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Today we read about 7 wonders of the ancient world (old 7 wonders of the world) and 7 wonders of the modern world (new 7 wonders of the world). This is a very interesting topic to know about seven wonders of the world. We are always curious to learn about new and interesting things. It is also a matter of curiosity that we know about the seven wonders of the world. There are very unique types of things in this world, which our ancestors left as heritage wonders of the world in one of them.
Each wonder has its own history, it is many years old and still stands before us. 7 wonders of the world are a wonderful treasure of art and culture. Here we give 7 wonders of the world list then we detail study about it.
7 wonders of the world list
There are a list given below which show 7 wonders of the modern world :
- Chichen Itza (Mexico)
- Christ The Redeemer (Brazil)
- The Colosseum (Italy)
- Great Wall of China (China)
- Machu Picchu (Peru)
- Petra (Jordan)
- Taj Mahal (India)
1. Chichen Itza (Mecico)
Chichen Itza is classified as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World and in 1988 was enlisted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The term Chichen Itza means ‘the mouth at the well of Itza’. It is believed Itza means ‘water magicians’, deriving from the Mayan Itz for ‘magic’ and á for ‘water’. Chichen Itza was a large pre-Columbian city built by the Maya people of the Terminal Classic period. The archaeological site is located in Tinum Municipality, Yucatan State, Mexico.
A massive step pyramid, known as El Castillo or Temple of Kukulcan, dominates the ancient city, which thrived from around 600 A.D. to the 1200s. Graphic stone carvings survive at structures like the ball court, Temple of the Warriors and the Wall of the Skulls. Nightly sound-and-light shows illuminate the buildings’ sophisticated geometry.
Chichen Itza was one of the largest Maya cities and it was likely to have been one of the mythical great cities, or Tollens referred to in later meso American literature. The city may have had the most diverse population in the Maya world, a factor that could have contributed to the variety of architectural styles at the site. The ruins of Chichen Itza are federal property, and the site’s stewardship is maintained by Mexico’s (National Institute of Anthropology and History). The land under the monuments had been privately owned until 29 March 2010, when it was purchased by the state of Yucatan.
Scientists have found a second pyramid hidden deep within the Kukulkan pyramid at the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza in Mexico. Researchers announced the discovery Wednesday of a pyramid 10 meters tall (33 feet) inside two other structures that make up the pyramid also known as El Castillo, or Yucatan. The history of Chichén Itzá.
Chichén Itzá (maya: (Chichén) mouth of the well; the (Itza) witches of water ) is one of the major archaeological sites of the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico, located in the municipality de Tinum, in the State of Yucatán. Important and renowned vestige of maya lacivilizacion, the main buildings that endure there correspond to the time of the decline of the maya culture referred to by archaeologists as the Postclassic period.
The massive architecture that has survived to this day and is now emblematic of the reservoir, has a clear influence Toltec. The God who presides over the site, according to Mayan mythology, is Kukulcan, Quetzalcoatl, God taken from the Pantheon of Toltec culture maya rendering. That being said, should consider that Chichén Itzá was a city or a ceremonial center, which went through various constructive eras and influences of the various peoples who occupied it and that boosted it since its foundation. The archaeological site of Chichén Itzá was inscribed on the World Heritage list by Unesco in 1988. On July 7, 2007, she was recognized as one of the new wonders of the world, by a private initiative without the support of Unesco, but with the recognition of millions of voters around the world.
2. Christ The Redeemer (Brazil)
Name: Christ the Redeemer; O Cristo Redentor
Location: Rio de Janeiro, Southeast Brazil, Brazil
Category: Colossal Statue
Time to Visit: March to October
Size: Height (with pedestal): 38 m (120 ft)
Width: 30 m (98 ft)
Weight: 635 tons
Patron(s): Catholic Circle of Rio and private donations
Architect: Heitor da Silva Costa; Paul Landowski
Nearest International Airport: Antonio Carlos Jobim International Airport
Time required for sightseeing: 1-2 hours
Christ the Redeemer is a statue of Jesus Christ in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, it is considered as the largest Art Deco statue in the world. The statue is 39.6 meters(130 ft) tall including its 9.5 meter(31 feet) pedestal, and 30 meters (98 feet) wide. it weighs 635 tons and it is located at peak of the 700 maters (2,300 feet) Corcovado mountain in the Tijuca Forest National Park overlooking city. It is one of the tallest of one of its kind in the world.
