Sunday, January 31, 2010

INDIA SUMMARY

It is impossible to fully describe to you in words what India does to the mind, body and soul. You would have to see it for yourself to really understand what this place is like. Katie has already done a bang up job of telling you what it was like through her eyes. I will basically just tell you they same thing she said; only difference would be basically my perspective.

Before I start, I will just say to you that India is not for the faint of heart. If this is you, then I suggest you seek others places to journey to and learn about. As Katie already said, this place will accost your senses at all levels all at the same time. There are so many gruesome sights that we witnessed that I don’t feel are necessary to go into detail about. I will just say that I would reserve those types of sights to the eye of the beholder for them to formulate their own opinions and conclusions about. I will say that it was definitely heart-wrenching to witness.
India is the land of temples and palaces and great history that goes way back, at least in the northern part. One of the most interesting parts in regards to the temples is that there a quadrillion temples all over the land that are dedicated to some God or Gods depending on whether you were Hindu, Buddhist or of the Jain religion. Each of them was equally magnificent but I must say that it was the Jain temples with their exquisite carvings and type of structure that I found to be the most interesting. We saw so many temples that in the end we were able to decipher what religion they belonged to just by looking at the structure from a far off. Not bad for a couple of rookies! But what struck me in the end as the most awe inspiring was that of all the magnificent temples that we saw that were built in the name of Allah, Krishna, Brahma or whomever, the grandest most beautiful one of them all was built in the name of love, the Taj Majal. Go figure, love rules everything! So in honor of this magnificent achievement of mankind (it is after all one of the 7 wonders of the world) I shall tell you the “real” love story as I came to know it. The Taj was built by Emperor Shah Jahan for his beloved second wife Mumtaz Mahal who was a Muslim Persian Princess. The story goes that she died while accompanying her husband to Burhanpur while giving birth to their 14th child on their way to silence a rebellion. The story further goes that as she lay dying she asked for four promises from the emperor. 1) That he build a monument in her name so that he would never forget her, 2) That he should marry again, 3) That he be kind to their children and 4) that he visit her tomb on her death anniversary until he himself passed away. He apparently made good on the first two but apparently did not seal the deal on the second two.

The name Taj Mahal is rumored to be an abbreviated version of her name which means “The exalted one of the Palace”. Construction began on the Taj in 1631 and took 22 years to complete. Over 20,000 people were deployed to work on it. The principle architect was an Iranian named Istad Usa. It took a fleet of over 1000 elephants to haul the material in from all over India and Asia. As a tomb, there is no match for it anywhere on earth. It was finally finished in 1653 at an overall cost at the time of 32 Million Rupees on the banks of the Yamuna river in Agra. Here is an interesting factoid that I think is worth sharing: According to history, the hands of some of the most masterful craftsmen that built the Taj were amputated to ensure that the perfection of the Taj could never be repeated ever again. “Ce la amore!”

India is a place of extremities. On one side of the scale you have magnificent buildings and landscapes. On the other side of the scale you have the most extreme poverty that is prevalent all over the land and is very hard to stomach. It is the only place I have ever been where on any given day a car, motorcycle, horse, elephant, donkey or camel may have the right of way all depending of what region you are in and what time of day it is. Talk about a major rush! This is not the kind of stuff you would consider as routine on interstate 101 or the 405 in LA. But in India, it’s all in a day’s work. It is a place where the idea of westernization has not fully caught on. I don’t know if that is good or bad, maybe both. It is a place where spirituality is highly exalted and more prevalent than any other country I have ever been to. It now makes sense to me why the Dali Lama is from this country. As Katie said, it is a place that is very conflicted and draws on all your senses for so many reasons. I too am not sure what to fully make of this place. I think it will take me a long to fully appreciate everything about this place and all of its grandeur.

India is a proud country and they should be despite whatever shortcomings they may or may not have. So much history to take in. I remember thinking at times that I wished that our country had this much elegant history. It makes visiting such a place quite fascinating. If I could summarize this place in terms of a ride I would have to say that India is a rollercoaster of Jurassic proportions!

2 comments:

Ryan Ray February 1, 2010 at 9:09 PM  

Great notes, Chris! Your writing is so descriptive. I really am enjoying your blog. Keep it up!!

Silvia,  February 2, 2010 at 11:14 AM  

Hi Katie & Chris,

David and I have been following ur blog! Very well done....We look forward to hearing more of ur adventures. :)

Have a safe and wonderful journey!

Take care.

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