||Upon her grave he constructed such an edifice, that since the Divine decree drew creation's plan, no one has seen its equal in magnificence... download to listen: 28k, 56k, ISDN*
Though the Taj Mahal is said to be the most perfect building in the world, it is not without precedent. According to art historian Shobita Punja: "Everything has a tradition.
The Taj Mahal is perfect and beautiful because it had antecedents, a heritage of experimental constructions before it. For example, Shah Jahan must have seen his great-grandfather's tomb in Delhi, must have gone for the annual death-anniversary celebrations as a young boy and must have been inspired by this magnificent, huge tomb."
Babur wished to be buried under the open sky in his favorite garden in Kabul, so the tomb built for Humayun, commissioned under Akbar's rule, was the first major edifice constructed by the restored dynasty and the first major construction of the distinctly Mughal style of architecture.
For the Mughal emperors, a tomb was an opportunity to pay tribute to the dead, observe their religious responsibilities and broadcast their magnificence. The tombs of Humayun and Akbar were also grand architectural experiments.
"The Islamic rulers used native artists and craftsmen to build their monuments, and right from the very beginning there was a blending of Hindu and Islamic elements of architecture." Although the essential character of the Mughal style is Islamic, many of the embellishments are Hindu. At the tomb built by Jahangir for his Prime Minister, Itimad-ud-Daulah, inlaid ornamentation covers every surface. The contrast between Akbar's rugged red sandstone constructions and the refinement of Itimad-ud-Dualah's tomb underscores the evolution of the empire to a state of pure luxury.
But the true synthesis of traditions is achieved by Shah Jahan in the Taj Mahal. "Now the movement to the Taj is really a very small step," adds Shobita, "because all the architectural techniques, all the engineering principles, all the details had been experimented with. It's a supreme culmination of many experiments that went before, and that's why it's so perfect."
*To hear the audio cuts on this site, you'll need to download the free RealAudio plug-in.