The idea for placing a large statue atop Corcovado was first suggested in the mid 1850s,when Catholic priest Pedro Maria Boss requested financing from Princess Isabel to build a large religious monument. The princess did not give it much weight and the idea was totally dropped in the year 1889.
When Brazil became a republic with a laws mandating separation of church and state. The second proposal for a landmark statue on the mountain was made in 1921 by Catholic Circle of Rio.
The group organized an event called “Semana do Monumento” (Monument Week) to attract the donations and collect signatures to support the building of the statue. The donation came mostly from Brazilian Catholics. The designs considered for the “Statue of the Christ” included a representation of the Christian Cross, a statue of Jesus with a globe in hands, and a pedestal symbolizing the world. The statue of Christ the Reedemer with open arms was chosen.
Local engineer Heitor da Silva Costa designed the statue, it was sculpted by French sculptor Paul Landowski. Statue is mainly made of reinforced concrete and the outer layers are made of soapstone. Construction took nine years from 1922-1931.The monument was opened on October 12 1931.The cost of the monument was $2,50,000.The statue was meant to be lit by a battery of floodlights but poor weather affected the plans and it had to be lit by workers in Rio.
The statue was struck by lightning during violent electrical storm on Sunday, February 10 2008 but the statue was left unscathed, which need a small renovation of the statue which began in March 2010 after heavy rains and previous lighting strikes wore away parts of the face of the statue.
The construction of reinforced concrete, of more than 1000 tons, combines engineering, architecture and sculpture, and has among its achievements the fact that nobody died in accident during the work, something that wasn’t normal at the time and with projects of this size. By the conditions of construction, on a basis in which almost didn’t fit the scaffold, with strong winds, and the structure of the statue, whose arms extend into the vacuum and the head is tilted in a challenge to engineering, Levy called the work of “Herculean”.
At the opening ceremony, at 19 h 15 min on October 12, 1931, scheduled to the monument outside lighting powered from the Italian city of Naples, where the Italian scientist Guillermo Marconi would output an electrical signal which would be relayed by an antenna located in the Rio neighborhood of Jacarepaguá, via a receiving station located in Dorchester, England. However, bad weather precluded the feat and the lighting was finally triggered directly from the local.
3. The Colosseum (Italy)
The Flavian Amphitheatre, better known as the Roman Colosseum is the most conspicuous building in the Italian capital. It is one of those buildings that became symbols of a city and even a country. It is the most remarkable urban landmark from ancient Rome, visible from anywhere in the eternal city’s monumental zone (although it appeared suddenly to us as we approached from the Esquiline Hill, and we were amazed by its monumentality).
The Colosseum, or the Coliseum, originally the Amphitheatrum Flavium (English: Flavian Amphitheatre, Italian Anfiteatro Flavio or Colosseo), the largest amphitheatre in the world is an elliptical amphitheatre in the center of the city of Rome, Italy, the largest ever built in the Roman Empire, built of concrete and stone. It is considered one of the greatest works of Roman architecture and Roman engineering.
Occupying a site just east of the Roman Forum, its construction started in 72 AD under the emperor Vespasian and was completed in 80 AD under Titus, with further modifications being made during Domitian’s reign (81–96). The name “Amphitheatrum Flavium” derives from both Vespasian’s and Titus’s family name (Flavius, from the gens Flavia).
