Khajuraho and the Taj Mahal
22.02.2010 - 26.02.2010
Khajuraho was a nice change of pace. The town was small and easy to negotiate on foot. The reason we visited here was to view the Kama Sutra sculptures and the incredible temple art that covered three groups of world heritage listed temples. The Temples here are over 1,000 years old and are said to have some of the best temple art in the world. Certainly the best I have seen. The temples are covered top to bottom in intricate stonework. The amount of detail from the largest sculptures to the smallest borders and filler pieces is outstanding. The recurring theme here becomes obvious as countless large breasted women and erotic scenes adorn the temple walls. Awestruck we slowly explored the neatly manicured grounds taking in all the temples with plenty of long breaks in the shade of many nice treas. After the day before this was just what the doctor ordered… a nice peaceful and quiet day in a grassy outdoor setting. A stark contrast to our fist week or so in India.
That evening we checked out the fair that was pumping out the loud music that kept us from enjoying our room. It was not more than a few dusty lanes with market stalls aimed mostly for locals. People were mulling around but there was not much going on. We found the source of the music but there was no band, or stage, or anyone even paying attention. Just a guy with a mike and a loud stereo. On our way out we got talking with two high school kids named Shubham and Ashok. Shubham spoke really good English and was a joy to speak to. He was really smart and in addition to English he knew basic Japanese and some Polish. We spoke with them for a long time and before long actually let our guard down when we realized they were not out to sell us anything. They joined us for dinner and through our conversations they told us that they wanted to know how to use face book. As they had taught us some Hindu, and were the first people who did not try to sell us something, I decided I would get them set up on face book. I am not sure if this is a goof thing or a bad thing but It was fun, and I know that they enjoyed it.
They next day we rented bicycles and they took us around the old part of town that they lived in. This included visiting a few other temples that were outside the main group that we visited before. This gave us a fresh look at a quieter more gentle India. The peaceful little town was surrounded by green fields and dirt tracks were kids played and water buffalo, oxen, and cows roamed. The temples here were not all as well persevered but were easily as enjoyable when combined with our impromptu tour guides and the country setting. Shubham invited us into his home which consisted of an open air room with a dirt floor, a small kitchen, and one living room were the family of six slept. It was about 10x12 at the largest. In the living room we discovered a 5 hour old baby goat that Meghan instantly fell in love with. Shubam’s mother made chai and his father, sister, and mother all sat with us and listened in as we spoke and struggled to use some limited words in Hindu. This was a great experience for us and really put me back on track with India. Just a day before I was hiding in my room ready to book a flight out of the country and here I was the following day In a local home sharing chai with people who are just as interested in me as I am in them.
Another overnight train but this time we upped the comfort level and ride in the AC class. Here we found more comfortable seats and much less coming and going as we did in sleeper class. Our train was due to arrive in Agra at 2:00 am so we laid down early and I was actually able to get some sleep. Going with the increased comfort theme, we also scheduled a pickup and a hotel in Agra. The Train pulled in about 2 hours late and just as we were about to give into the rickshaw drivers, figuring that our pickup had split, I heard my name being called out and we were whisked away to the Suraya Guest house just outside the East Gate of the Taj Mahal. It was a little after 4:00am when we finally got into our room and we had about 2 hours to sleep before getting in line for the sunrise rush on the Taj. The Taj Mahal is not open on Fridays so we did not have much choice but to push on through and I am glad we did. After waiting in line to get in at 7:00 we finally made it through the airport security like checkpoint, rounded the corner, and got out first glimpse of this spectacular building.
The Taj Mahal has been described as a “teardrop on the cheek of eternity”, “the Embodiment of all things pure”, and its own creator said “it made the sun and the moon shed tears from their eyes” It is sincerely an impressive architectural masterpiece and deserves the large numbers of tourists it draws every day. It is amazing to think that such an amazing building is a monument to lost love, an grieving husbands memorial to a wife who died in labor. After jockeying for position for the quintessential shot of the reflecting pool we made our way through the gardens and up close.
Piling in for that perfect shot
Sleep Deprived Munslers
More Taj Less Munslers
Up close the fine detail of the inlaid precious stones and the texture of the creamy marble accentuated the raw beauty of the massive structure. The amount of detail work covering the outside and inside was endless. It took 20,000 craftsmen 8 years to finish the main building and the detail work it contains. One item that was particularly impressive both for the amount of skilled carving they must have taken and for the fact that they have survived for 350 years were the window screens. These were 100% marble tablets carved into a fine stone mesh. The patience this must of taken I can not understand.
We took our time heading out finding different vantage points to sit and relax. Finally we retreated to the hotel and went in for a much deserved afternoon nap. In the afternoon we explored the Agra Fort. This large fort holds many different palaces and buildings and was a pleasure to explore. For the first time on our trip we decided to go for a tour guide and actually really enjoyed it. The Agra fort is considered one of the finest Mughal Forts in all of India. Within it heavily fortified walls were many different palaces, halls, mosques, and living quarters. Our guide painted a picture of the life of royalty in the 1600’s and brought the fort to life for us. That Evening we found a rooftop restaurant and watched sunset over Agra. The day ended as it began at that tender moment between light and dark with the pastel light of the low lying sun painting the milky white marble features
features of the Taj Mahal..
Walls Of Agra Fort
Inside the Fort
Detailed Carvings on red Sandstone
Light and Shadows in the Pearl Mosque (Moti Masjid)
More detail work with semi precious stone inlay as in the Taj Mahal
Meghan at the Ladies Mosque
More hand carved window screens. Here in Red sandstone. The ones at the Taj Mahal were Marble and even finer mesh but I did not photograph them.
Shan Jahan’s view from his prison in the Agra Fort
Elaborate Ceilings in the public meeting hall
Rooftop Taj View