Taj Mahal: Introduction
The Taj Mahal is a mausoleum located in Agra, India, built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. The Taj Mahal (also “the Taj”) is considered the finest example of Mughal architecture, a style that combines elements from Islamic, Indian and Persian architectural styles. In 1983, the Taj Mahal became a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was cited as “the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage.” While the white domed marble mausoleum is its most familiar component, the Taj Mahal is actually an integrated complex of structures. Building began around 1632 and was completed around 1653, and employed thousands of artisans and craftsmen. The construction of the Taj Mahal was entrusted to a board of architects under imperial supervision including Abd ul-Karim Ma’mur Khan, Makramat Khan, and Ustad Ahmad Lahauri. Lahauri is generally considered to be the principal designer. — Source: Wikipedia.com
Read more about Taj Mahal: The Hidden Truth
BLACK Taj Mahal: The Emperor’s Missing Tomb
by Iftakhar Nadime Khan (Arshi)
The Taj Mahal is the world-famous architecture. Parallel to it, a mystic story existed; the Black Taj Mahal which described that Shahjahan wanted to build another identical mausoleum on the opposite bank of the river Yamuna with black stone. Some scholars have declared Black Taj to be a myth, without conducting any in-depth research (even they don’t have any proof for what they claim). Clarity on this subject was important as it seemed to be the complementary part of the Taj Mahal.
The legend says, that Shah Jehan decided to construct another Taj Mahal in black marble on the other side of the river Yamuna and to connect the two by a bridge. This structure was intended to be his own tomb. It has been recorded by Tavernier :
“Shah Jehan began to build his own tomb on the other side of the river but the war with his sons interrupted his plan and Aurangzeb who reigns at present is not disposed to complete it”.
Later gazetteers and guide books mention this story almost invariably. The irregular position of the cenotaph of Shah Jehan as compared to that of Mumtaz Mahal which occupies the exact centre of the hall is enough proof into itself.. The Mehtab Burj and the wall adjoining it opposite the Taj Mahal are generally said to be the grim remains of the proposed plan.
For the past 30 years, I was busy researching this subject. And finally, my work took the shape of a book which was published in January 2014 by the name “BLACK TAJ MAHAL: The Emperor’s Missing Tomb”.
The book is related to one of the most beautiful architecture of the world; the Taj Mahal. It has been scientifically portrayed in the book that makes it a useful guide for the tourists. The most beautiful architectural creation has been analysed from completely new angle, using the empirical rules prepared by a modern scientist – “The Fifteen Properties of Christopher Alexander”.
The book sheds light on an age old story of another mausoleum of black marble that was to be built on the other bank of the river Yamuna. The construction of the Taj Mahal was only half of the original grand scheme conceived by its builder emperor Shahjahan. The historical events towards the end of emperor Shah Jahan’s reign, his dethroning and the conspiracies by his own son are highlighted. The book also covers the history of Mughal dynasty in a narrative manner. It traces the inherited quality of creativity and love for art and architecture of Mughals. The book puts into perspective the need of fulfilling a forgotten dream – the creation of Miniature Black Taj Mahal with ebony (natural black wood).
For my creativity and research, I have received “National Award” from the Govt. of India, “State Award” from the Govt. of Uttar Pradesh and “Yashbharti Samman” from Govt. of Uttar Pradesh. I feel that my work needs to be spread world-wide to remove confusing rumours in this regard. You are requested to click on the following link to see a short film on my creativity:
Creation of Miniature Black Taj, reduced to scale, perfect replication with all the artistic and architectural elements of the Taj Mahal.
Above: Twin Taj Mahal – A painting made by Iftakhar Nadime Khan (Arshi)
Above: 2 photographs of a Miniature-Black Taj taken in sky-back ground, and in the golden light.
It is 1 x 1 meter, made from ebony-wood by the author for which he received National-Award from the Govt. of India.
Black Taj is the lost dream of Mughal emperor Shahjahan, forgotten in the mist of time. There are certain physical evidences that confirms the truth behind the beginning of the construction of Black Taj Mahal.
