They say that every time you see the Taj Mahal it looks different. Through the length of days and seasons, its marble translates the colors of the changing Uttar Pradesh sky into snow whites and pinks, waxen yellow and, at full moon, pastel shades of tan and grey.
The Taj Mahal’s curves and symmetry seem to render stone into flesh. It is an exuberant mausoleum that has own global recognition as the greatest single monument to love: ‘One teardrop upon the cheek of time’, according to the Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore.
The Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan commissioned the Taj Mahal in 1632 in memory of his wife. White marble was hauled from Makrana 400 km/250 miles away. Jade and crystal were imported from China, lapis lizuli from Afghanistan, coral and mother-of-pearl from the Indian Ocean. Even the British can lay claim to an influence, if only in lawns laid during an early 20th-century renovation. A more significant example of cultural integration is the gilded bronze finial on the dome. The curvaceous feminine shape of the dome makes engineering sense, for its bulge works to onion domes surround it, with columned bases open through the roof to provide light inside. Four minarets broaden the symmetry outwards. A rule of four continues throughout, using Arabesque ideas where each component is separate and yet integrates with the whole. The main structure is on a square platform facing four reflecting pools, which have further fourfold subdivisions.
What is written large in architectural and landscaped form appears in miniature counterpoint in the geometrical abstractions adorning the plinth, minarets and walls. Some inscriptions spell out precise messages.