Capable of seating 50,000 spectators, the Colosseum was used for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles such as mock sea battles, animal hunts, executions, re-enactments of famous battles, and dramas based on Classical mythology. The building ceased to be used for entertainment in the early medieval era. It was later reused for such purposes as housing, workshops, quarters for a religious order, a fortress, a quarry, and a Christian shrine.
Although in the 21st century it stays partially ruined because of damage caused by devastating earthquakes and stone-robbers, the Colosseum is an iconic symbol of Imperial Rome. It is one of Rome’s most popular tourist attractions and still has close connections with the Roman Catholic Church, as each Good Friday the Pope leads a torchlit “Way of the Cross” procession that starts in the area around the Colosseum.
- The Colosseum was built by Emperor Vespasian, founder of the Flavian dynasty, for Titus, his successor.
- Colosseum is an elliptical building measuring 189 meters long and 156 meters wide with a base area of 24,000 m² with a height of more than 48 meter.
- It has about 80 entrances and can accommodate 50,000 spectators.
- Construction of this huge edifice started in 72 CE and was completed in 80 CE.
- In 847, the southern side of the Colosseum collapsed because of a devastating earthquake.
- The marble façade and some parts of the Colosseum were used for the construction of St Peter’s Basilica and later monuments.
- The Colosseum was used for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles such as animal hunts, mock sea battles, re-enactments of famous battles, executions and dramas.
- During the inaugural games of the Colosseum in 80 CE held by Titus, some 9,000 wild animals were slaughtered.
- In 107 CE, Emperor Trajan is said to have celebrated his victories in Dacia with contests involving 11,000 animals and 10,000 gladiators within 123 days.
- It is estimated that the games played in the Colosseum for hundreds of years have taken the lives of about 500,000 people and over a million wild animals.
- ) The last gladiatorial fights occurred in 435 CE and the last animal hunts stopped in 523 CE. It was primarily due to the cost of procuring animals and gladiators and maintaining the expensive facility.
- More than 100,000 cubic meters of travertine stone were used for the outer wall of Colosseum which was set without mortar held together by 300 tons of iron clamps.
- Colosseum was built near the giant statue of Colossus which was part of the Nero’s Park. The current name was derived from the statue of Colossus.
- Based on historical evidences, it shows that 200 bullock carts were used to transport marbles to the construction site.
- The total amount of marbles used for the construction of the Colosseum was estimated at 100,000 cubic meters
- Receiving millions of visitors every year, the Colosseum is the most famous tourist attraction of Rome.
- Elton John, Billy Joel, Paul McCartney and Ray Charles were some of the few famous singers that performed at the Colosseum.
- The Colosseum was built in only 9 years. Began in 72AD and completed in 81AD. We struggle to build stadiums today in 9 years!
- The Colosseum was built by 60,000 Jewish slaves.
- The real name of the Colosseum is the Flavian Amphithetre, built by the Emperor Vaspasian Flavian. The Colosseum is only a nick name given to the stadium after a statue of Nero called “the colossus of Nero” which stood along side the stadium.
- Over 400,000 people died in the Colosseum in the 390 years it was open for entertainment.
- The Colosseum was opened for free to the Anient Romans. They were also fed when they attended events there. The famous saying was “free bread and circus to the people of Rome”.
- Festivals and games held at the Colosseum could last 100 days!
- Unbelievably, if it ever rained during a festival in the Colosseum the Ancient Romans would cover over the Colosseum with red stretched out canvas. It was roped down in 64 rows from the outside of the Colosseum.
- Unbelievably the Ancient Romans would flood the Colosseum and have miniature ship and navel battles inside the Colosseum.
- In the dark ages a number of fruit trees grew up through the Colosseum and for a long time no one could figure out why. But “free bread and circus” meant that people were either spitting out there seeds or throwing in their fruit.
- 10: 55,000 people could be seated inside the Colosseum. All 55,000 people could be seated in only 20 minutes. This was due to the fact that 84 entrances were open to the public, where your entrance was in direct line to your seat.
