Romantics take note: It’s not about the roses and the chocolates, the home cooked meals or the back rubs after a long day’s work. It’s not about the diamonds and perfumes.
It’s about the building.
Whether you want to impress or commemorate the love of your life, start drafting, collecting stones and strong men! Throughout the world some incredible buildings have been byproducts of heartbreak. From England to Italy, Malaysia to Venezuela. From Utah to New York. Many remarkable structures have been built in the name of love.
The Taj Mahal is no exception. In fact, The Taj Mahal is universally known for its physical attraction as well as its emotional draw. Erected in the 17th century in honor of one of his wives, then-ruler Shah Jahan and his crew of over 20,000 men created this masterpiece in a span of time surpassing two decades.
Since its completion, the spiritual and the curious have come from all corners of the earth to admire its majesty. Elevated high above the surrounding grounds, the Taj Mahal stands at the end of a glistening waterway, surrounded by pristine gardens and millions of visitors. In perfect symmetry, the Taj is situated between reflecting buildings, one a mosque and the other an identical residence built of red sandstone. Hidden behind the cluster of buildings runs the Yumana River.
Walking amongst the crowds in the traditional aspect allows visitors to view the palace up close. Those without claustrophobic tendencies may even shuffle in a circular mass around the grave where Mumtaz Mahal is memorialized, next to where her lover was also laid to rest after his death. Take note that inside there is but one light and enough people that if one is so much to sneeze, a colossal domino effect would be put into action.
While seeing the Taj up close was superb to say the least, I knew that there was more to it than the photographs and plastered smiles that we all were showing when exploring its grounds. We were able to watch the sunset behind the neighboring mosque and witness the palace’s cream facade begin to replicate the bronze skies. It was an evening for the record books and the one we’d been hoping for. Yet as our group began to gather, I slipped away and stood alone, blocking the hum of voices and movement of tourists and instead peering through trees, witnessing the palace as a remote structure. A masterpiece.
After a brief time of recluse, I returned to the group and attempted to take with me the feeling of peace I had found while standing alone.
We all had a difficult time walking away. Maybe it was because of the energy magnetically pulling us back, or maybe it was because we couldn’t find one of our group members. Either way, it was a fantastical feeling to look back one last time and see the domed roof glowing in the darkened sky. (And, yes, we found our lost sister shortly thereafter)
A buzz heard aboard the bus that night as we reminisced about our recent experiences was brought to a halt with an unimaginable announcement. The next day we would return. Not to the tourist side, but to the opposite side of the Yumana River.
While the day’s experience was unforgettable, not to mention one of the main reasons I’d come to India, we hadn’t yet experienced the true spirit of the Taj Mahal. Even the secret escape I’d made to get a touch of serenity couldn’t compete with what was to come.
The next day we were led through Agra’s small villages where children play freely, horses cows and bulls are regarded as loved beings, and manual powered vehicles are preferred over modern-day transportation. Families worked in fields nearby, women and children contributing their share as equally as men.
Further down the road, a green blanket woven with gravel paths and pink clustered bushes greeted us. At the far side, we observed as children continued to work on the river bank, carrying goods in baskets and caring for grazing goats.
People are living in the shadows of one of the Seven Wonders of the World, working for their own survival. I wonder if they know the effects their efforts have made on so many others. Do they know the worldly recognition their home receives?
Many of the children continued to work while we visited, a barbed wire fence separating us from them. Others came to our side, humoring us with fake fights, requesting tastes of chewing gum, and posing for photographs when given a small donation. They were spunky and sprightly, and proved yet again how beautiful this world is.
Even today, six months later, I can still feel the excitement stirring in my chest and arms. My eyes are watering as I fondly remember that day. Never can this feeling be encapsulated in a writing. My hope is that it will forever stay within my being to be tapped in to as the need arises, and that others will find their own sparkle source, perhaps also on the banks of the Yumana. For there you will find living breathing powerhouses of love running around, not to mention a structure built as a symbol of this same spirited emotion.
Respect, adoration, care. A rose, a chocolate, a hug. We each have our ways of showing love. This is one romantic’s symbolic creation that has turned into a universal icon of eternal love and devotion.
“In doing something, do it with love or never do it at all” -Mahatma Gandhi