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Taj Mahal Gardens Found to Align


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with the Solstice Sun



By Owen Jarus, Live Science Contributor | February 2, 2015 07:06am ET


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The gardens of the Taj Mahal align with the rising and setting sun during the summer and winter

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solstices, new research shows. Although the alignments likely had symbolic meanings, the solstice
sun could also have served a practical purpose, helping architects build the Taj Mahal and its
gardens precisely.
Credit: saiko3p/Shutterstock.com
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If you arrived at the Taj Mahal in India before the sun rises on the day of
the summer solstice (which usually occurs June 21), and walked up to the
north-central portion of the garden where two pathways intersect with Most Popular
the waterway, and if you could step into that waterway and turn your gaze Why Do People Scrunch Up
toward a pavilion to the northeast — you would see the sun rise directly Their Faces After Tasting
over it. Something Sour?

If you could stay in that spot, in the waterway, for the entire day, the sun The Largest Black Holes in
would appear to move behind you and then set in alignment with another the Universe Formed in a
pavilion, to the northwest. The mausoleum and minarets of the Taj Mahal Snap — Then Stopped
are located between those two pavilions, and the rising and setting sun
Unusually Large 2-Billion-
would appear to frame them.
Year-Old Microbe Fossils
Reveal Clues About Our
Although standing in the waterway is impractical (and not allowed), the
Ancient World
dawn and dusk would be sights to behold, and these alignments are just
The First Fireworks Came
two among several that a physics researcher recently discovered between
from a 2,000-Year-Old
the solstice sun and the waterways, pavilions and pathways in the Chinese Quest for Immortality
gardens of the Taj Mahal.
Phillistines, Biblical Enemies
of the Israelites, Were
European, DNA Reveals

Several alignments have been discovered between the solstice sun and the waterways, pathways
and pavilions of the Taj Mahal gardens. A physicist used high resolution Google Earth satellite
imagery, combined with a program called Sun Calc, to make the discoveries. This image shows a
Google Earth satellite view of the Taj Mahal and its gardens.
Credit: Image copyright Digital Globe, courtesy Google Earth

The Taj Mahal is a mausoleum built by Mughal Dynasty emperor Shah


Jahan (who lived from 1592 to 1666) for his favorite wife Mumtaz Mahal
(who lived 1592-1631). Her name meant "the Chosen one of the Palace."

The summer solstice has more hours of daylight than any other day of the
year, and is when the sun appears at its highest point in the sky. The
winter solstice (which usually occurs Dec. 21) is the shortest day of the
year, and is when the sun appears at its lowest point in the sky.

Amelia Carolina Sparavigna, a physics professor at the Polytechnic


University of Turin in Italy, reported the alignments in an article published
recently in the journal Philica.

Gardens of Eden

A striking alignment occurs on the north-central part of the gardens of the Taj Mahal during the
summer solstice. If you were able to stand in the waterway where two paths meet, you would see
the sun rise above a pavilion located to the northeast. If you were to stay in that position throughout
the day, you would see the sun set in alignment with a pavilion to the northwest. The Taj Mahal and
its minarets are located between these two pavilions, and the sun would appear to frame them.
Credit: Image copyright Digital Globe, courtesy Amelia Carolina Sparavigna

The Mughal dynasty built the gardens in the "charbagh" style, a system
developed in Persia that involves dividing a garden into four sections,
Sparavigna noted in her article.

"It is well known that the Mughal gardens were created with the symbolic
meaning of Gardens of Eden, with the four main canals flowing from a
central spring to the four corners of the world," she wrote. Her research
shows that solstice alignments can be found not only in the Taj Mahal
gardens, but also in gardens built through time by different Mughal
emperors. 

Although the alignments at the Taj Mahal likely had


symbolic meanings, it's also possible that the
architects of the structure used the solstice sun to
help build the Taj Mahal, which is precisely oriented
 along a north-south axis. [In Photos: A Walk
Through Stonehenge]
From a viewpoint in the
lower central portion of
the gardens, where two "In fact, architects have six main directions: two are
pathways intersect the joining cardinal points (north-south, east-west) and
waterway, another
series of alignments is
four are those given by sunrise and sunset on
visible. During the summer and winter solstices,"Sparavignawrote in
summer solstice, the her paper.
sun would rise in
alignment with a
pavilion to the northeast Sparavigna told Live Science
and set in alignment in an email that the
with a pavilion to the
alignments seen at the Taj
northwest. During the
winter solstice, the sun Mahal, compared with solar
would rise in alignment alignments seen at other 
with a pavilion to the
southeast and set in
gardens, are particularly
From the vantage point
alignment with a precise. In "the case of Taj of the Taj Mahal's
pavilion to the Mahal, these gardens, which central spring, there are
southwest. alignments between the
are huge, are perfect." pathways during the
Credit: Image copyright
solstice. In this image,
Digital Globe, courtesy
Amelia Carolina
New technologies the top yellow and
orange lines represent
Sparavigna
Sparavigna made the sunrise and sunset on
the summer solstice,
discoveries by using an app while the bottom yellow
called Sun Calc, which uses Google Earth satellite and orange lines
represent sunrise and
imagery to help calculate the direction at which the
sunset on the winter
sun rises and sets on a given day and location. solstice.

Credit: Image copyright


Over the past decade the availability of free, high- Digital Globe, courtesy
resolution Google Earth imagery, combined with Amelia Carolina
Sparavigna
the development of apps like Sun Calc and
Sollumis, has made it easier for researchers to
discover and study solar alignments at historical
sites.

"Before software and satellites, we had to use traditional maps or plans,


obtained after local surveying, and equations to determine the solar
[angles] and draw them on maps. In fact, the use of satellites [makes] this
work very fast and visually attractive," Sparavigna told Live Science.

In December 2014, she published another paper reporting her discovery


of solstice alignments at a Roman fort in northern England.

Follow Live Science @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Originally published on


Live Science.

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Author Bio

Owen Jarus, Live Science Contributor


Owen Jarus writes about archaeology and all things about humans' past for Live
Science. Owen has a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Toronto and a
journalism degree from Ryerson University. He enjoys reading about new
research and is always looking for a new historical tale.

Owen Jarus, Live Science Contributor on 

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