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The Taj Mahal

INDIA | Thursday, 17 October 2002 | Views [1258]

The Taj Mahal is just as spectacular as the postcards say!  We’re told Taj means crown and Mahal means palace, and it really is an architectural wonder.  It is built of native red sandstone covered with white marble; it took 3 years to build and 19 years to create the intricate carvings and stonework that covers every inch of the place; it stands 213 feet high and is perfectly symmetrical at every angle, a feat for such a huge structure; and instead of the four towers at the corners standing at 90 degrees, they lean slightly outward so in case of an earthquake they will fall outward and not harm the main building.  To make this wonder even more special, it also includes a tragic love story that rivals the best:

King Jahan had a favorite wife, Muntaz, who died giving birth to their 14th child.  As she lay dying, she had King Jahan promise to build a beautiful monument in her memory that would symbolize their love.  Sadly, King Jahan’s three surviving sons came back to Agra to claim themselves as the rightful heir to the throne.  The youngest was an excellent soldier and killed his two brothers and imprisoned his father, the King, in Agra Fort.  Mercifully, King Jahan’s “cell” (it was quite a luxurious place to be confined) had a lovely view of the Taj Mahal during his dying days.  Originally he had planned to build his own tomb across the river in black stone and connect the two monuments with a bridge to symbolize their undying love in life or death, but that dream was left unfulfilled, so he was laid in a tomb next to his wife inside the Taj Mahal.  His tomb is the only thing in the entire complex that is not symmetrical. 

Thinking of this story, I removed my shoes and entered the main building.  Everything is engraved with flowers and it is lit inside by a single lamp hanging in the center.  Standing near a wall, I closed my eyes and simply listened to the sounds filling the room.  The constant drone of low male voices, the higher chatter of women in various Indian dialects, loud American voices, a baby’s cry.  The way it all rose and fell, blending and echoing in the dome was like strange music.  Later, outside, as the sun set behind the monument turning the white marble red and orange, I wonder if this dream will still be there in the morning.

Tags: india, once in a lifetime, taj mahal


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