Meme from Taj Mahal

It being Feb 14th and all, I guess is it not too out of place to do a post about my visit this week to Taj ‎Mahal. I wrote this in shorthand on a scrap of paper on the Agra-Delhi highway a couple ‎of days ago as I sat in the car regurgitating thoughts about the recent visit, and I am ‎reconstructing and typing it down now. Admittedly, it is all a bit too raw and flourishing, but I ‎hope you will understand –I was just back from visiting the Taj Mahal. ‎


Taj Mahal

Saw Taj Mahal today –the jewel of the Mughal imperial crown, a wonder of the world, ‎and an aesthetic-architectural marvel. ‎

The first thought to enter your mind as you walk towards the monument and see its sheen ‎of its blindingly white marble dome through an archway is: “Oh, it is perfect…” I am not ‎given to hyperbole, but if there is such a thing as a jaw-dropping sight, it must be the ‎moment one lays eyes on the Taj Mahal. Those first few moments I was truly aghast – ‎beyond this, I do not remember much on account of being so fully engrossed in the sight. ‎It is the kind of sight that makes you lay to rest your rational-critical mind and put it on ‎hold for a little while as you absorb the sight. It is the kind of sight and the kind of initial ‎reaction that I hope I do not fully remember, for to do so, is to deprive one of the ‎opportunity and the potential of being awed again at the sight of something so ‎astoundingly perfect; just as I have prayed that I never fully remember and get used to the ‎shock and disgust of terrible first sights; because it is so important to be able to react truly ‎and to be changed by one’s initial reactions to both these extremes. ‎
‎ ‎
As I stood there, looking through the archway of another building, meant to be the gate to ‎the Taj Mahal, for a good few minutes I even forgot about my camera, which otherwise is ‎practically an extension of my limbs. Other first-timers and adulators were similarly ‎aghast at the wonder of wonders and the monument of monuments –all eyes glued to the ‎most beautiful, most perfect, most symmetrical, most harmonious thing man ever created. ‎Taj Mahal –that is what perfection looks like. In fact, the monument is so perfect and ‎flawless that it is a little bland for it –and it would look proper bland and character-less ‎were it not for its near half-millennium age of splendor and glory and what it has ‎withstood in those hundreds of years. And beside the apparent, that is, the balance, the ‎symmetry, the harmony, the composition and the way the whole complex goes together, ‎the fine workmanship, the astounding scale, and the story that goes with it, there are ‎numerous other secret pleasures that Taj has on offer that only the initiated can notice, ‎appreciate and admire. ‎


And yet… alas, and yet, in the middle of all this perfection lay an eyesore of ‎imperfections. Under the central dome of the Taj Mahal, under that massive, glaring ‎white marble dome at the center of the complex lay not one, not three, not even two ‎symmetrically placed and mirrored tombs, but two out of place, unequal, asymmetrical, ‎unbalanced tombs –one of Mumtaz Mahal, the queen to whose undying memory Shah ‎Jahan dedicated the monument, and the other, that of the emperor himself. The two tombs ‎are an eyesore in the whole complex –that of the emperor higher, larger, and imposing, ‎and located out of center, to the left of the queen’s. The queen’s is the original, central ‎tomb and is located directly beneath the dome and the lantern that is hanging from it, and ‎to the right of the two tombs, lay an empty space – and the whole burial chamber simply ‎looks askew and unbalanced. It is almost offensive –the way an untidy, dark stain is ‎offensive on an otherwise clean and sacred cloth. ‎


As I sat in the car on the way back and thought back to the visit and the sight of the burial ‎chamber, my mind wandered back to a short story I had read years ago in a collection of ‎short stories, a Farsi translation of H.G. Well’s short story about a young prince who had ‎a grand and beautiful monument built to the memory of his failed love, and upon ‎completion, had fallen so in love with the monument itself that he had the coffin thrown ‎out because, well, because it was spoiling the splendor of his creation. Did the thought ‎cross Shah Jahan’s thought? Did H.G. Well’s also wonder similar thoughts when he ‎visited Taj Mahal, and wished that Shah Jahan had reacted the way the protagonist of his ‎short story had? I do not know, but it did cross my mind that perhaps, just perhaps, the ‎imbalance and the out-of-place-ness of the tombs and the disturbance to the otherwise ‎perfect symmetry of the monument was planned. ‎

Yes, perhaps it was a conscious statement about the inherent flaw in all things and all ‎beings, even things and beings (and human beings) so beautiful and grand that they seem ‎impervious to flaws, and here I remembered a poem I had read years before from Hafez ‎and had particularly liked for its wit and wisdom (previously posted on this cite under the series: دُرِ سفته: ‎

پیر ما گفت خطا بر قلم صنع نرفت
آفرین بر نظر پاک خطاپوشش باد‎ ‎


~ by safrang on February 14, 2008.

3 Responses to “Meme from Taj Mahal”

  1. Great post, made me feel like I was there myself… But of course, I would love to see it person though. 🙂

  2. […] فراغتی و کتابی و گوشه ی چمنی * tomorrow we’re off to agra, because the last time i went there to see the taj mahal i was alone and it made a tiny dent in my heart and i want to make […]

  3. Really Excellent!!!!!!

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