Yesterday we went to the Taj Mahal. Sadly, the internet was a little slow last night so I didn’t get a chance to post about it. To be honest I expected to be a little underwhelmed by the Taj Mahal. Cramped tourist sites are not exactly my favorite locations.
When you first enter the grounds the Taj Mahal is located on you can’t see it. At all. These past days as well ahve been exceedingly foggy so this did not help the visibility. you enter through a large red sandstone gate into a small courtyard and a path leads you through another sandstone gate to your right. But before you get there as you look out at the wall surrounding you, you can see a sliver of what is to come. A little peak before the big reveal. You see the very tip of the dome. It almost blended in completely with the fog and I would have walked right past it if it had not been pointed out to me.
There is a great deal of jostling and crowd maneuvering through the second set of gates. Such so you do not get a chance to look up and catch your breath before you are through them. And then you see it. A massive Structure. It looks almost as if someone took a white chocolate Hersey’s kiss and delicately placed it on a base of pure white. The bulbous dome draws you in instantly. It is a lot to take in and unfortunately you do not have much time to do so as you come through the gate. You are likely to get knocked over if you attempt to.
I walked up to the Taj and removed my boots to walk through barefoot. I hung my boots around my shoulders and made my way to the crowd lining up outside. You can only truly grasp how inordinately large it is standing below it. It towers over the skyline so much so you almost fall back trying to look up at it. There was a bit of breathnig room at first but it was quickly taken away.
The inside is just as beautiful and ornate as the exterior, so I’m told anyway. I did not get much of a chance to see it as you are prodded through like cattle as soon as you enter to when you leave. You are lead around a faux tomb for the late wife in the main chamber before being lead through a series of other little rooms along its sides. I stopped in one to pull out my little notebook so I could at least write what the main chamber was like lest I forget. No sooner had I stopped then a guard came up to me and reminded me that writing is not allowed. Which was a rule I had never heard before.
The scariest thing about India so far is the large number of heavily armed guards at every slightly highly traveled site in the North. EVery guard wields an AK-47 or some other automatic machine gun and directs you everywhere. It is a little unnerving. At the birthplace of the God Krishna there were actual turrets set up. And every single one was manned. They had at least seven of them there. All prepared in case their was a fallout with Pakistan or something of a sort.
Once through the Taj, I paused outside of it along the back wall to do some sketching. The beauty is always in the details, doubly so in India. The walls were covered in panels adorned with beautiful carvings of flowers and tile work of embroidered designs. The thing that struck me the most here was that while I stood sketching a guard ran his hand along the marbled exterior. He was an older guard who said he had worked there for some time and even still was moved by the beauty of the building. He ran his fingers so delicately along each line and traced over the joints where the marble met. One might almost forget that he was a full grown man with a large rifle strapped to his back. But even seeing it everyday did not wear out the power of it to him. I thought that was a rather nice sentiment.
Around each frame of the Taj is an inscription in beautiful calligraphy of Arabic texts of the Qur’an. I wondered what they meant when I was at the site and have just recently looked it up. “O Soul, thou art at rest. Return to the Lord at peace with Him, and He at peace with you.”
Now one thing I was never told about the Taj is that it actually has two rather large mosques on either side. Built of red sandstone. These mosques are breathtaking. They are beautiful in their design and intricate. Sadly they are completely overshadowed by the fact that they are literally right next door to one of the seven wonders of the world.