April 28, 2007

Monument of Love

On the final days of my visit to India, I visited the Taj Mahal. I had wanted to see this monument as it is regarded to be one of the eight wonders of the world, and some Western historians have noted that its architectural beauty has never been surpassed.

It is said that the Taj is the most beautiful monument built by the Mughals, the Muslim rulers of India. The Taj Mahal is built entirely of white marble. On my way to Agra, I passed many businesses where white marble is sold, and many trucks hauling huge chunks of marble on the back of their flatbeds. It was amazing to see the potential transformation of this raw material in such a stunning architectural masterpiece. Indeed, the sight of this monument is beyond adequate description.

I loved the excitement of entering the monument park, where I could not even get a peak at the great building until I entered through an enormous gate. (These two photos are from 7is7.com) This main gate is said "to be like a veil to a woman’s face which should be lifted delicately, gently and without haste on the wedding night. In Indian tradition the veil is lifted gently to reveal the beauty of the bride." As one stands inside the main gate of Taj, your eyes are directed to an arch that frames the Taj.

The Taj Mahal was built as a tribute to a beloved wife and as a monument for enduring love. I took my time at the Taj, because I sensed that it would reveal its beautiful subtleties if I was not in a hurry, and indeed, this was true. The dome is made of glittering white marble with perfect angles from every position. Because it is set against the plain across the river, the background becomes a mosaic of colors that, through their reflection, change the view of the Taj. The colors change at different hours of the day and during different seasons. I felt fortunate to see it both in the morning, with a pinkish glow, and as the evening sunset, changing from its color from a milky white to a golden glow. It is like a jewel; the Taj sparkles in moonlight when the semi-precious stones inlaid into the white marble on the main mausoleum catch the glow of the moon. On a foggy morning, the Taj seems to be suspended midair when viewed from across the Jamuna River. These changes, they say, depict the different moods of woman.

Walking around the Taj I noticed a freshness in the air, as a delicate breeze blew from around its corners. The breeze lifted the scarves and saris of the women there, creating this beautiful and delicate dance. In the presence of the Taj Mahal, you walk in beauty. Look at these random snapshots of women visiting the Taj the day I was there, reveling in this, and their own beauty.

April 15, 2007


My travels to India were made special by a visit to Mahatma Gandhi's memorial site. Here, there is a reprieve from the bustle of Delhi's streets, and visitors enter barefoot in hushed silence, remembering this great man of peace.

"Be the change you wish to see in the world."
Gandhi guided the people of India to self-rule through his plan of non-cooperation and civil disobedience. Even though he was jailed many times, he always reached out to the people and moved them to act.
Here is a spinning wheel set outside a 'junk' store. The spinning wheel is a reminder of Gandhi, and also as a symbol of the swadeshi movement. Gandhi started the swadeshi movement to encourage Indians to make their own cloth and use their own goods instead of British imports. Gandhi also planted the seeds of satyagraha, a non-violent, strategical means of resisting British rule.

April 8, 2007


For the past two weeks I have been traveling in northern India. It was an exciting adventure for me, and everything I dreamed it would be. After reading Roger Housden's book, Travels Through Sacred India, I have been wanting to experience India for myself. It would be difficult to summarize this experience in a few short paragraphs, but I can say that this was an amazing time, and that I am still being seasoned by what I saw and learned.
I began my trip in Delhi, and traveled by car through Rajasthan, through the cities of Mandawa, Khimsar, Jaisalmar, Jodhpur, Udaipur, Pushkar, Jaipur, and finally to Agra to experience the Taj Mahal.

As a tourist, one is offered an itinerary that includes seeing a lot of famous and historical sites, such as the Mehrangarh fort in Jodhpur, and many temples, shrines and palaces. After a while, though these were all very interesting, I found I was gravitating to just wanting to find out more about the people of India - experience their schools, see their hospitals, their market places, their farming and industry, experience the riverbank laundry, learn to cook traditional Indian foods, and visit a children's home. So that is what I did. These experiences enriched my time tremendously, giving me a feel for India that as only a 'site-tourist' I would not have had. Here are a few favorite photos...

All for now (Blogger is sooo slow). Watch the photo stream on the right for photo snippits. I'll post more soon, when I recover from my jet lag.
It is so good to be home!