4. Great Wall of China (China)
The Great wall of China approximately 5 meters wide ,7.8 meters high and 8,851.8 kilometers(5,500 miles) long from east to west of China with a history of more than 2000 years. The Great wall is built, rebuilt, and maintained between the 5th century to 16th centaury (220-206BC)by the first Emperor of china, Qin Shi Huang. Little of that wall (290 km) remains were built during the Ming Dynasty to protect the northern borders of the Chinese Empire from Xiongnu attacks. Ancient records reported that at least one million slaves and prisoners of war were used to build this wall. Many labors died from exhaustion and starvation while working on this colossal task. Their blood and bodies were added there to build it.
Beginning in 324 b.c.e. three northern Chinese states with nomadic neighbors—Qin (Ch’in), Zhao (Chao), and Yan (Yen)—began to build defensive walls. After Qin unified China in 221 b.c.e. the first emperor ordered his most able general, Meng Tian, to connect these existing walls and extend them to form a unified system of defense. The result is the Great Wall of China.
For 10 years beginning in 221 b.c.e. Meng Tian commanded a force of 300,000 men (soldiers, convicts, and corvee laborers), who simultaneously campaigned against the Xiongnu (Hsiung-nu) and other nomads and built the wall. There is no detailed information about the project.
The great historian Sima Qian wrote this account in The Historical Records: “He [Meng Tian] … built a Great Wall, constructing its defiles and passes in accordance with the configurations of the terrain. It started at Lin-t’ao and extended to Liao-tung, reaching a distance of more than a myriad li. After crossing the [Yellow] River, it wound northward, touching the Yang mountains”.
Controversy remains over the length of the Qin wall. Sima Qian used the word wan, which translates as “ten thousand” or “myriad” in English; myriad was often used to designate a large but not precise number.
Regardless of its precise length, the logistics for its building was daunting, far more so than building a pyramid, because the wall advances and so the supply line is always changing.
Moreover, it extends over mountains and semideserts where the local population was sparse and the weather inclement. A vast army of support personnel was also involved, and death among the workers must have been high.
Legends that the bodies of the dead were used as wall fillers have proved untrue from excavations; however, they reflect the resentment the relentless demand for labor for the project created. Unlike the Ming wall built almost 2,000 years later of rocks and large fired bricks, the Qin wall was made of tamped earth from local materials.
The completed wall stretched from Gansu (Kansu) in the west to north of Pyongyang in present-day North Korea. The building of the wall and earlier Qin defeat of the Xiongnu also had the unintended result of solidifying and unifying the various Xiongnu tribes under their leader Maotun in 209 b.c.e.
The fall of Qin in 206 b.c.e. resulted in neglect in China’s northern defenses and Xiongnu incursions, which the first Han emperor Gaozu (Liu Bang) was unable to check. After defeat by Maotun in a major battle in 200 b.c.e., Han and Xiongnu made peace under the Heqin (Ho-chin) Treaty, which made the Great Wall their boundary.
5. Machu Picchu (Peru)
On the morning of July 24, 1911, a tall lecturer-cum-explorer from Yale University set off in a cold drizzle to investigate rumors of ancient Inca ruins in Peru. The explorer chopped his way through thick jungle, crawled across a “bridge” of slender logs bound together with vines, and crept through underbrush hiding venomous fer-de-lance pit vipers.
Two hours into the hike, the explorer and his two escorts came across a grass-covered hut. A pair of Indian farmers walked them a short way before handing them over to a small Indian boy. With the boy leading the way, Hiram Bingham stumbled upon one of the greatest archaeological finds of the 20th century—and what was named in 2007 as one of the new seven wonders of the world: Machu Picchu.
What Bingham saw was a dramatic and towering citadel of stone cut from escarpments. Fashioned by men without mortar, the stones fit so tightly together that not even a knife’s blade could fit between them. He wondered: Why? By whom? For what?
