Arriving back from Dharmasala to the sand-filled air of
After settling into another winner of a hotel in the backpacker friendly neighborhood of Taj Ganj, boasting crap hotel rooms but only a few hundred feet from the Taj and affording amazing sunset views. We walked up to the roof-top restaurant of our guesthouse and were met with the magnificent Taj Mahal, a building considered by many to be the most beautiful in the world. Above the city hundreds of home-made paper kites, being flown from rooftops by young and old men alike, filled the skies in a display of mastery and tradition of this muslim city.
The Taj was built in 1632 by Shah Jahan as a mausoleum to his favorite wife, who died giving birth to her 14th child! He brought architects, material, and skilled labor from around the world, but in the end, he watched the building from the
The Taj is best toured early in the morning before the big tourist buses show up, when the heat of Agra is bearable (only about 100 degrees F) and most importantly, Agra’s famous light makes the Taj appear to glow from the inside. We walked through the gate and paid the entry fee which costs 38 times(!) as much for foreigners as for Indians, and were met by the classic view of the building, reflected in the long pool of water leading up to it. The building was built on a platform so it always appears with the sky behind it, designed to invoke the Koran’s description of heaven. We walked the grounds for several hours, taking in the building, the gardens and the mosque from various angles. We ventured inside to see the graves of the mausoleum’s inhabitants and gawked at the finely inlaid precious stones and bas-reliefs that decorate the structure. No detail was overlooked in its design, no expense spared: the marble was the finest in
The temperatures continued to rise, but since we only had one day in
At this point the temperatures were soaring to the point where it was impossible to sit outside. We found a restaurant, any restaurant, with some A/C and milked our way through a long lunch, dreading going out in the sun. We were reminded of the heat whenever we went to the restroom, which was outside. We made our way back to the hotel in the early afternoon, unable to do anything else in the searing heat, which only later did we find broke the thermometer at 48 degrees (118 deg F). Too hot to function, we finally got on our a/c train, and returned to Delhi, where we spent another couple of miserably hot days, in the 110 degree range tying up some loose ends, shopping, shipping things home in preparation to leave India. We even treated ourselves to a killer dinner at a high-end restaurant in one of the plush
It’s hard to summarize our time in
The people are colorful, the traditions are old and the society has survived for almost 5000 years, built upon a common culture and religion that permeates everything. Everything is sanctified and worshiped, and peoples’ devotion and displays of devotion are beyond belief. And while they seem to have the capacity to suffer more than any other people we have encountered, they also seem to tolerate their situation, often just out of necessity. By the time we left, we were done with
To see the pics from Agra and the Taj Mahal, click here.