The Taj Mahal
We entered through a red archway amazingly reminiscent of the Red Fort. I guess that was hardly surprising when they were only about half a mile apart.
And there it was - framed in the entrance.
I have a quilt in my mind that I will make one day. It is an image of the bits of the Mona Lisa that you can see when standing on your toes in the Louvre for that split second - and almost completely blocked by other people's heads. For just a moment here I thought that seeing the Taj Mahal could have a lot in common with seeing the Mona Lisa.
We had a very clever guide who took us to the best places for photographs.
Framed in an archway and then through the trees - both were beautiful and as I was rushed from one point to another for compulsory photographs something of the peace and stillness of the building was creeping across the lawns at me. It seems to hover almost weightless above the water.
As I took the final 'guide-directed image' I realised that the scale of it was quite different to what I had expected. From a distance the people seemed to disappear. The building really is not that big, but you can hardly see the crowds. There was an odd feeling of walking into a stage set. There is a petrol station on the way here from Delhi which has copied the Taj (with white paint and concrete instead of marble) and I kept thinking that this just was not real.
I expected people to be still and quiet and reverential - it is, after all a tomb. It was built out of a huge love and standing and looking at it put a lump in my throat.
The people however, were running around and posing for photographs, and calling to each other. The women have the advantage over men here. It is amazing that the peacock came from India and the male is so spectacular, the female so quietly dull. Here the women in their saris are glorious, and the men - well - they seem to wear western dress most of the time - even jeans in 37 degree heat.
Looking along the colonnade on the entrance - one lady had just re-arranged her hair, and on a narrow bench in front of us a young woman in a soldier's uniform was apparently examining the ear of another young soldier. A young recently married couple were posing for photographs in beautiful costumes. I requested a photo but they refused. The young brides wear a traditional heavy set of bracelets for up to six months so it is obvious who is recently married. They looked wonderful. She wore richly embroidered and layered turquoise and jade, and was bejewelled with gold. He was elegant in a long tunic with a high collar and tight trousers in deep textured cream silk, with the pearly lustre of a really luxurious fabric.
I realised that the most wonderful thing about having the pool in front of the building is not that it reflects, but because it provides a location where absolutely no-one can stand in front of you - hence the number of really perfect photos of the Taj.
The patterning is stunning on the building itself - these are finely carved floral reliefs with exquisite inlay set into the marble above.
I was moved by the building but I have always liked people better.
At this stage of the day I knew exactly why this lady had taken off her shoes. I would have sat with her but knew she would be able to get up again more easily than I would.
The crowds were slowly clearing as the sun set as this is when the building closes. The view across the river was unbelievably still and silver as a mirror.
And as the sun dipped and the sky turned gold this little pavilion in the corner looked perfect against the sky. It seemed the perfect place to leave the day - with a sunset.