Photographer's Note

It must be emphasised that the design of the Taj Mahal cannot be ascribed to any single mastermind. The Taj is the culmination of an evolutionary process. It is the perfected stage in the development of Mughal architecture. The names of many of the builders who participated in the construction of the Taj in different capacities have come down to us through Persian sources. A project as ambitious as the tomb of Mumtaz Mahal demanded talent from many quarters.
Isa Shirazi, has been mentioned as the supervising architect in Persian language texts (e.g. see ISBN 964-7483-39-2). From Turkey came Ismail Khan, a designer of hemispheres and a builder of domes. Qazim Khan, a native of Lahore, travelled to Agra to cast the solid gold finial that crowned the Turkish master's dome. Chiranjilal, a local lapidary from Delhi, was chosen as the chief sculptor and mosaicist. Amanat Khan from Persian Shiraz, Iran was the chief calligrapher, and this fact is attested on the Taj gateway where his name has been inscribed at the end of the inscription. Muhammad Hanif was the Supervisor of masons, while Mir Abdul Karim and Mukkarimat Khan of Shiraz handled finances and the management of daily production. Sculptors from Bukhara, calligraphers from Syria and Persia, inlayers from southern India, stonecutters from Baluchistan, a man who specialised in building turrets, another who carved only marble flowers - thirty seven men in all formed the creative nucleus and to this core was added a labour force of twenty thousand workers recruited from across northern India.

The Taj Mahal was constructed using materials from all over India and Asia. Over 1,000 elephants were used to transport building materials during the construction. The white marble was brought from Rajasthan, the jasper from Punjab and the jade and crystal from China. The turquoise was from Tibet and the Lapis lazuli from Afghanistan, while the sapphire came from Sri Lanka and the carnelian from Arabia. In all, 28 types of precious and semi-precious stones were inlaid into the white marble. The total cost of construction was about 40 million rupees, at a time when 1 gram of gold was sold for about 1.3 rupees. (Which is around US$520 million at the October 2005 gold price, though a comparison based on the value of gold in two such different economic eras is not very meaningful).

The cusped arches and panel of flowers are missing their inlay, but the vegetal band around the flowers survives (or, perhaps, has been restored; it is not always easy to tell the difference). Also present is a vertical Koranic inscription. Calligraphy is made larger as the writing climbs up the building, so that all the letters appear the same size when seen from the ground. In keeping with the Taj Mahal's function as a funerary monument, Koranic quotations on the building refer to the delights of Paradise to come.

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Additional Photos by Pranab Banik (pranab) Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1566 W: 21 N: 1362] (5354)
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