The photo of the marble side table that I posted yesterday is an example of what the Taj Mahal is made of, and how the same process was used on both. Hand crafted Rajasthani marble, we were told, is the hardest marble in the world, as the molecules are so tightly bound together. Who knows if this is accurate, but the manufacturer did give us an example of how It does not break, crack, stain, nor can it be scratched or cut by sharp objects. He also poured Pepsi on it and left it to show it was impervious. The design is made of semi precious stones cut very thin, and glued into cutout impressions in the marble by two fine chisels. The glue, he said was a secret mixture, that he didn't even have the recipe for after his thirty years in the business, and was the same as that used in the construction of the Taj. Once it is heated and set it will last hundreds of years and you would need to chisel the gems out.
The stones used in this table are cornelian, onyx, jasper, lapis, mother-of-pearl, and others listed on the documents he provided us. The table top changes colour with light beneath it, as the marble becomes translucent along with the cornelian which shows as a brighter orange or saffron colour. Also when a candle is placed on top, it changes to different colours as other stones pick up the light. The whole piece took nine months to create, and the lineage of workmanship goes back in the family, to the time of the building of the Taj. The craftsmen who do this work lose the feeling in their fingers and thumb, from working with the chisels, and have to retire by the time they turn 40, and so pass along their skills to the next generation. The Taj Mahal also looks different under different lights (cloud, sun, moon).
Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal as a tomb for his beloved wife who became known as Mumtaz Mahal after her death. Both their bodies are buried beneath the floor of the main area where tourists walk. Hers in the middle of the room, his to the side. Muslims are not cremated, but put on their right side to face the west in India, in order to face Mecca, with their feet to the south. His plan to build a black marble Taj across the Yamuna River was thwarted when one of his sons locked him up for his last 8 years in the 5,000 square foot bedroom and tower of the Agra Red Fort (not the Delhi Red Fort), in order to take over the throne.
It took 20,000 craftsmen 22 years to build the Taj. As each piece of delicately cut semi precious stone is glued into the intricately cut marble, heated, then set, the whole piece is rubbed smooth with sandstone, washed, then buffed. It has lasted over 500 years, and is considered the most romantic place on earth. As our guide, Krishna, said, "what other husband has spent so much, created something so grand, that has lasted so long?"
We went to the Agra Red Fort in the afternoon and ate lunch at an upscale local restaurant before heading back to the hotel where an Indian wedding was taking place, complete with hundreds of elegantly sari clad guests, the groom on a white horse, and a very loud drummer with musicians.
The last day in India was our first late start at 10 am, and then off in the bus to the tomb built by the influential concubine of Shah Jahan's father. She built it for her parents and it influenced the form and structure of the building of the Taj. Four hours later in Delhi we went through the thick smog and heavy traffic to Humayan's tomb, the grandfather of Shah Jahan (I think, because we are tombed out)!
We are now approaching the Hilton hotel, where we will partake in a farewell dinner, before heading to our lowly 3 star hotel in the "colourful, hippie area of Delhi" according to our guide, while the others head out to the airport on their way home. We leave for Bangkok and the airport at 5:30 am tomorrow morning.
Goodbye India. Thank you. Shukriya!