We spent two months travelling across northern India, starting in Delhi.
We stayed at Majnu Katila, a Tibetan enclave in the north of Delhi, while we explored Delhi itself.
From Delhi we took a bus on to Agra. And of course top of our list of things to do was a visit to the Taj Mahal.
It was a short journey for us from the hotel to the Taj Mahal.
As we neared the Taj, though, we saw lots of long-distance buses filled with villagers. It seemed like whole villages of people we visiting the Taj. They all seemed to be groups of two or three men and lots of women. It was as though it was women’s day out to see the monument!
The women you can see here were lined up patiently, waiting like us to get into the Taj Mahal.
What you cannot see beyond the frame of the photograph is that the group is much bigger – perhaps thirty women in the group.
The queue snaked back and forth, and we were in the line snaking back the other way behind them.
My eyes were everywhere, and it was Tamara who spotted the shot. She has such an eye for spotting photographs! She prompted me, and that’s when I took this photograph.
How the colours of their saris stood out in contrast to the white marble of the buildings.
What you may not see is that they are barefoot beneath their saris. (You will get a better view in a larger image if you click the image, which will open in a new tab or window).
The women were in a good humour, like one big family and very close with one another both physically and in their behaviour towards one another. It was a pleasure to see them.
About The Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal, the Crown of the Palaces as it is called, is an ivory-coloured marble mausoleum on the south bank of the Yamuna river in Agra. The Yamuna is one of the source rivers of the Ganges.
Trace the Yamuna back to its source and you are high up in the Himalayas.
The Mughal emperor Shah Jahan ordered the building of the mausoleum to house the tomb of his wife Mumtaz Mahal. The mausoleum was built and completed in the 1640s and after Shah Jahan’s own death it became a tomb he shared with his wife.
The exterior of the Taj Mahal is decorated with geometric patterns, but Muslim tradition forbids elaborate decoration on graves. Therefore, the crypt that contains the bodies of Mumtaz and Shah Jahan are plain, and the couple are laid out with their faces turned towards Mecca.
Compared to the huge scale of the mausoleum, the room that contains the crypt is small, and we were of course part of a long winding number of people circulating around the room and out again.
We travelled from one side to the other across the north of India when we visited. We went to many villages, towns, and cities, and what we saw was that women in India wear saris.
Of course everyone knows that. But if you have not visited India you might think that women only wear them for special occasions. In fact, no. Saris are everyday wear for women everywhere.
Some of the fancier ones are dazzling, with glittering gold and silver appliqué – a rainbow of colours. They can be made of silk, brocade and organza. or plain cotton. But always beautiful.
A sari has a lot of material in it – six-and-a-half metres (21 feet) long and about one metre (39 inches) wide. It doesn’t matter whether the woman who buys it is slim or not so slim, tall or short – all saris are this standard length. And wrapped up, the bundle that is a sari is heavy.
Women wear saris with a choli, a tight-fitting, short blouse, and they have a drawstring petticoat into which the sari is bound.
Which brings us back to the Taj Mahal. As you can see, from the clothing the women in the photograph are wearing, it looks like they had dressed up in their finest saris for their visit to the Taj Mahal.
In case it is not clear, the photo at the top of this article features in one of our Everyday greeting cards. If it attracts you, click the photo – or click this link Taj Mahal – and it will take you to the page where the card is displayed.