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The Gift

A semi-decent day to see the Taj Mahal...

In the time of the Mughal empire’s period of greatest prosperity during the 16th and 17th century, the emperor Shan Jahan began construction of the Taj Mahal in 1632 commemorating the death of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died during the birth of their 14th child. Construction of the principal mausoleum finished in 1648 and the nearby gardens and buildings were finished five years later.

The Taj Mahal was constructed using materials from all over India and Asia and over 1,000 elephants were used to transport building materials. The translucent white marble was brought from Rajasthan, jasper from Punjab, jade and crystal from China, turquoise from Tibet, lapis lazuli from Afghanistan, sapphire from Sri Lanka, and carnelian from Arabia. In all, twenty eight types of precious and semi-precious stones were inlaid into the white marble.

An interesting fact about the Taj Mahal is that by the late 19th century, parts of the buildings had fallen badly into disrepair. During the time of the Indian rebellion of 1857, the Taj Mahal was defaced by British soldiers and government officials, who chiselled out many of its precious stones from its walls. At the end of the 19th century, British viceroy Lord Curzon ordered a sweeping restoration project, which was completed in 1908. During this time the garden was remodelled with British-style lawns that are still in place today.

It was semi-decent day to visit the Taj Mahal, but Mark and I were sweating profusely walking around confines of the temple trying our best to hide in the shade every so often. Interestingly enough, this angled photo of Mark and the Taj Mahal (below) is one of my favorites that I took throughout our time here; it makes me smile as it shows Mark just strolling along like he owns the joint without a worry in the world while checking his phone messages.

Mark and the Taj - Walking like he owns the joint...

Upon passing through the gates within view of the Taj Mahal, I randomly met up with the girl who I’d talked briefly with on the train from Delhi to Agra, who was in fact from Chico, California, which is where I lived and went to college for 6 years. I’m half-way around the world at the Taj Mahal and I managed to meet someone who went to the same university as me, quite random and cool indeed! Her and I quickly discussed several anecdotes regarding Chico and she was kind enough to take one of the only photos of Mark and me together at the Taj Mahal.

Quick shot of Mark, Me, and the Taj

The majority of our time at the Taj Mahal was spent taking photos and walking around under the hot sun enjoying the beauty and solace amid our wonderful surroundings; it felt like a totally different world here.

Doing a "Mark-Hands up" photo

The Taj and Me

Crusing around the Taj Mahal

Goofing around at the Taj

The view of the Taj Mahal where Mark and I sat and chatted for awhile

This photo above was taken from where Mark and I sat and talked for awhile about life and the tumultuous experience we recently had in Delhi. Despite it being rough those first couple of days, we managed to positively reminisce about them envisioning that it would only add to our distinct characters as God-loving individuals. Also, the topic of  “relationships” was again brought up, one of the many times throughout our trip, and I was delighted to discuss and hear Mark’s insights concerning his experiences and advice regarding my possible weaknesses that has made it difficult to hold a steady relationship, in large part due to my nomadic, bohemian lifestyle and hesitation to commit. His advice at the time left me a bit frustrated, and he happened to take a slightly angled photo of me before continuing our stroll through the Taj Mahal that primely captures a moment of jaded contemplation.

Jaded Contemplation

After taking our time with another stroll around the confines, we stopped at a bench and thoroughly enjoyed another conversation, and although I don’t exactly remember what we were discussing at this time, the comely Taj Mahal was within our proximity and earnestly deserved our attention.

Sitting by the Taj Mahal

We left the Taj Mahal shortly after and entered a nearby market street in search of breakfast joint called “Joney’s Place”; it was here that my addiction to fresh mango juice began. After gulping down several glasses while chatting away with a few charming German girls who sat across from us, we soon headed to the Agra Fort.

Not long after the Taj Mahal’s completion, the emperor Shah Jahan was desposed by his son Aurangzeb and put under house arresst at Agra Fort with his newly built Taj Mahal in view. Upon Shah Jahan’s death, Aurangzeb buried him next to his wife inside the Taj Mahal.

View of the Taj Mahal from Agra Fort

The Agra Fort was definitely in a better condition than the Red Fort in Delhi and it was worth to pop in and walk around for awhile, in addition to snapping a few photos of the fort and of the Taj Mahal a few miles away.

Agra Fort

Inside Agra Fort

Agra Fort arches and courtyard

Taj Mahal from Agra Fort

Mark and I also had a good time walking around and taking a few fun photos.

Mark standing afar at the Agra Fort

Opening the doors to the Agra Fort

Mark's goofs while I'm planning

"Mark, pretend like your walking." Ha ha...

From here, Mark and I ventured to the “Tourist’s Rest House” to grab more fresh mango drinks and grub before setting off on a stroll through Agra. However, more conversations ensued about India, life, our futures, and relationships, and I was again left in a state of continuous contemplation…

Tourist's Rest House outdoor restaurant-cafe, Agra-India


…but that didn’t stop me from goofing around a little.

Goofing around

After drinking so much mango juice to where we could practically feel it slosh around when we got up from our seats, we jumped to the streets of Agra and took a slow stroll through town.

Streets of inner-city Agra

We quickly learned that there wasn’t much else to see in Agra outside the Taj Mahal and the Agra Fort, but we certainly happened to find India’s version of Starbucks, and it was here where we spent some quiet-time writing postcards.

Costa Coffee - "India's Starbucks"

Upon our exit from Agra, we again encountered some severe poverty within the train station while waiting for our train back to Delhi, from where we’d then take a train to Udaipur the following day. I recall many images in my mind of the young children begging for whatever you can give them and gravely maimed individuals crawling around on boards from tourist to tourist in hopes to receive something of subsistence. As much as I wanted to give something away at this time, I watched a French tourist purchase some food for one of the children and was then quickly bombarded by a dozen or more children all wanting the same thing. She was so flabbergasted that she got up from her seat and walked out of the train station. I contemplated this scene the entire trip back to Delhi.

The Taj Mahal, built in commemoration of the emperor’s deep love for his wife that died during child bearing, was indeed a gift of love in reminiscence of bygone days and a gift of ethereal beauty for all the world to see. It was truly a great joy and an experience of lifetime to see and spend time at the Taj Mahal.

On to our next adventure trekking and horseback riding through the hilltowns of Udaipur… more beauty awaits…

Udaipur Sunset

One comment on “The Gift

  1. hanacavana
    August 29, 2011

    Paul! I really enjoyed reading your blog. I reckon you had a such a great time in India, with heaps of conversation and contemplation. I love those beautiful pictures of Taj Mahal. I love your goofy pictures as well. I’m waiting for your next blog! : )

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This entry was posted on August 28, 2011 by in India and tagged , , , , , , .

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“Experience, travel – these are as education in themselves.”

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