Black Taj Mahal: The Mystic facet of the Taj Mahal?
by Iftakhar Nadime Khan (Arshi)
The Taj Mahal is one of the most recognized architecture in the world. And, the Black Taj Mahal is a popular but intriguing mystery that has become complementary part of the Taj Mahal. If we look back, the origin of the story is based upon the two sources; written notes from a contemporary traveller, and age old prevailing-belief of the people of Agra.
Almost after 30 years of the construction of the Taj Mahal, in 1679, a book, “Les Six Voyage De Jean Baptiste Tavernier” was published in France. The book was written by a French traveller who was one among a few European travellers who could reach the court of the great Mughals. In those days traders from all over the world were attracted to India as it had become an important trade centre. Tavernier visited India five times in his life between 1641 and 1665. About the Black Taj Mahal, he wrote:
“I witnessed the commencement and accomplishment of this great work, on which they have expended 22 years, during which twenty thousand men worked incessantly; this is sufficient to enable one to realize that the cost of it has been enormous. It is said that the scaffolding alone cost more than the entire work, because, from wand of wood, they had all to be made of brick, as well as the support of arches; this has entailed much labour and a heavy expenditure. Shah Jahan began to build his own tomb on the other side of the river, but the war which he had with sons interrupted his plan, and Aurangzeb, who reigns at present, is not disposed to complete it.”
As per the description of Tavernier, the place of Shahjahan’s tomb was Mahtab Bagh (Moon Garden).
On the other hand, there was a prevailing-belief among the citizens of Agra (city of the Taj Mahal) that “Shahjahan wanted to build one more tomb with black-stone on the other side of the river for himself resting-in-peace. The tomb of black stone had to be built in straight line with the Taj Mahal.
The probe about the origin of prevailing-belief related to Black Taj ended at the following result: In Agra, there is a colony near the Taj Mahal called Tajganj. It was the place where workers of the Taj Mahal resided some 350 years back. Even today, the huge population of the descendants of the workers of Taj Mahal live in Tajganj and are still engaged in making artefacts of marble and inlay work which is being sold in local markets and exported the world over. While interviewing some senior artisans of Tajganj in 2003, it was discovered that the history of the Black Taj Mahal is alive among them from generation to generation. They said that they knew about it from their fathers, the same way their fathers heard about it from their ancestors. According to them, “the work on the Black Taj Mahal started but stopped after Aurangzeb elevated on the throne”. In their local language, black marble is spelled as “Sang-e-Musa” which was to be used in Shahjahan’s mausoleum.
The above mentioned proclamation of the people of Agra seems realistic. Because, British archaeologist Archibald Carlyle had excavated the site and submitted his report in 1871-72. He confirmed that the Mahtab Bagh was the place of Shah Jahan’s mausoleum in the following words. “This garden enclosure, now a mere waste piece of ground, though it now bears the name of Mahtab Khan, is, without doubt, the site on which Shah Jahan intended to have built a mausoleum for himself, to correspond to that of his queen, namely, the Taj Mahal opposite.” Why Carlyle was searching place of Shahjahan’s mausoleum? One can comprehend that, the public-belief about the Black Taj was so strong that compelled the archaeologist Carlyle to search and submit his report in this regard.
Before the 1990s, the story of the Black Taj Mahal was believed to be real by the people of Agra, tourists and world-wide admirers of the Taj Mahal. But what had happened that Black Taj Mahal was declared to be a myth?
If fact, another excavation was carried out in 1993 at Mahtab Bagh, ruins of a well planned garden were discovered at the site, but without any trace of black marble. It indicated that any structure of black-stone ever existed there. Since then, the story of the Black Taj Mahal was declared to be a myth.
However, the absence of black-stone at the site of Mahtab Bagh should never be the base of rejection of Shahjahan’s mausoleum. Tavernier, who noted the construction of another mausoleum for Shahjahan, never declared that the tomb was completed, but he said, “Shah Jahan began to build his own tomb on the other side of the river, but the war which he had with sons interrupted his plan, and Aurangzeb, who reigns at present, is not disposed to complete it”.
As a matter of fact, there are three strong points that put the subject of Black Taj Mahal, in the category of possibility and certainty.
