When I think of “Ornate” I always reflect on the cathedrals and monuments that I’ve had the opportunity to see around the world. One of the most incredible is, of course, the Taj Mahal in Agra, India. I could easily have picked many of the pictures I have of that monument but I thought I’d take a slightly different view that many people don’t even know exists. The “Taj” is surrounded by an equally incredible compound that is amazing by itself. The entry points and corners are marked by large, very ornate structures that would be attractions all by themselves if they weren’t just an “appetizer” for the Taj. I chose to show one of those main entryways here. It is impossible to describe the detail of these building but I hope this at least gives you a taste. For context, the white domes that can be seen on the left side of the photo are the actual Taj Mahal…..
Like most people traveling to India, the Taj Mahal was a must see – after all it is considered by most to be one of the “wonders of the world”. We drove from Dehi to Agra with the intent of seeing the Taj in the afternoon when the photographic light was good. That was pretty much negated by a cloudy afternoon but it really didn’t detract from a spectacular experience. It was both a weekend and a holiday so there were LOTS of people at the Taj, so my hope of photographing it with a sparse crowd also was not to be. Whenever I go to a famous site, I also try to get photos which show a different view of the iconic – I managed to get a few that might not be familiar but I thought I’d start with the typical postcard shot – but processed to minimize the effect of the light and the crowd….
Many of you probably know that the Taj Mahal was built by the fifth Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan in 1631 in memory of his third but favorite wife, a Muslim Persian princess. She died while accompanying her husband in a campaign to crush a rebellion after giving birth to their 13th child. The death so crushed the emperor that all his hair and beard were said to have grown snow white in a few months. He kept his promise to her to build the Taj but his promise to visit her on her death anniversaries was interrupted when he was imprisoned by his own son. The Emperor also planned to build a much smaller “Black Taj” on the other side of the river as tribute to his mourning but that plan was also stopped by his son and Shah Jahan was eventually entombed next to his wife in the Taj.
One of the many things I never realized before this visit was the extent of the grounds and the surrounding buildings. The entire site is enclosed by massive rock walls and there are four huge structures at each corner of the site which are extremely impressive on their own. There is also a huge red sandstone entryway to the main grounds as shown below.
You might notice the 22 small domes lined up across the front and back of the building – they symbolize the 22 years it took to complete the Tah Mahal. The next thing that the guides point out is the amazing planning that went into all aspects of the Taj – there is a small cornerstone on the approaching sidewalk that I stood on while I took this photo – it was specifically intended that you be able to see the entry arch to the Taj mirrored through the arch of the gateway building. This photo also gives you an idea of some of the detail contained within the inlays which decorate all of the Taj Buildings. What you can’t appreciate is the precision of the inlays and the fact that many of the inlays are done in transparent stones and minerals to catch the light.
Okay, so these next few photos are my attempt to catch unusual angles of the Taj that you may not see on every travelog. This first one is a shot along the front red sandstone base of the Taj highlighting the sandstone railing detailing the front of the building.
While we were at the Taj, I also wanted to see if I could get a photo from across the river – I had seen some that were very artistic but that our guide said were obviously photoshopped. We ran out of time the afternoon we were there but our guide juggle our itinerary and we managed to come back through Agra in the early morning to get that shot. Again, the weather wasn’t very good – we took the photo between rain showers – and it really was at first light. Here is the view from a park that is actually part of the Taj grounds on the other side of the Yamuna river – an artsy shot with no people – no one was dumb enough to be up at that hour! Hope you enjoyed my quick take on the Taj!!
As you can tell by my last post, there is lots of things to discuss and tell about our trip. I’m not a prolific writer so it may take me some time to put together a meaningful post for each portion of our adventure. In the meantime, I do have (surprise) lots of photos that I want to share so I plan to post a photo or two each day I don’t write a longer post. This photo was one I took of a gentleman coming out of the sales office for tickets going into the Taj Mahal. He was a very distinguished gent with a great beard so he came to my attention. Hope you enjoy some of these portraits of ordinary Indian people.