Taj Mahal and Other Stuff

Whirlwind of activity on my final day in India. My flight is scheduled to take off at 4:10 am, so I had a chance to get a lot in today.

First thing in the morning, we drove over 2 hours to Agra to see the Taj Mahal (“Crown of Palaces”). It took over 20,000 slaves 22 years to complete the structure in 1653. The Taj is an expression of the grief of Shah Jahan, emperor during the Mughal empire’s heyday, after his favorite wife (Mumtaz Mahal) died birthing their 14th child. This mausoleum would be her final resting place. The Taj complex includes a mosque and guesthouse and sits by the Yamuna River. The Taj grabs you as soon as you see it and deserves its inclusion as one of the wonders of the world. It startled me, that’s how beautiful it was.

In the afternoon, we drove back to Delhi. We saw the World War II War Memorial, the federal government campus where Parliament and governmental offices stand, President’s House, and then scurried to beat closing time to see two ancient architectural icons: the Qutab Minar (completed 1192, largest brick minaret in the world) and the 1600-year-old Ashoka Pillar (21-foot iron pillar). Also saw the uncompleted one-story Alai Minar, which was projected to be taller than Qutab Minar, but was left unfinished after the death of a sultan.

Delhi and New Delhi are like night and day. Delhi is frantic activity barely contained among ruins. Too much transpires on the narrow roads that are glorified alleys and alleys that feed claustrophobia: it feels like everything is piled on everything else. Parts of New Delhi have a more open feel, with broad roadways and less bustle. The ruins are more romantic and exciting, while the well thought out, well maintained, and well orchestrated roads and areas are pleasing but pedestrian.

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