The Taj is just down the block from our hotel. We get up early to try to avoid the heaviest crowds on another hot day. We didn’t quite accomplish that as you can see, but the faces and clothing were almost as impressive.
As hard as it was for us to believe, we were really there (this was not Photoshopped). The white marble mausoleum was built by Emperor Shah Jehan for his favorite wife who died giving birth at the age of 39. It took 22 years and 20,000 people working day and night to complete the perfect building. The head architect, a Persian, only selected architects who were also poets or lovers of poetry…and it shows.
The grounds are impeccable on this World Heritage Site (Actually eight of these sites are in India) and even a well displayed museum that apparently no one visits (we were almost the only ones in the place).
It’s a real treat to be able to walk up to this perfect building and really see…and touch the amazing detail that went into it’s construction. The inlaid stone (top), all hand-cut and fit into this hardest of marbles is held permanently in place by a secret glue from local trees. The calligraphy beside the main entrance gets gradually larger as it goes up so it can be read perfectly from the ground without the reader being aware that it looms a hundred feet or more above. Every detail spectacular.
[Not so spectacular, however, is the fact that the air pollution around the Taj is ominous. A primary cause is an oil refinery allowed to be built upwind from the Taj. It’s poisonous burn-off floats directly down to the Taj. After an uproar was made, the responsible local official said he didn’t know about it being built and put the blame squarely on his underlings. The corruption in India is omnipresent and destructive based on what we’ve been seeing and hearing]. Also, the Taj is not lit at night to help avoid the proliferation of mosquitoes and other pests.
The Taj is a mosque in a Hindu environment. It has always been a target of extremists and is surrounded by stiff security.
A cluster of mosques and palaces on the banks of the river just upstream from the Taj built by Akbar of sandstone c. 1565. It is also a World Heritage Site and overlooks the Taj Mahal.
This is where Shah Jahan, the creator of the Taj, was imprisoned by his son. He couldn’t leave and could only gaze on the distant, perfect structure he made for his great love. He died there.
That evening we had dinner reservations at the 7-star Oberoi Hotel that overlooks the Taj for a spectacular sunset view. The walk between our luxury hotel and the Oberoi again brings us back to the reality of India. We have to dodge piles of garbage on the broken, uneven sidewalk and even two horses tied up so you had to detour to the horn-honking street. There is a band of Gypsies (true Romany descendants) with makeshift tents and dirty, wild children shouting “hello” and practicing for their future begging and “working” life. But the beauty of the people comes out when a tuk-tuk driving by stops suddenly at the curb and a beautiful young family piles out and asks politely if they could pose for a picture with us. I, sadly, wonder what the “catch” is. But, they really just wanted to be photographed with some westerners. Thanks and handshakes all around.
What a view! What extremes!
As the sun sets a troupe of musicians and dancers perform evening ragas on a platform opposite us.
And our dinner was wonderful, with a view of the musicians and dancers as well. I guess it’s India too, but we decide to take a taxi back to our hotel to avoid too much “contrast” for one night.
Tomorrow by train and coach to Khajuraho.