Taj Mahal

So the story goes something like this boy meets girls, they fall madly in love, and then she dies but that is were things get really interesting he builds the most impressive mausoleum to honor her and in a way their love story becomes one of the ages.  Shah Jahan was a great womanizer but once me met and married the beautiful Mumtaz Mahal, Persian princess, all of that changed.  She was his 3rd wife.  In 17 years, she bore him 14 children that alone would merit preferential treatment by any standards.  Only 6 children, survived past early childhood (4 boys and 2 girls). It is said that when Mumtaz Mahal was pregnant with her 14th child she knew that she wouldn’t survive so she asked 2 things of her husband 1) he never marry again and 2) he build such a monument to her memory that people will talk of their love through the ages.  He made good on both of his promises. Mumtaz did in fact die in 1631 giving birth to Gauhara Begum their 14th child.

Shah Jahan was grief stricken and began construction on the Taj Mahal in 1632. He created a city just outside this site for all of the laborers to live until the project was completed.  He was said to have aged 20 hears after her death, all of his hair turned gray.  He was said to be unconsolable, he ignored all of the affairs of the kingdom except construction.   After 4 years of grief, trusted advisors told him to get it together his people needed him.   He did start ruling his kingdom again.  The project was completed around 1653, employing close to 22,000 artisans  and craftsman.  The total cost has been estimated to be about 32 million Rupees at that time.  The principal designer is general considered to be Ustad Ahmad Lahauri but a board of architects under the King were responsible for the construction and detailed designs.

No fixed rules for succession made being a royal heir a dangerous business.  Soon after the Taj Mahal’s completion, Shah Jahan son Aurangzeb wanted desperately to rule so he killed his 3 brothers.  Then he deposed father and put him under house arrest at nearby Agra Fort.  His eldest daughter carried for him until his death 8 years later.  His chambers in Fort Agra loomed upon the Taj Mahal across the river.  Shah Jahan was never supposed to be buried at the Taj Mahal but during his confinement he requested that his daughter have him buried next to his wife in the mausoleum.   His daughter made sure her father’s wishes were honored when he died in 1657 and that is the only non-symmetrical piece within the Taj.

The garden is one of the best parts.  There is a 980 foot square charbagh or Mughal garden.  Raised pathways divide each of the 4 quarters into 16 flowerbeds.  There is a raised marble water tank called all Had al-Kawthar, which refers to the tank of abundance which was promised to Muhammad in the center of the garden.  There is also a reflecting pool going north-south, halfway between the  tomb and the platform.  Most Mughal charbaghs are rectangular with a tomb or pavilion in the center.  While in the Taj, the tomb is located at the end of the garden further making this mausoleum special.  There are four channels that meet at the platform.  These 4 channels symbolize the four flowing rivers of Jannah (Paradise) and reflects the paradise garden.  There is an idea of abundance with 4 rivers flowing from a central spring that describes paradise in mystic Islamic texts of the time hence the layout of the garden.

When facing the tomb, there is a working mosque in red sandstone to the left.  The is a matching building to the right (keeping symmetry) was only used once 1 year after Mumtaz Mahal’s death as part of a rembrance festivities.

Some pics I liked..

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Just the building itself.

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So you can get an idea of what’s on the walls. The entire Koran is etched in the building.

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A mosque to the left.

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The entry way.

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Words and pictures just can’t do the place justice.  It is hard to describe the symmetry and sheer size.

All my love-
Angie

Acceptance

I had a realization that I didn’t like.  I have been mad at Oma for not accepting Stonybrook and I just realized that maybe I am no better accepting things I don’t like.  You see today we had our first meal on the floor and most people ate with their hands even the rice (yes- just the right hand). We wash our own dishes with this weird brown paste like substance which is called soap.  Their isn’t hot water.  I thought I got lucky with my karma yoga; I help out in the boutique where I tried to kill ants by shaking them out of their clothes and uasing soap (actual washing soap).  I slipped on wet stone and cut my knee (the olds scar from the Alhambra) and my ankle (also – I cut my pants).  I used hand sanitizer, neosporin and Band-Aids (thank you mommy).  I was asked if I wanted the hospital.  My answer was no thank you.  The bathroom is technically a room with a western toilet and a shower in the middle and water just goes everywhere.  There is no toilet paper – thanks for that Mary.  The room is constantly WET.  The WiFi is only allowed at times; meaning they shut it off so it can’t be used.  I don’t like these things.  The teachers don’t seem very knowledgeable.  And a guy I just meet who was leaving said – he didn’t like it.  Plus – there are no towels so I bought Indian towels.  Wait till you see those.

But then I thought maybe should accept my current circumstances for 14 days with a smile and gratitude in my heart.  Challenge Accepted Self!  Am I Faye or am I Oma?

Guess we are all going to have to wait and see!!

All my love-
Angie

Crap!

I might have made a terrible mistake. I get here after check-in so I am in lady dorms.  16 of us in 2 rooms with 3 bathrooms (Asian toilets) – I am sleeping on a board (the mattress is maybe an inch thick) under mosquito netting.  There aren’t sheets only pieces of clothes.  No doors or windows can be opened or the cat comes in- the cat who brings the rats who eat people’s bags.  There is no AC so I am bathed in my own sweat and I am sure I smell worse tan I have ever smelled before.  I know I am much to old to be doing this but the 2 ladies come in from chanting and they have to be older than me.  The good part is I got more cash at the airport and I sure cash can fix this problem.   I figure one night here then I go to my room (the reserved one); if it is awful I can execute my exit plan.  My head and heart search hard for good things – this is temporary! :)

All my love-
Angie

Crap!

