Thursday, November 20

Day 84-Agra

At times when I visit these spectacular World Heritage Sites, often built centuries ago, I wonder what achievements of modern man justify our existence into these latter days. I have never felt this so strongly as when I came to see the glorious monuments constructed here in Agra. The most famous building in the world is located here, the lustrous and enchanting Taj Mahal, we know it as the supreme monument to love. Constructed in the mid 17th century as a tomb for his beloved wife by Shah Jahan, it is a marvel of art and engineering. As the pinnacle of Mughal architecture, it employs vast quantities of carved and filigreed marble, inlay of semiprecious gems, and improbable curved surfaces arranged in such a way and place to create ever shifting visual illusions. Anyone who attempts to decribe this place in words falls far short.

Equally impressive is the Agra Fort, some centuries older and serving a most practical purpose as garrison and palace, this sprawling complex is constructed from gleaming white marble and deep maroon sandstone. The intricate carving to be seen on virtually every exposed surface leaves one to wonder if the skills needed to create such a work even exist today. Elements of Arab design are predominant, as this city was once the capital of an empire founded by invaders from the West (Iran). Again one is left without words to decribe such a masterpiece, and the multitude of photos one is compelled to shoot does little to convey the majestic scope of this place. This is why we must each come to visits these sites in person!

I came to Agra from Aurangabad by overnight train, my first in India. As I first boarded the train I was pleasantly surprised at the overall appearance of things, it seemed that this was going to be a comfortable trip indeed, and so it was. Within an hour of departure, I found myself reclined in my berth, listening to pop hits of the 70's on my mp3 player. As I dozed lightly, my mind was flooded with images of myself as an 8-year old boy, fishing for fantasies in my cardboard box boat while the day passed to dusk, hunting for mice in the meadows of mid-March. I wondered what track was laid in those days that would 40 years later lead me to this moment, half way around the world, barrelling through the smoky plains of this ancient land with a trainload of faces that are distinctly different than my own. I awoke to find a couple of cockroaches making explorations of their own amoung the unknown terrain of my trousers....Ah..Incredible India!

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