The Taj. If it is the only thing you see in India, it is worth the trip.
When I was about 10 years old I promised myself I would see the Taj Mahal someday. Often I have heard it called the world’s most beautiful building. It is also called the world’s greatest monument to love.
I will certainly admit that when you consider it was built in the early 1600’s, while Boston was still wooden shacks, it is an astonishing feat of architecture, engineering, construction capability and artistry. It has a certain weightless feeling. It almost floats when you look at it.
The details of the Taj are almost as remarkable as the symmetry. Versus of the Koran are inscribed over the arched doorways. In contrast to that are flowers decorating the walls using inlaid semi-precious stones. That mixture of Hindu/Muslim culture is intentional. The Mughal rulers were Muslim, but most of the people they ruled were Hindu. The cultures and in fact all the architecture we saw in India reflect this delicate balance.
No space in the mausoleum is left without adornment of some type. Intricate carvings cover about every square inch. As the sun starts to set they catch the light differently than they do in full sunlight.
In the sunlight, the white marble glistens and sparkles. We went there a couple of hours before sunset. I wanted to photograph the building in the early evening light. After all, I have a new camera and I am playing with it as much as possible. (I took over 2500 photos in 8 days in India. Thank god for digital photography)
Like entering a mosque or a temple, we had to remove our shoes. But here at the Taj, we were given the option of wearing Ronald McDonald booties.
Inside the mausoleum are two crypts. This where the characters of this love story are supposedly buried. Actually Mumtaz Mahal the wife of Mughal emperor Shaj Jahan is buried a number of feet below. As you enter, the faux crypts are straight ahead of you, and there is a wall all around. You can circle the wall, clockwise of course.
The Taj seems bigger than it is. Even up close and personal. When you get inside you notice that the marble walls are quite thick, so the building seems to grow outwards. It is hard to explain. If you have ever been in a Frank Lloyd Wright building you get the feeling that it expands as you walk through it. Same with the Taj.
Entering the park where the Taj is you have to pass through a couple of very testing experiences.
First, the hawkers. These are the worst, the most relentless and the rudest hawkers I have seen yet In my travels. A typical hawker experience goes like this.
“Hey rich man. Me poor, no food, need money, Starving children. I sell you piece of shit plastic for 5oo rupees, very good price for piece of shit”
”I don’t need a piece of shit. I have plenty of shit already.”
“Ok then 400 rupee.”
“No, get that piece of shit out of my face.”
“Really great shit tourist. I give you best price. Better than any store.”
“I do not care how much it costs. It is just a piece shit. I do not want it. Go away. Leave me alone”
“Ok tourist 300 rupees. Look, you take.”
At this point the guy is shoving it into your hands like a process server with divorce papers. If you take possession, you are in deep shit with the shit.
“No no no, I do not want it. Stop. Go away”.
“How much you pay for my shit tourist?”
“Zero. I don’t want a four foot tall plastic replica of the Taj Mahal, don’t you get it?”
By now you hopefully are at the gate to the park, where they cannot enter. It is quite the relief.
But then, security.
The security procedures to enter the grounds around the Taj equal or exceed any airport security. Men and women enter separate long queues leading to a metal detector. They check any bags you might have. I saw them make a guy with a big lens on his camera take it off so they could check the camera. Then they do the swipe with the hand held metal detector. Then they do a pat down. I cannot imagine this happening at the Lincoln Memorial or Mt. Rushmore.
But in the end, it is worth it. I loved the world’s greatest monument to love. I love my wife for taking me there. I hope you loved this post. I would love it if you told a friend and make a loving comment.