Then the architectural highlight of the journey was to be reached. As children both Ingunn and I listened to the radio in the early 1960s when they transmitted a dramatized version of the book “The Journey To Agra”. We were both really looking forward to see Taj Mahal in Agra!
Taj Mahal is awhite marble mausoleum located in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India. It was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal. The Taj Mahal is widely recognized as “the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage”.
In 1983, the Taj Mahal became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. While the white domed marble mausoleum is the most familiar component of the Taj Mahal, it is actually an integrated complex of structures. The construction began around 1632 and was completed around 1653, employing thousands of artisans and craftsmen.
In 1631, Shah Jahan, emperor during the Mughal empire‘s period of greatest prosperity, was grief-stricken when his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal, a Persian princess, died during the birth of their 14th child, Gauhara Begum. Construction of the Taj Mahal began in 1632. The court chronicles of Shah Jahan’s grief illustrate the love story traditionally held as an inspiration for Taj Mahal. The principal mausoleum was completed in 1648 and the surrounding buildings and garden were finished five years later. Emperor Shah Jahan himself described the Taj in these words:
Should guilty seek asylum here,
Like one pardoned, he becomes free from sin.
Should a sinner make his way to this mansion,
All his past sins are to be washed away.
The sight of this mansion creates sorrowing sighs;
And the sun and the moon shed tears from their eyes.
In this world this edifice has been made;
To display thereby the creator’s glory.
It was a lot of people there, but it seemed not to disturb us at all. It seemed that we all had come to enjoy the beauty of something uniquely special, and it was like our minds were set for devotion. Until we were attacked by a pack of professional photographers. As all tourists we fell for the offer, and participated in 62 photos adjusted to basically Indian cultural expectations for posing in front of a monument to love. The few photos below are the ones we feel we can share without inviting you to watch too much kneeling and other expressions of romantic love 🙂
Mr Amit Kapoor to the far left is the General Secretary of Agra YMCA, then follows his wife and son, Ingunn, me, Jose and Mr Phillip, the local supporter and partner for the YMCA, working in the travel business.
The quality of the photos from the photographer was not that impressive, but here we are really posing in front of Taj Mahal.
A rather relaxed photo with water and the Taj Mahal. It was really an experience of dimensions to visit this beautiful architectural master piece.
The local friends posing in front of Radisson Hotel where the hotel itself sponsored a five star lunch! The World Challenge 2012 took place in front of the hotel, and Agra YMCA won the prize for the most creative expression of the basket ball competition!
This is the mobile YMCA office in Agra. Agra YMCA has no office or building, but they are working in close cooperation with the local churches, and one of the bishops is now the President of the local YMCA, and we do hope for a development related to office and meeting rooms for Agra YMCA.
On that little black poster on the motor bike it is written: I stand for Young People!
Mr Inderjith Lal is the Board Chair of the YMCA Programme Centre, Greater Noida, just outside New Delhi. We got to know one another quite well and had a good number of conversations during my visit to New Delhi. Going to Agra and Taj Mahal would bring us past the camp he is the Board Chair for, and he invited us to join him there for a visit in the late afternoon. At the side of Ingunn is Mrs Lal and the man in the red tunic is the Director of the centre.
The centre was impressively well kept and maintained, and kept a high standard, beautiful rooms with ensuite bathrooms and excellent meeting facilities and a hall for 200 people. During Sundays, which it happened to be when we visited, a number of local churches rent space in the centre for their services. We could hear beautiful hymns in the background when we sat down for afternoon tea on the lawn outside. Beautiful!
Saying farewell to our friends in Greater Noida we travelled on to the city centre of New Delhi where people were preparing for the next days Feast of Colors and everybody wished one another Happy Holy!
Ingunn says that I continue to mix up the Gateway of India, India Gate and a couple of other portals to Asia and India. I apologize for this, but there are a number of them and this big, beautiful gate is anyway located in the city centre of New Delhi, and it is just impressive!
The family of Jose to the left, and then John Varughese in the middle, National General Secretary of YMCA India. Thank you, John, Thank you! You are a great friend and a solid traveling companion and I just thank you once more for all you did to make the journey a very happy and a very successful one.
A great country with fantastic hospitality, impressive history, unique food and the best of friends! Thank you all of you for leaving lasting memories of beauty and joy with Ingunn and me. Thank you for showing us a wonderful part of the YMCA family. God bless you all and keep you!