Tuesday, March 3, 2009

"The Ultimate Tribute to Everlasting Love..."

Post by: Beth

A couple of weeks ago, Raja and I got to travel around India quite a bit. He has many family members that are still in India, mostly around the Delhi area, so we combined some family visits with a chance to see some of the sights in India. I didn't take as many pictures as I normally would have, largely due to getting some typical "Indian illness" that I've somehow avoided up until this point. I still have a few pictures to share though, especially from the first parts of our trip (pre-illness). First up, the Taj Mahal! Raja had seen this before, but about 10 years ago, and of course I'd never laid eyes on it.

For quick background, the Taj Mahal (meaning "Crown Palace") was built by Shah Jahan as a mausoleum for his 3rd and favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Mumtaz died during childbirth while bearing their 14th child in their 19th year of marriage, and it's said that upon death, she requested that he build a monument of their love and that he never marry again. Shah Jahan promised, and construction on the Taj began that very year. Twenty thousand people were deployed to work on it, and the Taj was completed 22 years later.

What stands today is a symbol of Shah Jahan's love for his favorite wife, the structure that houses both of their tombs. The structure was constructed using materials from all over India and Asia. Over 1,000 elephants were used to transport building materials during the construction. The translucent white marble (which forms the entire structure) was brought from Rajasthan, and jewels and stones were used for in-lay work on the exterior and interior: the jasper from Punjab, jade and crystal from China. The turquoise was from Tibet and the Lapus lazuli from Afghanistan, while the sapphire came from Sri Lanka and the carnelian from Arabia. In all, twenty eight types of precious and semi-precious stones were inlaid into the white marble.
It's sort of cool because as you park, make your way up the pathway to the gates, etc you never get a glimpse of the Taj Mahal. You even walk through the main gate and
into ANOTHER area that has architecture and the tombs of Shah Jahan's other wives, as well as the tomb of his favorite servant, and you STILL can't see the famous landmark. You must walk through another gate, and all of a sudden, it's looming in front of you, surrounded by the gardens and the long reflecting pool. It's amazing to see in person, both from a distance and up-close, and we were pretty much awe-struck. None of the pictures can really do it justice, but we were excited to show you anyway. :)

(above) The walk to the Taj Gates from the road is about 3/4 of a mile or so... Not a bad walk, but we took the opportunity to ride in a rickshaw driven by a man on a bike. Lots of fun, and much quicker. :)

(above) Waaaay on the very top of the main dome was an artisan doing some restoration and cleaning work. It was fascinating looking up THAT high on top of something THAT big, and barely being able to see this tiny man working away in the sun.

(above) Here, we're sitting where Princess Diana posed for photographs during her solo visit to the Taj in 1992.

(above) Here's what your feet must look like before going into the Taj Mahal. No shoes are allowed, and they provide little booties for you if you wish to keep your shoes on.

(above) Here's Raja with our guide... He was wonderful and spent about 2 hours with us giving us all the history and background of the Taj. (Unlike what you may have seen on Slumdog Millionaire, he did not refer to the missing lifts or the 'swimming pool' at any points during our tour. ;) ) Just as an example of price point in India, when the guide approached Raja to see if we would use him as a guide, his ASKING price (and usually negotiating ensues to bargain down someone's... anyone's... asking price in India) was Rs. 100. That is TWO U.S. DOLLARS, for a 2 hour tour of one of the 7 Wonders of the World. Raja snatched him up since he spoke perfect English, seemed nice and knowledgable, and would be there to take pictures of Raja and me together anytime we wished. Of course we paid him more because he did a great job and the tour lasted so long, but these kind of prices never cease to amaze us here!)

Visitors are not allowed to take photos inside the Taj Mahal, so I went to Wikipedia to get a couple professional photos so you can see some of the interior shots.:

(above) These are the cenotaphs of the two tombs. Mumtaz Mahal's cenotaph is located in the exact center of the inner chamber, with Shah Jahan's larger cenotaph placed to the west side of his wife's. Muslim tradition forbids elaborate decoration of graves, so the bodies of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan are laid in a relatively plain chamber beneath the inner chamber of the Taj Mahal, known as the lower tomb chamber.
(above) This octagonal screen surrounds the cenotaphs of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal. It's made of marble and is extremely intricate. All of the work was done by pierce work, and the remaining areas are inlaid with more precious and semi-precious stones.

And finally, some more random shots of us around the gardens and in front of the Taj:

More to come soon from our trip.. We hope you're all doing well! :)


Rhonda Walker said...

I love the pics. Jill was most impressed with having your pic made where Princess Diana was. Keep up the great job on the blog. We all love seeing where you guys have been and where you are going. I love and miss you both!

Ceinwenn said...

Hi Beth & Raja,
Just wanted to say congrats on your next destination! Your pics of the Taj Mahal are beautiful & just makes me want to go there even more!