Calligraphy and Inscriptions
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Arabic inscriptions in black marble are used to decorate both the south gateway and main mausoleum. The black marble lettering is inlaid into white marble scroll-like borders that frame the architectural features. Sweeping letters and a strong emphasis on horizontal and vertical strokes create an almost grid-like effect in places.
The text is written in the 'thuluth' script, in a style associated particularly with the Persian calligrapher, Amanat Khan, who was resident at the Mughal court. (His signature appears in colophons within the marble inscriptions).
Recent historian Wayne Begley suggests that Amanat Khan was responsible not only for the design of the script but also for the choice of text. The majority of the text is taken from the Qur'an. There are twenty two passages in all, including fourteen whole chapters, some of which are read out as part of the Islamic funeral ceremony itself.
The texts chosen refer broadly to themes of judgment and paradisical rewards for the faithful. The inscription over the gateway invites the reader to enter Paradise, the abode of the faithful and reward for the righteous.
As one approaches the mausoleum itself, the mood changes. The inscriptions on the exterior walls of the tomb leave one in no doubt about the impending doom that awaits unbelievers on the Day of Judgments.
Inside the mausoleum, the tone is more reassuring in places, with lengthy descriptions of Paradise adorning some of the walls.
The central focus is provided by passages on the upper cenotaph of Mumtaz Mahal. The words of the Qur'anic prayer, recited by angels, implore Allah to allow the faithful to enter Paradise,
a touching request for God's mercy towards his devout servant, Mumtaz Mahal.