The Intimate Taj Mahal

by Rolf Witzsche


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129 min

 

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When the border blurs between dreaming and

 

We lie to ourselves when we assume that the Principle of the Universal Marriage of Mankind as human beings, is an exotic concept that can never become true. That fact is, that it is the most fundamentally rooted concept of human relationships that is possible. Are we not all human beings of a single humanity? On this platform we are more deeply married than any priest could sanctify. Also, we lie to ourselves by assuming that this fundamental reality is hard to translate into life, and is not richly rewarding by its very design and its own substance, if we let it be.

Still, it seems scary to contemplate. The reality of it seems to be as exotic as the Taj Mahal itself. What we should find scary instead is the historic trend of ignoring the evident reality of this principle. We have grand diplomas for this ignorance with names of cities attached, like Hiroshima, Tokyo, Dresden, and the names of entered burnt out continents. Let's put these diplomas to rest on the dusty shelves of forgotten history, and move forward to earn new diplomas, diplomas of love.


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      "You will find the Taj Mahal both profound and exciting," Indira cautioned me a long time later as we were strolling down Chandni Chowk. We felt that the time had come to think about lunch after our morning celebration. Lunch also meant such sweet extravaganzas as cakes, puddings, and tea. And that's what we did. We let the celebration continue at a tiny sidewalk restaurant that was called 'Tea Palace.' The 'Palace' was located at one of the many street corners. At this particular one a side street had been blocked off to provide space for a fenced in outdoors area that was anything but palacious. Of course neither of us cared about that. What we were celebrating didn't require a palacious setting, but a setting of life, and that we brought with us. It was our soaring spirit that created the background and determined the foreground all at the same time. There was joy in the air, and it was joy in celebration of something profound that had taken place. We were celebrating not merely the end of old barriers, but more profoundly the beginning of a New Renaissance. The 'dance' of our conversation had became pervaded with the idea of a New Renaissance.

      "I suspect that the Taj Mahal is to a large degree the outcome of the old Renaissance tradition that had created beautiful cities throughout Europe during the Golden Renaissance period," I said to Indira while we were waiting for our meal at the sidewalk Tea Palace. "I understand that the completion of the Taj Mahal occurred in 1648, which coincides almost perfectly with the completion of the greatest spiritual achievement in European history, which likewise was built on a new renaissance in thinking."

      "You are referring to the Treaty of Westphalia again, aren't you?" Indira interjected with a grin. "Few people are aware of it, though it established a new course for humanity and determined the shape of our civilization to the present day. But as you said, its principle was already known to the ancient Hindus. This makes me believe that the Taj Mahal predated the Westphalia renaissance instead of reflecting it. It is tempting to believe that it reflects it, but this can't, because then something big doesn't add up."

      "And that is, Indira?"

      "I can't tell you what it is. I can only show it to you, and I will show it to you. We can go there tomorrow if you want to. The train leaves at six in the morning. We'll have breakfast on the train. It's a two-hour ride. We'll get there after eight. This means that we can have the whole day at the Taj. We can take the last train that leaves around nine. We'll have dinner on the train. Taking the train is much better than going by car. And having those twelve hours at the Taj, which we wouldn't have otherwise, makes for a nice visit."

      "Is it that big, what you want to show me, that we need twelve hours?" I asked.

      She simply nodded. "But it won't be a luxury train ride, like the 'Palace On Wheels,'" she added. "It will only be a normal, air conditioned, fast train."

      "What do you mean by 'Palace of Wheels,' Indira?"

      "Ah, the 'Palace On Wheels!' It's India's cruise ship on land. India's 'Palace On Wheels' is one of the most luxurious trains in the world. The train is made up of 14 saloons, 4 coupes wit two beds each with attached bath, shower, music channels, and specially designed furniture. Mini pantries are situated in each saloon, which provide hot as well as cold beverages and refreshment throughout the journey. The train also incorporates an exquisite lounge along with a fine bar. Riding the Palace is a royal treat reminiscent of the Rajput Kingdoms. There are 14 coaches representing the decor of the historic Empires of Jaipur, Jodhpur, Udaipur, Kota, Jaisalmer, Bundi, Bikaner, Bharatpur, Alwar, Sirohi, Kishangarh, Dungapur, Jhalawar and Dholpur. Each coach is made of 4 coupes ornated in the colors of the respective royal emblem and with a variety of fantastic furniture. Of course there is food on the train, a selection of excellent Indian delicacies, all are available in the Maharaja & Maharani restaurants on board. The train departs from Delhi and halts at Jaipur, Chittaurgarh, Udaipur, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Bharatpur and Agra. The traveling is done at night and the local touring during the daytime. At every stop the passengers are treated to the best sight seeing tours in India."

      "How do you know all that?" I interrupted her.

      She pointed to a brochure stuck in a holder at the center of the table, and then began to laugh. "Do you want me to read the price list?" she asked.

      "Why would I be interested?" I replied. "Come and see India and its pompous history, all condensed into seven days." I began to laugh. "I'd sooner spend a single day with you in peace and tranquility at the Taj Mahal. Isn't the Taj Mahal counted as one of the Seven Wonders of the World?" I asked. "I have seen pictures of it. It really looks beautiful."

      "You haven't seen anything yet," Indira countered me. "Just wait, Peter."

      "This means getting up at four," I said and began to yawn.

      "What's wrong with getting up at the first hue of dawn, Peter? I can guarantee you it will be worth it?"



      The moment that we came back to Indira's apartment after from our long-extended lunch celebration, she went directly to her bookcase. "Do you want me to tell you the official story of the Taj Mahal?" she asked. She searched for a book. Moments later she motioned me to come out onto the balcony with her.

      I couldn't help notice that the book in her hand was printed in English. It didn't say anything about the Taj Mahal being a temple of love. I asked her about it.

      "They left the most important detail out," she commented. "The official story of the Taj Mahal begins in 1612," said Indira after we were seated with another cup of tea. The tea in the teapot had become cold by then, but who cared?

      "The official story of the Taj begins in 1621 when a woman by the name of Mumtaz Mahal became married to Prince Khurram, who later became the fifth Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan. His marriage with Mumtaz Mahal is said to have been the love-match of the century. She became her husband's inseparable companion. She accompanied him on all of his journeys and military expeditions, even the arduous ones. She became his comrade and his counselor. It is said that she also inspired him to acts of charity and great benevolence towards the weak and the needy. It is also a fact of history that she bore him thirteen children during their marriage, and that she died at the birth of her fourteenth child. Her death occurred after eighteen years of marriage in 1630. She died in Burhanpur in the Deccan, to where she had accompanied her husband on another military campaign. The great tragedy occurred barely three years after her husband's accession to the throne. Moved by grief, her husband, now the great Emperor Shah Jahan, decided to perpetuate her memory for all times to come, by building for his beloved wife the grandest tomb ever created on the face of the Earth, as a monument of his love."

      Indira laid the book on the table. "It is being said that the sad circumstances of the empress' early death, who had been well loved by the people, had inspired many of them to join the emperor's intentions to build the grandest mausoleum for her that has ever been built. It took eighteen years to complete the construction work, with the involvement of over twenty thousand workmen and a vast transportation infrastructure of a thousand elephants."

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from Chapter 8 of my novel:  Glass Barriers
online page 61 to 68 - Transcript

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