Certainly, what he saw was awe-invoking. Contemporary Peruvian expert Luis Lumbreras, the former director of Peru’s National Institute of Culture, describes “a citadel made up of palaces and temples, dwellings and storehouses,” a site fulfilling ceremonial religious functions.
Machu Picchu is formed of buildings, plazas, and platforms connected by narrow lanes or paths. One sector is cordoned off to itself by walls, ditches, and, perhaps, a moat—built, writes Lumbreras, “not as part of a military fortification [but] rather as a form of restricted ceremonial isolation.”
A Brief Overview
7,000 feet above sea level and nestled on a small hilltop between the Andean Mountain Range, the majestic city soars above the Urabamba Valley below. The Incan built structure has been deemed the “Lost Cities”, unknown until its relatively recent discovery in 1911. Archaeologists estimate that approximately 1200 people could have lived in the area, though many theorize it was most likely a retreat for Incan rulers. Due to it’s isolation from the rest of Peru, living in the area full time would require traveling great distances just to reach the nearest village.
Separated into three areas – agricultural, urban, and religious – the structures are arranged so that the function of the buildings matches the form of their surroundings. The agricultural terracing and aqueducts take advantage of the natural slopes; the lower areas contain buildings occupied by farmers and teachers, and the most important religious areas are located at the crest of the hill, overlooking the lush Urubamba Valley thousands of feet below.
Hikers, tourists, and the early explorers describe similar emotions as they climb their way through the Inca Trail. Many call the experience magical. Glancing out from the Funerary Rock Hut on all the temples, fields, terraces, and baths seems to take you to another time. Blending in with the hillside itself, many say the area creates a seamless and elegant green paradise, making it a must for anyone who travels to Peru.
Temple of the Sun
Machu Picchu has a number of structures that would have enhanced the spiritual significance of the site.
One of them, the “Temple of the Sun,” or Torreón, has an elliptical design similar to a sun temple found at the Inca capital of Cuzco. It is located near where the Inca emperor is believed to have resided at Machu Picchu.
A rock inside the temple could have served as an altar. During the June solstice the rising sun shines directly into one of the temple’s windows, and this indicates an alignment between the window, rock and solstice sun.
Beneath the temple lies a cave, naturally formed, which the explorer Bingham referred to as a “royal mausoleum,” although there’s little evidence that it was used as such. A boulder carved into a stairway lies near the cave entrance and the underground chamber likely served a religious function of some form
Principal temple & Intihuatana
A series of religious structures is located on the northwest of the site, bordering the plaza.
One of the buildings, dubbed the “Principal Temple,” contains a carved stone altar. When it was excavated by Bingham he found that it has a layer of white sand, something seen in temples at Cuzco, the Incan capital. [Images: Top 10 Ancient Capitals]
A building adjacent to the “Principal Temple” is known as the “Temple of the Three Windows” and contains a large amount of broken pottery, ritually smashed it appears.
But perhaps the biggest puzzle at Machu Picchu is a giant rock, named “the Intihuatana” by Bingham, after other carved stones found in the Incan empire. The stone at Machu Picchu is situated on a raised platform that towers above the plaza. Its purpose is a mystery, with recent research disproving the idea that it acted as a sundial. It may have been used for astronomical observations of some form. It may also be connected with the mountains that surround Machu Picchu..
In September 2007, Yale University agreed to return to Peru some of the thousands of artifacts that Bingham removed to Yale to study during his years of exploration and research. These items will go into a new museum that the Peruvian government has agreed to build in Cusco.
Being named a modern world wonder is a mixed blessing for the people of Cusco, the former center of the Inca world and the closest city to Machu Picchu. The site is a source of national pride for Peru, as well as a valuable tourist attraction. However, with an increase in international interest comes an increase in pollution, a need for hotels and other facilities, and the need to protect the lost city that the Western world didn’t know existed.
It’s highly unlikely that researchers will find an archaeological smoking gun that will definitively identify the purpose and uses of Machu Picchu. Scientists, however, continue to excavate and rebuild the site. Modern scientific advances, such as those that re-identified the gender of the skeletons that Bingham found, could help uncover clues to reveal the reasons for its construction, the activities that took place there, and its subsequent abandonment.
