She paused abruptly and pointed at me. "You were correct Peter, the main construction work was completed in 1648, although some minor work dragged on till 1652. The Taj stands tall in many respects, Peter. It is built on the high banks of the river Yamuna in Agra, and towers more than 240 feet above the ground. It became the jewel of Agra, of the great capital of the Mughal monarchs."
"Can you imagine the coincidence," I interrupted
her, "this beautiful work being created on such a vast scale, and it being erected at the same time that Europe was tearing itself apart in the Thirty Years War? By the time the Taj Mahal was complete, Europe lay in ruins, with half the population of Europe butchered to death. However, almost as gradually as the Taj Mahal was constructed, and just as momentously, a mental monument was being raised up in Europe that overpowered the Thirty Years War in 1648 and stopped it."
"The coincidence is eerie," said Indira. "It is certainly amazing how these two momentous developments unfolded side by side half a world apart from each other, and came to completion within the same year, separated possibly by only by a few months."
"That's just the beginning of what they appear to have in common," I replied. "Both structure were erected as the result of a great tragedy, and both became monuments to love and to burial, with just a few minor variations beween them. In India the beloved for whom the monument was erected was a person. In Europe the beloved was humanity itself. In India the burial was the burial of grief. In Europe the burial was the burial of war. In Europe revenge was laid to rest, atrocities were forgiven, debts were canceled, and no reparations were demanded, only peace. Today, more than 350 years after the completion both structures, the Taj Mahal and the Treaty of Westphalia, both structures still stand. The Treaty of Westphalia stands as a world-constitution that is still regarded as the foundation of modern civilization. The Taj Mahal in turn is regarded as the Eighth Wonder of the ancient World and the greatest temple of love ever built."
Indira cautioned me by pointing out that this is only the official story about The Taj Mahal. "To me," she said, "the Taj Mahal has a much higher significance. Officially the Taj Mahal is a tomb and a mosque. As a mosque, it is a religious place for prayer, but you are right, Peter, it is also a temple to love. Here, the official story begins to fracture. The concept of a tomb is contrary to the religion of Islam. Shaw Jahan was an Islamic ruler. He violated Islam by building a tomb. Something doesn't add up, Peter. And something else doesn't add up that is even bigger. But this one you have to see for yourself."
Getting up at four in the morning wasn't hard with this kind of incentive on the scene. Was this the dawn she had been referring to? I wondered. But the astrophysical dawn was also happening. Before we were on the way Indira pointed to the North where a faint hue appeared that was barely visible, but which was definitely the first light of the unfolding day. She said it held a "golden promise," though I felt that was stretching the metaphor more than just a bit. Still, there was an advantage. The traffic was light enough so early in the day that it was worthwhile taking a taxi to the railway station.
"It puzzles me," said Indira while we are having breakfast in the dining car, "that America is destroying its railway infrastructure. Going by train is the best way to travel for short distances between cities. It makes no sense going by air. Short distance air travel is expensive. It takes longer if you include ground transportation. It uses a great deal more energy, and is so filled with hassles. Going by train is so easy in comparison. There's more room to sit on a train, more space to relax and with bigger windows for looking out at the world, from which one can actually see something interesting." She was right of course. We stepped off the train almost refreshed, as if we had just stepped away from the breakfast table. The train arrived as 8:22, ten minutes behind schedule. We had the whole day before us.
As we entered the great garden of the Taj Mahal on the next day, the seventh day of our spiritual marriage celebration, Indira invited me to sit down with her on a nearby block of stone to take in the serene atmosphere that the garden-setting created. The great white structure towered in the distance, which the garden had been designed to focus our attention on.
"We are told that the marble structure stands over 200 feet tall," said Indira. "It stands on a large square marble platform that is surrounded by a marble wall." She pointed to the four minarets at the four corners of the platform. "Look how tall they are. Each is a marvel in itself. They are thin, freestanding spires of perfect marble brickwork rising 138 feet above the ground. They seem to be reaching up to the very sky. Nevertheless, although they are marvels in their own right, they are shorter in height than the main dome of the tomb. The entire Taj Mahal comes to light in this way as a complex series of marvels, each exceeding the other in almost every possible way. This holds true also visually. One of the visual marvels is that when one looks at the main structure from the level of the reflecting pool, as we will later on, the entire huge marble structure appears as if it were floating on water, and being surrounded by water, and being framed by nothing but water and the open sky."
I suggested to Indira that this pattern of successive marvels, one marvel built upon the other, reflects the unfolding of scientific perception in human consciousness. "Every idea that comes to light through advanced scientific perception sets the stage for grander ideas. One builds on the other and becomes a greater marvel in itself, which sets the stage for new marvels, and the greatest of them all in that sequence is the marvel that brought us together, Indira." I reached out my hand to her. It was warmly accepted.
From our rather distant place in the garden the great white structure appeared less immediate. Much of it was obscured by the garden's cypress trees that lined the walkways along the reflecting pools. The pools divided the sixteen flowerbeds of the garden that according to the guidebook contained the sixteen kinds of flowers, into four groups of four flowerbeds each. From where we sat we could see only a small portion of the garden. It was the garden with the great structure in the background that shaped the atmosphere and created a peaceful feeling.
We had barely sat down on the stone block when Indira reached into her bag and gave me a present wrapped in gold-colored silk and tied with a bow made of red ribbons.
"Please open it!" she urged me with a smile on her face that extended from ear to ear.
I complied, after a kiss and a hug. Undoing the bow and the wrapping brought to light a hand-crafted prayer mat with an intricate pattern of black geometric figures set against a dark red background. "That's more than a prayer mat," I said, beholding it with awe.
She nodded. "I started weaving this a long time ago," she said softly. "I made it in a kind of dream state. I made it for my future husband, which I realized at the time I might never have. I realized that no man in India would be marrying a woman without wanting to own her like a possession. That's the inescapable part of the marriage game, isn't it? That game wasn't for me. Nevertheless, I kept on weaving this mat. For years I dreamed about a land in which a man and a woman can join hands in a bond designed for no other purpose than to enrich one-another's life, rather than 'serving' one-another. I dreamed about a bond that no priest needs to sanctify, that simply exists because love exists. With this dream in the background, the weaving continued, thread by thread. Sometimes I would come here to the Taj to ponder over what I was doing, to this very place in the garden, to this very block of stone. It was here, in the serenity that I found here that I realized one day that what I had been seeking was fundamentally invalid. I had been hoping and dreaming to have my life fulfilled by some prince stepping force from a magical world who would uplift me. I was looking for another person to fulfill my life. At this moment I realized that I had been turning the reality of love upside down. I realized that the love that I had been looking for throughout all these years could only exist as an appreciation of myself as a worthy and complete human being. I realized that the love that I was seeking had to come from within me as a response to the riches of the humanity that is already rooted in my heart and unfolds from there. I realized that the love that truly enriches us has to reflect what we truly are, what we see about ourselves, what we love, and what we represent as human beings. I realized that I couldn't get this from another person. I also realized that if I couldn't love myself as a human being for what I was and for the riches that I have, which are the riches of our humanity, what would cause another person to fall in love with me. I faced a paradox with this. If I couldn't fall in love with myself, why would another person fall in love we me?"
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