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Thursday, 23 October 2014

India: Cycling in a Land of Extremes - Page 4

Written by Dale Fehringer
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The Rug Weaver

 

Near the city of Udaipur, we cycled through a peaceful valley divided into small, neat fields.  A group of women in brightly-colored saris moved slowly across a field, harvesting rice by hand.  We toured a magnificent temple of the Jain religion (a sect of Hinduism) that is supported by more than 1,000 intricately-carved marble pillars.

 

At the top of a hill in the country, we sipped chai tea and watched the owner weaving a beautiful rug on a homemade loom.  He sits cross-legged on the ground outside his small house for 10-12 hours a day, working on rugs that are his own design, using homemade threads and tools of wood and iron made by his grandfather.  He showed us some of his rugs and we bought two small ones.  As we were leaving, he took our hands, told us how grateful he was, and wished us Namaste. 

 

Taj Mahal

 

The day we were to see the Taj Mahal our alarm went off at 5:30 am.  It was pitch black outside, and already there was a smell of burning wood in the air from thousands of fires that cook the breakfasts around the city of Agra.  We walked out into the hazy morning to our bus, for the short drive to the Taj Mahal.  There was already a crowd outside the grounds, and we were separated into men’s and women’s lines and taken through security. Once inside, we sat on a marble bench, waited for the sun to rise, and heard the story:

 

In the 1600’s the emperor’s wife died following the birth of their 14th child.  Before she died, she made the emperor promise to build a tomb for her. The Taj Mahal fulfilled the promise.  It took 20,000 people more than 20 years to complete it.

 

When we first saw it the sun wasn't completely up, and it loomed like a mirage in the haze.  From a distance itseemed to be three white domes floating in the air.  As the sun came up and burned away the haze, we could see the marble base it rests on and the towering minarets at each corner.

 

We took photos and started to walk toward it, and as we got closer we could see that it's really octagonal, with four long sides, and four shorter slanted corners.  And we could make out the Arabic writing and inlayed figures on the marble walls.

 

We put covers over our shoes before walking onto the marble base and then climbed the steps and walked to and around the building, which is about the size of a school.  Its marble surface is smooth and cool to the touch, and we could sense the influence of the people who had spent their lives building it.  Inside, there are just two things:  the tombs of the queen and the emperor who loved her.

 

We made our back slowly to the entrance gate, and stopped every few minutes to take photos and admire the Taj.  As we walked further from it the details gradually faded away and shadows began to form on its walls.

 

We stood for a while and absorbed what we had just seen.  None of us were disappointed in any way.  The Taj had lived up to our expectations.

 

Land of Enchantment

 

Our tour came to an end shortly after we saw the Taj Mahal.  It was a wonderful conclusion, and it typified India for us.  This is a land of enchantment, mystery, and extremes; a beautiful country with a lot to offer and a lot of problems.  The beauty of the women and the excitement and curiosity in the faces of the children were amazing, and we will remember them forever.

  

 

(c)Dale Fehringer 

(Page 4 of 4)
Last modified on Friday, 24 October 2014

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