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    All These Colors Tour: India Part 37

    Saturday. October 20, 2012
    Agra, India

    Heading toward the South Gate of the Taj Mahal in Agra, India.

    Looking toward the Main Gate of the Taj Mahal in Agra, India.

    The big day in Agra finally arrived as I took a five-minute stroll from the Hotel Kamal over to the South Gate of the Taj Mahal. After shuffling through a crowded back alley smothered with souvenir booths, I stood in line behind a bunch of Indian people at the gate. Within seconds, I was plucked out and whisked over to a side counter, where I had to fork over a 750 rupee (roughly $15.00) admission fee–a full 18.75 times the 40 rupees Indians pay. I was then given a small bottle of water and a pair of shoe covers. The old man who dispensed them tried to push a guide service on me, but I sternly refused.

    Looking toward the Taj Mahal mausoleum in Agra, India.

    You have to be firm with those guys right away or they will pester you until you give in. After I stepped through the South Gate, I entered a large courtyard with the West and East Gates on either side and headed straight ahead to the large and stately Main Gate. As I made my way inside the low light of the wide and deep structure, I saw through the opposite archway another much larger courtyard bathed in soft light in the distance, and as I approached it, the glory of the Taj Mahal was revealed in a most dramatic way. In real life, up close, it’s a moving, awe-inspiring sight.

    The Taj Mahal mausoleum bathed in the setting sunlight in Agra, India.

    “The Taj Mahal is a white domed marble mausoleum built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal. The construction began around 1632 and was completed around 1653, employing thousands of artisans and craftsmen. It is widely recognized as the jewel of Muslim art in India and is regarded by many as the finest example of Mughal architecture, a style that combines elements from Persian, Ottoman Turkish and Indian architectural styles. In 1983, the Taj Mahal became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. While the white domed marble mausoleum is the most familiar component of the Taj Mahal, it is actually an integrated complex of structures, which includes a mosque.”–Wikipedia

    A close-up of the intricately patterned stonework on the Taj Mahal mausoleum in Agra, India.

    Returning to the early evening light outside, I weaved among massive hordes of people composed of smaller clusters who, at various vantage points among the walkways around the long reflecting fountains, competed for photo opportunities with the Taj Mahal in the background. I quickly snapped a few pics at each spot, usually before I received an urgent request to move. As I reached the large, raised platform that the Taj Mahal mausoleum sits on, I donned my shoe covers and stepped up to marvel at all of the intricate patterns that adorn its surface. Slowly circling around the building once, I admired all of its beautiful walls glowing in the setting sunlight, and shot a few photos. As I reached the front again, I got in line to proceed inside the tomb. It was quite dark, and very hot, stuffy and crowded in there–plus, photography was prohibited–so I circled around once and made a hasty exit.

    Another classic view of the Taj Mahal mausoleum in Agra, India.

    Out front, I scored a seat on some small steps in front of the minaret in the Southwest corner, where I sat for a spell and just soaked up the amazing atmosphere in the soft, golden, setting sunlight. Over a half hour period, at least four or five different Indian people asked to take a photo with me or tried to be sly and sneak one, but I just hid under my hat. I have no desire to have my mug plastered all over the web. From this location, I captured some amazing video clips of the whole scene, complete with scads of milling crowds dwarfed by the Taj Mahal. As sunset approached, I started to find my way back out past the reflecting pools and on through a myriad of gates and doorways until I spilled out with the throngs into the souvenir-choked back alley. I was surprised at the huge masses of people that were still pouring into the place.

    The Taj Mahal's beautiful arches glow in the setting sunlight in Agra, India.

    After dinner, I went for a short walk around the back alleys of the Taj Ganj neighborhood to see if I could find anything interesting. As I walked down one side street, I spied a few small shops, one of which was blasting some percussion music with Indian vocals–or so I thought. Since the rest of the street further down looked desolate, I started to turn around and head back when something drew me a little bit further. As I took a few more steps and peeked around a corner, I saw a small Hindu shrine with a group of women in saris banging on a drum and singing into a mic that was plugged into four huge speaker cabinets. So, the music was live, after all!

    Looking up at one of the Taj Mahal's beautiful arches in Agra, India.

    I stepped up onto a dirt mound about 15 feet away and just admired it for a few minutes, then finally busted out my camera to grab a couple of photos and video clips, which turned out pretty amazing. I was bummed I missed one part in which the music was punctured by an invigorating blast of noise. Seems they had the speakers angled in toward the singers, instead of straight out, which caused a lot of microphone feedback, and that was fine by me. Since a bunch of little kids kept pestering me, I exited that area and walked up the street to make a few field recordings of the music from a distance. The mic I use with my iPod touch is so sensitive, the VU meter almost went into the red even a couple of hundred feet away! So, visiting one of the world’s most beautiful, iconic buildings and accidentally witnessing a raw, live Hindu musical performance–all in all, I’d say this was one of the best days I’ve had in India so far.

    The gang's all here! Posing in front of the Taj Mahal in Agra, India.

    Women sing and play drums at a small Hindu shrine in Agra, India.

    Roll over photos for captions.
    Words and photos ©2012 Arcane Candy.

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