Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Taj Mahal

After the prize giving of the Commonwealth Chess Championship, where I managed to sneak into 5th position despite losing my last game,

And also spent a good part of the evening taking selfie with friends and colleagues who I hadn't seen for a while, like 

WGM Soumya Swaminathan, my old friend Gaurav Chhabra,  his brother Amit and cousin Hulas,  picked me up to begin our trip to Agra to see the Taj. Despite many visits to Delhi I had never managed to make it to see this wonder of the world. After some adventures and a midnight snack at an Indian truck stop we finally made it to our hotel about 3am. More about that later ☺

Gaurav, Amit and Hulas, my three guides.

We had planned to get there early in the morning to avoid the crowds and midday heat but even missed the cracking of noon by an hour. After fighting our way through guides offering their services, rickshaw drivers and trinket salesmen we finally made it through the gates. There they don't primarily search for weapons but for tobacco products. None are allowed inside and any found are confiscated.

The story of the Taj is perhaps one of the greatest love stories ever, in the context of the times and place. If you have a romantic soul and don't know it yet I suggest you look it up. The monument has considerably less appeal without it.

It is truly massive close up.

It has four minurettes around it, two next to the river.

The doors are huge yet every inch is covered with delicately inlaid art and writing. No photo's inside although not everyone obeyed this rule.

The Taj is flanked on both sides by imposing  buildings. Guardhouses perhaps?

The view down to the river is nice too.

When looking back to the gardens from the steps of the Taj one gets some Idea of the size of the compound.

Even the corridors have been designed artfully. Is the endless corridor a metaphor for the Shah's eternal love for his favourite love, his childhood sweetheart?

Nothing poetic occurs to me here. Just nice.

It was now late afternoon,  we were all exhausted and sweaty and in need of a cold drink so we headed back. It's not all beauty and sunshine though. The horses here have a sad life and if you have any compassion for these noble creatures, seeing them in their scrawny sad state can put a dampener on your mood. In contrast,

The cows have the run of the joint. All well fed and doing as they please. All traffic gives way to them and they are well fed.

Now back to the hotel where we first arrived in the wee hours.

Gaurav had booked it in advance going on the reviews from satisfied customers on his favourite and normally reliable hotel app. It is a filthy cesspit and we were wondering who could have possibly liked it. As he was about to write one himself, he noticed he already had written a glowing review. These crooks had solicited his mobile number the night before on the pretext of checking the booking, and had then written a glowing in his Name. Mystery solved. Action has been taken.

Doubleroo warning. Avoid this dump.

We are now at a nice place in Mathura, the city of the Lord Khrishna. Expect a report tomorrow. 

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