the bottomline

At the Taj . . . in pictures only
1/24/2018 12:59:00 AM by: Dan Allen

The seventh wonder of the world is a beautiful, massive, ivory–white marble grave marker. Or, to be more exact, it’s the mausoleum for a Mughal emperor’s favorite wife. The rest of his wives were buried in unmarked graves. Okay, that’s not true. There are other buildings on the 42-acres of the site, some of which contain their remains and that of his favorite servant, but none are in the same league as the one commissioned by Shah Jahan for his wife Mumtaz Mahal. Mumtz, his Persian princess, died giving birth to their 14th child. He was so distraught by this that in 1632 he directed a board of architects led by the court architect to the emperor, Ustad Ahmad Lahauri, to build this final resting place for her (and eventually him). They hired 20,000 artisans/builders, utilized 1,000 elephants to transport materials from all over India, and completed the main edifice 13-years later with another 10-years to finish the outlining buildings. Price tag – 32-core Rupees which in today dollars would be about $827 million (quite a sum back then!).

It’s called a “shrine to eternal love” because of the reason for which it was built. However, one legend adds to the romance by showing a dark-side. To ensure no one would recreate the beauty of the building, he severed the hands and gouged out the eyes of the artisans and craftsmen. No evidence of this has been discovered by historians.

I saw the Taj, but didn’t totally see it up close and personal. Because vehicles have to park some distance away—so as to reduce pollution, electric buses, stretch golf carts, bike rickshaws and horse drawn carts are used to transport folks on the brick road which is lined by caravanserais, bazaars and markets to serve the needs of visitors until they get to the ticket house. Then the walking begins. It was a good two football fields to the great gate, a building in and of itself, that leads to the gardens and long water pool with fountains at the foregrounds of the Taj. These knees were incapable of walking from the main gate to the Taj, not to mention, as my nephew informed me, that it was a long single-file line to get into the entrance which was only wide enough for one person at a time and acted as both the entrance and exit. My goal was to get a photo so that I could prove I was there and then find a resting place. That’s when the action began.

Upon arriving, our handler, Pastor Rao, informed us not to talk to people—90% of whom where hawking something or wanted to help us. Indians are a very helpful people—like in stores where they often follow you around offering suggestions and pulling out merchandise that is perfect for you (so they say). But their helpfulness often comes with a cost. We were greeted by a hoard of guys right when we got out of the vehicle. They were selling stuff, offering to guide us, take our picture, massage our shoulders (I added that, but they’d do it for some Rupees). While walking after we got off the stretch golf cart I was approached and followed by a guy pushing an empty wheel chair imploring me to use it. I refused about ten times. On the way back, I repeated said “NO” to bike–rickshaw guy who just insisted on taking us back. 

Before that, I found a place to sit looking at the great gate (building) which stands to the north of the entrance forecourt. My team would come through it when they were done about 90-minutes later. The sitting area was a wide cement 2 ½'–high border around a large tree. Perfect for sitting in the shade. There are 4 of these at the corners of the main walking plaza leading up to the great gate and other buildings. No one was there when I sat down, but almost immediately I was joined by a swarm of photographers. Paparazzi wanting to take my photo? No. These are the guys who pester you to take your photos while visiting the Taj. 

I’m sure I looked out-of-place—a fat, white US minister among short dark/brownish–skinned Indians. One photographer, with whom I spoke, was waiting his turn to approach people. They have a pecking order and are not allowed to break it. It’s almost like a union. Oh, and there are about 300 of them to service the 14,000 that come each day. The day was almost spent and he was down on the list so wasn’t figuring he’d get another gig before the place shutdown. So, we sat and talked. I learned he was a Muslim (pretty many of them in this area are) and I’m a Christian. At one point he asked me what I thought of Trump. Of course, he didn’t like him because he hates Muslims. I tried to assure him that is not the case. It’s a reaction to terrorist/terrorism, which he concurred were often Muslims and giving them a bad name. He was a pleasant fellow who had to move whenever a park policeman came near. Although this cabal congregates at this location, they’re not allowed to dominate it. So, they scatter and return after the threat is gone. Eventually, my team showed up. I gave the guy a Mennonite handshake with 100 Rupees ($1.56) and took his photo. How ironic—a tourist taking the picture of a photographer.

Even though I did not touch the Taj, I got close enough to check off the third of the seven wonders of the world that I’ve seen (Chichen Itza—Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico; The Roman Colosseum; Taj Majal—Agra, India). But there’s an even greater wonder I’ve seen which towers over all the wonders of the world—classical or modern ones combined. It too is a grave, but unlike the Taj with the remains of an emperor and his princess facing Mecca, this tomb is empty. It is where my Savior conquered death ensuring my future resurrection into eternal life. 

Nice to see something so exquisite made my God’s creatures like the Taj—and I’m told the artwork on the inside is unbelievable—but even greater to see the location of God’s greatest act for His creatures. 

Tune–up Don Francisco and He’s Alive – “He’s alive and I’m forgiven, Heaven’s gates are open wide.” While you’re at it, listen to his song: Grace On Grace – 

“Virgin born, the son of David, By jealous hatred was crucified
“Oh, but the grave just could not hold Him, And He arose, no more to die

“Rising Son of life unbounded, The light of all, whoever see
“And from His overflowing bounty, Grace on grace He gave to you and me.”


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