April 18, 2016

The Taj Mahal

Boy, do I love my days off.  :)

There's just something about sleeping in, heating up some homemade Masala Chai and watching the light play in the surrounding trees. Making the effort to have nowhere to go, nothing to do.  It's quiet and peaceful here.  It often reminds me of a campground.  As much as I love baking, it's really hard on your body, social life and psyche to get up in the wee hours of the morning and get to bed so early. Therefore, I really try to relish the days I get to sleep in!  

I also have time to remember that work isn't life.  That I've gone somewhere!  I have time to relive the experience though my pictures and imagine I am still there... 

Everything I read about Agra was that the Taj Mahal was beautiful but the surrounding city was really poor and dirty.  "You don't want to spend much time there," the articles said.  And we didn't!  We basically got in the day before, toured the Taj & the Agra Fort the next day and left early the next.  Pretty much one full day there.  And yet, it was one of my favorite places!  

The Taj is beautiful, yes.  It's kind of surreal to say you've been to one of The New Seven Wonders of The World. But it is the people, living in these dirty and poor conditions, that made the experience so rich and lush.  They were beautiful...  We had such fun with them!  That will be one of my next blogs.

As for the Taj... We woke up early and headed on our way.  We wanted to arrive before the swarms and I also wanted to get good sunrise lighting for pictures!


The streets outside of the gate. 
Always very hazy in India.
Folks walkin to work?  Out and about?
Who knows. :)


As we were about to enter the gate, I saw this man walking down the street. With the pollution, the haze and the dirty street, it came across kind of war torn to me.  And yet, this is right outside the gate to the grand Taj Mahal.  This is the juxtaposition of India I talk about that just fascinates me.  


The cattle call!  I'm so glad we went when it wasn't that busy.  I can't imagine how many tourists fill these rails during the high season.  Once you pass through here, they check your bags quick and you're on your way. 


Inside the gate is a series of outlying buildings that are beautiful in their own right.


This is The Great Gate, the building you pass through to get to the Taj. It is primarily made of marble. 


And once you're through that building, this is what you see.
It's very hazy.  :)


I knew nothing about the Taj when I went, except the vague recollection of a love story.  So here's the scoop, all info credit to Wikipedia.  The Taj was built in 1632 as a mausoleum by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan for his favorite wife Mumtaz Mahal.  Mumtaz was a Persian princess who died giving birth to their 14th child.  (Let the records state, I WOULD TOO!!!)  

The documentation of the period illustrates the love story held as the inspiration for the Taj Mahal.  It's fixed on the center of a  42 acre complex and employed about 20,000 artisans.  It took about ten years to build and cost 32 million rupees, which today would be about $830 million.  I'm just gonna  say the year 1632 again.

I took the below pic with my iPhone, the rest are all the Nikon.


It is surrounded by four minarets that frame the Taj.  They were being worked on when we went. They were used as bell ringers to call the faithful to prayer. AND!  I just learned... that the way they were built, if catastrophe were to strike, they were designed to fall backward away from the The Taj Mahal.  1632, people.  Incredible.  The only time I've ever felt like I was walking through something manmade like this, surreally grand, was Hearst Castle.  I highly recommend a trip there, too!  




The outlying buildings were just as beautiful to me.
Especially with the sun!


So many birds flying about... 


Click to enlarge, by the way!
Little pictures really don't do it justice.  
Well, pictures in general, couldn't possibly.


For scale, you can see the people hiding in the entryway below.  


The sun was too perfect on all of the outlying buildings, so I spent my time there first. 


I walked around the outside for a bit and took it all in.
I loved the light against the red and white-ish gold! 


And then I noticed this man standing at his post.  :)


I just couldn't and can't imagine people building this in the 1600's!  



This is behind the Taj. In this pic you can really see the intricacy and contrast of the floor. The close attention to detail. The symmetry.  


And if you look to the right at this point, you'll see the Yamuna River!




 This is probably my favorite picture of my entire trip to India.  I somehow managed to catch this guy in a jump.  I'm so glad I had my wide angle lens with me.  This picture sums up how excited I was to be there, everything I was getting to see.  If he wasn't going to jump, I probably would have! 



But then the walkers came and ate everybody... Ha!


 This is part of the surrounding, beautiful garden.  The haze really made it feel like a dream. Like Alice in Wonderland!

Below, young American tourists... 


