Monday, July 16, 2007

The Irony Of The Taj Mahal

We follow the throngs of people pouring through the entrance to the huge courtyard to the Taj. Aw and I look at each other like two kids heading into a candy store. We are grinning with anticipation. We walk through the entrance and there it is. It is the most magnificent structure I have ever seen. It rises up like a dream castle in the distance. The Taj is so big that it is deceptive to look at. It seems far away and very close at the same time. You can see Aw waving to the camera here as we approach the mausoleum. It's hard to convey just how gigantic this structure really is. And it's all solid marble. the Taj is a wonderful love story. The Ruler of this part of India; Shah Jahan, loved his favorite wife so much that when she died (after bearing him about fourteen children...ouch... missed her so much that he hired two thousand craftsmen to design and build this monument to his Queen. It took twenty-two years to complete it . When they were done, he ordered their thumbs to be cut off so that they could never repeat this work. It is said that some of the building techniques here, have never been duplicated anywhere else . It is said that these construction secrets have been lost in antiquity. You always see the Taj from the gate behind Aw. this shows you what it looks like when you look back from the other direction. The curved archway behind her is the entrance to this whole courtyard. When Shah Jahan completed the Taj Mahal for his wife, he started to build a second Taj to be used for his own mausoleum. His plan was to create an exact duplicate of the white Taj, but in black. You can see the foundation here across the river. This is where Aw and I were standing earlier today when we looked across to the main Taj. You can see the foundation of this structure across the river from the White Taj. The Shah's son declared him insane and had his father imprisoned in the foundation of it. Our driver; Mannie, says that the son was outraged that his father was taking so much of the riches to build something so frivolous. Other locals disagree. Our hotel clerk thinks the son was just greedy and wanted to stop his father from spending his future inheritance.

This is the entrance to the mausoleum behind me. You see that man just entering? That should give you some idea just how immense it is. Do you see the inscription and detail work on the wall behind me? Those are jewels and semi-precious stones that have been set into the marble.. I sit here for a few minutes just to take in the history of this moment. It's not every day we have a chance to be a part of one of the most famous places on Earth. After a little while Aw and I walk into the inner sanctum where a large marble tomb sits over the body of the Shah's wife (depicted in this painting). We are told not to take photos but people keep taking them anyway. Over and over again, tourists push their way into the grating that surrounds the tomb and they snap flash photos while the guard keeps telling them to stop but to no avail. The one thing that really stands out to me here; there is a second tomb beside the large one in the center. It is the tomb of the Shaw. But what makes it so strange here is that in this magnificent structure where everything is perfectly symmetrical, his tomb is the only thing that is off-center. The great irony of the Taj is that the resting place of the creator of one of the most carefully planned and executed architectural structures of all times, was in the end, an afterthought.



What a great journey.
Thanks for the ability to be able to travel with you in Michael Pallin style.
I hope to be tracing your footsteps soon.
Thanks Steven.


sfgirl said...

Neat photographs, as always, Steven. You may wish to travel over to my site and check my latest post then give it some thought... :)

Steven said...

paul: Thanks for coming along for the ride. Keep me posted on your plans. Who knows? I might just see you there. Happy traveling.

Steven said...

sfgirl: Thank you very much for your encouragement. No wonder you won that award.