Tuesday, March 21, 2006
agra and the taj mahal
in agra, the road to the taj mahal is lined with tiny stores and restaurants, and a million touts who are just dying to sell you nick-nacks that look worthless. these touts are often younger than 10, and we all feel so sad that these kids aren't at school, or otherwise living a life that doesn't demand their begging in order to get by.
you're forced to deal with all this because the indian government has denied cars access to the lead-up to the taj mahal, because all the pollution generated by the cars has caused the white marble building to tint slightly yellow. disgusting!
anyway, when we finally make it to the entrance, this guard does a major search of my person and my bag and declares that neither my laptop nor my cell phone are allowed near the taj, and i must check them. so i hand them over to a nice old man who puts them in a locker and gives me a flimsy key. i worry about my laptop.
but then we turn around a corner and their it is, the taj mahal. neha said it is the most beautiful man-made building she has ever seen, and i agree. the symemtry and attention to fine details, namely the jeweling and the embedded arabic writings, are fantastic.
symmetry: shah jahan, who built the taj for his dead wife, went a little nuts with the symmetry. he actually built a mosque to the west of the taj, facing mecca. but since that put the whole look of the area out of balance, he built a fake mosque, that looked exactly like the first and was a mirror image in every way, to the east of the taj. this mosque cannot be used to pray because it doesn't face mecca, so this giagantic building was put there merely to satisfy his symmetry fancy.
the shah was also a bit crazy about the uniqueness of his building. the story goes that he cut off the thumbs or hands of many of the major artisans involved in the building of the taj, so they could never do something similar again.
anyway, the best way to appreciate the taj is to see it, so if i get a good connection, i'll throw up some photos.
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