So I had this cutesy little Taj Mahal blog all planned in my head about how we are indebted to India for such great words as “Bungalow” “Pajama” and Gunga Din (isn’t he clever and erudite?) plus some snarky remarks about the melodramatic story of its construction. However, all my smirk disappeared when we got there yesterday on a morning so foggy you couldn’t see the building at the end of the reflecting pool. Even our intrepid guide, Shiraz, (no, the driver was not named chardonnay.) couldn’t make it lift. This is not just the story of how a bereaved 17th century prince built an overelaborate tomb for his deceased beloved. They had a 20+ year marriage during which she had 14 pregnancies and 7 surviving children. One reason given for the iinfant-survival problems was that she insisted on accompanying her husband on his military campaigns. She finally died giving birth to #14. The Prince/Mogul grieved for a couple of years, then fulfilled her dying wish for a nice burial site by enlisting craftspeople, architects, and artisans from all over the known world. And the laborers weren’t, much to my surprise, slaves.
I know I’m going to get details wrong, but the basic fact is that these uncountable tons of marble (transported over 200 miles to the site) rest on floating ebony pillars, which in turn stand in “wells” whose walls are set in bedrock. A constantly self-leveling, gentle, foundation. 22 years of gentle chiseling grooved out channels for onyx, carnelian, jade, jasper and other semi-precious stones to form elaborate designs and Koranic script. Unfortunately, pictures were mostly forbidden of this stuff, so you need to see for yourself.
On our day yesterday, The fog did lift and we got a breathtaking eyeful of this marvel whose impact I can’t even begin to describe. Well-worth the “side-trip” we took to to see it. It’s not just a big building with a reflecting pool. Ask Barack if you don’t believe us. He’ll be here later in the month. I hope he doesn’t wear one of these silly caps like the tour group pictured below.
The bereft prince’s tale didn’t end with the completion of the tomb, however. One of his sons accused him of misuse of public funds and imprisoned him in the tower of Fort Agra, a 16th century hulk across the river, where he spent his last days in a luxurious prison of maybe 1000 square feet with a view of his beloved’s tomb in the distance. They played him music and fed him plenty of opium till he expired. His daughter (that 14th child) saw to it that he was laid beside her mother and there they both reside for the likes of us to come from around the world to see.