Here I am a Looe-Nattic in Agra India visiting a tomb of the wife of a famous Indian king. I am as my friends know not much of a historian and am certainly not known for my love of culture and the architecture that goes with it. Therefore I am prone to misunderstand a lot of what I see. I love to look around and people watch but I hate being guided by an expert who wants to show me the finer points of the artistry of such places. Neither am I at all interested in touching the marble resting place of this favoured wife of the king whose name escapes me.In saying all of that I have had an education in coming to this place.
My problem is that I am a thorough-bred non conformist who is more interested in people than I am the buildings that house them. The church therefore is always the people gathered and not the building however fantastic the architecture might be. People are what God is interested in and not what they might achieve with bricks and mortar. This brings me to the point of this posting:
How do we reconcile what we saw in Agra the town where the Taj Mahal is situated with what we experienced inside??
We spent the night before our visit in a downtown hotel cum hostel (seven pounds per night including breakfast) which gave us the opportunity to look around the town before the big day.
I would not want to degrade the people of the town by even photographing some of the abject poverty that they live in and so I trawled Google images for this photo that demonstrates the comparison. these people live hand to mouth in squalour in view of the most gross of wealth.
It was interesting in listening to the guide as much as I needed to for politeness sake and discovering a number of things that he applauded but left a bitter taste in my mouth. the first was when we queued up for frisking and checking before entry, women and men separated of course. he told us that 150,000 people are likely to visit this mausoleum per week. My 7,000 Rupees paid suggested to me that would be 105,000,000 rupees per week which translated into the old sterling would be 105,000 quid per week. If that is averaged over the whole year then you do the sums. I am currently at the level of altitude sickness and so my maths have strangely gone into the ether somewhere. so apologies if this does not add up too much! It is an awful lot of money piling day after day and year after year into some coffers somewhere but it does not appear to me that it has any benefit for the people.
This is not the first time that I have observed such disparity and sadly again it was in the hands of a religious groupings. I visited a very poor family in Romania that could not afford a meal on the table but yet they lived literally yards from a great big gold domed church that obviously dripped with wealth. My point is "What does God say about this?"
It is true to say that Jesus said that we would always have the poor with us, but from beginning to end of the bible we find that God expects His people to care for the widows, orphans and aliens of their land. God has given us wealth beyond measure and yet we would rather pour it into mausoleums, churches or even holidays than help the poor out who live next to us.
Visiting the Taj Mahal has made me re-consider what our true purpose is, I am not particularly knocking other religions but am wondering where I might be being as unjust as this seems to me.
Our guide tells us that this burial place was built for the kings favourite of 4 wives, to which I say shame on him as I do to Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon and many other Old Testament greats. God intended it to be 1 man and 1 woman which reflects our relationship to Him and so to glory in the fact that this one man had 3 other women whom he did not favour so highly is not something to be celebrated after all it is illegal today and rightly so. 20'000 people were enlisted to build this marble tomb all by hand. Hammers for some reason for which it is believed to be a virtue were not allowed. It is amazing I have to say, the architecture is brilliant, even though I am not entirely convinced that the towers were designed for aesthetic purposes to be leaning. it looks more like foundation slippage to me, but who am I? When encouraged to lean over and touch the stone of the tomb itself I recoiled as this seemed to me to be a little close to adoration or worship of a building.
However there was something that really impressed me. That was the people inside, they were very much alive. Just like the people on the outside who would not earn enough money in a month to enter into the heritage on their doorsteps, they also are a people whom God loves. He is not interested in only the poor but the rich and the religious of any shade, colour or creed!
How do we reach them for God, it is by the gospel of Jesus Christ who came in order to make a true relationship with God possible. The fruit that God is interested in is people from every nation of the world!