What can I say about the Taj Mahal that won't sound cliched? Even on a cool misty morning, it's amazing. It's huge, much more substantial than it looks in photos. It is a piece of craftsmanship that is mind-boggling!
I expected a structure that was completely white and smooth but it is not.
There is seamless marble and semi-precious stone inlay creating stunning floral and geometric patterns and verses from the Koran. There are bas-relief panels and carved marble screens. Each carved marble screen of about 4'x6' took eight years to create, while altogether twenty thousand workers toiled for 17 years to build the Taj.
And all for the love of a woman - Mumtaz Mahal- who bore her husband, Shah Jahan, fourteen children and died in childbirth. I figure he owed her an ediface!
We visited two other sites today: the Red Fort of Agra and the tomb of Itmad-ud-Daulah. There is a theme to these monuments: marble inlay. These two sites were built prior to the Taj, and you can see the improvement in the workmanship as time passed, culminating with the exquisite work on the Taj Mahal.
The Itmad-ud-Daulah in particular is a quilter's delight. Every surface is covered with inlay of various patterns and colours. After a while it all becomes too much. I am overwhelmed with the magnificence of it all.
Well prepped by our examination of marble inlay, we were delivered to the factory and showroom of a marble inlay company where we watched artisans at work on inlaid tabletops. Then, in my selfless desire to support the Indian economy, I purchased an inlaid picture frame for myself and a .... well never mind what else. :)
I watched some children playing tag on the grounds of Itmad-ud-Daulah. Their mothers and younger brothers and sisters were confined to puttering on the sidelines except when one or t'other would escape and have to be shooed away. The scene made for a riot of colour and good cheer, a perfect addition to the site of a tomb!
Then food! YAY more food!
At lunch we went to the home of Mr. and Mrs. Vikash Lall where Mrs. Lall, together with her helper, showed us how to make puris, paneer and a sauce for the paneer. Then we lunched on more of the demonstrated goodies plus dal, chicken curry, a mixed veggie dish and rice. The food was delicious and light, unlike most Indian food I eat in Vancouver. Usually it takes until noon the next day to feel like I have digested the previous evening's dinner. What a treat these visits to people's homes have been, something I would certainly not have been able to orchestrate on my own.