- Taj Mahal was not planned to be the place of Shahjahan’s burial, because it bears a striking asymmetry in its sanctum; the only anomaly in the most perfect architecture. Perhaps, the Taj Mahal is the only architecture in the world that fits hundred per cent on the empirical rules as defined by Christopher Alexander; the well known “Fifteen properties” which are considered as an important element of any perfect architecture. But the funerary chamber of the Taj Mahal bears a permanent asymmetry which leaves the admirers astounded. Shahjahan’s cenotaph is obtruding as it is placed on the floor without border, besides this, it is superimposed on the border of Mumtaz’s cenotaph which caused inharmonious appearance and unneeded congestion in the funerary chamber. This abnormality indicates that Shah Jahan was not to be buried there. The following image of the funerary chamber of the Taj Mahal makes the point clear:
Many analysts have said that “there is nothing abnormal in the placement of Shahjahan’s cenotaphs in the Taj Mahal; it is set with the pattern of Ittemad-Ud-Daula which is predecessor of the Taj Mahal”. However, one can note the remarkable difference; the following image shows the comparison between the funerary chamber of the Taj Mahal and Ittemad-ud-Daula:
Ittemad-ud-Daula is predecessor of the Taj Mahal built by Mughal master, it is also called “Baby-Taj”. The Taj Mahal and Ittemad-ud-Daula, both the tomb accommodates bodies of husband and wife. In Ittemad-ud-Daula, both the cenotaph have separate surrounding-border, but in the Taj Mahal, Shahjahan’s cenotaph is without border and superimposed on the border of Mumtaz’s cenotaph.
As it seems clear that Shahjahan was not planned to be buried in the Taj Mahal, then, question arises – what was the place where he was intended to be buried?
- According to Tavernier, Mahtab Bagh was the place where construction of Shahjahan’s mausoleum begun. Excavation at Mahtab Bagh discovered the ruins of a well planned garden of Mughal era, with breezy pavilions, pathways, pools and fountains that was enclosed by a wall with towers at the corners. The wall of the southern side (river facing) remains in a ruinous condition but the wall of the west, north and east has been destroyed completely. The width of Mahtab Bagh is equal to the width of the Taj Mahal complex and both are situated in a straight alignment which eloquently says that the site of Mahtab Bagh was an integral part of the original scheme of the Taj Mahal. Prince Aurangzeb had written a letter to his father in December 1652, in which, besides referring the Taj Mahal he also mentioned Mahtab Bagh that was flooded by monsoon rain. The letter is an additional confirmation. The following satellite image shows Taj Mahal complex and Mahtab Bagh:
Seemingly, Mahtab Bagh is part of the Taj Mahal but its landscape does not bear the true Shahjahanian spirit; the act of architectural-balancing by mirroring of all the elements on the opposite side. If landscape of both the sites are analysed, one can notice that Mahtab Bagh is incoherent with its counter-part. In the Taj Mahal, each quarters of the garden are squire but in Mahtab Bagh they are rectangle. The octagon water-tank of Mahtab Bagh is absolutely mismatched with the Taj Mahal complex. See the following image; comparison between the two sites and the corrected scheme that bears the Shahjahanian spirit.
Even, if both the sites are observed from the side, the height of Mahtab bagh seems to be abnormally low. This improper height of the riverfront-terrace of Mahtab Bagh was the grave technical error. Mahtab bagh submerged regularly during monsoon and finally buried under the silt within very short span of time. In those days, riverbanks were prone to monsoon flooding for almost three months every year. That is why all the important constructions were made on the high plinth as we see in case of Ittemad-ud-daula or other river bank structures. See the following images; comparison between the two sites and its correction (click to enlarge):
If Mahtab Bagh was conceived as a garden and completed under the regime of Shahjahan, even then, all the four-quarters of the garden must be squire instead of being rectangle and the height of the riverfront terrace of the Taj Mahal must be equal to the Taj Mahal as the corrected scheme describe in above drawings. The outcome of such analysis makes it clear that the development of the site of Mahtab Bagh begun with the Taj Mahal, but it was finished by someone other than Shahjahan. The person, who completed Mahtab Bagh, did not bother about the technical flaws or quality of construction. That is why most of the structures of the Mahtab Bagh were razed to the ground soon after the construction. And the point emerges from here, who was he?
- The sixth Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb was the youngest son of Shahjahan but he was not the legal heir of the empire. He usurped on the throne by defeating his three brothers and killing them one by one, Darashikoh was also among them who was the eldest son and appointed heir by Shahjahan. Aurangzeb had also imprisoned his father in Agra fort.
