Saturday, February 04, 2006

In the Shadow of the Taj Mahal

Our first glimpse of the Taj Mahal was in silhouette at dawn. Smokey lavender-gray marble curves and the most elegant, iconic dome rising alone along a river bank and puncturing the pink sky. Seeing it for real was like a coffee table book photo coming alive and reaching out to take your breath away. It was really, really cool and for that first moment, unreal -- actually seeing it in sun and shadow, you thought you'd arrived in Vegas instead of Agra as it just couldn't be true.

But then you looked around and saw Agra, a congested mess of a city thrown amongst majestic forts, palaces and tombs like trash, and remembered it was real...and it was India.

We spent our first day seeing the Taj Mahal at dawn and dusk, which we dually agree was our favorite. There's a small park that rests across the Jamuna River, which is mostly dried up right now due to a lack of monsoons, and from it you get the most magnificent view. Totally to yourselves! When we visited, there were no more than six others roaming around the outdoors and we sat quietly in the shadow of the Taj, watching the sun set and the marble change from white-gray to lavender with bits of pink and orange, and then charcoal in reflection. In a stroke of pure genius, the Taj Mahal was designed on a platform and thus, from every direction you look, it seems to almost float in the sky against its ever-changing blue background.

Perfectly symmetrical and just kind of perfect, the Taj Mahal's energy is one of solitude and quiet adoration. It was built in memorial by Shah Jahan for his wife Mumtaz Mahal, who died giving birth to their 14th child(!) in 1631, and took 22 years to build. Somehow, the atmosphere created by its shape and setting relays this and we had one of the best moments of our trip sitting on some old ruins in the park holding hands and gazing at it. While that may sound sappy, I think that's actually the power of this monument. Built with such intense devotion and beauty, the Taj compels you to touch a bit and express love, and truly enjoy the moment.

More photos of the Taj and Agra are here, we hope you enjoy them:


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I loved all your pictures! You are a great photographer Andy--I think you are taking most of the pics! I love all the agles that you choose and how you frame things. Love, Wendy

1:51 PM  
Anonymous Heather said...

It sounds incredible. I vividly remember feeling like it was just time to move on from a country though. Like you can no longer appreciate all the things you went there for. We can't wait to hear about the next stop! Heather

2:46 PM  

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