During the reign of Shah Jahan Mughal architecture reached its supreme exuberance. He chose marble as the chief medium for all his architectural undertakings and clothed and overlaid them with a lavish display of rich and sumptuous ornament. Marble of a pure white texture was procured from the quarries of Makrana in Jodhpur.
The architectural elements also register certain significant changes in the marble phase. “There is predilection for curved lines, in place of the rectangular aspect of the buildings of the previous phase, particularly noticeable in the curved outlines of the roofs and cornices.
The preference for bulbous domes with constricted necks, pillars with tapering outlines and with voluted brackets and foliated basis, foliated shape of arches, all reflect the emphasis on curved lines.” Elaborate and gorgeous ornamentation, pietra dura and creation of exclusive landscape setting are some important features of the buildings of the period.
Shah Jahan, by demolishing some of the earlier buildings, built marble edifices at Agra, such as the Diwan-i-Am, the Diwan-i-Khas, the Khas Mahal, the Shish Mahal, the Musamman Burj (or Jasmine Palace), the Anguri Bagh, the Machhni Bhawan and the Moti Masjid (Pearl Mosque) which has been described as ‘one of the purest and most elegant’ buildings of its class to be found anywhere. Similar construction was provided to the buildings in the interior of the fort of Lahore.
In 1638, Shah Jahan began at Delhi the construction of a new capital city Shahjahanabad, to contain within its perimeter a sumptuous palace fortress for the accommodation of the imperial household and court.
The palace fortress, the Red Fort as it is known because of the red sandstone fabric of its rampart walls, with its halls, palaces, pavilions and gardens was completed in 1648. The Diwan-i-Khas (also known as Shah Mahal) and the Rang Mahal (also called Imtiyaz Mahal or Palace of Distinction) are the two most conspicuous buildings inside the Red Fort. The grand Jami Masjid at Delhi, the largest and the most well known in the whole of India, also forms part of the scheme of the city of Shahjahanabad.
But all other architectural creations of Shah Jahan are nothing as compared to the superb conception of the mausoleum of his wife, Ar- jumand Banu Begum (better known as Mumtaz Mahal) at Agra. It is called the Taj Mahal after the title of the empress. It has been poetically described as a “tender elegy in marble”.
The belief that the Taj owes its design to a Venetian, Geronimo Verroneo, is misleading. The Taj is the crowning glory and culmination of Mughal architecture. It was commenced in 1631 and completed sometime around 1653.