After controlling the reign of empire, some act of Aurangzeb has made his position suspicious. He closed the department of royal-history-writing after ten years of his reign; a tradition which continued from the first Mughal Emperor Babur. After Shahjahan died, Aurangzeb did not permit his sister to organize the procession of royal funeral and distribution of food and cloth among poor and needy. And many more…
After becoming Emperor, Aurangzeb had also presented himself as a theologian and religious leader. He de-codified the shariya-law and managed to write a book “Fatwa-e-Alamgiri” which is still considered to be a religious book among a sect of Muslims.
As mentioned by Tavernier, the construction at Mahtab Bagh was stopped by the order of Aurangzeb. Might be, Aurangzeb had considered his order to be right as he stopped wasting the public-money in the project of royal-tomb. But he must have monitored to destroy all the evidence that was indicative of his act of cruelty which he did with his father and brothers. The unfinished site of Mahtab Bagh, with the half-dug foundation and scattered building-material, was the potent object to publicize the fact among generations to generations.
Aurangzeb knew that only powerful people write the right history. He converted the site of Shahjahan’s tomb into a garden by using the material which was already bought to the site. The low-budget working caused the overlooking of technical-requirements and poor-quality construction.
If Mahtab Bagh was not the place of Shahjahan’s tomb, then the reason of its existence need to be answered. And the reason, given by the scholars who oppose the theory of Black Taj Mahal, is not acceptable if analysed on practical ground i.e. It was developed to view Taj Mahal in moonlit night etc.
The notes of Tavernier cannot be taken as a “fanciful-writing” as some people have described. Because, the place where he indicated that construction began for Shahjahan’s mausoleum, bears contemporary structures. Is the existence of such structures merely a probability??
The famous art-historian, Percy Brown had expressed his view in 1943:
“That it was Shah Jahan’s intention to duplicate the entire scheme of the Taj by the erection of another mausoleum in black marble to enshrine his own remains, on the opposite bank of the Jumnan and to connect the two by a bridge, seems fairly well established.
Tavernier, the French traveller and trader, who visited the Mughal court during the regimes of both Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb stated that “the former emperor began to build his own tomb on the other side of the river, but the war which he had with his son interrupted his plan, and Aurangzebe, who reigns at present, is not disposed to complete it”.
And supplementing this contemporary record is the testimony of the cenotaphs in the Taj Mahal itself, their position with that of the queen in the centre, and that of the emperor to one side, seems to signify that the location of the latter was an afterthought brought about because his own separate mausoleum never matured.”
The above article is an abridgement of one of the chapter of the book BLACK TAJ MAHAL: The Emperor’s Missing Tomb. For more explanation and details kindly refer the same.
Copyright 2015 by I N Khan (Arshi)
BLACK TAJ MAHAL: WHY SOME SCHOLARS ARE BUSY DISAPPROVING IT?
The following is from the blog which highlights some critical questions on the subject of Black Taj [ http://wp.me/p6BXJR-4 ]
The Taj Mahal, a world-famous destination for connoisseurs and lovers. On 16th August 015, a documentary was running on history channel about the Taj Mahal. However, it was an excellent program, but one of the point raised by Dr. John Fritz, forced me to write this article. The point was related to the Black Taj Mahal.
Dr. John has spent 10 years in excavation of the ruins of Mahtab Bagh (the site of proposed Black Taj). He said standing in Mahtab Bagh, “it looks like foundation of Black Taj but it is not, it is wonderful magic story, we did not find any trace of black stone during excavation”.By pointing to the north at Mahtab Bagh, he further said “there was a place for the court, Shahjahan use to sit in a pavilion”.
Dr. John can refuse the concept of Black Taj on the ground that there was no trace of black stone. But, from where he got the information that there was a place for the royal court in Mahtab Bagh, and Shahjahan use to sit there? Can ruins speak, “who used to come and sit there”? As a historical fact, after completion of the construction, Shahjahan paid only few visits to the Taj mahal. During my research, I did not find any contemporary record that has any description about Mahtab Bagh except the one; a letter to Shahjahan from Prince Aurangzeb in December 1652.
