Jalis around the Cenotaphs
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A protective octagonal screen made of perforated marble panels, or jalis, with borders of inlaid marble surrounds the two cenotaphs in the central chamber. According to the original plans, an extravagant gold rail, encrusted with gems, was to have originally surrounded Mumtaz's tomb. However, Shah Jahan decided that the rail presented too much of a temptation for light fingered visitors and elected to replace it with the present stone screen.
Each of the jalis, including the larger doorway and north face, were carved from single slabs of marble. Designs based on abstract foliate and floral patterns create an enchanting woven effect through which one catches glimpses of the cenotaphs inside.
According to Qur'anic doctrine, light is symbolic of Allah's presence. The marbles screens of the Taj Mahal not only serve to let air circulate but also allow daylight, symbol of Allah, to reach the cenotaphs themselves.
The eight faces of the marble screen are decorated with intricate gemstone inlays. Depictions of individual flowering plants appear on the vertical borders and upper pierced friezes, with hanging blooms weaving across the horizontal frames.
Flowers including crown imperials, lilies and poppies are alternated in rich Technicolor on both faces of the jalis, the flowers of paradise permanently in bloom around the bodies of the Emperor and his wife.