Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The gardens of the Taj Majal


By Jill Stankiewicz

I recently had the opportunity of a lifetime to attend the wedding celebrations of two friends in Bangalore, India.  Although Bangalore is in the south of India, I could not pass up the chance to visit the legendary Taj Mahal in Agra, India.  The trip to Agra from Bangalore involved a domestic flight to Delhi and a five hour car ride, but the Taj Mahal was more than worth it!  It is every bit as breathtaking as its photos.




The drive from Delhi to Agra included many traffic delays due to all kinds of things--unpaved roads, fog, and getting stuck in a herd of street cows.                 









Cypress trees line the path leading to the Taj Mahal.  My friend Olivia and I are so happy to experience the beauty of the Taj Mahal. 

 The Taj Mahal is a mausoleum.  Emperor Shah Jahan constructed it as a tribute to his wife Mumtaz Mahal who died giving birth to their 14th child.  Construction began about a year after her death and continued for 20 years.  Construction of the Taj Mahal is said to have employed thousands of workers.  The architectural style of the complex combines elements from Persian, Turkish, and Indian styles. 

Shah Jahan’s Muslim heritage influenced the design of the garden on the Taj Mahal grounds.  Four is the holiest of all numbers in Islam, so all garden arrangements of the Taj Mahal are based on that number or its multiples.  The gardens were organized into quadrants including sixteen flower beds. Cypress trees, symbolizing death, line the path leading to the Taj Mahal and cross in the center of the garden, dividing it into four equal squares. Fruit bearing trees (signifying life) are also found and even they are arranged in a symmetrical pattern.


 

Flowers are present inside the mausoleum as well.  The building is made of white marble, and throughout the entire interior are intricate wall designs including precious and semiprecious gemstones.  Each of these wall designs were hand-crafted by gemstone artisans, and their attention to detail is flawless.  














Wilting flowers are carved in white marble throughout the interior of the mausoleum to represent Shah Jahan’s sorrow at the loss of his wife. The Taj Mahal is believed to be the only structure featuring the melancholy beauty of flowers intended to be viewed as wilting (as opposed to blooming).



During our time in India, we had the chance to enjoy many delicious, authentic meals.  Most meals in South India are served with rice and/or roti, pieces of soft, flat bread which are great for dipping into curries and vegetable-based sauces.  It is impossible to match the multi-sensory, joyful experience of sharing a meal with friends in Bangalore, but this South Indian Vegetable Curry recipe from Epicurious will give you a taste.  Indian cuisine is a great way to use root vegetables and garlic in a new way.  http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/South-Indian-Vegetable-Curry-242152


If you ever have a chance to visit India, I would strongly encourage you to go!  The hospitality of the Indian people is unmatched, and despite all of the struggles India faces as a developing country, its pockets of pure beauty are amazing. 



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