Dados of the Taj Mahal
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A series of dados or decorative marble panels, run around the lower walls of the interior chambers of the mausoleum. In the corner outer chambers, dados are plain, with carved decoration in relief forming borders around the creamy expanses of marble. However, inside the central room itself and the cardinal outer rooms; the dados are framed with inlaid floral borders.
In addition, the panels themselves are embellished with depictions of flowering plants and blooms in vases carved in high relief, such as the one shown here. Similar sandstone carvings on the dados of the mosque and the guesthouse echo these images.
The inlaid blooms of the dado borders are highly stylized, colorful impressions of flowers hanging from black trellis frameworks. The shapes of the flowers remain simple, but display a fluidity of line and aesthetic feeling typical of Mughal design.
By contrast, the flowers carved in relief are well-observed, detailed depictions of Indian flowers. There is some argument as to where the origins for this naturalistic effect lie.
The Mughal interest in botany is well documented. Jahangir, Shah Jahan's father, ordered his artist Mansur to record over one hundred flowers native to Kashmir, including tulips, violets and narcissi. However, this attention to realism is not part of Islamic tradition, which in fact tends towards abstraction this colorful illustration is taken from the Dara Shukoh album.
Scholars have therefore looked further a field to European visitors bringing botanical books and herbals to the Mughal court with them as a source of this attention to naturalism. But, with no firm evidence to support this, the source of the truth to nature displayed at the Taj remains elusive.