Monday, November 30, 2009

"The Taj Mahal: a testament to love'

As explained to us by our guide Mr. Singh.  A Mahal is a palace, throughout India there are many Mahal’s the crown jewel of which is the Taj Mahal.  I am sure you are aware of the story of the Taj Mahal.  It is the gorgeous palace built by “Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal.  In 1631, Shah Jahan, emperor during the Mughal empire's period of greatest prosperity, was grief-stricken when his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal, died during the birth of their fourteenth child, Gauhara Begum. Construction of the Taj Mahal began in 1632, one year after her death.  Despite her frequent pregnancies, Mumtaz traveled with Shah Jahan's entourage throughout his earlier military campaigns and the subsequent rebellion against his father. She was his constant companion and trusted confidant and their relationship was intense. Indeed, the court historians go to unheard lengths to document the intimate and erotic relationship the couple enjoyed. In their nineteen years of marriage, they had thirteen children together, seven of whom died at birth or at a very young age.
Mumtaz died in Burhanpur in 1631 AD (1040 AH), while giving birth to their fourteenth child. She had been accompanying her husband whilst he was fighting a campaign in the Deccan Plateau. Her body was temporarily buried at Burhanpur in a walled pleasure garden known as Zainabad originally constructed by Shah Jahan's uncle Daniyal on the bank of the Tapti River.  Today, the Taj Mahal stands as the ultimate monument to love and homage to her beauty and life”. (Wikipedia, 2009)
Or to put it in more crass terms, as one of the t shirts (that I should have bought) advertised "it’s the greatest hard on a man has ever had for a woman."  But honestly it is a standing monument of beauty that is immense and not only beautiful, it is breath taking.

On October 24, 2009 we arrived in Agra and checked into a hotel 10 minutes from the Taj Mahal, in the morning we would take off before dawn to see the sun rise there and return in the late afternoon to see the sun set.  I was so excited.   I hardly slept or so I thought, when my alarm went off at 4am, I quickly prepared and dressed for the day.  My colleague PL called me to confirm I was awake and we agreed to meet on the bus.  As I left my room I hoped onto the elevator and there was a couple already on there, they looked a little distressed but I didn’t think anything of it.  I saw that the Lobby button had been pressed and watched the doors close.  For the next few minutes I came to learn firsthand why the couple had looked distressed.  We rode the elevator for the next 10 or so minutes stopping on other floors (none of which we pressed, or that there were people waiting for an elevator).  I started to get anxious.  I was going to miss my bus.  I was sweating and close to tears when finally we arrived to the lobby and I ran out of the elevator into the lobby and ran into the parking area to see the last of our tour busses pulling away.  I chased it down only to realize another bus was waiting just outside the hotel gates.  Knowing it was not my bus but one of the busses from our tour, I hoped on an apologized to the SASers on their bus.  They understood told me to take my seat and off we were to see the Taj Mahal at sunrise.

We arrived just outside the gates and were told we would have to walk a few minutes to then wait in line outside the gates.  As I walked to the gates in the dark with members of our ship community I thought wow I can’t believe I almost missed this.  I arrived to the gate to see my bus mates waiting for me, PL seemed relieved, when I told him about my elevator ride he sort of laughed.  We waited and watched as dawn came and started to lighten the sky then we were let in.  After a quick search of our bags and a brief frisking we were on the grounds of the Taj Mahal.  We walked towards and arch way and could see its grandeur almost busting through the arch way.  

As we came through the archway the Taj seemed larger than life.  The sun rising to its east reflecting its rays made the dome seem pink.  It truly was a wonder to see.  I cannot do it justice, as a matter of fact, any picture that I have seen or taken of it cannot do it service.  It is much more magnificent and beautiful than any captured picture of it can portray.

We walked around the Taj, impressed by it architectural beauty, its aesthetic brilliance, and dedication of one person to another.  Everything about the Taj was magnificent.

We returned to the Taj, in the late afternoon to witness the evening sun setting around it. The number of visitors seemed to have increased by the thousands, in the early morning it seemed like we had it all to ourselves in comparison to the hordes of people now present.  Nonetheless we still appreciated its beauty and splendor.  This time we were with thousands of other visitors and a gang of monkeys as well.  

To think, I almost missed this due to riding the elevator.

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