Adventures in India
With Lisa Jordan
Having travelled around the world and across all 7 continents, it was inexcusable that NOT had yet to visit one of the most populous regions of the world, rich in people, history and home of one of the new 7 Wonders of the World - the Taj Mahal.
The Taj Mahal, located in Agra, India, is one of the most
recognized structures in the world, Besides being one of the new 7
Wonders of the World, it has also been named a
UNESCO World Heritage
Site. Built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan to memorialize his third wife
Mumtaz Mahal starting in 1632 and completed in 1653, the site is
considered one of the finest examples of Mughal architecture, combining
Indian, Persian and Islamic styles.
While the white domed mausoleum is the most famous piece of the Taj Mahal, it is but one part of a large complex of structures. The dome over the tomb reaches a height of about 115 feet, about the same length of the base of the tomb. Four minarets, each about 130 feet high, symmetrically frame the tomb, one at each corner. The main chamber houses a false sarcophagi of the Shah and Mumetz. Their actual graves reside in a lower level.
The site attracts two to four million visitors annually, To maintain security, only five items are allowed in: water; video cameras; still cameras; mobile phones and ladies' purses. In order to visit, NOT had to be smuggled in since he does not meet any of these categories. Luckily he was easily transported beyond security to enjoy the exquisite marvel of the complex.
The main gateway or darwaza, constructed primarily of marble. The archways mirror the shape of the tomb's archways, the arches incorporating calligraphy that adorn the tomb and has floral inlaid decorations.
Unfortunately, environmental pollution has been turning the stone of the Taj Mahal yellow. In order to combat this discoloration, a zone some 4000 square miles in size surrounding the site has been put under strict emission standards.
Near Delhi is another famous tomb, though admittedly not as famous as the Taj Mahal. This tomb, for the Mughal Emperor Humayun was begun in 1562, about a century before the completion of the Taj Mahal, and is considered the first garden-tomb on the Indian subcontinent. It is also listed an a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The site was a major departure from the more modest tombs of previous emperors and incorporated the typical Persian garden that had not been seen in India up to that point. The site reflects Islamic architecture of the Islamic rulers that oversaw the subcontinent since the twelfth century. The tomb itself is 155 feet high and 300 feet wide, and was the "first Indian building to use the Persian double dome on a high neck drum" (Wikipedia).
After suffering damage from vandalism, corruption and encroachment of vehicles and sales stalls, restoration of the site began in 1999 and is still ongoing. As recently as 2009, hand work was done to remove an accumulation of over 40 cm of cement that had been layered onto the roof of the structure over the years in efforts to cut water leakage, but collectively added a thousand tons of pressure to the rest of the structure underneath.
As with many heritage sites in India, one of the biggest threats and concerns come from terrorist attacks.
Also in Delhi stands the Qutb complex, an array of monuments and buildings. Originally housing a complex of 27 ancient Jain temples that were destroyed to reuse materials for building the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque. Over the course of centuries the complex was added on with various structures, temples and tombs by subsequent rulers of India and contain multiple structures of historic and architectural value. The entire complex has been declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
One of the center points of interest in the complex is the Qutb Minar, the tallest brick minaret in the world at 239 ft in high. It is inspired by the Minaret of Jam in Afghanistan. the early Afghan architecture evolved into the Indo-Islamic Architecture demonstrated at other sites like Humayun's Tomb. Five distinct stories and 379 steps mark the ascent of the minaret as it rises. Built in 1192, it marked the end of the Hindu kingdoms of India and the rise of the Muslim rule, which lasted until the arrival of the British in the 19th century. It is considered one of the most important "Towers of Victory" that were built in the Islamic world.
In the complex is the tomb of Imam Zamin (Imam Muhammad Ali). According to inscriptions on the tomb, Imam Zamin was a saint from Turkestan who settled in India about 1500. He built his tomb himself and was interred here upon his death in 1539. The tomb is made of sandstone in an octagonal based shape and contains fine perforated jalis, or screens, which were common during that period.
Not everything visited in India is old however. One building that is considered one of the "most beautiful in the world" as well as being one of the most visited (at around 4.5 million visitors per year) is the Baha'i House of Worship, more commonly known as the Lotus Temple in Delhi. The common name derives from the distinct lotus blossom shape of the architecture. Built in 1986 it is the mother temple for the Baha'i faith on the Indian subcontinent.
The Baha'i consider the House of Worship to be a gathering place where people of all religions may worship God. Only Holy Scripture of the Baha'i faith or other faiths may be read or changed inside, no musical instruments can be played inside nor can there be any sermons delivered or ritualistic ceremonies practice in the temple.
India is also a land of contradictions. Much of the country is known for the teeming population, especially in the cities, there are whole areas of the country given over to countryside and agriculture. Gurgaon is an industrial and financial center just 30 kilometers from New Delhi, yet outside the city it is still a world of trees and hills.
And despite the meeting of the old world and the new world,. NOT always has time to relax at the hotel's poolside.
Photos courtesy of Lisa Jordan
Last Updated December 2010