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I'm an Aussie who likes wandering all over the world but keeps coming back home to paradise and my family. If you are reading this on one of my travel blogs, I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed creating them. If you are reading the Diabetes and weight loss blog - I hope it helps in your battle with the beast. Cheers, Alan

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Taj Mahal

Travel Date 16th March 2008
Click on any picture to see a larger version.

I was fortunate to catch my first glimpses of the fabulous Taj Mahal from the Red Fort on the day I arrived in Agra.

Fortunate because it was hard to believe, as my driver negotiated the squalor of the streets of Agra early the next morning, that anything beautiful could exist in such a place. Even as I approached the gates, first by electric bus in the "pollution-free" zone near the entry, then by foot for the final half-mile, walking down a tawdry, dusty, dirty street to the main entry gates it was hard to accept what lay beyond them. Then I entered the forecourt and finally walked through the main gateway and stopped.

It simply took my breath away.

The Taj Mahal rises from the grime of Agra like the Koh-i-Nur set in a cowpat. Over the past six years I have seen wonderful buildings and architecture, ancient and modern. I’ve seen New York, Paris, London, Vienna, Egypt, Sydney, Istanbul, Prague; many other cities and many other countries all over the world. There is no building to compare with the beauty and symmetry of the Taj Mahal. India’s Poet Laureate, Rabindranath Tagore, who was also Asia’s first Nobel Prize winner, described the Taj Mahal as "a teardrop on the cheek of history".

Nor is there a building to match that beauty with a fairy-tale love story.

Once upon a time in Hindustan there was a young Prince, the fifth son of the Emperor, who met and fell in love with a beautiful young girl who was high-born but not royal. They didn’t marry for five long years, despite their love, because politics and the Emperor required him to marry two other wives first. The lucky Prince was a Mughal and therefore having several wives was not a problem and the beautiful new wife quickly became his principal wife, known as Mumtaz Mahal.

Eventually he became Shah Jehan, "King of the World", and over the next twenty years she helped temper his autocratic rule with mercy and wise advice and also bore him thirteen children. Sadly, when accompanying him on a military campaign she died while giving birth to the fourteeenth.

He was heart-broken and committed to fulfilling a death-bed promise that he would build her a mausoleum more beautiful than any the world had ever seen before.

And he did.

It took over 20,000 artisans over twenty years to achieve it, but I believe he succeeded in her wish.

Unfortunately, after that the story becomes sadder.
Eventually, one of his sons of Mumtaz Mahal usurped him and became his gaoler; he spent his last 8 years imprisoned in the Red Fort in sight of his masterpiece and her grave.

Two of his other wives were also laid to rest in the grounds of the Taj Mahal.

Over the centuries the Taj Mahal went through periods of neglect and decay, at one time it was actually put to auction for the value of it’s marble. Thankfully it has survived. It was fully restored in the early 20th Century under the British Viceroy of the time and has since been refurbished several times.

These foot-covers must be used when walking on the actual mausoleum area.

The workmanship in the detail is incredible; these colours are inlays of precious stone in the marble which glow when the light hits them at the right time.

Simply wonderful.

Cheers, Alan

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