By Todd F. P. Hughes (Wonders & Marvels contributor)
The Taj Mahal has the fame of being one of most iconic demonstrations of love for one’s spouse on the face of the planet. Finished in 1638, after almost 20 years of labor, it is the final resting place of Mumtaz Majal, the first and favorite wife of the fifth Mughul Emperor, Shah Jehan.
I think that, for several reasons, the term iconic is very important in any consideration of this edifice. First, as I previously mentioned, it serves as an iconic demonstration of love. Second, it serves as a cultural icon. For much of the world’s population, the Taj Mahal is India. Third, we associate cultural icons with the Taj. Lady Di’s 1992 visit to Agra is forever ingrained in our conscience, as a result of her iconic photo in front of the Taj Mahal. Finally, the representation of the building, in our collective consciousness, is iconic. When we imagine the Taj Mahal in our mind’s eye, we represent it in one form: from a distance, straight-on, and from the front.
I became aware of this phenomenon when I recently went to Agra to see the Taj. Seeing the building, from that frontal iconic view, took my breath away. Surprisingly, what I found even more inspiring was that the building had dimension. Yes, it is much more than what you see in those two dimensional pictures. It actually has depth!
Fortunately, you will not need to travel all the way to Agra to quickly appreciate a 3D vision of the Taj Mahal. Google has provided us with a model of the building, created in SketchUp, which we can download and manipulate. An advanced modeling tool, it allows us to turn the Taj Mahal on an axis, in order to see that yes… it does have four sides.
Todd Hughes is the Director of Instructional Technology at Vanderbilt University’s Center for Second Language Studies. He team teaches a course on Digital Humanities with two other W&M contributors. He is also a fanatic for world travel.