a lonely princess and more of agra and taj mahal

Continuing our visit to Agra after a stop at Fatehpur Sikri earlier in mid-morning, we timed our next stop for lunch at a restaurant called appropriately enough, the Taj Mahal Restaurant. How many U.S. cities have Indian restaurants of that same name, I wonder? Since we’d gotten up to leave Delhi around 5:30 a.m. and had only consumed a train-provided so-so breakfast, the meal–though not quite fit for a Mogul perhaps–was delicious. What did Moguls eat anyhow? What we ate was–clockwise from the serving bowl at top left just below the plate of food–carrots, potato curry, chicken masala, dal stew, rice dish (in the middle) with plenty of naan (bread) and beer and coke to wash it down . Carrots grown in India, by the way, are much more red than the orange ones we grow here and taste slightly stronger.

After lunch, we were off to see the Taj. The tour buses and vans seemed to park much further away than during our first visit, and more commercial areas seemed to have sprung up around the area near the entrance of the Taj Mahal. Naturally, they’re all geared to tourists. When you leave the confines of your buses or vans, you’re besieged by hawkers of every age for everything imaginable for you to buy. I thought this shop was peculiar enough to warrant a picture. What other reason would you have to buy marble plates than to be able to say you bought it at a marble shoppy?

Approaching this entry(below) made me remember driving some of the back alleys behind some of the casinos in Las Vegas.

Finally we near the entry gateway near the eastern side of the garden, and I grab the opportunity to snap a candid shot of others on their way in as well. For some reason, I think I like backside views of people and animals. For one thing you rarely get in trouble since they’re unaware of your camera, and the shots really are candid.

I found I was just as impressed as I was 30 years ago by the calligraphy inscriptions  running lengthwise up and down the entry. They read “O Soul, thou art at rest. Return to the Lord at peace with Him, and He at peace with you.” The calligraphy is made by jasper (gray) inlaid in white marble panels. The letters are written slightly larger as the panels go higher so that they appear the same size looking all the way up.

Inside the dome I remembered to look up to see this impressive surface engraved painting of elaborate geometric forms.

Regular readers will remember my complaining several months ago about my first visit, 30 years ago, being marred a little by the fact that the one day we spent there, there was no water in the reflecting pool. Well, here we are and you can see the water was just fine this time.

At the time we reckoned our tushes were warming the exact bench on which Princess Diana was photographed in 1992 during a state visit to India while her marriage to Charles was in a state of collapse. (They separated later the same year.) After researching for this post, I’m afraid it was the wrong bench. The one behind Hubby’s head appears to be more accurate. You can check for yourself here.

Finally, on to the cenotaphs (empty tombs) in the interior of the marble tomb. Mumtaz is the smaller one on the right, placed at the precise center of the inner chamber, with inscriptions that praise her. Shah Jahan’s, to the left, is the only visibly asymmetric element in the entire complex. It’s also bigger than that of Mumtaz, but reflect the same elements: a larger casket on a slightly taller base, decorated with calligraphy that identifies him. Bases and caskets of both cenotaphs are elaborately inlaid with precious and semi-precious gems.

Because Muslim tradition forbids elaborate decoration of graves, however, the actual bodies of Mumtaz and Shah Jahan were placed in a plain crypt beneath the inner chamber–in the dark basement–with their faces turned to the right towards Mecca. They are no longer accessible to the public.

At the end of the visit, our last thing to do before we leave the Taj Mahal–for what will probably be the last time–is to retrieve our shoes.

I admit that every time I remove my shoes–no matter where I am–I always cross my fingers they’ll be there when I come back. So far, they always have been.

Now, in case you’re planning a visit to India yourself any time soon, here’s a great list of visitor’s do’s and don’ts I wish I’d known about. You may find them interesting and useful.

11 thoughts on “a lonely princess and more of agra and taj mahal

  1. So fascinating! I love travel and reading all your posts and seeing all your photos – I particularly love this one of the water behind you all but also the candid funny shots and your way of telling a story behind each…what an experience!

  2. I’m starving to death just from looking at the food – will we get another recipe post soon?

    The Taj Mahal looks just as stunning as I always imagined it would be.

    • An excellent idea! I’ll have to think of this as one of the things keeping me most busy is a re-attempt to cook more South Indian style for Hubby. (I haven’t impressed him with my cooking in 42 years, but hope springs eternal.) Consequently I’ve come up with some excellent Indian cookbooks I believe Americans (even ex-pats) would find much easier than those from years ago. I’ll keep this in mind!

  3. How wonderful of you to document our trip. Now I will refer everyone to Wintersong when they ask me questions.

  4. Ahhh, another pleasant trip with you… This is so much fun and you tell us all the neat stuff!
    I’m sitting here looking at your photos, reading your info – and listening to Irish Music. 🙂

    • I’m sure they’d be glad to have you! Next time we’re planning to be there, I’ll let you know. May be awhile though, so in the meantime maybe you could hint to Elly how nice a family trek to India would be . . . ? It’s taking me far longer to get the all the India posts in, but there are lots of other intriguing places to come! I can hardly wait to get to the Bombay places–especially the Dhobi Ghat and the Taj Mahal Hotel and marina drive, the wine resort in Nartik, houseboat in Kerala and the beaches in Goa. I have a slew of wonderful memories and photographs! I wish everyone could go.

  5. You look great, Alice! I have a photo of my aunt and uncle sitting in that exact spot……..they went there back in the early 70’s to celebrate their 25th anniversary. Great photo and info!

    • Thank you, although I’m still struggling a little to find the best cut to handle my fragile (meaning ultra fine and thin) hair, but it doesn’t matter quite so much.

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