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The Main Characteristics, Intensions, and Cultural Values
Taj Mahal.Taj Mahal is considered to be the heart India, and the masterpiece of Persian Architecture (Shah Jaham, 1632). Being the most recognizable building in the world, this sacred place was built in remembrance of Mymtaz Mahal, the third wife of Shah Jaham, the Mughal emperor.
The construction of the building started in 1632, right after Mumtaz’s death and, therefore, the Taj Mahal was initially intended as a tomb for the emperor’s wife. With regard to this, this sacred place has been endowed with two ideas, which are both historical and international.
Both native residents and foreigners refer to this place as a symbol of love and affection which was recorded in many historical documents. At the same time, the temple also embodies the concept of perfection and beauty of Mumtaz Mahal as well as her advantage over other women. As a whole, the magnificence and beauty of the Taj Mahal is presented in metaphorical terms whereas its functional destination is conflated with the place of burial.
The main peculiarity of architecture design consists in combining different traditions and connections they make to mythology and culture. Hence, this tradition is based on three pillars: the architectural trends in the Mughal’s Asian homeland, the construction traditions of early Muslim India, and older analysis of the Indian architecture itself (Shah Jaham, 1632).
Hence the first pillar, or source of inspiration, derives from the idea to preserve the feeling of identity and origin by building a memorial to a person. The second tradition of building temples stems from Indian wealthy cities.
Special attention deserves architectural volumes presented in the form of big boxes with a hole in the side where the surfaces are extremely embellished with decorative tiles or brickwork. Finally, the third tradition is expressed through the Indian rituals of constructing tombs. However, these architectural forms considerably differ from that practice of building tombs for sultans and noble figures in history.
Hence, the first variant implies that tombs were constructed for the purpose of praying for a common boon whereas noble tombs and temples were constructed for the benefits for the sultans buried and for their soul (Shah Jaham, 1632). In whole, the Taj Mahal embodies the construction of the basic architectural volumes incorporating a mixture of ideas and traditions that had been practiced in early India.
Before looking at the tomb ornamentation, it is necessary to consider the terrace construction. It is surrounded by four minarets that capture the corners of the podium. The utilization of white marble for the construction of all the components – minarets, the tomb itself, and the podium – supports the idea of an organizational unity. It should be stressed that exterior decoration which is also meaningfully performed.
Beside plant motives and refined carvings on the tiles, the architectural elements are also enriched with calligraphy containing the passages from the Koran. The style of the interior decoration is also sustained in the manner of the decorated outside elements. Despite slight stylistic deviations that are expressed through the usage of precious and semiprecious lapidaries, the overall idea is sustained.
The fact that the Taj Mahal is recognized as one of the world biggest cultural values is undeniable because this construction plays a significant role in forming people’s cultural and artistic awareness. Beside symbolic meanings of love, beauty, and perfection, the tomb also personifies people’s faith in better future. In addition, the architectural masterpiece reflects the fundamental knowledge about artistic and cultural history of India, including its myths, and fables.
Qa’aba. The Qu’aba, also called as Kaaba, is a building of a cubic form located in Mecca, Saud Arabia. This construction is considered as the most sacred place in Islamic culture. Being an architectural masterpiece, the Kaaba is also recognized as one of Five Pillars of Islam and each Muslim should perform the Hajj pilgrimage at least one in his/her life.
Therefore, this place is also considered as the Home of God, a symbol of purity and sanctity (Abraham, 2030, B. C). While exploring the phenomenon of the hajj routes and pilgrimage performed by Muslims, this site is also considered as the place for revelation and salvation.
Kaaba is made of black granite on the four sides of the building. The roof is made up of white silk. The construction is decorated by the golden curtains and black silk. The four corners point toward school four doors, the compass, and cardinal directions. Eastern corner is called the Black Stone that is believed to be originated from the times of Adam and Eve (Abraham, 2030, B. C).
Western corner is referred to as the Yemeni corner. The sides are decorated by a gold-embroidered calligraphy that includes the texts from Koran. Inside, the construction is made up of marble with inscriptions and limestone floor. The upper part of the walls enclosed with green cloth is that with gold-embroidered verses from the Koran.
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The marble surface is perfumed with the same oil used for anointing the Black Stone. The north-west wall of the construction is connected to the semi-circular wall, which is called hatim. It is about 1 m in height and about 1.5. m in width (Abraham, 2030, B. C). The space between walls is never available to the visitors. A special consideration deserves the cubic form of the Kaaba where each side of the cube indicates each corner of the world. The top part is of light color because it addresses God and the sacred (Abraham, 2030, B. C).
It is universally acknowledged that Kaaba is considered to be the most sacred place in Eastern culture and religion. People from all over the wolrd strive to visit this sacred place, a symbol of faith, hope, and idol worship. In addition, this site also contributes to cultural background of the Eastern civilizations.
The House of God is also associated with the first Prophets as well as their honorable descendants appointed to protect God. In this regard, those people who worship this place will surely achieve salvation. Beside religious motives, this place is presented as a culturally recognized architectural memorial. Muslims believe that this construction also serves as a symbol of fostering unity and identity because it incorporates all cultural and religious values of the entire Arabic world.
Investigating the Usability and Credibility of Primary Sources
In order to understand the above presented descriptions, it is necessary to get down to evidence and facts explored and found by historians and researchers. Such sources provide a deeper understanding of the architecture, taking into consideration its cultural and artistic value.
