Monday, July 8, 2013

The Taj Mahal Day
All the guide books say see the Taj at sunrise. So, I get into agra@10pm, take a taxi to my hotel which is 5 doors from the entrance. However, the streets leading there are blocked off to traffic, so I'm schleppin with my suitcase down the street making a lot of noise. No one is on the streets. I finally find my hotel and fall immediately asleep. Wake up the next morning and the bed is sooo nice and warm and the room is so cold. I can see my breath! Get up or go back to sleep?? up or down?? Finally after a long battle with myself, I get up. Throw on clothes and step outside. not a soul awake on the planet. I finally get to the entrance of the hotel and there are 2 bicycle rickshaws. They ask me if I want aride to the ticket window. Now, from last night, I know the window is up the block. I say no in a very gruff way, and start walking. It's freezing, I can see my breath! As I'm walking I realize that it's only $2 to have them drive me. I walk back and LaLa the driver takes me there and to the entrance. I wait in line. They open the gate and I walk in. There is a nice garden and I run and get an audio recorder.I start the tour.
In front is a huge structure (15 stories?)built to frame your entrance "to leave earth and go into paradise". You walk up some steps and framed perfectly is the Taj.It is enclouded and you just see this beautiful pure white structure.engulfed in clouds, floating on this planet. Between you and the building are several acres of magnificent fountains and gardens. One gets to the half way point and there is a marble platform to view the building. There are a few tourists but it is mostly me and the most beautiful building on the planet! as one gets closer, one starts to seethe veins in the marble and it takes on a whole different aspect. You start to see the in-lay work of precious stones and the sheer mass of it! They had to use brick scaffolding to build it because the weight of the marble was so heavy that a wooden scafold would collapse. It is amazing, you've heard about this your whole life and here it is!
You know his wife died bearing his 14th child when he made the promise to build it, took 22 years and finally when it's finished ,his eldest son creates a coup de tah (sorry, don't know how to spell it) and de-thrones him and puts him into a palace for the rest of his life and he grieves his dead wife.
The red sandstone mosque at the Taj, a work of art in its own right.
Around the Taj, Koranic verses are inlayed in Jasper and black marble. That is to say, the calligraphy here is not painted on; it is made of finely cut pieces of stone, inlaid into socketed slabs of white marble. The skill and dedication required for such a monumental task are beyond my understanding. And if that isn't enough... the calligraphy gets larger the higher up it goes, to account for the skewing effect of perspective when one is viewing from below.
Photography is not allowed in the central chamber of the Taj, but I hastily snapped this photo when no one was looking. Behind these intricately carved and inlayed marble screens are the cenotaphs of both Shah Jahan, the Mughal emperor who had the Taj built, and his 3rd wife, Mumtaz Mahal, the woman it was built for.
It's true what they say; she really is the most beautiful building in all the world. Got up before the sun in order to be first in line and have a chance to wander the complex alone, and snap a few pictures without anyone in them. Well worth it. Taj Mahal, Agra, Uttar Pradesh State, India

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