Taj Mahal or bust


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To say that India is a country of contradictions would not be accurate… it’s a country where there are contradictions on the contradictions. Our driver the other afternoon said it best… in India anything is possible, just not right now!  We been in country for a full week as of today and it is amazing, at the same time sad, crazy, hot, noisy, tasty… I could go on and on.

There is construction almost everywhere… buildings are going up all over and roads / expressways are being built. The amazing thing is that on an expressway you will see Cars, Trucks, Bikes, three wheel bikes hauling supplies, three wheel motor scooters (Tuck Tucks), farm tractors pulling wagons, as well as horse carts. It’s a real free for all – not to mention that there is always a chance some guy will do a U-turn and just start going the other way (saw that twice now).

Yesterday we too our first sightseeing trip while we were here and went by car to the city of Agra. It’s a two and a half hour ride from Noida where we are staying over to Agra (I’ve got pictures of the road tip out below). One thing that you notice in the countryside is these thatched huts that dot the land (farmers huts) that are still used today (boy do we have it good). You also notice lots of chimney stacks all around the countryside – these are brick furnaces (many still in use) and you see some with stacks of bricks around them. You will also notice that the land is uneven… but in regular squares where the material has been excavated for brick making and then returned to farm land.

As you enter the Agra metro area (a strong word), you notice that there are very poor conditions in the town around the Taj Mahal.   One thing that you can’t help but notice is that there is no such thing as “personal space”…. they will pack a bus until there are people hanging on open door (on the outside), and you will see the little micro tricks with people standing on the bumper going 50 mph down the road….

 

Our goal was to see the Taj Mahal and the Red Fort. Both were impressive. I’ll be honest, I had low expectations of seeing the Taj Mahal… but the building and the grounds are commanding and the most impressive thing is all the hand work that went into all the details through the buildings. When you look at the outside, it will change colors during the different parts of the day based on how the sun hits the building. The sand script writing, while it looks all the same size, is actually larger at the top and smaller at the bottom so that the eye perceives it as the same size when looking up at it from a distance. The minarets on each corner actually lean out, so if the fell they would not hit the main structure. From a distance they look vertical; however, when you stand next to them you can see how they lean outward from the main building. Even the columns have things that deceive the eye and make them look like they are start shaped when they are actually flat… but the way the stone is set presents the allusion from a distance that it is a star shaped pillar. Below are my Taj pictures.

After our visit to the Taj, we stop in a stone cutters shop (a descendant of one of the original stone cutters that worked on the Taj and we were able to look at and purchase some of his work). The artisan center around the Taj Mahal is sanctioned by the government and you don’t pay any export fees on those good when you leave the country.

The Red Fort is also impressive, built by the Mogul Empire this is a structure that was well thought out… it had two moats – a wet mote with crocodiles in it and a dry moat with tigers and elephants in it. If you were able to breach those, then you needed to go up a ramp (where they would roll heavy objects down on you). Seemed pretty smart. Three sides were defended by the Army (Mogul, British, and Indian Army have all used this as a fort) and the back of the fort was protected by the river (with an awesome view of the Taj Mahal). The inner areas are of white marble just like the Taj Mahal and you see some of the same craftsmanship there too.

On the ride back we ran into heavy thunderstorms and saw some road flooding when we got into Noida proper. It was good to get back to the hotel and call it a night! Nothing like falling asleep to the sound of thunder and horns (they never stop).