Sunday, May 27, 2012

May 27th: Taj Mahal

We were up at 5 and left the hotel at 5:45 before the heat and the other tourists would get to the mausoleum. There was no one in line so we went straight in. We're so lucky to have Madan and Arun and their inside scoop.

I can't even begin to describe how crazy the Taj is. It's as exquisite as all the pictures. It was so surreal. You walk through the Royal Gate (one of four). It frames the main attraction like a pretty postcard. There are twenty two ornaments on the top of it for every year it took to make the Taj.

The emperor Shah Jahan decided to create the Taj Mahal (in 1632) for one of his four wives (Mumtaz Mahal) a year after she died. She was the only one to birth him sons (fourteen!). It holds two tombs; one for her and one for him. It has marble screens around the tombs. The marble is from Jaipur. There is an Arabic prayer around the outside of the archway in calligraphy.

All of the detailing is done by hand and made of precious stones and marble. It's all symmetrical (even the placement of the buildings). It cost him millions of rupees which would be worth billions nowadays. The tour guide told us gardens were built by the British; it was just mud before that. They also have the original ten meter pure gold tower on the top; it sits in a museum there. They have a brass one on it currently. I thought that was interesting. There are two buildings on either side. One was a guesthouse for the royal family and one was built just for symmetry!

Ooh! I saw the girl from the bus yesterday in the gardens. We smiled at each other, but I should have got a picture! We always cause the biggest scene everywhere we go. People will take pictures of us all the time. Men were taking pictures of us with the Taj instead of their families. So weird.

A legend is that Shah started to build a second Taj Mahal in more expensive black marble, but his son took over the throne and put him in jail before the project got off the ground. His son said that the emperor was spending too much money on architecture and that the wealth of the kingdom should be for the people. We could see piles of marble from across the river so maybe it's true! We toured the Taj for about an hour. We had to put little hospital booties on before touching the marble. The whole thing houses the tombs; it's crazy big. There were twenty thousand workers. There's another legend that once it was completed, their hands were cut off so they could never build anything as beautiful and magnificent again.The whole thing is gated, except the back where the river is.

We ate breakfast and shopped the stalls before we had to leave for our bus. When we got to the stall our bus was broken down. It was fixed and we left about an hour late at 12:15. Roni drank like ten Slices (bottles of mango juice) while waiting. We met three men from England and talked to them a bit about their travels. They have been here for nine days and are traveling north. We like to tell everyone who wants to know about our project :). I love hearing other stories and opinions of other travelers on what they've seen.

We took the bus from Jaipur at 5 and got home around 9 PM. On the bus the girls in the window kept getting like a fine mist in their face. Me included. We were puzzled cause it was clearly not raining. One of the other passengers told us it was people spitting out the window on the front of the bus. Lovely.

Anyway, the Taj Mahal was one of the coolest places I've ever seen and I am so grateful that I got to see it. I'll keep you posted.

Torry Harris
DWC Student Team Leader
Sikar, India: May 2012

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