When I was 16, I went on a three-week camping trip out west – a sprint from Philadelphia to Colorado, then a slow descent from the Rockies south into Arizona and New Mexico. I saw the Grand Canyon from the north rim on that trip and I vividly remember driving through the pine (?) forest to a lodge perched on the edge of the canyon. On the backside of the lodge stretched a long balcony filled with visitors gazing at what lay before them. All those people looking – yet the stillness and silence that screamed – “unbelievable beauty”.
I haven’t seen anything yet that has moved me quite as much as the Grand Canyon, but the Taj Mahal certainly holds its own. It’s a marvelous structure, breathtaking and stunning from every angle and throughout the changing light. All that needs to be said, really, rests behind me here:
This is a sunset view with me sitting on the bench made famous by the same shot of a lonely Princess Diana during the break-up of her marriage. Actually, the bench has been moved slightly – she sat on the other side of the pool from what I can tell when I compare photos.
Sunrise was far more stunning. I love the reflection in the water here:
As the sun rose, the sky became more blue and the building shined brighter – pink at first, then white. I closed my eyes every few minutes – or turned away to warm my cold body in the heat of the sun and when I looked again, it was always more spectacular than the view from a few minutes before.
I don’t know if the love story of the Taj Mahal is documented history or simply lore, but it goes like this: Shah Jahan built the tomb for his beloved third wife, Mumtaz, after she died giving birth to their 14th child. The two were inseparable and she always accompanied him on his trips out of Agra, including to the battlefront. On her deathbed, she asked her husband to build something that would celebrate their enduring love.
We all need a good love story and if you believe this one, the Taj is Shah Jahan screaming for Mumtaz. Is it cynical to think that he built the Taj for himself? A grandiose display of wealth and power and love of self? Did he really love Mumtaz so singularly?
Those of you who read me closely may remember that I read Love in the Time of Cholera over Christmas. One of the main characters waits his entire life for the chance to be with the woman he loves – and when he finally gets her, they are both old. Near the end of the book, there’s this passage that stands as my Taj Mahal – the beauty of celebrating love in life, not death. Florentino has longed for Fermina for 50 years and when they are finally together, to kiss and to touch, he smells her stale and aging body – and still, still! – he wants her.
My mother and step-father outside of the tomb.
Security was thorough at the entrance:
I liked these ladies – resting in the fading light:
Earlier in the week, playing in the park… The kids love having my mother around to bathe them in oodles of individual attention.
A typical encounter in Delhi – This is what George’s class had to trudge through on a field trip when they walked from the school bus to the entrance of the Delhi Crafts Museum: