”Designed and finished like a jewel, a snow-white emanation starting from a bed of cypresses and backed by a turquoise sky, pure, perfect and unutterably lovely.”
—Lord George Curzon, Viceroy of India
shah Jahan appointed a Persian architect, astronomer, and mathematician, Ustad Ahmad Lahauri (1580-1649) to head the architectural team. Lahauri’s assistant was a Turk named Ismail Effendi, who specialized in domes and hemispheres. Lahauri apparently did the final drawings in Lahore at his studio near the Wazir Khan Mosque, outside the Delhi Gate. Worldwide experts in various fields started arriving at the regular morning gatherings at court with their plans, samples, and ideas; Jahan supervised every last detail of the work embodying his vision of the enterprise.
Work on the site had started early in 1632. The undertaking involved dozens of specialists, 20,000 laborers, 1,000 elephants, huge teams of buffalo and donkeys, and thousands of sturdy, six-wheeled carts to move heavy material like the marble from 90 miles away. A steady supply of grey and yellow sandstone was required, vast quantities of black slate, sweet limestone, and red clay had to be guaranteed, reed glue had to be produced, and mortar and cementing material was made by mixing molasses, curd, jute, and fossilized soil. The well foundation is a masterpiece of engineering. To compensate for the instability of the ground at the riverside,
The center line of the north-south canal is studded with fountains and flanked with Cypress trees compelling the eye to the mausoleum located at the Yamuna River end. The water from the fountains rise to the identical height due to the incredibly advanced and robust water system, designed by the gifted engineering team centuries ago. A series of hand and animal-powered purs (rope pulleys attached to buckets) were used to draw water from the Yamuna which was fed into a series of three tanks and distributed via deeply buried earthenware and copper piping. Each fountain has at its base its own copper supply pot which is connected to the water supply pipe.
Water fills the pot and then rises simultaneously in the fountains thus maintaining identical pressure in them all. Most of the system is still in use except that electric pumps are used to fill the tanks.
About 100 feet high and 150 feet wide, like the Taj Mahal itself, the Darwaza is a model of symmetry from the outside. The symmetry does not apply to the interior which is full of rather small rooms opening off winding passageways. There is no historical record of what these rooms were used for, and their intended usage remains a mystery. The Darwaza is built of red sandstone brick with marble inlay around the impressive ogival arch, flanked by two smaller arches on either side.
A double row of 11 chhatris (umbrella-shaped domes) is placed above the large portal, so the focal point of this entrance is directed back to the archway.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site “The jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage.” —