Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Taj Mahal

The visit to the Taj Mahal was one of the highlights of the trip.  The architecture alone has inspired reams of rapture over the years, but what really makes this marble monument so endearing is it's haunting tale of love and loss.  Arjuman Banu, the niece of Jahngir's wife Nur Jahan, supposedly captured the heart of the young Shah Jahan the minute he saw her.  In 1612, at the age of 21, she married him and became his favorite wife, his Mumtaz Mahal (the Exalted of the Palace).

The Taj Mahal from Agra Fort.  The emperor's youngest son wanted to become the ruler so he killed his older brothers and imprisoned his father in his own palace.   This is the view the emperor had from his prison window.  It was not much of a prison as the quarters were all made from marble and inlaid with precious stones.  A black monument was to be built across the river for the emperor upon his death, but he died and is buried in the Taj Mahal with his wife.  

This woman must have have had extraordinary beauty, charm and grace as Shah Jahan had 3,000 wives.  Numerous stories recall this woman's generosity and wisdom, both as a household manager and as an adviser to her beloved husband.  She bore 14 children, and it was in childbirth that she died in 1620 while accompanying Shah Jahan on a military campaign.

On her deathbed, it is said, she begged the king to build a monument so beautiful that the world would never forget their love.  Shattered by her death, legend claims, Shah Jahan locked himself in his private chambers for a month.  When he finally emerged, his hair was white. 

The above photographs are professionally done.  The next ones are the ones I shot.
Five months later, a huge procession brought Mumtaz Mahal's body to Agra, where Shah Jahan began the process of honoring her request.

The Shah's chief architect, Ustad Ahmad Lahori, oversaw the construction, which began in 1632.  Shah Jahan put an army of 20,000 laborers to work, even building a village to house the workers as they spent 17 years creating a vast tomb of white marble on the banks of the Yamuna River.  Visible from Agra Fort, the Taj Mahal was completed on the exact anniversary of Mumtaz Mahal's death.  The great emperor spent his last years locked in one of his own creations, gazing according to the popular story, across the Yamuna at his wife's final resting place. 
This picture is on the monument itself and the entrance into the chamber housing the tomb of the emperor and his wife are through the central entryway.  Shoes were not allowed in the Taj Mahal.
The artistry over one of the many windows and entry ways on the structure.  The artwork is done with inlaid precious stones.

My wife and I in front of the monument.  As it became more light the haze was burned off.

Good hunting, good fishing and good luck.  Hank.

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