After our harrowing drive from Jaipur to Agra, this morning, we were enthusiastically excited to go to the most iconic symbol of India. We left our beautiful hotel quite early to arrive before the many tour groups and general visitors make the site a mob scene.
There was a beautiful sandstone building to welcome you. As we entered, our destination was readily visible through the archway. Ravi gave us many details of its origin, specifics about its construction and how it is revered in India.
The lines of humanity went all around the building, but we got in immediately. While you can take pictures almost anywhere, no photos are allowed inside the building. However, it didn’t deter many Indians from doing so.
When you enter, you are surprised to see that the domed ceiling is quite low and the inside area small compared to the massive outside. The tall central dome is actually a double dome, so if the outer dome is damaged, as it was at one time by lightening, the inner dome protects the inside. There are two crypts in the center, but it is only a depiction. The actual remains are below ground. Everyone moves very slowly as they view the crypts and marvel at the intricate carvings in the marble.
The marble used comes from a quarry in India that is known for its unique properties . It is non-porous, has little veining and is unlike marble anywhere else in the world. The Taj Mahal took seventeen years to build, with paid artisans working full time, just to honor the Mogul’s wife. You can’t help but be affected by this vision.
We moved on to visit a factory that uses the same marble in unique ways, embedding semi-precious stones in the designs. They use white, black and green marble in their tables, boxes and other decorative items. The artists work with a grinder that is hand driven to create the pieces to fit into the designs. Using malachite, lapis lazuli, carnelian and mother of pearl, these are works of art. And, they ship all over the world for free!
Our next stop was a huge fort nearby. It protected the area from invaders and looked like something out of a Monty Python movie. There was a moat around it, plus openings in the walls to pour hot oil on their enemies. The interior gardens were lovely and there were views of the Taj through the many windows. Another great day!