Tuesday, 13 August 2013

The Wildlife of the Taj Mahal: An Avesophile

When the Taj Mahal is described, usually they use words like 'a teardrop on the face of time' or 'a monument of extreme beauty' or 'a memorial to everlasting love' and rot like that. One descriptor usually not used, but that I will now add to the list, is 'a venue for screeching parakeets'.
That's right, the Taj Mahal is parakeet heaven, along with Shah Jahan's paradise, along with quite a few other birds, including red-vented bulbuls, probably red-cheeked bulbuls, eternal mynas, rats-on-wings (crows in this case), infestations of pigeons, and quite a few egrets flying past as well as Black Kites. You can guess that I was reprimanded for paying more attention to wildlife than one of the most famous monuments in the world. Which isn't really the case, but that's an argument for another day. For the moment, let's just say that I was admiring the contrast of a man-made wonder and the brilliant green of a nature-made wonder. I love history, and I love natural history. What combination could be better?
We also visited Agra Fort (a long history of over.... well, over quite a lot of years graces this place, mostly involving some king, emperor, or person coming and saying oh! someone's built something here! let's destroy it and build something bigger and better!) in whose dark rooms filled with beautiful but barely visible paintings and wonderfully carved alcoves that had become the home of bats. We never saw them. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean that I'm making that up, more to do with the pungent smell that preceded a room containing them and hovered about your nostrils after you left, coughing. I spotted two parakeets that had probably made this beautiful place their nesting ground, too. Ah well.
Then we went to Fatehpur Sikri, a city that Akbar had built for himself, lived in for ten years, and then promptly abandoned to the ravages of time. These rulers! The ravages of time had left it very well preserved, actually, and along with marveling at the beautifully carved pillar at the center of the Diwan-i-Khas (3D model following) I also marveled at the beauty of my first Plain Tiger (no, NOT like the orange-and-black striped one. This one's a butterfly.) And at the slovenliness of pigs. (Luckily, not inside the complex) And at the delicateness of the Astrologer's Seat. And the remarkable grazing habits of goats. (Again, not inside the complex... pheuf!) And at the.... well, you get the idea. History, natural history. History, natural history. I've often thought the two to be unable to reside together, and perhaps that is the case with more prolonged interaction. Tree roots, while providing wonderful resting places for birds, can also be the most wonderful destroyers of buildings. I was reading somewhere where, upon opening a door in a temple, they found bat's poop piled up to the height of seven feet! Yet, when the the two coincide, I find it wonderfully beautiful and remarkable. What do you think?

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