tank representing the celestial Pool of Abundance, exactly placed to reflect the Taj Mahal in its still waters. Each of the four sections created by the waterways is subdivided into four smaller squares and then into four again—sixteen flower beds defined by raised stone paths. An ingenious system of reservoirs and underground earthenware and copper pipes carries water from the river to be fed to the pools and fountains and to irrigate the garden.

Two other buildings at the ends of the garden’s transverse axis complete the Taj Mahal ensemble: a red sandstone mosque to the west is reflected by an identical “rest house” to the east. The latter is known as the jawab (answer), indicating that it probably was included simply to provide symmetry in the architectural composition, rather than for any practical function. There is no place within the walls from which the serene mausoleum cannot be seen.

The white marble of the Taj Mahal has been yellowed by automobile emissions, acid rain, and industrial pollution. In April 1997 India’s Supreme Court enforced earlier orders for almost 300 nearby metal foundries to stop using coal for fuel or risk being closed down. There is now a 62-mile (100-kilometer) “safety zone” around the monument. The other threat to the fabric is the breath of up to 3 million visitors each year, which raises humidity and causes rusting of the iron cramps that hold the marble facing in place. In 1998 the French Rhône-Poulenc Foundation, UNESCO, and the Archaeological Survey of India began a three-year joint program to improve the water tightness of the Taj Mahal, undertake antifungal treatment, and extend research into stone-preservation technology.

The Taj Mahal and its romantic and poignant story have inspired poets everywhere. The Indian Rabindranath Tagore called it “a teardrop on the cheek of time,” and the Englishman Edwin Arnold saw it as “not a piece of architecture, as other buildings are, but the proud passions of an emperor’s love wrought in living stones.”

See also

Jantar Mantar

Further reading

Lall, John S. 1994. Taj Mahal and the Saga of the Great Mughals. Delhi: Lustre Press.

Mabbett, Hugh, and Fiona Nichols. 1989. In Praise of the Taj Mahal. Wellington, NZ: January Books.

Nath, R. 1985. The Taj Mahal and Its Incarnation. Jaipur, India: Historical Research Documentation Programme.

Temple of Amun: The Hypostyle Hall

Thebes, Egypt

On the east bank of the Nile at Thebes, 440 miles (700 kilometers) south of the site of modern Cairo, stood the most extensive temple complex in ancient Egypt. From the time of the New Kingdom (1550–1069 b.c.), the northern end of this religious compound (near the modern village of Karnak) was dominated by the great temple devoted exclusively to the worship of Amun-Ra, “King of the Gods” and one of the most important Egyptian cults. Like all dynastic temples, it provided a platform upon which the pharaoh enacted rituals to ensure the annual flooding of the river and maintain life on earth. The idea of a virtual universe raised Egyptian architecture from the function of shelter to a metaphysical plane. It was, in that sense, an architecture of altered states. Other major temples in the complex were consecrated to Amun’s wife, Mut, and Monthu; there were smaller shrines for Khons, Oper, and Ptah. The hypostyle—the word is derived from the Greek, “resting on columns”—of the Temple of Amun is the building’s most remarkable feature, ranked by many among the world’s architectural masterpieces.

The temple was built over twelve centuries under the patronage of many pharaohs; the last additions were made in the Ptolemaic period (ca. 332–30 b.c.). The walled precinct was approached from the west along an avenue of ram-headed sphinxes. A gateway between two massive, battered, pylons (never finished) gave access to an open forecourt, measuring about 230 by 260 feet (70 by 80 meters). In its northwest corner stood the Temple of Seti II, and close to its southeast corner the Temple of Ramses III. The courtyard provided the setting for public ceremonies and festivals. The processional way continued along the main axis of the temple complex, and beyond the eastern gateway, through a second pair of pylons, was the hypostyle hall. It was in effect a forest of 134 columns, covered in painted bas-reliefs, filling a room 338 feet wide by 170 feet deep (102 by 53 meters).