6. Petra (Jordan)
Petra, is a historical and archaeological city in the southern Jordanian governorate of Ma’an that is famous for its rock-cut architecture and water conduit system.
Due to its breathtaking grandeur and fabulous ruins, Petra was recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1985.
Another name for Petra is the Rose City due to the color of the stone out of which it is carved. Established possibly as early as 312 BC as the capital city of the Arab Nabataeans, it is a symbol of Jordan, as well as Jordan’s most-visited tourist attraction. Petra was named amongst the New 7 Wonders of the World in 2007 and was also chosen by the Smithsonian Magazine as one of the “28 Places to See Before You Die”.
Some historical informations:
Petra was the impressive capital of the Nabataean kingdom from around the 6th century BC. The kingdom was absorbed into the Roman Empire in AD 106 and the Romans continued to expand the city. An important center for trade and commerce, Petra continued to flourish until a catastrophic earthquake destroyed buildings and crippled vital water management systems around AD 663. After Saladin’s conquest of the Middle East in 1189, Petra was abandoned and the memory of it was lost to the West. The ruins remained hidden to most of the world until the Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, disguised as an Arab scholar, infiltrated the Bedouin-occupied city in 1812. Burckhardt accounts of his travels inspired other Western explorers and historians to discover the ancient city further. The most famous of these was David Roberts, a Scottish artist who created accurate and detailed illustrations of the city in 1839. The first major excavations of the site were in 1929 after the forming of Trans-Jordan. Since that time, Petra has become by far Jordan’s largest tourist attraction. The site was included in the Steven Spielberg movie, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade in 1989.
7. Taj Mahal (India)
The Taj was built between 1632 and 1643 by the fifth great Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, in order to serve as a mausoleum for his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal, who died in 1631 giving birth to pair’s fourteenth child. Shah Jahan’s intention was that the mausoleum should be the most impressive ever commissioned, and a permanent monument of his love for Mumtaz. The tomb’s original name was Rauza-i-Munavvara, or the “Illuminated Tomb”, the current moniker “Taj Mahal” being a corruption of Mumtaz Mahal. The land it was built on was purchased from the Kacchwaha’s of Amber (and later of Jaipur), the marble also coming from quarries in Rajasthan.
While it is true that Shah Jahan had several other wives beside Mumtaz, and that after her death he developed into quite the voracious womanizer (it is even rumored that he died from an overdose of aphrodisiacs), all of the evidence points to his having been genuinely in love with Mumtaz during her lifetime. Certainly, of Shah Jahan’s eight children who survived into adulthood, seven, including the next Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, were by Mumtaz. While she was alive, she seems to have been the closest person to the emperor, and his grief at her death appears genuine. Hence the tomb’s overplayed reputation as a “monument to love” is not inaccurate.
It was during Shah Jahan’s reign than Mughal architecture can be said to have reached it’s zenith. A large number of India’s greatest buildings other than the Taj Mahal were commissioned during his reign. Old Delhi, once known as Shahjahanabad, was largely his conception, and the two primary monuments in the city, Red Fort and the Jama Masjid, are both testaments to Mughal architectural sensibilities at their height.
That being said, Shah Jahan was far from a spotless ruler. Before he gained the Mughal throne, he attempted a large though unsuccessful rebellion against his father Jehangir. Though he failed in this, a few years later, upon Jehangir’s death, he was able to seize the empire, though only after exterminating all of his potential rivals, including his own brother. This was a precedent that would be followed by most of the Mughal rulers who came after him.
That raises the question of whether Shah Jahan’s moral turpitude should effect ones judgement of the artistic merits of the Taj Mahal. I have known people who dislike monuments generally for the simple reason that they tend to have been made by evil people. For my part, I think we’re just sort of stuck with the fact that being a good artist doesn’t make you a good person, and that if you only allow yourself to enjoy art that comes from perfectly enlightened people living in perfectly enlightened societies, then you wont have much to enjoy.
