INDIA, PART 7 : THE TAJ MAHAL

 

There is no way I can write about my impressions of India without talking about its most famous attraction:  the Taj Mahal,  which is considered the testament to everlasting love. However the story of its construction is also fraught with betrayal.

Shah Jahan,  the son of Akbar the Great was the fifth emperor of the Mughal Empire.  He met his beloved, Arjumand Banu Baygam in 1607 when she was 15 and he was 16. For political reasons they were not permitted to marry at first, as protocol demanded the Shah first marry another.  Finally in 1612 they married and the Shah gave his second wife the name of Mumtaz Mahal, “the chosen one of the Palace.”

The Shah and Mumtaz Mahal had 14 children together, but only seven lived past infancy. It was the birth of the 14th child that killed Mumtaz Mahal in 1631.  Despite being pregnant, Mumtaz Mahal had traveled with the Shah on a military campaign about 400 miles from Agra.  One day after giving birth to a healthy girl, Mumtaz Mahal died while in the arms of the Shah.  The Shah cried for eight days and as a result of his anguished he aged immediately with his hair turning white.

The Shah decided to erect a large mausoleum for his beloved, the first to ever be built for a woman. Called the Taj Mahal (“the crown of the region”) this mausoleum  would represent heaven (Jannah) on Earth. It was to be made of white marble and inlaid with precious jewels.What makes the Taj Mahal so incredibly beautiful is the adornment of this marble.  There is intricate calligraphy inlaid with black marble, depicting passages from the Quran.  The pièces de résistance are the inlaid flowers and vines filled with precious and semi-precious jewels
Without further ado, let me present the Taj Mahal. This was the tantalizing view from my hotel room:
Here is the Yamuna River which is adjacent to the Taj Mahal.  I left the photo a bit underexposed as the fog was rolling in and it just added to the mystical quality of the complex:
The Taj Mahal in all its glory – the different tones are due to the sun/clouds as the white marble is constantly tinted with skylight, getting more golden as it got closer to sunset:

 

Some fellow travelers took the next photos at sunrise the next morning – though the sun was obscured by the fog and mist it nevertheless gave the Taj Mahal an ethereal quality – like an Indian “Brigadoon:”

Here is some of the inlaid work and calligraphy:

 

Back to the story and its poignant ending.  Shah Jahan stayed in deep mourning and his third son decided to kill off his three brothers and imprison his father.  He was placed in the Red Fort in Agra and spent the last eight years of his life staring our the window at his beloved Taj Mahal.  However, when he died In 1666, the son had his father buried with Mumtaz Mahal in the crypt beneath the Taj Mahal which is not accessible to the public.  There are now lacy screens (once gold) now surrounding the cenotaphs, or empty public tombs above the crypt.

Forever together in eternity.

 

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