There are many professional sources describing the salient features of the architectural constructions being the main cultural and spiritual centers in the Eastern world. Apparently, the buildings can provides sufficient information about the tendencies, the constructions, and the materials, but the books are the result of profound research and analysis of certain facts, records, and evidences compiled in a coherent way.
Analyzing the Taj Mahal
The first book that fully discloses the essence of Taj Mahal in architectural and cultural terms is the one called Taj Mahal written by Tillotson, the author makes use of many books and articles on history and tendencies of the Indian architecture.
In the book, author delves deeply into the history of the construction as well as the cultural, spiritual, and social terms that determined the basic characteristics of the Indian temples and tombs. Relying on this source, one can definitely ascertain that the Taj Mahal is a legendary structure, and the heart of the Indian culture.
Based on the description of the construction, the Taj Mahal is indeed considered a mausoleum and as sacred place (Tillotson, 2008, p. 44) The books describes this magnificent edifice as a symbol of stability and permanence as its shifting image presents a shifting image for the viewers regardless time frames and cultures. The author provides a great number of illustrations to underscore the perfection and impeccability of Mughal architecture being an ideal synthesis of aesthetic strands and an icon of the contemporary India.
The credibility of the book lies in accurate and consistent exposition of factual information and analysis of the salient moments related to the common trends of Indian art and architecture. The author has managed to cover all aspects of the construction history from its intentions and origins to the architectural elements and terms.
A sophisticated mixture of history, culture and art created a vivid picture of the constructions process, its main underpinnings and reasons. Each element of the Taj Mahal has been closely intertwined with mythological and traditional motives related to the modes of life of the Indian people. Providing different of variations of the names of the building, the author initiates readers in better understanding of its importance of Muslim culture.
The book is also presented as a valuable guide to background of the Indian art and culture for readers to understand the idea that Mughal’s heritance is not made up of nothing, but of sophisticated processes of combining, blending, and synthesizing facts and evidence from history related for the formation of architecture of Indian.
Interestingly, the book also makes reference to economic and political factors that influenced the formation of artistic and architectural trends. As a whole, the book gives a tribute to the Indian culture and spirituality and depicts the Taj Mahal as the one of the greatest architectural constructions in Islamic culture that has had a potent impact on the development of the world architecture.
Analyzing the Qa’aba (Kaaba)
In order to fully comprehend the actual value of the Kaaba for the Islamic world, one should the book The Hajj: the Muslim Pilgrimage to Mecca and the Holy Places by Peters (1995). While describing the essence of performing pilgrimage to Mecca, the author provides the main features of the Kaaba, a place that embodies Islamic religious and spiritual values. Providing a parallel history of Islamic rituals, the reader can understand the way they are connected to the most sacred site in the Muslim world.
The accounts on the origins of the tradition of covering the stone building as well as on all rituals connected with this holy place are also worth considering. Importantly, scientific and historical facts are presented in combination with narrative stories as presented in different books. Some of the passages fully disclose some significant rites, such as the covering of the Kaaba: “The [Kaaba] had been dressed in her new attire when we entered.
The covering, however, instead of being secured at the bottom to metal rings in the basement, was tucked up by ropes from the roof…It was of a brilliant black…” (Peters, 1995, p. 128). Further descriptions contain comprehensive pictures and details that correlate with the formation and development of “the House of God”.
Manifold descriptions of the pilgrimage to Mecca are also intertwined with various contexts in which the Kaaba is framed. While describing religious and spiritual importance of the Hajj, the author also touches upon political, commercial, and economical experiences that also had a considerable influence on the image of the Kaaba.
Though the book seems as a guide to the greatest pilgrimage at a glance, all these events are directly connected with the place of arrival. Such a context is the most appropriate for understanding the importance of this architectural miracle. While pursuing the sources that Peters cites, it is possible to conceive the details of the rituals connected with the Hajj and the Kaaba (Peters, 1995, p. 127).
Hence, beside the decorative elements and the details of construction, the books also introduces exhaustive information on cultural and spiritual values of those details, including the covering ritual, the meaning of embroidered text from the Koran, and the essence of the Kaaba location.
The book also provides clear understanding of the Kaaba’s role in the formation of architectural trends. It also enables readers to realize how this building incorporates all periods of development of the Islamic world and describes the Kaaba as the ideological and cultural center in Eastern culture. Its rich heritage encapsulates the experience of the travelers to Mecca.
With regard to information mentioned above, the book is of significant value in terms of credibility and usability because it accessible language and detailed description of particular events form the history supplements the entire image of the architectural construction with all its elements and forms. What is more important is that the author explains why this place contributes to understanding the Islamic culture and traditions as well as to forming its benefits and usefulness for the culture.
Summing up the information received from primary sources as well as evidence obtained from professional sources, both architectural constructions justify their importance and credibility within the context of Islamic culture and art. Specifically, the Taj Mahal is considered to be one of the most famous religious and cultural centers because it incorporates not only symbols of love, beauty, and permanence, but spiritual significance both for the Indian people and other cultures worldwide.
The perfection of architectural elements approves this message to its full extent. Similarly, the Kaaba is referred to as one of the pillars of Islam and a spiritual symbol of identity for all Muslim people. Both edifices contribute greatly to the image of the contemporary Islamic culture with its rich historical heritage.
Abraham (2030, B. C.) The Kaaba. Saudi Arabia: Mecca
Peters, F. E. (1995). The Hajj: The Mulsim Pilgrimage to Mecca the Holy Places. Princton University Press.
Shah Jaham. (1632) Taj Mahal. India: Agra
Tillotson, G. H. R. (2008). Taj Mahal. US: Harvard University Press.