A random fellow in the reflecting pool. Or, more correctly, a random fellow’s reflection in the reflecting pool. Note the finial on top of the dome. This is made of brass and was placed there in the 19th century, replacing an earlier, gold finial. Though it looks rather like a trident, traditionally the symbol of Shiva, it is meant to represent the Islamic crescent moon. However, some view the finial’s resemblance to Shiva’s trident as further evidence that the Taj was once in fact a Hindu temple, which Shah Jahan merely converted into a tomb, after engaging in a massive conspiracy to leave a huge, false, paper trail and fool posterity into thinking the building was constructed by the Mughals. The theory was popularized by P.N. Oak, who also claimed that the Vatican and Stone Hedge were ancient temples to Shiva, and that both Christianity and Islam developed out of Vedic traditions. His ideas seem a tad far fetched to me, though he apparently managed to gain a certain amount of traction with them. I’ve had a number of discussions with people who refused to believe that the Taj could have been a product of Islamic rather than Vedic civilization.
Whatever people may say against Shah Jahan, the rumors of his cruelty towards either the workers on the Taj, or to the architect (depending on which guide you’re talking to), are not true. He apparently never had anyone’s hands cut off or eyes gouged out in connection with the building of the Taj. There are a variety of other myths about the complex which still have some currency even though there’s no solid proof for them. Perhaps the most common is that another mausoleum, exactly the same as the Taj except that it would be made of black stone instead of white marble, was planned directly on the opposite side of the river, but was either ruined, or never completed (depending on which guide you’re talking to). Sadly, this does not seem to have been the case.
The mausoleum and the marble platform, with some people for scale, about ninety minutes after the first picture in this post was taken. The most distinctive aspect of the architecture of Shah Jahan’s reign is the conspicuous use of white marble. Most of the great buildings of the earlier Mughal emperors, such as the tombs of Humayun and Akbar, and the buildings in Akbar’s short lived capital Fatehpur Sikri, were made of red sandstone, a material that was far more abundant in North India. The great thing about the marble of the Taj is the way it catches the light: At every time of day there’s a different view. At dawn and sundown the marble goes just as red as the sun happens to be, but in the middle of the day the building is almost glaringly white…it’s rather like looking at the world’s most most colossal and perfectly proportioned igloo in the bright sunlight.
Stone inlay work on the side of the pishtaq. The Taj is famous for it’s pietra dura, or hard stone inlay work, which had been imported from Italy during this period. However, it’s often claimed that all of the inlay work on the mausoleum is pietra dura, when the decorations on the exterior of the tomb employ methods which had been known to local craftsmen for quite some time, as evidenced by the other tombs in the area, such as Akbar’s and the tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah, which prominently employ inlaid stone decorations. Still, the complexity of the stone work on the Taj Mahal was unprecedented in India at the time.
Unfortunately, one is not allowed to take photos on the inside of the mausoleum (though that doesn’t stop some). The interior contains the most ornate inlaid stonework, along with the cenotaphs of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan. It’s worth taking a small flashlight into the tomb and holding it directly against the inlaid stone flowers on the side of the screen that surrounds the cenotaphs. This causes the individual transparent stones which make up the flowers to light up.
It’s funny that over time the Taj has become the symbol of India, given how many elements of it are essentially foreign. The Mughals themselves were of course not originally Indians but central Asians, the dynasty being the decedents of both Tamerlane and, further back, Genghis Khan. The language of the Mughal court (adopted during the reign of Humayun), was Persian, and Shah Jahan’s taste in architecture was far more Persian and Central Asian than it was Indian. While with the structures of the very early Delhi Sultinate, and also with many of the buildings in Akbar’s reign, there is a very distinct, visible, cultural and architectural fusion, with the Taj Mahal the indigenous characteristics of the building are much less pronounced.