By the time letter was written, neither Aurangzeb nor Shahjahan had visited the Taj Mahal for several years, and some maintenance problem had developed in the tomb which Aurangzeb managed to repair, the letter was intended to bring the issue to Emperor’s attention. In his letter, besides Taj’s problem, Aurangzeb also mentioned about Mahtab Bagh. Aurangzeb explained to emperor that how he had monitored the repair work in the Taj Mahal, and for Mahtab Bagh he simply explained its condition but there was no hint that any efforts were made to get it cleaned (at the so-called court of Emperor), even he was surprising that how tank and bungalow remained unaffected from the flood. Note the excerpts: “During the rainy season, water had completely submerged the Mahtab garden. Consequently, it has lost its tidiness; in the near future, it will attain renewed freshness. The octagonal tank and the bungalows all around it are pristine and unaffected; and from what had been heard of the floods of the water of the Yamuna, that is surprising! At present, the river has receded and now flows adjacent to it.” Complete letter can be seen in the book (W.E. Begley and Z.A. Desai Taj Mahal; The Illumined Tomb,Cambridge; Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture, 1989. Page 175)
The reference of Mahtab Bagh by Aurangzeb describes that the site was significant, but its submergence into the flood and leaving it to attain freshness by itself highlighted that by that time its structures were insignificant, which might have to be brought down for new construction. Probably, it remained in original form as it was acquired from Raja Jai Singh.
Another question emerges that why excavators of Mahtab Bagh are searching for black stone. Even, J. B. Tavernier who documented about another Mausoleum for Shahjahan in 1679 (30 years after the Taj Mahal completed) did not write that Black Taj Mahal ever constructed, but the construction stopped soon after it began. Note the excerpts: “I witnessed the commencement and accomplishment of this great work (Taj Mahal). Shah Jahan began to build his own tomb on the other side of the river, but the war which he had with his sons interrupted his plan, and Aurangzeb, who reigns at present, is not disposed to complete it.” – “Les six voyage de Jean Baptise Tavernier”, 1679 AD, France
The Taj Mahal complex contains cluster of buildings, all of them are made with red-sandstone except the main mausoleum. If we analyze the construction work of the Taj Mahal complex, we find that almost half of the work was done using red sand stone. Why not scholars realize that usage of black marble could have begun after completion of the preliminary construction using red sandstone? The thought of finding black stone at Mahtab Bagh itself is baseless. There are several other concerning points that can grab attention for researchers.
- Tavernier had written about the beginning of the construction of another mausoleum, and the site he described, contains some structures of Mughal era. Was his writing a pure myth?
- Shahjahan’s own mausoleum is missing. Taj Mahal was not the place of his burial as the material evidence in the funerary chamber makes it confirm. Where was Shahjahan intended to be buried?
- Shahjahan was deposed forcibly by his son. Had the mighty emperor Aurangzeb tried to hide what he did with his father by modifying the site of Mahtab Bagh?
Why not, scholars pay attention about the reason of the existence of Mahtab Bagh? The site’s perfect alignment with the Taj Mahal confirms that it was an integral part of the original scheme. Several historians including Archaeological Survey of India accept the fact. If story of Black Taj is categorised to be a myth then several complicated questions need to be answered:
- Why Mahtab Bagh was founded on the other side of the Taj Mahal?
- What is the base of ASI’s description that it was a garden and made to serve the purpose of green backdrop?
- What was actual site plan of Mahtab Bagh? Is the current layout original? And how it could be architecturally connected with the Taj Mahal?
- At present, the existence of Mahtab Bagh is insignificant and unconnected with the Taj Mahal. If it is restored to its older age, even then, it would not generate any significant connection with its counterpart. Million dollar question emerge that a perfectionist and a great builder like Shahjahan merely wanted to build an insignificant garden on the other side?
- Is it believable that Mahtab Bagh was constructed as a summer palace for Shahjahan as we heard in news time by time? Was it possible that he have had the pleasure pursuit in-front of the tomb where his most beloved dead wife was buried?
It would be the irresponsibility of historians if “Black Taj Mahal” is declared to be a myth without having any concrete ground. The research on this topic needs to be continued. Why not researchers think the way, the researchers of the following documentary did.
Copyright 2015 Iftakhar Nadime Khan (Arshi)
- BLACK TAJ MAHAL: The Emperor’s Missing Tomb