Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Taj Mahal

Seldom in ones life does the opportunity to travel with your parents and their parents come along. However for the loudamericans kids such a trip is upon us. Not only are we able to do so we did it at the Taj Mahal.

Grandma and Grandpa Hickey along with the loudamericans headed to the airport to fly up to Delhi to meet Grandma and Grandpa Murphy whom have just arrived from Florida. Good thing too because it is hot here now...

We got to the airport just as our cell phone informed us our flight was going to be late and it turned out several hours late. We were to meet the Grandparent Murphy’s in Delhi at 3:00 and then drive to Agra which is we were told about 4 hours from Delhi. No problem. We finally arrived in Delhi and meet them around 5:00 in the afternoon. We exchanged hello hugs and kisses and loaded up the “van” to head off to Delhi.
I must explain our transportation.
Here in India most things are done via the mobile phone and computer, as were our transport plans from Agra to Delhi and back. When we arrived at the airport we were met by this nice young man whom spoke no English (we are used to that) and he led us to the 15-person van. WOW! It was as small tour bus. It had ac, drapes and most importantly storage, we do not travel light. We were way high and somewhat impervious to those whom need to knock on your windows for food or to sell you something, perfect.

So in the bus and off we went. It became known to all of the adults fairly soon that the suspension was not the best but hey we are going to see the Taj. Four hours from Delhi to Agra, not in our van. It took about 6 hours, several speed bumps and all of our cash to get there. It seems that when we booked this luxury van I just assumed that we would pay for it when we were finished, not so. We had to pay for tolls, boarder crossings, food for the driver and the cabin boy. Of course all of this came out of the total. It reminded me of a car I had fixed back in college that was sent in as a fuel injection motor and came back with a carburetor that is another story.

We saw several unbelievable things on Mulberry Street that day but the one that was the most unusual was the donkey riding in the back of the auto-rickshaw! Camels are a common mode of transportation on the highway as well:) The kids loved that.

We finally made it. The Hotel was good and more to the point the restaurant and bar were still opened. So we had dinner, a welcome to India drink for Grandma Kay and Grandpa Jeremiah and hit the hay.

The Taj Mahal tour is something that we will remember for a long time, perhaps as long as the Christmas Story Dinner.

The construction of the Taj began in 1631 and was completed in 1653. There were 20, 000 people whom worked on the project for the designer and then ruler of Agra, Emperor Shah Jahan. The Shahs second wife whose name is Mumtaz Mahal died in 1631 giving birth to their 14th child. They say the emperor was so distraught by the death of Mumtaz his hair turned silver overnight. The Taj is constructed of World Heritage Marble and has countless beautiful pietra dura, which are inlays. It is truly gorgeous. There are two monuments on either side of the Taj of which one is a Mosque and the other a jawab, which house travelers and are identical in design and construction. The four pillars (minards) of the Taj were made to slope slightly outward in the event of an earthquake they would not fall on the main building.
The inside of the Taj is lined with all the verses of the Koran Below the main dome is the Cenotaph of Mumtaz Mahal which is an elaborate false tomb. There next to her is the Cenotaph of Shah Jahan. The real tombs are locked in a chamber below and are no longer able to be viewed by the general public.

We spent a good deal of time here until Jimmy declared "lets get out of here this place is boring and I am never coming back!" No kidding...

The only way to get to the Taj is to walk about 1.5 miles from the carpark. It seems that in 1994 they outlawed vehicular traffic due to discoloring of the Taj. We walked in but took a horse drawn cart back with Jimmy at the wheel and Kay and Billy singing Jingle Bells at the top of their lungs.

Off to the fort which is a story and a blog of its own!