Saturday, January 27, 2007

Day 19 - The Taj Mahal

I can honestly say that I have never beheld such beauty crafted by the hands of man. The only other man made structure that has even come close to impressing me as much as the Taj Mahal is St. Mark's Cathedral in Venice.

So, I'll give you the abridged version of the tour as I remember it. The Taj Mahal was constructed in the 17th century, and is made entirely out of Makrana marble, which is native to India. It is apparently considered the best marble because water cannot penetrate it. It was built as a tribute by the Emperor Shan Jahan to his beloved wife, Empress Mumtaz Mahal. She was one of his three wives, and his favorite. The emperor was Muslim, and so the architecture is considered Indo-Islamic. It cost approximately $1m to build, which was extremely expensive in those days. Originally, only the empress was entombed there. However, the couple's third son killed all his older brothers and imprisoned his father in order to get his hands on his father's fortune. When the emperor died, he was entombed beside his wife. It took 20,000 laborers 22 years to construct, and the emperor lived to see it finished.

Everything about the Taj Mahal is perfectly symmetrical, except for the tombs of the emperor and empress. Since it was built for the empress, she is entombed in the very center, and after the emperor died he was laid to rest to the side of her.

The spire on the top was originally made of pure gold and stood 10m high. Now it is made out of brass. The tour guide told us the gardens were filled with brightly colored flowers, however when the British came in they replaced the gardens with more green foliage, that was easier to maintain. I can only imagine how beautiful those gardens were.

To the west of the Taj Mahal is a mosque, no longer in use. To the east, is an exact copy of the mosque, but it is not called a mosque it was just built to continue the symetry.

The outside of the structure is inlaid with lapis, malachite, onyx, and other such stones. Around the arches are verses from the Koran. Inside, there are ornate marble partitions, surrounding the tombs, all of which are very intricately inlaid with these stones. I cannot even describe to you just how intricate the inlay is. We could not take pictures of the inside. The outside design is a square, and the inside is octagonal.

After our tour, we went to a large store where they make marble inlaid tables and such. Only 300 families exsist in India who know how to do this work. It is passed from father to son, and even the women are not allowed to know how it is done because a daughter might tell her husband.

So now I will leave you with the pictures. Mind you I just have a little digital camera, and it was hazy, so the pictures do not even do it justice.

Main Gate to the Taj Mahal made out of native sandstone.

It is actually closer behind me than it looks. Please keep in mind that my luggage is still missing, so very little grooming was done before the tour.

India claims the seventh wonder of the world.

The mosque to the west.

These camel carts are everywhere in Agra.

Craftsman etching the design on marble. The brown on top of the marble is used to help the craftsman see what he is etching, and is later removed.

My favorite table at the store. It was magnificent! It reminds me of peacock feathers. Too bad it won't fit in the carry on bins on the plane, oh and I can't afford it unless I sell some vital organs.

Another inlaid table. Too bad you can't see the work up close, because I couldn't get zoomed in that much.

Just an update on my luggage. British Airways has said it has been delivered to the hotel where we will be tonight in Delhi. However, the hotel says it has not arrived, and the employees of British Airways in Delhi have decided to go on strike! So the luggage saga continues. And for those of you who got a good laugh out of the distress outfit, it belongs to the hotel and sadly I cannot bring it home. That doesn't really hurt my feelings because I sort of felt like a refugee wearing them, and they were not that comfortable. The pants were kind of like scrub pants, only the inseam came to my knees. Very awkward. I was glad to get my only set of clothes back from the laundry!!!!


Lisa said...

Well, shucks! I really wanted to see that get-up up close and personal.

What a trip! You have seen the Taj Mahal . . . the TAJ MAHAL!!!! What picture would ever do that justice?

There is still hope for your luggage, HURRAH!!! Are you flying to Delhi? Maybe you can still get to the airport and get it or maybe it was enroute when you called the hotel and will be there when you get there. Hoping for the best! Reframe! Reframe!

tim rush said...

Too sad you don't get to keep the clothes. I know all the luggage in the world can't replace those cool white scrub-thingys.

Angie said...

Thanks for the tour Sarah! It's kinda fun to be an armchair traveler with you as our guide - not to mention less expensive and no chance to lose my luggage! But I have a feeling I'm still really missing out!

I didn't know the inspiration for the Taj was a woman. He must've loved her deeply. Too bad about their maniacal murderous son.

I hope that very soon you'll be greeting your luggage with a holy kiss! But you look awesome even with very little grooming! :-)

elaine santos said...

WOW! How amazing. I am so glad you got to experience it. What an opportunnity, not even taking the tour in scrubs could have taken away from the beauty. Oh Sarah, how much God must love you to allow you to marvel in all these wonders. Thank you for sharing, I am simply in awe and I was not even there! And hopefully soon you can marvel over your luggage! Gotta go, I am gonna ask Chris to build me my own Taj Mahal!

Angie said...

Even your avatar is at the Taj! Sweet!