Wonder-ful India

Somewhere along the line I adopted the notion that the Taj Mahal was one of the Seven Wonders of the World. While it is magnificent, I guess it's not considered that wonderful (or that ancient) since it's not one of the wonders of the ancient world. There are a few similar lists, but they also include some sites I consider a little ordinary like the Golden Gate Bridge.

However, when we arrived in Agra I was ready to see something marvelous. Sure, enough, that is the Taj Mahal. For all the hype, I did prepare myself that maybe it would look smaller in person, or dingier maybe?

You begin with a little tourist shuttle ride, then through a somewhat bizarre security screening that takes away video cameras, computers, and even e-readers and cashews in your pocket like Jason had. Beginning in a rusty orange courtyard, the tour guide explains it took 22 years to complete the monument that Mughal (favorite word!) emperor Shah Jahan built in memory of his wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Learning that she was one of three does put a little dent in the modern notion of "most romantic place in the world" story, however you learn that the Taj Mahal was just one of her three requests from her deathbed. One of the others was that Shah Jahan never marry again. (And that he take care of her kids.)

The two gates each carry 11 domes, representing together the twenty two years of construction. You walk through the darkness of this gate and on the other side is the Taj Mahal. For all that you expect, it is true! It seems like the Taj Mahal is shrouded in a magical cloud of exalted air. Peaceful and exquisite. Oh yes, and crowded too. Our guide, Rajeev, helped us manage the crowds like an expert. (He explained that he'd been to the Taj three times already just that day before meeting us.) He patiently got us a spot on Princess Diana's bench for this photo op. He also showed us his tricks for fool-the-eye photography, which drew the curiosity of visiting school children as well. We thought it was maybe a little corny, but went for it with gusto.Yes, Jason really is just held in the palm of my hand. Those gym workouts have helped a lot with my lifting strength!We walked around for probably over an hour, but it seemed so short. There was so much to absorb! The details of the Taj Mahal were extraordinary. Intricate inlaid marble designs, which almost seem surprising to have only taken twenty two years.

(And it's a myth that the laborers had their hands cut off at the completion of the construction to prevent them from replicating the art. Instead they were actually invited to Shah Jahan's palace to sell their wares at regular scheduled bazaars.)

Rajeev shared that he also taught math and physics, and his teaching skills were apparent as he sat us down on a bench and explained the ingenuity behind the Taj's construction, including four corner towers weighing down the platform upon which the main masoleum sits, and each tilting barely perceptively. Sorry Juliet, that's a very brief amateur's description of what he was saying. I confess I was more drawn to the romantic stories behind the architecture, like the dome topped by an inverted lotus design, a symbol of life's desire fulfilled.The visit to the Taj Mahal was certainly one of my desire's fulfilled!
Rajeev noted that they may begin selling timed tickets to the Taj, perhaps a diplomatic hint to us as we were tarrying at the exit. Gazing back at the vista and taking deep breaths to soak that special place in before leaving.


Anonymous said...

Rajeev is an excellent tour guide!


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