Sunday, 9 April 2017

The Taj Mahal


The story of the Taj Mahal is seriously the greatest love story out there. Once you hear it, you gain a greater appreciation for this building, and you want to tell everyone about it. At least I do.

The story according to our tour guide is this:  Shah Jahan was the Mughal emperor at the time. He was off to war and had brought his favorite wife Mumtaz Muhal,who was pregnant with their 14th child. She had the child while they were away at war, and shortly after the child was born she died. Before she died, Shah Jahan asked her what her last wishes were. She told him to be a good father to their children, and that he must promise her that he would never marry again. He then said that she had asked nothing for herself, and what last wish would she like for herself? She told him to build something that would show the world how much he loved her. That is how the Taj Mahal came into existence. GREATEST LOVE STORY EVER! It gets even better.

The building of the Taj Mahal started nine months after Mumtaz Muhal died. It is a mausoleum that he built just for her to be placed for all eternity. The Mughal buildings are all symmetrical, so her tomb is placed in the exact center of the Taj Mahal.

Later on in his life Shah Jahan was imprisoned for crimes he committed to become emperor. His one request was that he would be able to see the Taj Mahal from his prison, so that he could look at his wife everyday. He was imprisoned at Agra fort (post here), with a beautiful view of the Taj Mahal and his beloved Mumtaz Muhal. After his death his tomb was placed on the left side of his beloved. And that is where they remain together to this day.

Seriously, the most beautiful love story I have ever heard. I am so sad that I had never heard the story till I actually visited the Taj. I never even knew what it really was and why it was so significant (I'm so ignorant). After hearing all the history behind it, I am completely smitten with the Taj. It was not even my favorite thing we did not the trip, but I will always have a special place in my heart for the Taj Mahal just because of it's history.

Entrance gate we took to the Taj Mahal. 

 Our story with the Taj Mahal started at 5:30am. Not my ideal time to get up and go sightseeing, but the Taj was worth it. Our tour guide sold it to us by telling us we would go and see the sun rise over it. We could not pass that up. The reality is that it gets really crowded and hot as the day goes on. To avoid those things, you go early with the added bonus of seeing the sunrise.

When it opened Nitten had us literally running to the mausoleum. All the other tourists were stopping and taking photos, and he told us that we could do that after. I am so grateful for him making us run there, because we had the mausoleum to ourselves. There was only one other couple in the whole building, and we had a private private tour. Plus, Nitten had one of the security do a prayer chant to demonstrate the acoustics. Then Lyndon did his "Holy to the Father" chant from Cambridge that he does everywhere there are good acoustics.

 During our private tour of the Taj, Nitten explained to us that the Taj is made from white marble and all the decorations are inlaid stones. It looks like paint, but it is precious stones that have been placed into carvings made into the white marble. To make one of the flowers takes 64 precious stones. Agra is very well known for this traditional craft and we got to see how it was done later in the day. The stones I can remember off the top of my head  are black onyx, lapis-lazuli, agate, tiger eye, jade, turquoise. The most beautiful one of them all was cornelian. The stone is translucent, so when a light is held up to it, it glows. It was beautiful and something I will never forget. 







Yamuna River at sunrise. 




Nitten had us do this pose. I felt like we were getting our engagement photos done again the way he had us pose.




 The grounds are absolutely amazing, and they are not even as grand as they were in their day. This was our first time seeing the parrots fly around. That was cool. The gardens are perfectly manicured in the Mughal style. Once there were fruit trees in the gardens, now there are just the dahlia flowers. Still gorgeous. 

As travelers we have to keep in mind the nature of the culture and sites we are visiting. The Taj Mahal is a holy place for people in India. It is where their rulers are buried. They go there to sightsee, but there is also a mosque on the grounds, which is why the Taj Mahal is closed on Friday as it is the muslim day of worship. With that being said, Nitten did have us take some "funny" pictures like this one. But there were some other visitors taking pictures where it looked like they were stepping on top of the Taj, and Nitten asked them to not do that because of the religious significance of this site.  




After we got home, one of my friends from India was telling me that the Taj changes color depending on the time of day you go. At sunrise it is a pinkish hue, midday it is the pure white, sunset it is an exotic orange, and during the full moon (which apparently is the best time to see it) it is blue. 


Later that day, we visited a place where they polish the semi-precious stone, and the the marble inlay work. Such stunning pieces. This was one of my favorites I saw. 

 The Taj Mahal has my hopeless romantic heart. It is the most romantic place on Earth. The best part was just sitting there taking it all in, and talking with my honey. 

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