Posts Tagged With: Hindu

LOVE AND DEATH AND FORT AGRA.

A shimmering Taj Mahal in the early morning. When we visited the Taj, our guide was a man named Bibi which means dear one. The brochure of our trip did not match what was being said to us by Bibi. He told us about the building of the Taj Mahal by Emperor Jangir who built it as a memorial to his beloved wife, Agumam Bimo. (Phonetic spelling.)  She married at 19 and gave birth to 14 babies. She accompanied him everywhere, even into battles.  She died in his tent from a hemorrhage giving birth to another child. She was 39 years old. She asked two things of him, build me something beautiful and take care of my parents. She was Hindu. Jangir locked himself in a room for a week, then searched for a place to build a monument to the wife he loved so much. He chose the spot on the Yamuna River and began the building. When his sons grew to manhood, his ambitious middle son killed his older brothers and seized control. He put his father in a separate palace across the river where he could always view the Taj Mahal, but he was not permitted to leave.

Today’s Taj Mahal is a tribute to the son,  Khurram, who  named him self Shah Jahan, which means King of The World. He finished the building. It is his wife Queen Mumtaz Mahal who is enshirined there. He aggressively protected his domain as head of the Mughal Empire. He forbade Muslim/Hindu marriages and encouraged destruction of Hindu monuments. He was a soldier but his real talent was in the palaces he built. He was responsible for the jewel encrusted Peacock Throne which was later stolen and moved to Iran.  He designed the Red Fort, and the Jama Masjid Mosque.  ShahJahanabad, one of the seven cities of Dehli, he named for himself. He could look down upon the city from his Red Fort and enjoy his endorsement as King of the World.

The Agra Fort is a UNESCO world heritage site. It is built on the Yamuna River, the seat of power of successive  Mughal Emperors. We crossed a bridge over a moat to enter this huge, sprawling place. It is located a couple of miles north of the Taj Mahal.

The moat no longer holds water except for rain it catches. A woman warrior died trying to make the jump from the fort to the wall you see. Her horse’s front hooves hit the wall and it fell back on top of her, its  back broken. She died trying to get out from under the horse.

Windows are decorated in different styles.

It is unclear to me if people can see through them like stained glass.

The fort presented several different architectural styles, most likely built in stages, or rebuilt for the satisfaction of the current ruler.

A tomb sits before this building of white marble arches. We bypassed it for the main, most decorated palace inside the fort. I’m curious and will try to find out who is buried there.

The four sided buildings face a square. The area now planted in British style formal gardens was once the playground of the concubines, their ladies in waiting, and their eunuchs. The last Emperor to live here was Mahadji Shinde.  He had 60 or more concubines, I’ve forgotten the number. He did not have relations with all of them, they were political alliances. Wealthy Emperors were glad to have their daughters under protection of a powerful Emperor. And the Emperor was guaranteed that his neighboring Emperor would not make war against him.

The queen lived in this building which had unique methods to stay cool in the searing Agra heat.

Open doors and windows facing the river provided some ventilation. The decorations are another incomparable feature of this palace.

The grates facing outside collect every little breeze and it cools as it passes over metal. At night, candles or a fire light up little mirrored pieces embedded in the walls and ceilings.

This ceiling had water pumped into four little nozzles in the ceiling creating a cooling mist as they spun around. Done without electricity.

A clever device, that looks like a shelf or storage place high on the wall. Notice how deep the adobe wall is which also helps keep things cool.

On the opposite side, it is actually an open vent from one room to the other. It lets in light from the lighter room as well. Everywhere, there was water from the river for multiple uses.

The Emperor’s quarters sat opposite the Queen’s Quarters.  The inside sandstone walls had a beauty of their own. Lavish carving, an art impossible to financially duplicate today.

A column foot.

A door with a drain at the bottom to shed water that ran through the  building in narrow canals.

The palace had entrances on all four sides of the building.

 

Such beauty with a closer look.

This is the entrance that we used, the main entrance across the moat.

Every little detail is there to please the senses.

Details like this are easier seen through the camera lens. If you walk in and out everyday, would you even notice something so high above your head?  I guess that is why they are wonders of the world.

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A SUITABLE BOY, A SUITABLE BOOK

One of the advantages of living on the road is less housework, no yard work and more time to read. And, I love it!  Even so, deciding to read a book like A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth, takes a commitment.


Its physically bigger than a normal novel in size; thicker, as well, at slightly over two inches. And, the print is smaller than a regular novel with a whopping 1474 pages. (Compared below.)

Its the only book I’ve ever read that has the table of contents in poetic form. Also, his tribute and thank you is a delightful poem and I’m going to reprint it here.

A WORD OF THANKS
To these I owe a debt past telling;
My several muses, harsh and kind;
My folks, who stood my sulks and yelling,
And (in the long run) did not mind;
Dead legislators, whose orations
I’ve filched to mix my own potations;
Indeed, all those whose brains I’ve pressed,
Unmerciful, because obsessed;
My own dumb soul, which on a pittance
Survived to weave this fictive spell;
And, gentle reader, you as well,
The fountainhead of all remittance.
Buy me before good sense insists
You’ll strain your purse and sprain your wrists.

I said commitment because even in the motor home where I can easily read a book or two a week, this wonderful story is not a light read. Its a novel surrounding four families, Hindi and Muslim. But more than a novel, it is history, imbued with real people we know. It is set during the 1950’s when India is experiencing Independence from British rule. You experience this book, the clash of generations, from the traditional ways to new ideas; both exciting and painful, exhilarating and difficult. It deals with the politics, religions, social hierarchy, and fascinating traditions of India with its biases, superstitions, varied religious beliefs, death, marriage, mixed marriage, money, laws, agriculture, food, clothing, manners, family relations, work, business, politics…in detail with great warmth and affection. Its a saga that is educational and exciting as you wonder who Lata will marry; the man she loves? Or the man her mother has chosen for her? Will India ever overcome the caste system? Will Muslim and Hindu live peaceably side by side in acceptance?  There is so much of the normal upper and middle class here that we never hear about. Its always the teeming slums of Calcutta, or the famous pacifist Mahatma Gandhi that we hear about.
I plan to visit India and I’m so glad I read this book first. Try it, to enhance your understanding and provide you with calamities, gossip, spectacles and excitement that will linger in the mind. Then watch The Slumdog Millionaire, which we did, last night.

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