be his own tomb, on the opposite side of river yamuna and connect the two by a bridge. This was recorded by a French merchant- Tavernier, according to him. “Shahjahan began to build his own tomb on the other side of Yamuna but the war with his sons interrupted his plans and Aurangzeb who reigns at present is not disposed to complete it”.
This story was later mentioned almost invariably by the gazetteers and guidebooks. According to them, the irregular position of the cenotaph of shahjahan as compared to that of Mumtaz Mahal, which occupies the exact center of the hall, is a proof of the assumption of second Tajmahal.
The Mehtab Burj and the wall adjoining it opposite the Tajmahal are generally said to be the foundations and remains of the proposed plans.
Many scholars consider these claims in favor of second Tajmahal as fiction rather than history. They claim that the traces, which are identified as the foundations of the second Taj, are actually the enclosing wall of a garden founded by Barber. And as far as irregular positioning of Shahjahan’s cenotaph is concerned, many historians claim that it is similar to that at the tomb of Itmad-ud-daula. Besides this, according to Islamic law, bodies are buried with their faces towards Mecca and the husband is placed on the right hand side of his wife. Thus the interpretation that the cenotaph of Shahjahn was not meant to be placed here appears to be superfluous.
An Italian Archuitect designed the Tajmahl, is another controversy attached to theTajmahl. Though this claim has never been proved but it has triggered off the controversy, as to who was the real architect of the majestic Taj.
Some European scholars held the view that the Taj was designed by an Italian- Geronimo Veroneo. It is believed that Father Manrique, an Augustian Friar was unwilling to allow the native Indian artisans all the credit for creating such an excellent structure and advanced the preposterous claim of the Italian Jeweler, Geronimo Veroneoas as the main architect of the Tajmahal. Father Manrique came to Agra in 1640 A.D. to secure the release of Father Joseph de Castro. Castro was the executor of Verneo he told Father Manirique about the Venetian by the name Veroneo who came in the Persian ships and died in Lahore in 1640. It is true that Verneo did come to India and lived in Agra for some time. But these are not the solid grounds to prove that he has designed the Tajmahal. In all probabilities he could have been a part in designing the Tajmahal.
THIRD SET OF GRAVES : It is believed that the Tajmahal Agra has third set of graves, a custom that has been used in the tomb of Iltutmish at Delhi, the tomb of Akbar and the tombs Itmad-ud-Daula and Chinni-ka-Rauza at Agra. The tomb of Akbar has three tombstones, one on the grave and two as cenotaphs. The tomb of Itmad-ud-
Daula and Chinni-ka-Rauza too had three tombstones, which has now been blocked up.
There are seventeen basement chambers laid out in the line along the riverside, which can be accessed using the two staircases on the northern side of the red sand stone plinth of the Tajmahal. Adorned with stucco and paintings and distributed aesthetically, the rooms and corridors are made of brick and plaster. However on both sides of Tajmahal at the extreme points, there are doors sunk in the northern wall. These doors have been blocked up permanently with thick masonry, which could have housed customary crypt containing the third and real set of graves like those of Turks and Mughal in those days.
According to the speculation of the scholars, in these underground vaults the third set could have been placed. Assuming the existence of these graves it is also believed that there must also be the doors in the basement corridor. The doors in the corridor no doubt exist but now they are locked. Since these doors are impregnably blocked so no further research on this matter is possible and the controversy about the third set of graves remains a mystery.