Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Taj Mahal

There was a T-shirt on sale in the town of Agra, where the Taj Mahal is located which proclaimed "Go Via Agra and witness man's greatest erection for a woman" lol, yeah ok, I know it's kinda crude but you gotta admit it is funny, and quite true actually. The Taj Mahal was, in fact, built for the love of a woman. It stands as an amazing monument to love and the great heartache of love lost. So now here it is in pictures and stories as I experienced it.

Me and an English fellow named John I'd met the evening before at dinner agreed to get up at the butt crack of dawn to beat the crowds and see the Taj Mahal. So at 5:30 AM we found ourselves to be the only ones in line waiting to buy a ticket to enter which we were allowed to do at 6:00 and in we walked...the first two people through the gate.

After you walk through the outer courtyard and head towards the main gate this is the view which greets you and your heart starts thumping and you get a goofy sorta grin on your face as it begins to dawn on you that you've finally made it, after all the travel and difficulties, you're only steps away from one of the great wonders of the world.


Then there it is, in all its splendor and white marble, the Taj Mahal. Built to be the eternal resting place of Shah Jahan's true love, Mumtaz. The story goes that the beloved Mumtaz died giving birth to her 16th child. No wonder Shah Jahan felt so bad and went to such lengths for the poor gal, he killed her by knocking her up 16 times, she must have spent her whole life pregnant!



The Taj Mahal is surrounded by four minarets but since it's actually a tomb and not a mosque they're not used for calling the faithful to prayer but simply as towering decorations.

They say it took 20,000 workers 12 years just to complete the main tomb building, and when you get up close you can see why it would have taken so long with the intricate carvings and inlay work, the small details are just as beautiful as the building as a whole.



The Taj Mahal was constructed using materials from all over India and Asia. Over 1,000 elephants were used to transport building materials during the construction. The translucent white marble was brought from Rajasthan, the jasper from Punjab, jade and crystal from China. The turquoise was from Tibet and the Lapis lazuli from Afghanistan, while the sapphire came from Sri Lanka and the carnelian from Arabia. In all, twenty eight types of precious and semi-precious stones were inlaid into the white marble.

Agra Fort in the distance

The story goes that as Shah Jahan was advancing in years that he decided to build an identical Taj on the other side of the river from the original one only this one would be made entirely of black marble. His son, the heir to the throne, had other ideas since the building of the first one had all but bankrupt the kingdom (they say the price tag was somewhere in the billions of dollars in todays money) So the son placed the father under a kind of house arrest and forced him to live out the remainder of his days in an apartment built for him, out of marble of course, atop the walls of the Agra Fort which he was never allowed to leave. He apparently spent the last 7 years of his life gazing across the river at the Taj Mahal and mourning the loss of Mumtaz, his one true love.


Shah Jahan's marble apartment built on the walls of the Agra Fort facing across the Yamuna river to the Taj Mahal.


I dunno what the Indians call this critter but it looked to me like a squirrel accidentally humped a chipmunk and out popped this little guy.

Later in the day we went to the other side of the river to take pictures of the Taj from that vantage point where there was a little kid who would not stop harassing me until I let him take a picture of me "holding" the Taj Mahal...for which he later wanted some compensation for, of course.

Here's a view of the Taj Mahal from the roof of my hotel just after sunset. I would have taken the picture at sunset but there was a monkey on the roof enjoying the view during that time and well...you know how I feel about monkeys, so I wasn't about to disturb him.

Taj Mahal Quote of the Day:

ENTRY FEES:

Taj entry fee for foreigners - 750 Rupees (17.83 USD)
Taj entry fee for Indians - 20 Rupees (0.47 USD)

Does that seem fair to you? Now don't get me wrong, I'm familiar with the idea of a discount for locals but lets at least try to be a little equitable.

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