Namaste from India,
There are some places whose experience is adequately captured on film. But some places are clearly not in that category. In a photograph – no matter how clever the photographer or how modern the camera, one cannot see the true splendour of the place. You simply can’t appreciate the true context.
In the case of a man-made structure, it’s not possible to gain a true appreciation of the actual effort which must have been undertaken to create it. I’m conscious that my verbal portrayal herein will almost certainly fail the same test but here goes anyway. Three incomparable sights from our recent journey to Bhutan and India most assuredly answer these descriptions. Two are man-made and one natural.
Tiger’s Nest is a Buddhist retreat built high on a cliff; in fact, half way up the cliff. It’s probably the most photographed Bhutanese venue but nothing quite prepares you for the visit. No photograph can do the sight justice.
Reaching Tiger’s Nest entails a strenuous walk. (Some don’t make it and some only do so after completing the first leg on horseback.) The achievement of walking this hill on a well-worn track with concrete steps and railings near the end pales into insignificance when compared to the superhuman task of building the structure in the first place. Most visitors will wonder how and why. The latter is fairly easy. The former boggles the mind.
Inside the rooms of Tiger’s Nest, there are many idols of Buddhist culture. Most rooms are given over to rituals. Most contain quite large (certainly larger than life) statues of Buddha in his seated pose. You have to wonder how they got those up there, too.
On our way to Delhi, we skirted the Himalayan mountains. (This is after leaving the most ornate airport in the world, in Bhutan.) At one stage the captain spoke on the intercom, casually informing us that Everest could then be seen out of the cabin windows. This had Linda on her feet, excited and exultant. There in silent glory was the glinting pinnacle, high above the clouds – as we were, too. “I could look at that all day,” said Linda.
the Taj Mahal
This trip to India had a single motivation: to see the Taj Mahal in Agra. Again, no photograph can truly convey the majesty of this building. We were up at dawn to beat the crowd and see the building with the early morning sun on it. It was worth the inconvenience.
Commissioned by Moghul emperor Shah Jahan after his favourite wife Mumtaz died in childbirth, it is a mausoleum for two bodies. That also renders it a salient reminder of the stupendous wealth commanded by the Moghul empire in that era but it’s a classic building nevertheless. Said to be inspired by two existing buildings – one, also in Agra, which has come to be known as the Baby Taj and one in Delhi, Humayan’s Tomb – it is a testament to ingenuity, toil, wealth and craftsmanship as well as to love. The marble inlays are impossible to see from a distance or from a photograph. They are astonishing in their complexity and intricacy.
The entire building took 22 years to build. It’s no wonder it took that long when you see the craftsmanship in the inlays.
I’ve included a photograph of the Taj Mahal herein but believe me, it doesn’t encapsulate the sight – or the accomplishment in constructing it. You might also comment wryly about us supposedly missing the crowds.
Bidaee from Agra
Post Script: on our last day in India we visited Humayan’s Tomb, immediately followed by that of Mahatma Gandhi. What a contrast! Humayan’s Tomb is a massive mausoleum to an emperor who gained the throne and privilege by birthright. Gandhi – undisputed father of the nation – has a modest, fittingly humble tomb in Rajghat in New Delhi. Funereal times have changed – for the better – in India.