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- Upper Cenotaphs


The cenotaphs of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan together with the screen create unique decoration made of flower and plant patterns, ornamented with semi-precious stones.
The octagonal screen surrounding the tombs are divided into three frames on each side filled with jalis having attractive plant elements which is unlikely to the geometric jalis patterns of the entire Taj Mahal. Each corner of the octagon is topped with kalasha, a globe-like shape topped with a pointed-shape.

The actual burials are located in the lower chamber room according to the Mogul traditions. The cenotaphs in the lower room are similar in design.

The tomb of Mumtaz Mahal is in the center of the hall and the larger cenotaph of Shah Jahan is situated on the western side of the tomb of Mumtaz Mahal which is according to some “ a later planned” burial. The heads of the tombs are on the north, towards Mecca. The tomb of Shah Jahan is topped by a pen case in order to emphasize its being a male tomb.

The east side of the upper cenotaph of Mumtaz Mahal starts with inscriptions from sura 83 of the Qur’an and continues with verse of 30 of sura 41 on the other sides aiming to comfort her soul. The epitaph at the foot end of the tomb on the south reads “The illuminated grave of Arjumand Banu Begam, entitled Mumtaz Mahal, who died in the year 1040” ( ad. 1631).

The upper cenotaph of Shah Jahan is without any inscription from Qur’an but only an epitaph on the foot which reads “This is the sacred grave of His Most Exalted Majesty, Dweller in Paradise, Second Lord of the Auspicious Conjunction, Shah Jahan, Padshah; may it ever be fragrant! The year 1076” (ad. 1666).

The usage of the red flowers both on the screen and the cenotaphs is the reflection of the death and blood as in Persian and Turkish poetry. “Poppies” are used in the poems of Turkish poet Ahi which might also be the influence of the identifiable usage of poppies on the surface of the tomb of Shah Jahan.


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