The Taj Mahal is one of the world’s most famous and recognizable buildings. Remember a forlorn Princess Diana sitting on the famous bench, all alone? Her prince was not with her. According to our guide, the Shah, who had this built, did not poke out the Persian architect’s eyes when construction was complete, to insure this design would forever be unique. Many blinded eyes would have been needed to insure that. Just a myth. The true story is quite romantic and familiar to most of us, but there are a few details I learned to share with you. The Shah Jaham had the Taj Mahal built as a burial vault for his beloved wife Mumtaz who died in the 16th century. But I get ahead of myself. The story goes that the Shah and his wife were camping in the mountains when their 14th child decided to be born early. Mumtaz developed complications, but before she died asked three things of her husband. She wanted him to promise never to remarry, to cherish and care for their children, and to build her a monument for the world to see of their great love. The third request became his life’s passion and work. It has been described as “one of the most elegant and harmonious buildings in the world.” The height struck us as when first seeing the Pyramids of Giza. The setting is a garden, not just your ordinary garden but an image of the Islamic garden of paradise. The cost was 41,000,000 rupees, 1,102 pounds of gold and it took 20,000 workers twelve years to complete. The Shah’s plan was to build himself a matching tomb, but crafted of black onyx. Imagine! But his oldest son, the new Shah put his father in the fort as a prisoner for the last eight years of his life. The young Shah thought his father had spent enough rupees on his extravagant projects. Maybe the father had not spent enough time “loving and cherishing” that son!
It is impossible for me to say something unforgettable about this day in Agar at the Taj. I will just retell how we spent our time. We spent two nights so we had parts of two days to visit. We got up and walked to be at the site for the sunrise. In India, you are always assured of a sunrise though some are heightened by pollution which brightens the color. We left the hotel at 5:45, yes all the sleepy- headed students, to capture an unforgettable sunrise shot. The grounds open at 6:30 and we were in line for tickets before six. The ticket was for one entry and we had hoped to enter early, go back for breakfast and then return. Much discussion followed. Some chose to enter then and stay. Others went with David and me to walk along the high brick wall to get a behind the Taj shot. As you can see, we weren’t disappointed. We also saw the river and a parade of monkeys jump from the trees and line up on the Taj wall. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CIrHGgBI2SM&feature=youtu.be (Thanks Erin) Security was extra tight. One person had a hand gun and all that happened was he was told to put it in a locker! We all shuddered to think of a terrorist attack here! If you are planning a visit, Friday the site is closed to all but Muslims who are permitted to pray in the mosque which adjoins the tomb. About half the kids stayed at the Taj from sunrise to sunset and no food is allowed inside. Others were there for many hours and even watched the sunset from the roof of a restaurant. Though it is hard to put any of this in anything but cliches …. I think awe is what we all felt at the size, perfection, and beauty overwhelming us. The next day we had to have just a last visit as we rolled out of town. The driver took us across the river to the unused site of the onyx tomb for some shots of sunrise and the Taj reflected in the water. The kids raced along the river with guards frantically blowing their whistles… ecstatic Black-Friday shoppers racing for the perfect pix instead of the perfect gift. (Thanks Liz for the picture.)
The Taj Mahal has been described as “a poem, a vision, and a wonder.” My favorite is David’s words describing it as a “sublimely useless” building.
Nameste….T I I