Below, young American travelers...
See what I did there? Cause I'm a snob!!!  Ha!
But this is my Stacer and Lucas!!!  :)



But fo realz, the tourists were FASCINATING to watch...


This guy with the glasses in the middle reminds me of Jack Nicholson.
"So this is the Taj Mahal... you don't saaaaay..."



Everyone toured and experienced in their own way.
These pictures make me laugh.
This one kind of reminds me of a car commercial print ad. 
"I'm the proud owner of this used red sandstone building!"


And I kid, but I really try not to naysay anyone's adventures.  Some people travel to eat really great food and sleep in fancy hotels. To not be working and to be on vacation. Some people carry everything on their back and stay in hostels.  I travel to experience the culture and take pictures to share with the world.  Open to the possibility of experiencing something different and having it change me. My aunt and uncle travel to rock climb and bike and enjoy the outdoor activities that they love so much in new, beautiful places.  None of it is wrong or right.  I think everyone gets something out of it on their journey.  Traveling would have meant something very different to me 20 years ago.  And probably will 20 years from now.  So, hey lady-- take your over the shoulder picture, you know what I'm saying?  


So you'll see this lady has little baggies on her feet.
In order to enter the interior of The Taj Mahal, you have to wear them!
"I once caught traveling hopes and dreams that were THIS BIG..."
Me too, lady.  :)



I love my wide angle lens!  I was so glad I brought it.  I need to watch some tutorials or bug Stace to know how to get rid of some of the warped-ness in Photoshop.  Sometimes, wide angle lenses have a tendency to 'bend' the outskirts of a picture.  Not always what you're going for! You can fix it but I don't know how to do that yet.  Like below, part of the Taj (on the right) got in the picture.  Sometimes I can retouch it and sometimes the elementary editor on my Mac is weird and doesn't let me. Always learning!



Love all the silhouettes and the shiny surfaces...


All the points of the domes..


I would highly suggest looking online for better pictures of some of the intricate details.  Inside the Taj, it's very dark and photography is not allowed.  I thought it was rather hard to see the intricacies in the interior chamber.  With the glare of the sun, you miss a lot!


During the Indian Rebellion of 1857, British officials defaced the Taj and chiseled out the precious stones. (Lovely!)  However, in the early 1900's it was restored by another British viceroy.  Due to pollution, causing the Taj to turn yellow, they've set certain business restrictions in place in the surrounding areas.  The Yamuna River is also drying up rapidly, causing the wooden base of the Taj to rot and create cracks in the mausoleum.  According to Wikipedia, some estimates in 2011 said it would crumble within five years!  Eeks.  I didn't know that before I went in! ;)


A family touring...


The Taj Mahal complex is bordered on three sides by the red sandstone structures.  The Gate and then their are two that mirror each other, I believe.  The complex was constructed with materials from all over India and Asia.  Over 1,000 elephants were used in transportation of these materials!  The scaffolding was so immense it was thought it would take years to dismantle.  But according to legend, Shah Jahan decreed anyone could keep the bricks taken from the scaffold and therefore, it was dismantled overnight.  Hmmm... I love legend.  :)

Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore described the Taj as a 'tear-drop on the cheek of time.'  It is not without it's tragedy.  Soon after it was completed, Shah Jahan was overthrown by his son Aurangzeb and put under house arrest at Agra Fort (another beautiful place you'll see in future blogs!)  Later on we learned through other tour guides, though I'm not sure the story is true, that the son made sure that his father could see the Taj from his jail cell, still being completed without him.  #BURN!!!


Such a sad story and yet such beautiful light!  ;)


A place to put your shoes...



The gardens are just as beautiful.
During the restoration, the British actually put them in.


 One of the birds landing on a nearby tree-bush.


Again, the tourists were just SO FUN to watch!!!  
There were people from everywhere...


And the colorful saris of India!


This is one of my favorite pictures, too.  It was a candid shot but it just looks posed like a wax museum.  Everybody is doing something different.  There was something I just kept revisiting with the tourists I couldn't escape.  This might be a 'means more to Mandi' shot.  Who knows!


A sweet couple holding the Taj in their hand...
I want to say it was their anniversary!



Stacer and Lucas!!!
Always so many exclamation points with them.   :)




Walking back out through the gate, this couple went through before us.  She was dressed in this fiery orange sari, I loved it. 



And THAT, ladies and germs, is the Taj.  If you're ever in Agra, it's absolutely the place to be. If you take the time to really think about the mini details, it will take your breath away.  :)

Mandi



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