Because It Had to be Done

As an architect, I would have been flogged if I had not seen the Taj Mahal while in India. It is, in fact, a beautiful building (exhibit A below). The proportions are lovely, the white marble catches the light throughout the day, and the botanical patterns of inlaid semiprecious stone (exhibit C below) are amazing, especially considering they are done by hand.
It is also a monument (see the bajillions of Indian tourists, exhibit B below) and a mausoleum and in this respect, it failed to move me. I am more touched by being in a building in which history occurred than I am by being in a building intended to evoke something.
Don't get me wrong: I loved seeing the Taj Mahal and the buildings and grounds surrounding it. I also experienced some odd emotional effects (almost as if imposed from the outside). I am very glad I have seen it. It did not, however, inspire me.

The Taj Mahal soon after sunrise (note the lack of tourists):

The Indian tourists on the plinth (note the bare feet, we had to take off our shoes to get on the plinth and into the Taj Mahal itself):

The exquisite inlay (my favorite part of the Taj Mahal was the inlay):

The Taj Mahal through the trees at the sides of the grounds:

The Taj Mahal later in the day (note the tourists):


Random Michelle K said...

It's very... white.

Then again, I'm a heathen when it comes to the visual arts, so...

Anne C. said...

Michelle, I think you would have enjoyed the detailing -- the botanical inlay and sculptural relief -- irises and narcissus and all sorts of plants. It was very irritating, however, to see people touching the beautiful stonework and not only getting it dirty but wearing it away.

Nathan said...

Something about a sight/site being obligatory takes a little away from the experience for me.

But, yeah...really white!

belsum said...

The lack of tourists in that first picture is stunning. Definitely not how I experienced it. I think one of the things that really resonated with me was that there was supposed to be a mirror Taj on the opposite side of the river. In black.

Anonymous said...

Why do you think that it failed to move you?

I agree, the inlay was quite a work of art.

Anne C. said...

I agree Nathan, though I do admit that in this case, it was worth it.

Jeri, I think it's because I love history and storytelling. The Taj Mahal has a story (a debated story) but I couldn't imagine anyone except tourists inhabiting it. The palace I saw the day before had gorgeous rooms that were used by the Shah for receiving guests, for the harem, for playing parcheesi with dancing girls, etc. The place was full of ghosts and I wished I could have gone back in time to see it being used.

Anne C. said...

I will point out, however, that at least one of my friends (that were with me; architects) said that the Taj Mahal (not sure what aspect) brought her to tears more than once. So, I'm probably not a typical case.

Mummy Grabill said...

True, it is probably difficult to get past the vision of tourists in this beautiful tomb. But I imagine that the erecting of it is quite a piece of history in and of itself. I believe it was built some 300 odd years ago - think of the drama and story that must have been apart of it's construction? Take your building project and multiply it by . . . well . . . a lot. Subtract the telephone calls, emails, and conference calls and bam(!) you've got a story! :-)

Anne C. said...

That story (or one like it) has already been written. It's called Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. It's a very good fictional (but based on history) account of the building of a cathedral. It lacks the eccentricities of Indian workers, but it's very good.

I'm not saying there isn't a story there, it's just not a place that evoked a story in me. Stonehenge did that. Agra Fort did that. The Taj Mahal? Not so much.

Unknown said...

Well, the poor thing is supposed to be a tomb. So it may be designed to trigger melancholy.
On the other hand, I cannot help but think of the chocolate building for the Indian prince in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Remember how it melted? Now THAT was a building to admire!

Nathan said...


I loved Pillars of the Earth...read it 3 times. The Sequel, "World Without End" finally came out a few months back. It's not bad, but in some ways, reads like the exact same story with new characters a couple of hundred years later.

Still worth bothering with, though.