India-chapter five

One thousand years ago, an upside down temple-palace was built, deep into the ground. It is now known as Abhaneri. Surrounded on three sides by steep geometrical steps, carved in stone, it projects many meters beneath the surface. I will only say that you have to physically be at the very edge of the stepwell, to comprise it in its entirety, to understand its stateliness. The colossal three dimensional structure will then dazzle you. It will transfer you to an ancient world, with people sitting on the steps, rain water filling the bottom well, and art being displayed in dance and music on the surface of the temple balconies. Abhaneri is hard to comprehend a millennium later, and, once seen, it marks you in a strange, almost fearful way.

In the early afternoon, we arrived at the lost city of Fatehpur Sikri. That day, the sky was overcast and the visitors very few. The large spaces between the temples, halls and palaces were hollow, fully open, and were only ours. Elements of Islamic, Hindu, Christian, and Jain art impregnate the walls, fountains and gardens. We walked and ran through the palaces, stopped to touch the red sandstone carvings, whispered and screamed, followed the echoes of our voices and steps, knocked on the columns and glued our ears to the walls to listen.

As we sat down to admire the mosque, we got word that the Taj was going to be buried in fog the next day and that it was still in full splendor until sunset. We ran into a soul and made way through the busy streets of Agra, to the gardens surrounding the Taj Mahal. Our hearts were pounding out of our chests. We stopped for a minute to smell the surroundings. We felt our knees melt, and our legs heavier, as we were advancing to the entrance. We were going to cross the gates of the Taj Mahal. We knew our life will never be the same afterwards.

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