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Thursday, 6 August 2015

THE TAJ MAHAL ~ THE DAY HAS ARRIVED

Good Morning to you,


'Are you sitting comfortably?
Then I'll begin.'

'Watch With Mother'
1950's

I am so pleased to tell you, the time has finally arrived, we are going to visit the Taj Mahal together.

The excitement began on Friday evening, when we enjoyed a lovely meal with Natasha and her husband. It was agreed, that as we would be getting up so early on Saturday morning, it would be a good idea to have an early night..... but do you know what,  I couldn't sleep. When I finally managed to drift off, I found I kept waking up.  I often do this when I am excited about something, it's usually a mixture of excitement and concern. The concern is, that I will not hear the alarm when it rings in the morning and that I will oversleep. Of course this never happens, but it's a process I seem to go through time and time again.

I really did not need to worry though, because on Saturday morning, we were up bright and early at 4.30 am. We were showered and dressed by 5.00 am and downstairs in the lobby of The Oberoi by 5.10 am, where a lovely cup of Indian coffee was waiting for us.

We enjoyed our morning cup of coffee and we were ready for our adventure

.... and to our surprise, we discovered it had been raining during the night.  This brought a smile to our faces because it meant that the early morning would be cool and it would give us just enough time to visit the Taj Mahal before the sun rose and it became too hot. As you can imagine, it can be very hot in India and with temperatures which reach over 40C the morning rain was very welcome.

Our guide arrived and we were driven the short distance to the Taj Mahal.

We entered the grounds and there before us was,


The Great Gate.  As we walked towards the Great Gate our guide told us that The Taj Mahal was commissioned in 1631 by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan after the death of his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal.


We walked through the Great Gate.



 and there, before us, in all its glory



was The Taj Mahal. 
Honestly I do not exaggerate when I tell you
that
it took my breath away. 




l wonder, do you recognise this bench?

This is the same marble bench, which  Diana, The Princess of Wales was sitting on, when she visited the Taj Mahal. My over riding memory of the photograph was how sad she looked, in such a beautiful setting.

So of course George and I had to take this photo opportunity.

I'll let you into a little secret.  Looking at this photo, all seems tranquil, but I have to tell you, it really was not.  There were so many people, waiting to have their photograph taken....  I wonder how many people have actually sat on this marble bench. When you consider that over 20,000 people a day, yes you read that correctly, 20,000 people a day visit the Taj Mahal in high season, I should imagine the number runs into millions.




We then made our way to the entrance of the tomb,
but before we could 
enter,



we had to don some attractive looking covers for our shoes. Mind you, we did have a choice, we could wear the shoe covers or we could have gone bare footed, but we all decided to enhance our outfits with these shoe covers..... so naturally we had to take a photograph.... we all do this type of thing don't we, take random photos of odd things.


From a distance, the fretwork looked like honeycomb but as we got nearer, I could see that what looked like honeycomb was in actual fact, beautifully carved  blocks of marble... honestly it is amazing to see first hand.  Each square that you can see, started life as a solid block of marble, which was then painstakingly cut into this fretwork.  If a piece of the fretwork was accidentally broken, then that piece of work would be discarded. Using a new piece of marble, the artisan would have to begin his work all over again.

Our guide told us it took over 20,000 artisans, 22 years to build the Taj Mahal. The work was commissioned in 1631 and ended in 1643, but it took a further 5 years to complete the surrounding gardens. 

When we walked through the Taj Mahal, I understood that the fretwork was not just  a thing of beauty, it had another purpose,  to allow the breeze to flow through the building, which in turn made the interior, so very cool. 



To create the flowers, which you can see in the photograph, each individual block of marble was chiseled to form the shape of flowers and a piece of semi precious stone was inlaid into the shape ..... a little like marquetry, but on a much larger scale. As you can see, the curls and swirls are so very thin, this must have been such painstaking work for the artisans.

.... and the calligraphy on the walls, was made by chiselling the letters and then inlaying with black marble. 

As we looked upwards, our tour guide asked us if we could see anything different about the calligraphy. We noticed that the further up the wall we looked the larger the script. We were told this was to avoid the script looking smaller when viewed from below.


Here you can see the size of the pieces of marble used. The weight must have been immense.

We enjoyed looking inside the mausoleum, but we were not allowed to take any photographs, so sadly I cannot show you inside.... but I can tell you that the vaulted dome ceiling was stunning as were the semi precious stones which were inlaid around the tomb. Honestly, when you see the Taj Mahal you realise what an amazing feat of architecture it is..... and remember it was built in 1631, when there were no lorries to transport the marble and no cranes to lift the marble.

The tomb we saw was not the actual tomb of Mumtaz Mahal, her tomb, was at a much lower level.  When the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan died, his tomb was built and placed next to his wife.

We stayed a while and then finally we wandered back towards The Great Gate,


..... and as a final goodbye, when we looked up, there in the distance, were a troupe of monkeys going about their day.  (I am sorry it is not a very clear picture, but they were quite a long way away.)




The sun rose and as we strolled along
 the avenue, both George and I agreed, 
we were very lucky to have visited 
The Taj Mahal. 

It was so kind of Natasha and her husband

 to treat us to this 
wonderful experience.


It is a memory which will stay with us forever.


Take care and I will see you next Thursday.










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