The Minaret and the Muezzin
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The four detached minarets springing from the plinth of the Taj Mahal measure 138 feet high and stand like sentries nobly keeping guard. They were built out of plumb, slanting so that if they were to topple, they would fall not towards the Taj, but away from the building, protecting the tomb from harm. They also form a visual framework to the Taj proper and enhance the symmetry of the building.
The minarets have an octagonal base and cylindrical body tapering to an eight-sided open pavilion. The body of the minarets is sectioned by three balconies which create shadows and interest in an otherwise plain design. An exquisite band of marble inlay and geometric patterns sporting the chevron design encircle the minaret below the top balcony.
The classic minaret developed into a cylinder shape capped with a miniature dome, but they can be continuously cylindrical from a square base, or multi-faceted shafts. Minarets can also be attached to the main structure, like these at Akbar's tomb in Sikandra which was built between 1604 and 1614.
Originating from the Arabic term 'manar' which means 'beacon' or 'lighthouse', a minaret is the epitome of Islamic architecture. It is the place from where the 'muezzin' or crier chants the call to prayer five times a day. Early Mosques were often without minarets and the muezzin would stand on a raised point, or even a ladder.