It is the most beautiful structure according to many. Thousands of people flock every year to admire its sheer beauty. The Taj Mahal is believed to have been constructed during the reign of Shah Jahan in the loving memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal. It is said that it took twenty-two years for its construction to complete and that Shah Jahan got the hands of the artisans cut off so that they never build anything that could match the beauty of the Taj. This is what we have read in our history books and have been told by the guides out there in the Taj complex.&
There is more to it.
The Taj in itself is believed to be symbolic of something. It is believed that the Taj contains a hidden meaning. Several astonishing revelations have been made in the process of demystifying the mystified. That Shah Jahan planned a replica of heaven is one of them. Mere speculations, according to some. But there are some interesting pieces of information to ponder upon.
The last words on the Taj gateway are from the Holy Quran, chapter 89, which read “Enter thou my paradise”, a direct command of God to enter paradise. Interestingly, Taj is not situated at the center of the gardens unlike all other structures. It stands majestically at one end of the garden matching exactly the layout of heaven or the gardens of paradise. There are twenty-two different passages and fourteen entire chapters from the Quran, which have been inscribed on the Taj. These passages deal with two themes – The Day of Judgement and the pleasures of paradise that God has promised as a reward to the faithful.
One of the most astonishing pieces of evidence is in the form of a diagram by Ibn-al-Arabi, a sufi mystic much revered in Shah Jahan’s days. It appears in his greatest works, The Revelations of Mecca, and is known as the plane of assembly on the Day of Judgement. The markings on the diagram correspond closely to the design and layout of the entire Taj Complex. The position of the Taj at one end of its gardens, and not at its center, matches the position of the Throne of God. It is octagonal in shape, like the burial chamber inside Taj Mahal. There is also a central pool, much like the tank of abundance, with four channels known as the flowing rivers of paradise depicted in the layout of heaven. Moreover, the proportions of the diagram and the positions of the throne are so precise that it can almost be a plan for the Taj Mahal itself.
Yet, the story doesn’t end here.
Legend has it that the Emperor planned an even greater spectacle and that there were originally two Taj Mahals, the White Taj and another Taj Mahal in glittering black marble on the other side of the banks of the river Yamuna . It was to be an exact replica of the white Taj, perhaps intended to be a mausoleum to have Shah Jahan’s own grave. A French Traveller of those times, J. B. Tavernier documented that “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”.
Today, the site opposite the Taj is nothing but ruins and years of excavations have failed to find any trace of the black marble Taj Mahal. Perhaps, it was never built and the daunting cost could also have been a reason.
In mid 1990s, archaeologists discovered the remains of large garden at the site where legend places the Black Taj Mahal.
Maybe it was just to provide a view as proposed by Prof. John Fritz, University of Pennsylvania. He believes that the original plan of the Taj complex included the other side of the banks of the river where the remains of the garden were discovered. He proposes that the Taj was a symmetrical sight laid down on both sides of the river with the Taj on one side and the gardens on the other. The gardens were much like the usual Mughal Gardens and were called the Mehtab Bagh or the Moonlit Gardens. Its biggest feature was a huge octagonal reflecting pool. According to Prof. Fritz, the Black Taj was not a building but the reflection of the white Taj in the pool on the other side of the river on a moonlit night, a sight reserved for the Emperor himself and his privileged guests.
More than 300 years later, a descendant from the great Mughal lineage, I. N. Khan alias Arshi has taken up the task of creating the Black Taj Mahal – albeit in a miniaturized version in ebony wood ( http://www.blacktaj.org/ ).
Be it a planned replica of heaven or the theory of the Black Taj, the fact is that what we can witness is one of the most beautiful structures in the world, the ‘White’ Taj. But is it really what we think it is?
Prof. Oak in his book “The Taj Mahal: The True Story” put forwards some persuasive evidence, observations and interpretations that suggest the structure was originally a Hindu Temple, a palace of Tejo Mahalaya (Shiva) and that it was built long before Shah Jahan came to power ( http://www.hindunet.org/hindu_history/modern/taj_oak.html )
Never thought that one of the most beautiful structures I have ever witnessed, the pride of my country could be talked about on subjects other than its beauty. If only we had a time machine.