Friday, November 7, 2008

Beauty After the Beasts

They say time heals and so does a five star hotel, a hot shower, and good wishes from friends. Thanks for all the inspiration. So as I left off, the adventure continues Agra.

The Taj Mahal was one of the primary reasons for coming back to India, as we couldn't get this far north on our last trip, and we weren't disappointed. We had been advised to go at sunrise as the marble takes on the hues of the early morning light so off we trekked at 6:00AM. Even at that early hour, there was quite a long line already formed of both tourists and touts so we had to run the gauntlet of goods and services.

Security was extremely tight as In this country of poverty and filth, they are trying to blow up one of the most beautiful buildings in the world that draws the most tourist revenue. I just don't get it. They confiscated our local newspaper, my banana, Ross beaded seat cover (which we had hoped to take a picture of for advertising purposes) and Mr. HAPPY. They probably thought he was a terrorist from some puppet regime. So stripped of all our weapons, we went through the massive gates, crossed a courtyard, went through a portal and there was the most incredibly beautiful Taj.

What strikes you first is the perfect symmetry of the architecture and grounds. Everything is masterfully balanced: the large dome in the middle, the two matching minarets on each side, the mosque and matching guest house off to each side and the beautiful waterway, separating perfectly placed junipers on either side, and reflecting the mausoleum. And everything is so clean! It really is breathtaking. We just stood in awe and watched the facade change from a warm golden glow to a bright white shine as the sun rose in the sky. Naturally we had to do the photo thing and took turns posing on the bench (famous for Princess Diana) with the Taj in the background.

Gradually, we made our way up the walkway to the mausoleum itself and now we can see the beautiful marble inlaid with semi precious stones like lapis lazuli, mother of pearl, onyx, etc. to make vases of flowers. Around the actual sarcophagi, is a marble lattice screen on top of a marble wall with bas relief flowers which are translucent under the guides penlight. No wonder it took 20,000 men over twenty years to build it for Mumtaz Mahal, favourite wife of Shah Jahan who died shortly after giving birth to her fourteenth child in 1631. I'd say she earned it! And we've certainly worked hard to get here but it was worth it.

Ruth Ann had fun with a group of sari ladies, admiring their unusual earrings which wound around the back of their ears. They're equally curious about her and openly stare at her Packers cap, short hair, and giant husband. We have so many great pictures of these hardy women wrapped up in bright, beautiful fabrics, sporting lots of dark gold jewelery and with painted feet, hair parts and the obligatory dot. They are our bright spot.


Brian is doing better and he and Harlene will probably be flying back to Canada within the week.
Harlene came down by train to Agra for the day to see the Taj.
Bill wanted to visit a paper mill in southern India so he and Helmut are in Delhi waiting to fly out.
Steve, Ruth Ann, Ross & I are on our way to Jaipur, the pink city to see some more rocks.