Monday, September 6, 2010

The Taj Mahal

I had expected to be unimpressed by the Taj Mahal.

It's true of so many famous monuments (and other things, especially paintings,) that the familiarity we already have from photos and documentaries means that when you finally see them in reality, they can be a little anti-climactic. Underwhelming.

So when I rounded the red sandstone corner and entered the gate that leads to the Taj, and caught my first glimpse of this massive mausoleum, and felt my heart thump in my chest at the sight of it, there was no one more surprised than me.

Words truly can't describe how impressive it is - how big, how white, how beautifully symmetrical in every aspect. Photos can't capture the grandeur, the scale, the delicacy of the ornate work that's gone into it.

So I'm not going to try. I'll just say this: if you haven't been to India to see the Taj Mahal, and you have any inkling that you might like to, I say GO! Go NOW!

There are a lot of people to contend with, though hardly any foreign tourists. You have to wear little white booties over your shoes to protect the stonework from dirt and wear - like the things surgeons wear over their feet in theatre. You can't take anything inside except a tiny little bottle of water - they make you check your bag, mobile phone, everything. It's hot and stuffy inside the building. There's an iffy smell. People will push you.

But the feeling of magnificence and awe that overcomes you as you walk around it in your little white booties is phenomenal.

The wide banks of the Yamuna River come almost right up to the site, and over in the background people will be swimming and doing their laundry. Indians will ask to take your photo with them - ladies, watch out for the Romeos who may try to grab your hand while their friend is snapping the picture. Chipmunks will run across your feet as they dash to the nearest tree. It's a fantastic experience.

The story of the Taj is well known - the king spent 22 years building it as a tomb for his wife, and it's a tribute both to the grace of Indian womanhood and to the devotion of Indian men. The marble work is inlaid with precious and semi-precious stones such as turquoise, onyx, lapis lazuli, carnelian, jet, malachite and amber. Intricate patterns of flowers, tendrils and lacy edging cover every inch of the decorative surfaces, and they are marvellous to behold.

And so it is fitting that the Taj is the last big monument I will see on my trip. I have seen so many forts, temples and palaces that I'm completely forted out. The next couple of days in Delhi will be spent unwinding, picking up my clothes from the tailor, and thinking about returning to real life. 


AmateurActress said...

Well, one thing I would have expected from you is thoughtful commentary about India and your place in this amazing country as a tourist......and this you have provided, my little flickettysplits. Awesome India's a kind of humbling experience, I reckon, and if you let it, it can provide a good opportunity to take a step back (hopefully not into cow shit) to reflect on our own good fortune and carry this home with us. I hope that when you arrive back in Smelbs that you are at peace with your circumstances-because they are transient, they will change, and we are truly blessed. See you soon! x

Kerry said...

I have to agree with you about the Taj Mahal. In fact I had rather a large light bulb moment there...unexpectedly. It's a bit magic :)

Isabella Golightly said...

Right on the target, as per. Also, if you took that photo, you're wasting your life doing anything else. Now, I have to pack for the Taj Mahal!

Isabella Golightly said...

Actually, change that to say "those pictures"...