Thursday, September 1, 2011

Wondrous Monument Built for Love - The Taj Mahal

We had arrived in Agra, home of the famous Taj Mahal, Monday evening. Vishnu dropped us off at our hotel for some rest and relaxation before waking up bright and early to see the Taj at sunrise. Lonely Planet and Kate (her second time visiting the Taj) both recommend sunrise because it is less crowded, and has an exceptional magical feel with the ethereal
colors at sunrise.

My number one goal was to purchase a sari before heading to the Taj. I really wanted a picture in front of the beautiful structure, embracing the Indian culture. Luckily, there were some shops within our hotel grounds that weren't terribly expensive. I also was able to work out a deal with the kind man. Success!

Alarms went off at 5am, and we actually spent some time doing make up and coordinating decent outfits since these pictures most likely would be framers and potential holiday cards. At 5:30 we set off to meet Vishnu and our guide (included with the fee for hiring a driver). Kelley and I were both pretty excited to see this magical wonder of the world.

One funny thing we saw, as we rode the bus to the entrance, was a mama pig and four baby pigs running along the street. Not sure what they were running after, but they sure were the happiest pigs, running with zeal. It made me think of 4 little pigs going to the market.

After making our way through security we reached a courtyard at the North end of the tomb. Our tour guide (unfortunately forgot his name, as I had one thing on my mind - seeing the Taj) began explaining the structure and history. I was getting a bit frustrated and impatient as I wanted to actually enter and see it, I sort of was half paying attention. I did catch a few things. The reason it's the structure of love, is because the emperor had the monument built as a memorial for his wife, who died giving birth to his fourteenth kid. We entered at the north end, which I believe the heads are faced north in the tomb. He also explained that there are Quran verses inscribed on the gateway, and the inscription is larger on the top. The gateway is built with red sandstone. He explained some of the Mughal empire. He also talked a bit about the illusions of the Taj, and that It took about 22 years to build with many artisans involved.

Finally, the moment we were waiting for, entering the sandstone gateway and catching the first look of the Taj Mahal. It is quite possibly one of the most breathtaking structures I have ever seen. Absolutely incredible! Our guide showed us one of the first illusions, standing in the gateway at the center line and walking backwards, the structure begins to look larger. He also started pointing out the incredible symmetry that was designed in the monument. I've always been a big fan of symmetrical things (maybe the inner perfectionist in me) and this was just amazing to see.

After walking through the gateway, our guide pointed out some fantastic photo opportunities and we snapped away. He sat back as we took our time getting all the shots we wanted. I got my sari picture, Kate got her super hero cape shot, Kelley got her handstand photo, and we even introduced India to planking. We took a couple cute pics on the VIP bench (remember I'm famous in India) where Princess Diana was filmed. The guide then suggested doing some pics to highlight the illusions of the structure - we got some crazy height jumping pictures, and we were so strong we could hold the monument with two fingers.

It was just amazing to see this structure made of all white marble glistening in the sunrise. At some angles, there appeared to be some sparkle to the design. The colors at sunrise were pretty fantastic. The other thing that was really cool, especially since we all live in big cities, is to see this beautiful building with nothing but a blue sky and no other skyscrapers. It was so peaceful and serene.

Our guide told us that the four minarets, at each corner of the marble platform that the Taj sits on, are slanted outward in the event that if any happens they won't fall on the Taj. Also, they are half the height of the Taj, and it does not appear that way. One of the many illusions.

Looking closely we could see many gems and stones in laid in the marble. Inside were two replica tombs (the real ones are a floor below). There was supposed to be a third, but the son of the emperor never ended up there due to an estrangement with his father. I guess he imprisoned his father when he became emperor. Around the tombs were some intricate filigree marble designs. Our guide also pointed out a gem in the boarder that would glow when a light was shown on it. That was pretty cool. I forget the name of the stone and will be doing some googling with better internet. He pointed out a few more illusions of the structure. As Kate said, it's ironic that the structure of love is full of illusions.

It's pretty amazing to think of all the thought and design that went into the Taj.

One last interesting fact, the monument is all held together with tree sediment and egg yolk. Apparently this was a super glue during this time. Amazing that it is still holding it up today!

At lunch later that day we were showing Vishnu our pictures from the Taj and he was telling us about his future wife. We asked if he has ever been to the Taj. He told us that as an Indian you can't go until you are married (this could have been a lost in translation thing, but it's what we gathered from the convo.) He and his wife will see it once they are married. I thought that was interesting.

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1 comment:

  1. Sounds amazing!!! I regret not seeing the Taj when I went ... but maybe I will just have to wait until I get married. One other cool Taj fact - there is only one family that makes and repairs the stones of the Taj and the technique has been passed down from generation to generation. There is this building in Agra that they live in where all of the Taj secrets are held!