Thursday, June 10, 2010

Professor Marianne Artusio - Thursday, May 27

Oh the glories of the Mughal dynasty! We entered the Taj Mahal garden, just after sunrise. It is truly magical. In any light the Taj shines, it glows, it just wraps you in its magic. The day was cloudy and the Taj seemed adrift on a silken cloud. Of course, we all “oohed and aahed” and took 1000s of pictures and marveled at all its intricacies. A man was mowing the field just below the Taj with a cart pulled by oxen and their reflection followed them in the Yammuna river, just beyond. Who expects to see such things? I wandered around the mosque that is part of the grounds (a mosque on one side, a guest house on the other) and discovered the most beautiful marble screen, tucked away on the side. Apparently it separated a small area where the women were allowed to pray. But how could they concentrate on prayer when right in front of them was a screen carved in while marble, sculpted with such delicacy that defies description. Here is a picture of a few of our group on this lovely morning at the Taj.

Then we went onto the Fatipur-sikri, Akbar’s City of Victory. It was built in the 1500s to celebrate the Mughal King, Akbar’s first son, and he moved his entire administration here - to a remote place where a holy man lived who had predicted that each of Akbar’s wives would bear a son. How could they have built a city so fanciful? A city made entirely of red sandstone, with palaces, mosques, audience halls, swimming pools, temples, terraces, performance space and huge plazas entirely of red sandstone, with intricate carvings. There was even a pavilion for the court astrologer made of red sandstone. No wood, no granite, no marble – it is other-worldly. Even the ceilings and roofs are huge blocks of red sandstone. We saw Akbar’s immense plaza, where the blocks were laid out as a Parcheesi board and the King would play Parcheesi with concubines as the pieces. He rolled the dice and they moved! Again, it was blistering hot and we sought whatever shade we could find, sitting in the meager shade of these abandoned red buildings. Next we journeyed on the Agra Fort, another jewel of Mughal architecture and full of exotic splendors. Much has been destroyed since Shah Jahan was imprisoned there by his son, but you can just imagine the magnificence: Ceilings inlaid with jewels and mirrors to catch the light, great doomed roofs covered with gold, elaborate patterns in inlaid marble everywhere, and bubbling fountains and watercourses, flowing through the gardens and the rooms to cool them. The Hall of the Public Audience was so gorgeous, and you could feel the awe that this magnificent building must have inspired. It is an open pavilion with carved and inlaid columns, and a throne seated on a balcony high above the ground, backed by 100s of niches that at one time were filled with different colored glass. Having an audience with the Emperor in that setting - most people probably could not say a word. The peacock throne once was here, and the Mughals sat on jewels and gold as they dispensed their “justice,” but it was carted away by the Persians and India has had no success in getting it back.

A good day, very hot, but a good day.

By Professor Marianne Artusio, Touro Law Summer Abroad Program in India 2010

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