Taj Mahal guest house

Symmetry At The Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal is the beautiful mausoleum built by Shah Jahān for his beloved wife Mumtāz Maḥal. Located in Agra, India, the Taj Mahal is actually a complex made up of five elements. They are the main gateway, a mosque, a garden, the mausoleum, and the Jawab.
While the first four elements are pretty self-explanatory, what is a Jawab? Jawab means “answer.” It and the mosque are two identical buildings, with the mosque located to the west and the Jawab to the east. With several names including Rest House, Guest House, and Assembly Hall, the Jawab was the “answer” to the needed symmetry.

While the Guest House on the outside is an exact duplicate of the mosque, it is different on the inside. It does not have a Mihrab, the indented enclosure that shows the direction of Mecca, or a Minbar, the platform that the priest uses. While never used for prayer, there is some debate about its original purpose. One train of thought is that it housed visitors who came to observe the anniversary of Mumtāz’s death.

As part of the symmetry, both the Guest House and the mosque have a large platform, built 25 inches the surrounding terrace. The area between the mausoleum and the mosque’s platform provides a place for washing before prayer. While the area between the Guest House and the mausoleum is a mirror-image, it does not have any specific function.
The colors of the Rest House, built of marble facing and red sandstone, make an eye-catching color contrast. It has one main opening, the Iwan, and two smaller Iwans located on either side of the main opening. The three domes are marble coated. Gilded finials are on top of the domes. Even higher are pinnacles in a traditional lotus design and four small marble veneered domed kiosks.

It is still unclear the true purpose of the Jawab, whether it was built as a rest house or a place for assembly before prayer. There is no doubt that one reason for its construction was to provide symmetry to the mosque on the opposite side of the mausoleum. No matter its true purpose, as an identical twin to the mosque, it has increased several times the grandeur of the Taj Mahal complex.