14Mar/130

It is the Incomparable Taj!!

A few days ago I left at 5am to see the Taj Mahal, a site without which no trip to India would seem complete.  I must tell you that equally important was the scenery as wheat and potatoes are being harvested along the side of the road.  I will send a separate blog after this one about it.  Five hours later we arrive at the Taj....the builders were, of course, brilliant.  There is a courtyard with lots of little doors where the workers who worked on the Taj were housed/or worked.  Not all 20,000 of course, just the higher level ones probably...and then rising over the wall and through a perfect doorway was the Taj Mahal.  My impression of it is similar to my impression of Mount Rushmore....that is, when you've seen a thing all your life on a photo that is usually very small you have no idea of relative scale.  Mount Rushmore is the WHOLE TOP OF A MOUNTAIN, not just a little statue like thing.  The Taj Mahal is SPECTACULARLY FLOATING AND HUGE....and unlike the way I've seen the pictures which is of a perfect white dome, is made of pieces of marble (huge pieces) that you can see fit together (like bricks in mortar) and somehow it makes it more real.  The brilliance of the architect was for me seen in two things that so set the structure apart and make it seem so special.....one is that the whole building is not set down on the ground...it is on a huge marble platform that is about 20 feet up...so you are looking up at it and it seems to levitate on a cloud of white, separated from all around it.  the second is that the corners are not square, they have been cut off into a mitered corner and it makes its presence like a jewel box rather than an imposing building.  You enter through the portal and then you walk a long way towards it which really makes it burn into your brain how set apart it is, and as you walk, of course it rises higher and higher above you till you're looking straight up at it.  The calligraphy around the doors is the morning prayer from the Koran...and they made them larger at the top so that it looks uniform to the viewer from below...and it is black onyx inlaid into the marble....by the way, India must be the marble capital of the world.  Floors here are marble because it is relatively cheap.   The foreign tourists get a higher fee and separate quicker way to go in, and booties rather than having to leave their shoes outside like the Indians do.  This was put in place a few years ago my guide said because the line was so long and the tour busses had a schedule of where they had to go and it was a mess.  The inside of the tomb is not all that interesting... and the two outer mosques are just architecturally balancing the Taj.  Walking on the marble platform surrounding the Taj is wonderful because the marble shines and gleams like you're walking on an ice surface.  Also you can see the river it is built by and you can see way in the distance the fort where the shah who built it was imprisoned by his son who took over.  So every day for 14 years he could see the Taj from his prison window.  The family politics of royalty here was yucky, just like English and other royalty politics.  The after an hour of burning its image into my brain, I got into the car and drove home for five hours looking at the ancient harvesting process going on out my window and was home in time for tea....and a nap.

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