Kennedy, Thalia. "The Notion of Hierarchy: The 'Purchin Kari' Programme at the Taj Mahal," in ArchNet-IJAR: International Journal of Architectural Research, vol. 1 (2007).
This paper explores the notion of hierarchy in architectural design and decoration with specific reference to the Taj Mahal complex in Agra, dating to 1632 onwards. As one of the acknowledged architectural masterpieces of the world, addressing the concepts that lie behind the design of the Taj Mahal allows an understanding of that achievement beyond its immediate visual impact. Much research has been carried out on various aspects of this Mughal tomb complex and it is not the intention of this paper to reproduce material that is expertly covered elsewhere. The paper instead focuses on the notion of hierarchy that informs the design of the inlaid decorative programme in the zone immediately surrounding the tombs of the deceased. This zone of decoration was particularly highlighted by Mughal commentators for its opulence and accomplished craftsmanship and remains today a highlight for visitors to the mausoleum. The paper addresses three main issues: the decorative technique and its context and symbolism; a description of the gemstone and ornamental stone programme with a focus on motif, material and location; and the relationship between that programme and the concept of hierarchical organisation in its enhancement of the visual and spatial effects.