Friday, October 22, 2010

Taj Mahal in full moon night!

Today is "Kojagari Poornima" or the Full Moon. On this day Bengalis worship Goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of riches and prosperity.
Its said that the Moon becomes larger in circumference and more brighter tonight.
Since 1972 I'm visiting Agra to see Taj Mahal. My love for the Taj started when I was barely a 19 yrs old teenage boy and studying in the 1st year of College.
Thereafter I've visited Taj Mahal for at least a dozen times but seeing the Taj in this special full moon night was not getting materialized.
We get a month's holiday during Puja vacation and it often falls in the months of October and November.
And itinerary was not matching with the particular date.
Perhaps it was 1988 October I was desperate to view the Taj Mahal in "Kojagari Poornima". Only in the last August I had purchased an SLR and various lenses. Practika MTL50 my first SLR of East Germany made.
During those days security was not that much and people were allowed to stay much after the mid night at the compound of the Taj. On ordinary days it was opened to viewers till 9 O'Clock in the evening.
That year I was very enthusiastic to spend my "Kojagari Poornima" night with the Taj or you can say it was my "date" with the Seventh Wonder of the World on that Special Night.
We were four in the group, all males.
We had arrieved at the Agra Fort station on the same afternoon after our break-journey from Tundla. From there caught the connecting Meter Gague train to Agra Fort.
My maiden journey to the Taj had also taken by a ride on the steam engined Meter Gague train. I'll write that memoire sometime else.
We were tired after almost 18/19 hrs of Train journey. Still the enthusiasm of viewing the Taj on this Special Night made us very much charged and energetic. Hurriedly we bathed and took our dinner.
Then started for the Taj around 9 O'Clock by an Auto Rickshaw. Auto Rickshaws, Horse driven Tangas are at plenty in Agra City.
We were left at a distance of 1.5 kms from the Taj because no vehicles were allowed beyond it for pollution reasons. Though I've noticed how the snow white marbles of the Taj are getting yellow tainted from the pollutions created by the Mathura Refinery.
But rule is rule and we're not the policy makers.
We had to walk the rest of the road. There were lots of visitors like us and the road was crowded.
A kind of thrilling sensation was building inside and I was checking my Camera and accessories in every minute to be assured that everything was in order.
It was a long que before the Ticket Counter and the clock had shown just 9.45 PM. So we were not in a hurry. The mid night is still 2 hours and 15 minutes away.
Previously I've noticed that there's no electric lamp inside the Taj Compound. In evenings the entire area, the gardens, the fountains are illuminated by the glow which emanates from the Taj after the Sunset. It looks like a moon-lit place.
At last we were allowed to enter into the Taj compound. Everything was known to me because by that time I've been at least five times. I started to search for a suitable place from where I could take pictures of this gigantic monument.
No flash gun is that much strong enough which could cover the entire Taj by its short-lived flash of light. So using of a flash gun was out of question.
I had use the high ISO or the Bulb mode in my camera to catch the mood. Fear of camera shake was also there. So after much deliberations and calculations I had decided to move at the right side end of the Taj where the Red Stone Guest house stood. Whoever has seen Taj they know that at the left there's a Mosque where regular prayers are offered. And on the right side a symmetrical architecture stands. It is called as the Guest House at the Mughal times. I had found a place and settled there by putting my camera on a parapet by putting a soft cloth underneath.
There was a frenzy of activities around and most of the people were foreigners, I mean, Europeans, American and others who're generally called as the white people with their most sophisticated gadgets for capturing the facsimile of the Taj on celluloid. None had heard of the Digital cameras then, except Polaroid Land Cameras for instant photography.
Anyway as it was about 11-30 the Moom was at its gorgeous glory. The place got brightly lighted by the reflections of the moonlight from the marbles of the vast monument created to immortalize love.
It was like a dream. Everything could be seen but not distinct. The greens appeared like shades of black.
All those were around became silent and watched rather devoured the beauty of the ambience with their eyes and souls.
All of us were moon-struck!
I don't know how long I was in that state of trance. My trance was broken by a white man who had asked me to move a little to give him room.
The precious stones which are embedded in the surface of the Taj for creating various patterns were shinning like tiny pieces of mirrors. And it was looking as if there're thousands of stars are shining from the Taj Mahal and its Minerettes. Or a large bevy of fire-flies were there to sit on the Taj.
The gentleman behind me had a very modern camera with automatic features. I asked him about his film and the exposure he's using. He replied that he's using a 400 ASA negative film (ISO was not in circulation then) and for exposure he's using 4 seconds on Auto at f 1.8.
I instantly calculated my own exposures.
I had a 100 ASA film and my lens had the widest aperture at f 1.7 so it'd be correct for me use an exposure of 16 seconds on my Manual SLR.
The shutter control was set on "B" or Bulb. After tripping the shutter I started counting 1, 2, 3...till I reached 16 then closed the shutter.
But I think the beauty of the Taj which can be behold by the eyes can't be reflected on a coat of silver-nitrate. Still everyone wants a memory and a souvenir of the place to keep the memory revived even after decades of the incident.
Beautiful is a very ordinary word which can be used to narrate the glory of the Taj on the "Kojagari Poornima" night.
Its fantastic, fabulous, awesome, spell binding and above breath taking.
It was 12.30 AM and we had to leave the place.
I had a heavy heart and became quite nostalgic. I know every one had the same feelings like me. None wanted to live this gorgeous monument so early on its "date"!
It has been long years I had the opportunity to spend half of the night with this astonishing monument created to immortalize the love of Emperor Shah Jahan for his Empress Mumtaj yet it is as fresh till these days as it happened only yesterday.
Some memories last with us forver.
I become very emotional and nostalgic every year on this day.
I live in the beautiful memory of the Taj!
A poetry, a symphony, a dream you're Taj Mahal!

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