|First View of the Taj Mahal|
Blog Entry #33: India! Agra: The Taj Mahal
Wednesday, October 13, 2011
The Taj Mahal! Perhaps every schoolchild’s symbol of exotic beauty: according to legend, built out of love and grief by the emperor Shah Jahan for his second wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died giving birth to their 14th child in 1431. Though recent scholarship casts doubt on this version, arguing that the Taj represents on image of Divine Majesty (“a vast allegory of the Day of Resurrection when the dead shall arise and proceed to the place of Judgment beneath the Divine Throne” in the words of scholar Wayne Begley), seeing it reflected in the pools that extend along the walkways, it is hard not to agree with the Nobel Prize winning poet Rabindranath Tagore’s characterization of the Taj as “a teardrop on the face of eternity.”
Construction on the Taj began in 1631, the same year as Mumtaz’s death, and continued for over 20 years, drawing on the work of over 20,000 people from as far away as Europe to build it. Particularly stunning is that no matter from what distance one views the Taj, it is awe-inspiring: whether standing a mile away on the balcony of the Agra Fort seeing it rise over the haze of the Yamuna River, or standing up close to see the amazing marble inlay filled with semi-precious stones, it is impossible not to be overwhelmed by the beauty, detail, and sense of proportion it manifests at every scale.
|Entry Gate to Taj Mahal courtyard|
Pat and I began by doing what virtually everyone else seemed to be doing: getting our picture taken with the Taj in the background. But how to frame the picture? Virtually every angle seemed wrong: either we stood out with a small Taj behind, or we stood in front of and blocked its symmetry. Anyway, here’s our best shot – and now we’ll get out of the way.
|Sunset reflecting on west side of Taj Mahal|
|East side mosque & minaret base|
|Waiting to enter the Taj Mahal|
|India Visitors to the Taj|
|Detail on arch|
|Calligraphy of Quran verses on front|
|Looking back to the south entry gate|
|Monkeys at the Taj|
|Taj Mahal and Reflection pool, showing 4 Minarets|