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Architecture and Architects of Taj Mahal

Construction, Architecture and Architects of Taj Mahal, India

The Architecture and Design of the Taj Mahal is very impressive. This building is frequently studied by Architecture students in general and students studying Islamic architecture in particular.

It was made by emperor Shah Jahan for his third wife Mumtaz Mahal who died while giving birth to their 14th child after being in labor for 30 hours at the age of 40. Here’s brief documentation about the construction of Taj Mahal.

Architects of Taj Mahal

There are too much controversies for who designed the Taj Mahal and who was the architect of Taj Mahal . But recent researches and ongoing debates have mentioned these 2 great architects who designed the Taj Mahal.

Ustad Ahmad Lahori

Ustad Ahmed Lahori- Architect of Taj MahalUstad Isa

Ustad Isa - 2nd Architect of Taj Mahal

Builders and Costs involved in the construction of Taj Mahal

Builders were requisitioned from all over the Empire for the construction of Taj Mahal. Besides the local guilds of the Jamuna-Chambal region, artisans from Rajasthan, Malwa, Gujarat and Punjab participated in the work. By a rough estimate, about 20,000 skilled and unskilled workers were engaged for nearly 17 years (1632-48) on this vast project.
architecture of Taj MahalNames of only about 40 skilled workers involved in the construction of Taj Mahal : draftsmen, masons, stone-cutters, carvers, inlayers, dome-builders, kalasa-makers, calligraphers, carpenters and garden-designers have traditionally come down to us through Persian sources, which at once raises the question : whether only five masons and five carvers who have been named, for example, could have built this grand mausoleum of white marble with the help of some 20,000 unskilled labourers?

The sheer magnitude and multifarious nature of construction of Taj Mahal and its work render this hypotheses impossible. We know that Babur employed 1491 skilled stone-cutters on the construction of his buildings at Agra, Fatehpur Sikri, Bayana, Dholpur and Gwalior and 680 on the buildings of Agra alone, which in comparison to the Taj were very minor works. Such details as their specialization, native place and monthly salary have also been given along with their names in the various Persian lists.

For example, Ata Muhammad, sang-tarash (stone-cutter) from Bukhara, Shakir Muhammad, Gul-tarash (carver) from Bukhara, Muhammad Sajjad, merfiar (mason) from Multan and Chiranjilal, pachchikar (in-layer) from Lahore were involved in the construction of Taj Mahal and were paid at Rs.500/-, 400/, 590/- and 800/- per month respectively. This again raises some serious questions.

India is a land of stone-art and stone workers were easily available here from ancient times. Even Timur (Tamerlane) was impressed by their skill and he took a number of them to Samarqand to build there a grand mosque. How is it that stone-cutters and carvers of the Taj came from Bukhara which is hardly famous for stone work? Is it, then, possible that they were paid such high monthly salaries in an age when gold was sold at Rs.15/- per tola? i.e. sometimes more than 50 tolas of gold per month. This is incredible.Shah Jahan builder of Taj Mahal

Builders and artists were paid wages which never exceeded worth of two tolas of gold per month, at the best. As a matter of fact, this was a Work Assignment System in which the Mir-Imarat (Manager of the Project) assigned the work to a headman or leader of the guild or to the one who engaged them (no matter whether he did or did not do the work himself) on a contractual basis. He had the work done by his men. The amount he received from the treasury was not his personal salary but the whole contracted amount which he disbursed to the artisans who worked under him.

The Mir-Imarat dealt with these headmen only and, therefore, only their names were put on the record while several thousand skilled artisans who actually worked on stone during the construction of Taj Mahal have remained anonymous. Thus, Ata Muhammad and Shakir Muhammad were contractors only, who engaged the stone-cutters and carvers and had the assigned work done by them. Bukhara was their native place, not of the guilds who worked under them.

Ustad ‘Isa Afan di who came from Shiraz was head of the naqshanawis (draftsmen) department for the construction of Taj Mahal. He received Rs.l000/- per month for the men who worked under him. ‘Abdul Haq entitled Amanat Khan Shirazi, himself an expert artist, headed the department of calligraphers. Ran Mal was the garden-designer from Kashmir. Pira was master carpenter from Delhi, Dome-builders worked under Ismail Khan Rumi.

