11 November 2007

the indian adventure -- part 4

how did we start our last day in this wonderful country? we woke up at five thirty in the morning. why? first, we were advised by santosh that it is best to go to the taj very early, to avoid the crowd. secondly, we were wearing something special. ah yes, the saris miss r and i purchased, as well as the punjabi suit for chilli a were to see the light of day on our very first

there is much ceremony to wearing a sari, i must tell you. it's six meters of beautiful silk that you have to wrap around your body, without any buttons or pins. and for people like us who're used to wearing just shirts and jeans, donning a sari is quite an experience. there's a certain skill to putting it on. santosh thoughtfully talked his friend's wife into waking up very early to go to our hotel and help us put it on.
(and hopefully, not the last) visit to the taj.

at about six thirty, we arrived at the taj. we had to transfer to an "eco-friendly" van to get us to the complex. and even then, it didn't take us directly to the taj. we had to walk a few meters, not minding the strange looks we were receiving from the locals who're probably wondering why we were attired that way.

we paid about seven hundred rupees to get inside. that included bottled water and something to wrap your slippers in if you're to walk around the taj's white marble floors. then, we haggled with photographers offering to take souvenir pictures of the three of us inside the taj, never minding that each of us had our own cameras. but we were tourists, of course. so we did take a package. here's the first picture...

everyone is subjected to a quick inspection at the entrance. no food and drinks are allowed inside, save for the bottled water given when the tickets are purchased. as opposed to ex-officemate j's experience with the lady guard at the entrance, i found her friendly enough to fix my sari, never minding the queue of other tourists behind us. so that stopped other lady tourists from coming in for about five minutes.






from that picture above, we set to walk in to the gardens. and there it was, from beyond the entry way, and above the heads of a lot of other tourists, our very first up close view of the magnificent taj..

as it was very early, the morning mist had not yet lifted, and from our vantage point, it appeared hazy, dream-like and very pink.



there was a sense of urgency to get closer. but our earnest photographer told us we had to take pictures from the entry. so, there was a fifteen minute pause to oblige. this was one hilarious picture taken of chilli a and i. the photographer insisted there just had to be a "couple" picture. chili a and i were incredulous, but did this cheesy pose anyway. i, for my part, couldn't stop laughing.

as we walked closer, our guide briefed us on the history of this structure. it took twenty two years to build the taj. as we know, it was a memorial to the shah jahan's wife when she died giving birth to their fourteenth child.

the taj is bound by two red sandstone buildings on each side. he pointed out that the one facing the east was a mosque (the taj is closed for tourists on fridays, it being a day of worship for muslims). we asked what the structure on the other side was for. was it a waiting area, a prayer area? our guide's amusing reply was: "it doesn't serve any purpose. it was built there for balance".




we went to the side of the building first...just to marvel at the realization that we are this close to one of the wonders of the world. and of course, to take a lot of pictures.

finally, we stepped on to the complex. wearing our paper socks, we joined the hoardes of tourists and local visitors to have a brief look inside. again, pictures were not allowed inside the tomb. there were two crypts (just replicas, we were told. the real ones were beneath the floors). the big one was for the shah, and the smaller, for his wife. there's a solemn feeling inside the tomb. i guess people appreciated the love between these two ancient people.

as we stepped outside the tomb, our picture-taking frenzy took over. similar to the places we've seen in india, the taj's design is also hand-carved, and hand-painted with mineral paint. imagine ancient workers engraving on the most valuable marble in the land. i wonder what happened if they made a mistake.




during our time taking pictures, there were several instances of some locals asking to have their pictures taken with us. one of those, was this nice lady and her family.

for about an hour, we walked around, alternating between taking pictures of the taj and the people. and ourselves.











i think we could have stayed at the taj for a couple more hours just to stare at it. unfortunately, we were pressed for time. we had to drive back to delhi to catch our flight that night. we left the taj a few hours before lunch time. after a quick stop at the hotel to change back to our regular clothes (fyi, i was loving the feel of wearing my sari by this time), and get some lunch, we were back on the road to delhi. on the four-hour drive leaving agra, i couldn't help feeling that i've just seen something surreal. and wonderful. and absolutely breathtaking.

oh, by the time we left, the taj was looking pristine and very, very white. (side note: they say, the taj can look different colors, depending on the time of the year, the time of day and appearance of the moon. so all the more reason to go back and find out what colors we can see the taj)

coming up: one last look...

2 comments

  1. oh my gudness ays! ang ganda mo sa sari! at pang bollywood ang pic nyo ni apo!
    Ohmygrash!! nde ko kaya mapatawad na nde nyo ko pinilit at sinipa na suamama sa india!! arrrrrrrrrrgh! gusto ko sabunutan sarili ko ng isa isa ang buhok ko!

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  2. hi miss ninya! nako, salamat sa compliment..nahikayat kami ni miss rhoda to wear the sari.
    nako, next time ha, sama ka na! iwan mo muna ang ireland.join us, ok!

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