Greetings from Agra, India, and the famous Taj Mahal!
October 20, 2015 marks the half-way mark of our family odyssey from Europe to Australia.
Numerically, this is day 99 out of 197 days from Bastille Day (and our starting point in France) until Australia Day (and our target destination in Australia). Ermm… what?
Geographically, we are in the Indian sub-continent, roughly mid-way along our intended route. Within the country of India, we sit in Agra, at the mid-point of our route from Mumbai to Kolkata across northern India. See our planned route here.
Culturally, we are experiencing the vibrant colours and diversity of India; a stark contrast from Europe and Persia behind us, and East Asia ahead of us. While we’ve witnessed some transition from those external influences, India has touched us with a rich tapestry of cultural and spiritual heritage all of its own.
And what a great way to mark this milestone on our voyage – visiting the Taj Mahal at sunrise! Another bucket-list item ticked.
Though it is a well-known, highly-documented destination and the most popular sight-seeing destination in India, it is still an amazing place to visit in person. It would take a pretty cold heart not to be impressed by this spectacular monument.
Nicknamed the “Temple of Love”, the Taj Mahal was built on the banks of the Yamuna river by ruler Shah Jahan from 1632. It is the mausoleum for Mumtaz Mahal, one of the wives of Shah Jahan and mother to 14 of his children. (Perhaps not surprisingly, she died during childbirth). Upon his death he was buried alongside her in the Taj.
It is an architectural marvel: the glorious white marble, the proportions and symmetry, the peaceful setting in a Persian garden and reflecting pool. I think we were better able to appreciate the design and craftsmanship following our travels through Iran and savouring the gems of Persian architecture there. It was no surprise to learn that the chief architect of the Taj Mahal and many of the builders and craftsmen of Persian origin. The high central dome, the double-storey porch entrances, the symmetry, the hand-cut black & white tiled mosaics inscribing passages from the Qu’ran around the archways, and the proportions and layout of the garden are now familiar design elements to us.
Anyway, while you can see the tourism infrastructure built to cater for immense crowds (and the omnipresence of annoying touts), we were pleasantly surprised that there were fewer hordes of tourists than we had expected. We enjoyed a pleasant morning strolling the grounds and soaking up the atmosphere. We also enjoyed spending time with our Tibetan god-daughter, Tenzin, who had travelled down from Dharamsala to meet up with us.
As well as a being a great milestone on our journey to Australia, crossing this half-way point is also a great opportunity to reflect on how far we’ve come and some of the treasured memories and lessons learned along the way.
One of the lessons is simply how difficult it is to keep up to date with our travel journals and blog postings! Despite our best intentions to catch up, we still have a backlog of several weeks’ topics and photos to post.
As always, we wish to do more than time allows, so we are now embracing the fact that we are unlikely to catch up on everything we would wish. So we will continue to absorb and enjoy the daily new experiences, pay the necessary attention to our children, and roll with the little problems and hassles of extended time on the road. The postings and photos will come in time. What will be, will be. Patience is certainly a virtue we have cultivated during our time in India!
Having said that, I think the next few posts that Cecile and I have in mind will be highly introspective, trying to capture some of the reflections on the first-half of our journey, as we look forward to what the second-half will bring.
Thanks for accompanying us this far!