Finial-makers, masons, stone- cutters, carvers and inlayers have been similarly named. Qadir Zaman Khan has been mentioned as dar-har-ek-phan-ustad-e-kamil, an expert of the constructional techniques which included digging and filling of foundations, masonry-work, laying of stones, raising the heavy blocks by ropes and pulleys, handling of the levels, maintenance of drainage and scores of other techniques. Above all, was Muhammad Handif, the Mir-imarat, incharge of the whole construction of Taj Mahal, who managed the purchases and stores recruitment of artisans and labourers and disbursement of wages. He coordinated the whole work.

Building material used in the construction of Taj Mahal

Three type of stones have been used in the construction of Taj Mahal:

The construction of Taj Mahal involves the use of semi precious stones such as Aqiq, Yemeni, FIroza, Lajward, Moonga, Sulaimani, Lahsania, Tamra, Yashab and Pitunia which were used for inlaying during the construction of Taj Mahal; rare and uncommon stones as Tilai, Pai-Zahar, Ajuba, Abri, Khattu, Nakhod and Maknatis which were used in bold inlay and mosaic chiefl on floors, exterior dados and turrets, and common stones as Sang-i-Gwaliori (grey and yellow sand stone).

Sang-i-Surkh (red sandstone), Sang-i-Musa (black state) and Sang-i-Rukham (Sang-i-Marmar, white marble) which were used in foundations and masonry and to finish external faces like Mihrab and Minbar. Red stone was brought from the neighbouring Fatehpur Sikri, Tantpur and Paharpur.

stone used in construction of Taj Mahal

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White marble was requisitioned from Makrana (Rajasthan) for the construction of Taj Mahal and was duly paid for, as the three firmans on record show. Semi-precious and rare stones were brought from distant places as Upper Tibet, Kumaon, Jaisalmer, Cambay and Ceylon.

Persian lists give some figures along with the names of stones. e.g. Aqiq 340, Lajward 240, Moonga 147, Sulaimani 559, lahsunia 52, Tamra 398, Ajuba 850, Yashab 54, Pitunia 542 and Maknatis 77. These figures do not denote the number of stones in each case, which would be too little a figure for such a vast project. These figures, in fact, denote a ‘phari or ‘dheri’ each of one cubic zira (=32). It denoted ‘tank’ in case of precious stones.

Taj Mahal door construction

These lists also provide a theoretical qualitative table used by the Purchase Department to maintain a standard of quality. It must be borne in mind that for making the core or skeleton of the building brick masonry was used in the construction of Taj Mahal with which stone has been reinforced according to the headers-and-stretchers system.

Bricks were locally manufactured and chemically treated for strength and stability. Such ingredients as molasses, batashe, belgiri-water, urad-pulse, curd, jute and kankar were mixed with lime mortar to make it a perfect cementing agent.

Funds for the construction of Taj Mahal

Funds for the construction of Taj Mahal were provided by the Royal Treasury of the Emperor and the Government Treasury of the Province of Agra (subah Akbarabad) and accounts were scrupulously maintained with annas and pies by Lala Rudra Das. Main item of expenditure were the cost of stones and wages paid to the workers.

Tombstones in Taj Mahal

Cost of every part of the complex has been separately calculated, e.g. the cost of the marble plinth (chhakka) with the four minarets is given Rs. 51,77,674-7 annas 6 pies, of the main tomb Rs. 53,45,361-10-0 and of the Jhajjhari (Mahjar or Muhajjar), or inlaid and jalied white marble curtain around the cenotaphs in the main hall Rs. 4,68,855-2-6. About 50 entries have thus been made and the total cost of the construction of Taj Mahal comes to Rs. 4,18,48,426-7-6. This is besides the cost of 40,000 tolas (466.55 kilograms) of gold supplied by the Royal Treasury.

Cost of doors of wood and brass, brass-chains for repairs gold-plated kalasa and sandalwood coffins (to contain the dead bodies) have also been given. Curiously, we come across costs of three sets of tombstones. So where is the third one?

While two sets exist, the third one seems to have been contained in the central underground chamber which has no been permanently closed up for reasons which are not known to us. It is one of the several mysteries with which the Taj Mahal and its construction are associated.

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