I might have made a terrible mistake. I get here after check-in so I am in lady dorms.  16 of us in 2 rooms with 3 bathrooms (Asian toilets) – I am sleeping on a board (the mattress is maybe an inch thick) under mosquito netting.  There aren’t sheets only pieces of clothes.  No doors or windows can be opened or the cat comes in- the cat who brings the rats who eat people’s bags.  There is no AC so I am bathed in my own sweat and I am sure I smell worse tan I have ever smelled before.  I know I am much to old to be doing this but the 2 ladies come in from chanting and they have to be older than me.  The good part is I got more cash at the airport and I sure cash can fix this problem.   I figure one night here then I go to my room (the reserved one); if it is awful I can execute my exit plan.  My head and heart search hard for good things – this is temporary! :)

All my love-
Angie

Reverence

The wait/service staff here in India is so nice; its starting to wig me out a little.  Don’t get me wrong – I think people are generally nice and generally nice to me specially.  But here at my hotel they are so almost reverent; it kinda freaks me out.  They make me believe that they can’t wait to talk to me.  At the restaurant they run to pull out my chair or push it in or get me more of this or take away anything they fear might be offending me. My brother would be super happy as they bring me tons of clean cutlery.  They remember my name and preferences even though I have stayed no where more than 2 days.  If they see me with my luggage, they run to grab it. I think I have opened one door myself after I left the airport.  All this being served sort of makes me want to hide out in my room.  ;,)

They ask me how I am and seem shocked when I ask after them.  Their response being crazy cheerful. I take a deep breathe and try to say a prayer of gratitude.  This will become more comfortable – I hope.

Being an Oddity

So if I am an oddity in America as a childless, morageless, 40 year old women, I am even more so here in India and Dubai. No man clears a path of safety for me.  Wait staff is confused, once I declare, “1 for dinner, please”. Some just look at you awhile and move about their business.  While others wait and then comes the follow-up question that can’t be contained, “are you traveling alone or just dining alone”?

Yes! I am traveling alone. I declare loudly and boldly.   After 8 or so days of this, I become more comfortable with the questions but I become oddly less comfortable with dining experience.  I feel the need to bring distractions as away of declaring you don’t need to entertain me, help me or protect me – I am okay all by myself. 

I declare I will get better at this part too.  I don’t need to prove my comfort to anyone except maybe me. ;)

Trains and Cars

Today I rode an India train.  There is apparently some stat stating that pretty much at anyone time in India the entire population of Australia is on a train here.  After my ride, I would believe it.  It was interesting to watch the terrain go by and see flat lands change to mountains change again to jungle with some occasional urban population and its detris float by.  The water everywhere looked awful.  There are large spaces of standing shamrock green water with a fuzzy lime green sheen on top.  You can occasionally see temples and forts in the distance.  There is heavily pitted earthen landscape, I have never seem before whiz by.  There are people scattered along side the tracks performing maintenance with rakes and sholves of sorts.  Two men sit beside me while I am at the window.  I fight quietly with the man in the middle seat for dominance of the arm rest. At first, I gave in and then I won for the rest of the trip. He tries to rest his knees against my legs but this ploy doesn’t work so after some time he moves his knees too.  I am picked up in a City called Jhansi with a man from Akron (my travel agency) and the driver.  They weave me through the crowd as I am struck by the age of these beggars – boys around 6 who smile and laugh.  Girls around the age of 9 to 12 carrying babies on their hips.  Babies who can speak one English word – food.  Their thin, frail bodies covered with dirty clothes tell a story of poverty.  My heart cracks but the hard tight faces of my guide leave me staring forward – not wanting to show my cracks.

Driving in India is a crazy experience that I can’t begin to explain.  Well not, explain really more give you any sense of what I am taking about.  But again I try..

So begin by trying to imagine a roller coaster of sorts – one with cars that average between 37 and 62 mph but slower and faster is possible depending on conditions.  Let’s take a minute to define conditions or obstacles – those can be anything designed to get a person from here to there on a road or highway.  This can be people walking; herders moving animals; animals – horses, goats, dogs, boars or pigs, oxen or cows, donkeys, camels, elephants; carts that run powered people, horses, donkeys, oxen, camels; motorbikes; scooters; bicycles; tricycles;  rickshaws – auto, bike or pedestrian; cars; trucks; trucks smaller than the US semi’s and that is currently all had I think I have seen.  These obstacles are not normal obstacles as you see almost every motorized vehicle to include bicycles look like clown cars.  Meaning small things hold lots and lots of people or things – the average auto rickshaw holds 1 to 35 people.  Imagine the below (thanks http://www.rickshawchallenge.com/places/india/aurangabad/page/54/) but more people; kids even ride to school.

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And or…  Which is seen on bikes, motorcycles or carts

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Thanks http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milkman for the image.

I also like the following look…

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Not limited to bicycles. Thanks to http://www.emirates247.com/overloaded-and-overcrowded-1.374932

I also saw a lot of…

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Thanks http://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Camel_cart.JPG

Lanes are more like suggestions.  Today we passed a car passing a motorcycle into oncoming traffic.  Everyone honks to let everyone else know where they are; the whole trip is an experience with sound — beep, beep or beeeeeeeeeeeep.  We also passed a car while another car in the opposite direction passed another car, we glided back into place just after narrowly missing scraping sides.  Cows lay in the middle of the road.  My driver removed the front head rest so I could watch.  I occasionally made a giant intake of air when I was sure the whole lot of us were going down in a giant flame of glory. Drivers just repeat – “no problem” and nothing phases them. After 4 or so hours, I am exhausted and I didn’t do anything.

Thanks to people who send me notes – reminding me that although I am gone, I am not forgotten!  Love ‘ya!!

More later!!

All my love-
Angie