January 13, 2011

India {Taj Mahal}

We started our journey to Agra at 7a.m. It's a four and a half hour drive (200km) and the roads are not easy to travel - each city we passed through slowed us down due to traffic. Back home, this drive would have taken about two hours. Once we arrived in Agra, traffic was utter chaos. I thought Delhi was bad, this was worse. No stoplights, stop signs or lanes - a free for all and survival of the fittest. When we pulled into the parking area, we were immediately mobbed by guides and drivers trying to get us to use them (you can't drive up to the Taj Mahal, you walk .7km, take a rickshaw or ride a camel). We opted to walk (especially after that 4.5 hour car ride!), but took a guide with us and we were glad we did. On the walk up, we were constantly approached to buy souvenirs or take a ride the rest of the way and our guide helped ward them off.

Getting into the Taj Mahal was a quite a process in itself. You pass through security similar to the airport. You are patted down and cannot being in anything except a camera, phone and wallet/purse (which they search as well) - you can't even chew gum! But, it's worth it. Pictures do not capture the awe you experience when you see it in person. It's absolutely amazing. The grounds are meticulously manicured. As you take it all in, it's hard to imagine this was built in 1632 and only took 22 years. That may seem long by today's standards, but the sheer size and detail make this seem like a short span of time - not to mention everything was handmade. 

The story surrounding the Taj Mahal is really a love story. The Shah built it for his third wife who had recently died while giving birth to his 14th child. In her memory, he created this beautiful structure/mausoleum. He was eventually imprisoned by his son when he took power and the Shah watched it's completion from his prison cell in the Red Fort.

Entering through the royal gate, the Taj Mahal is at the end of a long garden. It's brilliant white is almost blinding. As we approached the Taj Mahal, we were asked to either take off our shoes or cover them with provided shoe covers. This is to protect the marble and keep it from deteriorating - it wasn't designed to have thousands of people walking on it daily. As you walk up the stairs and see the stonework up close, it's even more impressive. All the pieces are carved from single slabs of marble - they are not pieced together. The colors you see on the Taj Mahal are not painted, they are semi-precious stones inlaid within the marble (onyx, jade, yellow marble, jasper, crystal). The red stones shimmer in the sunlight and in moonlight, the Taj Mahal glow and red stones shine bright red. At one time, diamonds were also inlaid in the stones, but when the British arrived in India, they removed them all.

As you walk around the Taj Mahal, you can't help but notice the symmetry. For example, there are four gates leading into the Taj Mahal, four minars surround it, 22 steps lead up to the Taj Mahal and 22 domes sit atop the Royal gate (representing the 22 years it took to complete). The gardens are symmetrical as are the additional buildings surrounding it (a music room, guest room, prayer room and museum). As we walked away, we were left in awe of what an accomplishment the Taj Mahal truly is. To withstand time and still look as it did when created is unbelievable.

Standing in front of the Royal Gate (notice the 11 domes on top, there
 are 11 more on the back side)
Taj Mahal from Royal Gate

Looking up before climbing 22 steps

If you look closely, you can see some shimmer in the upper right front
Detail of semi-precious stones
Close up of marble carving - it was smooth to the touch
This stonework creates an optical illusion, it's only four sides, but looks jagged - they aren't
Looking from Taj Mahal over gardens towards Royal Gate

1 comment:

Natalia N Sander said...

Amazing pictures and I love the one of your hubby:)!