Through my eyes

living my life without regrets

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Agra, Taj Mahal, Red Fort and Bollywood

We rose really early to make sure we see the sunrise over the Taj Mahal. It is said that the white
Waiting For the Guys To Pass Security While the Sun Rises
color of the marble gives off a pink hue at this time of day. We were close to the front of the line before the complex even opened but when it finally did open all of us had to go through security; men on one side, women on the other side. The women made it through security fairly fast, the men? Not so fast! In fact we took 30 minutes longer than the women. Indian Security, bureaucrats who rule the world, were let lose at the Taj. Then we had to meet the guide, who had to tell us all the details we could have read on Google. Ah, India! We missed the sunrise over the Taj! Bummer!

I am sure the Taj is on many a bucket list and
Dawn Sun Shining on the Entrance Gate
yes, it is a must see in your life time. You don't need me to repeat stuff you can read on line, but let me tell you some tidbits you might not know. It took about 20,000 people 8 years to build it. They lived beyond the south wall of the tomb and those living areas are still there today.

The Taj is on the bank of a river and Shah Jahan intended to build another Taj across from the present building on the other side of the river. It was to be a tomb for himself. It never happened because…read why later.

Finally, Our First View of the Taj Mahal
The white marble of the Taj is a very special Crystalline Makrana Marble and was used on the entire Taj. At a certain angle of light, moon or sunlight reflects off the marble, giving it a reflective glow, a reflection like a jewel would do.

The inlays into the marble took forever. The amount of inlaid marble was delicate work, just one flower on the vines had up to 64 pieces of hand cut jewel like stones. Those colored stones (semi-precious and fairly rare stones) came from all over the world, dark blue from Afghanistan, turquoise from Iran, jade green and carnelian red

Crystalline Makrana Marble

from India, etc. Those are hard stones and cutting them by hand, fitting them perfectly to form the flower is almost impossible, yet… here they are, all over the Taj. The amount of money it cost to build this tomb is incalculable. Someone figured out it was in the range of 1 billion U.S. dollars, in today's money. But I think it would be more…..see Abu Dhabi.

The special marble for the Taj was hauled to Agra in carts from Rajasthan. Each of the plates of marble is at least 4 inches thick. It was made this way so the marble would not
Beautiful Inlays
break and could also be engraved with carvings. Nothing was spared when the Taj was built.

The closer one gets to the inside of the tomb, to where the sarcophagi are, the more intense and more decorative the inlay work becomes. Even the stones become more precious.

Closeup of the Inlaid Marble

When the Taj was built, it stood alone. There was no tree in sight that would block the view from the Red Fort Palace. All the trees you see today were planted to supply oxygen, to protect the marble from the tourists and to help shade the area.

The Taj is constantly cleaned. The cleaners use special mud packs, applied over the marble to draw out the pollution, to clean the marble, to keep the Taj white looking.

Red Fort Is Almost Visible in the Background

So now back to Shah Jahan, why did he not build a Taj for himself? There was supposed to be another Taj Mahal, but in black, on the other side of the river. He could not build it because his son, his successor, put him under house arrest for the last 8 years of his life. Shah Jahan was confined to 2 rooms in the Red Fort Palace but he could see the white Taj Mahal where his wife was buried from his window. He was not allowed to leave his rooms. He was constantly guarded; only one daughter had access to him, just to feed him. He died in this room at the age of 74.  After his death, he was buried next to his wife inside the Taj Mahal.
Inner Entrance to the Red Fort

Amazing India!

The Red Fort (more terra-cotta colored than red) was next on our tour. It is better described as a city within walls. The exact starting point of the building is not that important; I think this spot was always a defense spot. The Fort was battled over many times in its history and changed hands many a time. Which amazes me, walking through the maze of walls, traps, gates, hidden spots I would think it is impenetrable. But no, some found a way in. The weak spot is its water supply. The water had to come from the river and with a
Beautiful Decorative Work in the Fort
long siege and cutting off the water supply, taking the Fort was easy.

The Palace within the Fort was the residence of Shah Jahan. He is the man who ripped down some of the inner parts of the Fort and converted the center of the Fort to a palace. Instead of the Fort being pure ‘red’ sandstone, it now has white marble, stained windows and other luxury items within. While from the outside it is Fort like, the inside is palatial. The term ‘red’ is to be taken loosely, yes the sandstone is reddish, in comparison to other forts that might use granite or other stones.

White Buildings Comprise the Palace Complex
This is the place where Shah Jahan was under room arrest for 8 years. How did this happen?

Here is a short story that is true:

As we know, Shah Jahan had a few wives and had many children, many sons. It was customary to pass along the reign to the oldest son, which is what Shah Jahan did when he was about 64 and ill. He feared he was going to die and passed on his powers to his oldest son. Son # 3 was furious; he thought he would make a much better Mogul. Mysteriously son # 1 and 2 die rather quickly soon after the power 
Beautiful Inlaid Marble Decorative Work
exchange leaving son # 3 next in line. How convenient, right? Son # 3 had an alibi; he was not near Agra when his ‘brothers’ died. He was in Pakistan at the time, but when he heard of the demise of his ‘brothers’ he came to the Agra Fort to talk to his father, Shah Jahan, to get his blessing I assume. Well Shah Jahan closed the gate on son #3 and did not let him into the Red Fort. Shah Jahan did not like son #3, I suppose, which really upset # 3. He cut off the water supply to the entire Fort, gaining control and retaliated by putting his Father under room arrest. Nice guy! # 3 sons name?


Shah Jahan's View of the Taj Mahal From His Rooms in the Fort
He reigned for near 49 years and was really the last effective Mogul of the Red Fort. He died in 1707.

Bollywood:  Have you ever watched one of those films? Way over the top acting, dancing, singing and costumes. They were a bit stiff and chaste. It was Indian style.

There is a daily Bollywood Show in Agra giving an insight into the relationship between Shah Jahan and his favorite wife Mumtaz Mahal. It is very corny, very over the top but it was an experience seeing a live Bollywood show. Our seating section had headphones that automatically translated from Hindi to English whatever the actors said; quite sophisticated. No photos allowed, still we had a good time going to Bollywood.
An Ad For the Bollywood Show That We Saw

I must say this is a grand tour, every possible attraction is covered and Fiona, Gary and yes, Dinesh, who arranged this Bollywood show, are a great combination, doing a terrific job.            

I Love it!

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