Dispatch from India: Visiting the Taj Mahal, Delhi

July 15, 2008

Penn State College of Information Sciences and Technology students Steve Garguilo, Joel Boucher, Matt Prindible and Larissa Andrejko are interning this summer with Honeywell International in Bangalore, India. Their experiences are the subject of regular blogs. Here, Garguilo writes of the Penn Staters’ recent travels:

Mesmerized by the Taj Mahal, awed by Delhi
 
What did you do this weekend? Nothing against the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts of course, but it's tough to compete against one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

I'm not sure where to even begin really when it comes to explaining the Taj Mahal, but I'd have no problem calling it absolutely brilliant and almost incomprehensibly stunning. After enjoying an uneventful departure flight for a change, we arrived in Delhi on Friday night in time to crash at our hotel for a long day ahead of us on Saturday. We stayed at the Maidens Hotel, one of Delhi's oldest, and found the accommodations to be very nice. The building was a traditional Indian structure, and set back in a nice district of the city. We arose on Saturday morning to a nice early taxi ride into Agra, the home of the Taj. After a four-hour car ride that included a monkey jumping onto my window, we made it there.

Just walking into the main entrance, you can see it in the distance and can't help but gasp. The entire building is symmetrical, which is really cool in itself, and the detail is just remarkable. It's all white marble that's indigenous to the area, and any of the designs are all made up of colored stones and "semi-precious" gems that are carved into the marble. I won't bore you with details that can be found in Wikipedia -- but yeah, it's cool. I was impressed by its size, as it seemed to grow disproportionately larger as we walked closer. I also was very impressed by the detail, especially considering the fact that it's not painted or anything, it's all marble (the designs, writings, everything) and it's all just glued together. Amazing. The city of Agra also has made a commitment to it in that no cars are allowed within a certain radius of the Taj itself. You have to get out a few kilometers away and either take a battery-powered rickshaw, a camel, or walk. This protects the white marble against emissions in the air that could turn it yellow or damage it in any way.

I don't know why I was surprised, but there were a ton of people at the Taj Mahal, too. The place was just packed, and the line to go inside the Taj itself was a couple hundred people long. It felt like the elementary school lunch line at times, though, with people cutting (we're all going to the same place ... ) but eventually we made it inside. It was too dark inside to really see all that much, but we could see some more of the detail in the marble, which was still mesmerizing, and then got to go back outside the back and see the holy river and the rest of the complex. Everything about it was symmetrical, even down to the buildings around the Taj Mahal and the plants and trees, so it made for a really neat and relaxing sight.

We knew that seeing the Taj Mahal would be a tough act to follow, but Sunday in Delhi still proved to be pretty cool. Well, cool in the sense that it was fun, because in terms of temperature, it was very hot. All summer, we've been spoiled by the Bangalore weather because it doesn't get incredibly hot here, and Saturday was a cloudy day in Agra so we managed to avoid the extreme heat, but Sunday was a scorcher with temperatures approaching 40 degrees centigrade (104 degrees Fahrenheit) with very high humidity.

Hitting all the hot spots in Delhi in one day is no easy task, and we definitely didn't get to everything, but I'm tickled pink with what we got to see. Among the things we saw, the Rajpath was my favorite, followed very closely by Humayun's Tomb and the Purana Qila (fort). The Rajpath is basically their Washington, D.C., except it's much older of course and actually I could see how some of Washington, D.C., must have been inspired by this awesome spectacle. Again, continuing with the symmetrical theme, the long strip ends with the president's house at one end, the India Gate Memorial at the other, and everything in between looks the same on both sides. The most important government buildings, fountains and other facilities are a mirror image on each side of the street. These buildings are all very old and serve really as epic monuments to the epic feat it must be to govern such a populated and diverse nation.

Off in the distance is also the main Parliament building, although it actually looks like a coliseum-like sports arena from the outside -- again, quite impressive. All the bigwigs in India work here, and all the most important decisions are funneled through here. I love seeing capital cities like that -- the architecture and detail were just mind-bogglingly striking. Walking up and down the strip trying to get as many shots as possible with my camera was one of my favorite feelings so far being here in India. It was really hot out, but a cool breeze was whipping by at that moment, and I was lucky enough to just get to stand there in awe and take it all in. I really had no idea it was going to be such a neat place, but it was extraordinary.

The tomb and the fort were just more examples of ancient marvels. I can understand why it took so long to build some of these structures, as the amount of detail is so cool. Up close, you could see all the small curves and designs carved in from years and years ago, and from afar it was even more enjoyable to step back and admire the whole structure. Each of the places that we went to had a special purpose and had been built with a special significance for the people of Delhi. I was happy to have the chance to appreciate that for myself as we went around from place to place.

 

  • Matt Prindible (senior, IST), Joel Boucher (senior, SRA) Steve Garguilo (senior, IST), and Larissa Andrejko (senior, SRA), stand in front of India's Taj Mahal.

    IMAGE: Steve Garguilo
Last Updated November 18, 2010