Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Agra, India and the Taj Mahal

We arrived in Agra on a Thursday in the late afternoon. We checked into The Oberoi Amarvilas, a stunning Rajasthan palace only 600 yards from the Taj Mahal. Our visit though would be delayed. Travel fatigue coupled with the fact that the Taj Mahal is closed to the public on Fridays suggested a "day off" to enjoy the resort followed by an early tour on Saturday. A few relaxing moments...

What to Do?

All rooms at Amarvilas have a private view of the greatest monument of love in the world. It is early Saturday. Yes, we woke up and looked straight across at the glorious site of the Taj Mahal; the dome and surrounding turrets were pink at that time of day. It was 5:15 am and it was time to meet our guide, Mohsin Khan...


... just around sunrise...

Southern View of the Crown Palace,
(Picture Taken from Our Bedroom Window)

Darwaza-i rauza - Gate of the Mausoleum

The whole area, on the bank of the Yumana River, is about 39 acres in all, and it is unique as a tribute to a loved one. It was built by Shah Jahan in memory of his second wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died giving birth to their 14th child, of whom only seven survived. The building of it took 20,000 workers 22 years, from 1631-1653, and the main architect was Ustad Ahmad Lahauri. Materials were brought from all over India and indeed Asia, including translucent white marble from Makrana, Rajasthan; red sandstone from Fatehpur Sikri; jasper from Punjab, turquoise from Tibet, lapis lazuli from Afghanistan, sapphire from Sri Lanka, carnelian from Arabia, jade and crystal from China (28 types of precious and semi-precious stones can be found inlaid into the white marble, which, being non-porous, is cleaned about every six years with mud).

Stone Inlay

Stone Carving,
due to prohibition against the use of
anthropomorphic forms, is in plant motif

Calligraphy in Arabic
Made of jasper or black marble
 inlaid in white marble panels.

 There are calm gardens and gentle water features...

Taj Mahal from the East Garden

Reflecting Pool
...but everyone heads for the main mausoleum, topped by a dome nearly 273 feet high. We walked towards it was with dreamlike fantasy; we stopped and had our guide capture us in the magical moment...
Joan and Gus
(Picture of us on "Princess Diana's Bench")

Brilliant colors of saris and other national Indian costumes balanced the serenity of the mausoleum.

We put ‘shower caps’ over our shoes before ascending 21 marble steps to the upper level...

View from the Upper Level,
East Side of Taj Mahal

Non-Functioning Mosque,
whose primary purpose was architectural balance

..and into the dome itself. We saw two tombs, one for Mumtaz Mahal and one for Shah Jahan. But they are empty; the actual pair are buried below, in the "mud." No photography was allowed inside the mausoleum.

 Outside, we saw...

Yumana River

One of Four Leaning Turrets
A 3 degree tilt was intended to cause each turret to fall
away from the monument in the event of an earthquake.

Functioning, West Facing Mosque
which is a mirror image of the
Non-Functioning, East Facing Mosque
Leaving the grounds of this truly incredible Wonder of the World left both of us feeling a bit emotional. Joan described herself as " a bit teary-eyed" and Gus was literally speechless for once.

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