Tuesday, January 8, 2013

"The Taj"

The weather in India has been unseasonably cool. We came hoping for 60 degree days, but a record cold snap here has kept temps in the upper 40s at best. The chill settles into me by the end of the day. Along with cold air, winter in India is beset with "fog" as the locals call it. We would call it smog I think. In many ways, our trip to the Tajmahal was marked by this odd weather.

We had a local guide for our visit to Agra. He told us the story of the Tajmahal, a monument of love built by the king for his third wife. The iconic structure you see in post cards is only one part of the complex that includes a red sandstone gate complex, a formal courtyard, a guest house and mosque. The complex is all rendered in the red sandstone, except, of course for the brilliant Tajmahal. I will tell you that based on our visit and info from the guide, the picture you have seen of the stunning white building that nearly glows were taken in the blistering months of June or July when the daytime temps hover around 120. On Monday, it was about 40, windy and very foggy. I didn't take pictures on the iPad so I won't post until I am back in the states.

Throughout our visit, we had an ongoing dialogue about whether society has lost an ability to be creative. This complex of engineering and artistic marvels was built in the 17th century. And so we wondered whether people had the creativity and skill to do such things today.

In case you haven't seen the Taj in close-up shots, it is inlaid with beautiful semi-precious stones. It houses the third wife's tomb as well as the emperor itself. The echo in the chamber was amazing. The Taj is nestled up against a broad stretch of river...I can imagine that it must be stunning in the summer sun.

The Taj is closed on Friday so that the local community can worship in the mosque. Outside the gates we were once again mobbed by men hawking souvenirs. You can't drive near the complex and so the entrance road was full of tuk tuks (small battery operated carts), horse carts and one camel cart.

The ride home was eventful....more on that in the next post.


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