Saturday, April 01, 2006

Not Quite Ready for Prime Time

The Taj Mahal is indescribable. You must see it, hulking in front of you, for you to grasp its sheer beauty. No other man-made thing, except the Great Wall, has inflamed me with such wonder. When I first gazed at the Taj, the wind slowly drew from my lungs as the heavy beauty of this wonder pressed the breath right out of me. I'm not exaggerating.

Huge blocks of white marble form the Taj. 20,000 craftsmen toiled for 12 years to build her. She cost 41 million rupees, or the rough equivalent of $500 million dollars today. 1,000 elephants transported all of that white marble from Rajasthan. Her dome stands 144 feet high.

The Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, who ruled India from 1628 to 1658, built the Taj Mahal in memory of his second and favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. She died in 1631, and the Taj is her tomb.
Legend says that Shah Jahan intended to build a black Taj even more magnificent than the white one. Thinking Islamic conquest a better use of that much treasure, Shah Jahan's third son Aurangzeb imprisoned him in Agra Fort. Aurangzeb then killed two of his brothers to take the throne of India.

We walked along the bank of the Yamuna river, which flows right behind the Taj. You can see the Taj in the top right corner. As we approached this festering bog of feces, trash and animal corpses, our friendly guide pulled out a handkerchief and covered his nose. "Dang," I thought, "this is gonna be bad..." The smell was unbearably foul. We could barely stand it long enough to shoot this picture. It became painfully obvious that India's got a long way to go in the water infrastructure sphere before she can rightly start the climb to first-world status.

In fact, this picture paints a pretty accurate pastiche of India. Repulsive filth within clear sight of one of the most impressive and beautiful structures in the world.

~ Greg Grillot

To see some decent tourist photos of the Taj Mahal, and the two outbuildings, a mosque and a royal guest house, which are impressive in their own right, go here.


Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Here's one for all you complacent lovers of the modern. Can anyone name any building built in the last hundred years that generates anything resembling the general, widespread awe of this and other similar jewels? That people will consciously invest substantial time and money to see in person? (Other than professional architects and eccentric railway station buffs)

April 03, 2006 5:27 AM  
Blogger Brit said...


The Globe Theatre :)

April 03, 2006 6:31 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

Actually, I think that the backwardness of the conditions surrounding the Taj is totally in keeping with the kind of society that builds such monumental structures. You need a lot of really cheap labor and a monarch with the absolute authority to appropriate the funds necessary without having to get "buy in" from taxpayers for a structure that has no economic value.

Ceaucescu's Palace in Romania comes to mind.

April 03, 2006 7:15 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

Our Government tried to do something monumental with the Millennium Dome, and that bit them viciously in the arse.

Not sure if it passes Peter's test (though it is religious), since it was started the 1880s, but Gaudi's still-unfinished Sagrada Familia in Barcelona is truly astounding. You climb up endless spiralling towers and it feels like you're in some sort of gargantuan wasps' nest. It looks like a real-life Gormenghast.

The Sydney Opera House also looks pretty good.

April 03, 2006 7:31 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

I traveled 800 miles to see the Empire State Building when I was 9 years old.

Having never seen the Taj, I cannot say whether the feeling would be similar. But I imagine visiting the Taj creates similar emotions to visiting Graceland.

April 03, 2006 10:55 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

But I imagine visiting the Taj creates similar emotions to visiting Graceland.

You'll never bend an inch, will you, Harry?

April 03, 2006 2:47 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Graceland inspires very powerful emotions in us Tennesseans.

April 03, 2006 4:07 PM  

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