Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Wednesday: Agra - is it only Wednesday?

After a good night's sleep, and still adjusting to the time, most of us beat our alarms awake this morning to visit the Taj Mahal. Visiting in the morning gave us good lighting to view the east wall, a lot of space as the crowds hadn't arrived yet, and best of all - we beat the heat! 


The things that stuck out most to the group were 1) The incredible attention to detail - from the intricate designs in the Makarana marble to the perfect symmetry and intentionality behind the architecture. It took 35 architects and over 20,000 laborers 22 years to complete. 2) The vastness and extravagance of the grounds in addition to the monument itself - to the west, a mosque, and on the east a copied building constructed for the sole purpose of symmetry. There were guest houses for visiting people paying respects, open fields and gardens. 


We also learned that many of the laborers were people who had been starving and were in need of work - for two decades those 20,000 men were given work that provided for over 100,000 people. Additionally, the artistry in the inlays has been passed down for 17 generations, still in the same family group. It was developed 200 years before the Taj Mahal and is still practiced today - more on this in a second. 


After two hours there, we returned to the hotel for breakfast - the team is really beginning to dive into the local flavor! After packing up, we checked out and made our way over to the Agra Fort.

On our way to the fort we stopped at a Pachankari Art Cooperative - Pachankari is the art form that is responsible for the inlay work on the Taj Mahal. We were able to see the process of how each piece is designed, cut, and then placed. It is an incredible art form that is still passed down and taught by apprenticeship to this day. 

Because our energy levels were higher this morning - and really because the cloud cover gave some relief - we were able to spend more time at the Agra Fort than we did at the Red Fort yesterday. This meant that we could take more time to see the technologies put in place for cooling, heating, water, and defense. We also felt here that we could get more of a sense of what life was like in the palace: pastimes, the courts, living areas, it was very interesting to see. 

Once again, similar to the Taj Mahal, the grandeur of the place was evident. Not only the size but the attention to detail - here with similar inlay work in marble, and also a room that had been painted with gold so it would illuminate at night. 

After a full morning we are now back in the car and headed to the airport in Delhi where we will catch a flight to Hyderabad this evening - one more day of orientation there before an early train on Friday to visit Menno-Clinic! The trip has gone very well so far, the team is getting more comfortable with the pace of life, the new culture, and even the effects of time change and temperature are starting to wear off - one girl said, "you know, the sweat isn't so bad anymore, it's actually cooling us off!" ...I guess we are doing ok :)