The Mausoleum of the Taj Mahal at Agra stands in a formally laid-out walled garden entered through a pavilion. The architectural complex comprises five main elements: the Darwaza or main gateway, the Bageecha or garden, the Masjid or mosque, the Naqqar Khana or rest house, and the Rauza or the Taj Mahal mausoleum. The actual Tomb is situated inside the Taj.
The unique Mughal style combines elements of Persian, Central Asian, and Islamic architecture. The mosques, built only to balance the composition are set sufficiently far away to do no more than frame the mausoleum. In essence, the whole riverside platform is a mosque courtyard with a tomb at its center. The great entrance gate with its domed central chamber, set at the end of the long watercourse, would in any other setting be a monument in its own right.
The Taj stands on a raised, square platform (186 x 186 feet) with its four corners truncated, forming an unequal octagon. The architectural design uses the interlocking arabesque concept, in which each element stands on its own and perfectly integrates with the main structure. It uses the principles of self-replicating geometry and a symmetry of architectural elements. The four graceful and slender 162.5 feet minarets, set symmetrically about the tomb, are scaled down to heighten the effect of the dominant, slightly bulbous dome. Its central dome is 58 feet in diameter and rises to a height of 213 feet It is flanked by four subsidiary domed chambers.
The tombs of Shah Jahan and his wife Mumtaz Mahal are actually located in a shadowy burial crypt. Above them, in the main chamber are false tombs, a common practice in mausoleums built during the Mughal period. Light is admitted into the central chamber by finely cut marble screens. The echo in this high-domed chamber is worth hearing, and there is always somebody there to demonstrate it.
Ironically, the perfect symmetry of Taj is disrupted by the tomb of the man who built it. When Shah Jahan died in 1666, his son Aurangzeb, placed his casket next to that of Mumtaz Mahal. His presence which was never intended, unbalances the mausoleum's interior.