Monday, June 29, 2009

The Tal Mahal and I

200KM, 5 ½ hours, 120°, a gauntlet of street hustlers (Johnny and especially Raja), then the entry gate into the beautiful outer courtyard, and through another passageway, the Taj Mahal magically appears in all its grandeur. Nothing else matters; the Taj is larger, more beautiful, perfect, symmetrical, equisate, and magnificent in person than any virtual tour, movie, video, documentary, tv show, book, or postcard can ever convey.

The Taj Mahal is worth the trip.

Forget the casino, the magnificent chain of Taj hotels in India, or even the musician.

There is only one Taj Mahal. Seeing is believing, and seeing what is generally regarded as man’s most beautiful building, is believing.

That I or any other mortal views the Taj, is hardly special since hundreds of millions have preceded us and hundreds of millions will follow.

But for those of us who are privileged to view the Taj Mahal, it is special.

I glazed upon the Taj a week ago, walked its pathways, entered the inner sanctum, viewed the cenotaphs, and marveled at the magnificent white marble. Just like a great work of art, such as the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, nothing short of being in its presence can convey its magnificence.

The Mugal Emperor Shah Juhan built the Taj over 22 years to mourn his wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died during childbirth of their 14th child in their 19th year of marriage. His two other wives are buried in lesser accommodations on the broad grounds.

No greater expression of love by a man for a woman. Her dying wish was for a mausoleum. The Taj was built for a woman, but is a gift to the world.

The colors, size, height, architecture, setting, footprint, and symmetry are perfect.

Yet I did not witness all the Taj’s majesty for the famous reflecting pond was seasonally drained. Nor could I stay and watch the colors of the white marble vary with nature’s lighting. Nor did I see it artificially lit up at night.

But I saw enough – the greatest building on earth.

Shah Juhan went into a two year funk, we call it depression, when Muntaz died. That is not good for a ruler. Seven of their children survived to adulthood. A younger son, Aurangzeb, later killed his older brother, imprisoned his dad, Shah Juhan, and claimed the throne. Juhan spent the last 8 ½ years of his life in a prison cell in Agra Fort across the river glazing out on the Taj. His tomb is now next to hers, but is larger in size – the only unsymmetrical piece of the entire Taj. Their actual tombs are a floor below the public cenotaphs, not open to public viewing.

Will I ever get to see some of the world’s other greatest cities or other archeological sites, or such wonders as Angkor Wat, Easter Island, the Eiffel Tower, the Galapagos Islands, The Hermitage, the Louvre, Machu Picchu, the Aztec and Mayan temples, the Great Pyramids of Egypt, Red Square, Stonehenge, Sydney Opera House, Tiananmen Square, Trafalgar Square, or the Parthenon?

Probably a few, especially if they are on a cruise chip tour, but I’ve been unexpectedly blessed to see the Taj Mahal.

If I could see the Taj, anything is possible.

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