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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Zooming Through India Part 4: Visiting the World's Greatest Testament to Love


Car pollution is damaging the macarana marble of the Taj Mahal, so cars are not allowed near the entrance. Instead, we take golf carts from our hotel, which is 600 meters from the monument.

Photos of the Taj Mahal do not do justice to the structure, grounds, and overall experience of visiting it in person. One of the best times to come is at sunset, when in soft, warm light it is perhaps more romantic than ever, so we arrive at the entrance gates just as the sun is going down.

There are thousands of people here, mostly Indian. Before our group even enters the compound, we are delayed by taking photos of the spectacular sandstone entrance gate buildings themselves. If the Taj Mahal were not here, these buildings alone would be the attraction, but that is not the
case.

Upon entering the gates, the Taj Mahal reveals herself, perfectly framed in the gate's arches. The affect is as if she is coming towards you.

Our guide tells us that Sheha Jahad built this tomb for his wife, who died in labor during her 14th pregnancy. The story takes an even sadder turn when we learn that jahad's 3rd son later imprisoned him in the Agra Fort, in a marble room with the best views of the Taj Mahal. Upon his death, his
daughter buried him in part of the Taj so that the two could be reunited in death.

the gardens surrounding the Taj are exquisite, made even more lovely by the bright, colorful saris of local female tourists. Structurally, the Taj Mahal was intelligently designed. The four minarets are angled slightly outward so that if they were ever to fall, they wouldn't harm the mausoleum. The letters of the words that frame the arches gradually get larger as they go up, so that even though they are further away, they appear the same size. Oh, and the words are not painted, in fact there is no paint on the Taj Mahal. They are created from inlaid onyx, and they are perfect. As you get closer to the Taj Mahal, you see that it isn't just a large white building. Instead, it is covered by multicolored, unbelievably intricate floral designs. Again, these are not painted patterns, but rather inlaid semi-precious gems like cornelian, lapus lazeri, and coral. Cornelian is especially unique because it glows brightly when light is beamed into it.

We stayed on the grounds for over an hour, bewitched by her beauty, marveling at how her color changed with each passing minute. As it got darker, we reluctantly left the Taj Mahal, and as we gazed back, she glowed flashed a bright smile back at us, glowing from inside. This glow was truthfully caused by the flashlights of various tour guides, illuminating the floral Corenelia stones for their travelers. What could be better than sunset at the Taj Mahal? As we found out the next morning, sunrise.

As hard as it was to wake up at 5 am and head to the Taj at daybreak, we rallied and once again boarded our golf cart.

Monkeys greeted us at the entrance, causing us to think the expression, "early bird" should really be "early monkey", their charms working on many of the tourists.

There are several benefits to arriving at sunrise, but by far the biggest is that there are much fewer tourists here, and the grounds are so large that you feel you have the whole place to yourself.

Her white marble changes colors even more at sunrise than at sunset, gradually adopting a pink hue as the sun rises above her, and the sky becomes more blue. Then something truly magical happens. the rising sun ignites the flower-shaped gems of her walls, and they begin to sparkle like dazzling crystals.

I walked into the Taj and was immediately struck with a blood-drunk thirst for photos in every angle possible of the romantically beautiful building. I lost all recognition of my footing, and if I was about to walk into a decorative pot or step off a ledge.

Then, one of my travelers said my name, and when I turned around he had a strange, perhaps disapproving look on his face. immediately I knew I must have for minutes been in the way of every photo he was trying to take.
"I'm sorry," I said, and crouched down for him to shoot over me.

"No," he said, "you have bird poop on your shoulder."

Sure enough, there was an ample mound of poo on my shoulder. Angel that he was he freed me from most of my burden with a piece of paper and tossed it in the trash. My guide smiled broadly and said, "ah, that is good luck!". Apparently I was VERY lucky. This was so typical of the India outlook on life. They turn lemons into lemonade and in my case, fowl feces into fortune.

Spending a morning surrounded by extreme beauty really works up an appetite. We bade a final farewell to the Taj Mahal and retreated to our hotel for a well-earned breakfast. Mission accomplished.


Zoom Vacations, a global gay vacation company, offers incredible gay group and independent trips to China, Rio for New Years and Carnaval, South Africa, India, Australia for the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, Peru, Argentina, Madrid for Gay Pride, and several luxury mega-yacht cruises. You can find more information on their website at www.zoomvacations.com or call 866 966-6822.

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