Friday, February 10, 2012

Holy Honey

{Or, Your Standard Friday Evening in Agra}














Flashback to our trip to Agra to visit our beloved friend Mukul, who was and always will be the gold standard of effervescent Indian hospitality. Mukul was born and raised in Agra, has a PhD from the Sorbonne in architecture, and is a scholar of Mogul Empire India. So basically the perfect tour guide to one of India's most complex, oft-maligned, but utterly mind-blowing cities. On our last afternoon in Agra he insisted we visit Jama Masjid, or the Friday Mosque, built in 1648 by Shah Jahan, and it's a good thing he did; our visit there was one of the most phantasmagorical evenings in the subcontinent for this entomologically-obsessed blogger.

Before entering the expansive compound, P. and I removed our shoes, paid a few rupees for those ubiquitous blue shower caps to wear over our bare feet, and covered our heathen Episcopalian heads. And as we stepped into the sprawling courtyard the murmurs of the pious suddenly gave way to the echo of a million tiny gossamer wings. Mukul smiled and pointed heavenward. Seventy feet up in the sandstone domes of the mosque hung hundreds of colonies of wild Indian honeybees. I'd never seen anything like it my life. Black and amber fins of honeycomb jutted from the pink rock like enormous bisected mushroom caps, and we must have sat open-mouthed, dumbfounded beyond words, for twenty minutes just marveling at the majesty of the whole affair- the industrious bees pouring in and out of their lofty, teeming hives, the call to prayer echoing out over the parapets as the sun set over the city, barefoot boys screaming in glee as a game of cricket commenced in the dirt lot outside the mosque- an extraordinary vignette of rituals both human and animal. Or, your standard Friday evening in Agra. Have a lovely weekend.

16 comments:

  1. amazing! i can't handle that architecture--ugh, my brain, my heart!

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  2. I could not figure out what those were - what incredible honeybee colonies!

    p.s. I want a horseshoe wall.

    xo
    cortnie

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  3. as soon as i saw that first shot of the bee, i got excited...i think bees are freaking amazing! i can't believe they've got hives hanging like that in such a 'populated' area. madness!

    if you've got a bit of time, i highly suggest watching this documentary (i suck at coding, so here's the link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00d298z) about nepalese honey. i lost a good chunk of a cookie-baking evening to that program, so beware!

    these photos are beautiful, by the way. i love the sunny warmth of the colours. :)

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  4. I remember being dumbfounded by those honeybee colonies... :D

    x the wasp
    figandthewasp.wordpress.com

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  5. Sumptious article! Those vibrant colors, textures, and contrasts. The bee hives that look like the bees that made them, the towers that look like bells. All a wanderlust's delight. As a casual observer, this one is simply a lovely world view of such a far away place.

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  6. Your writing just gets better and better, Lily. Am in DC, hunched over a dimly lit desk, cranking out a legal brief -- was in desperate need of something more beautiful and free-flowing and turned immediately to your blog for my fix. Mission accomplished. Thank you. :) xoxo, Jung

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  7. Your writing just gets better and better, Lily. Am in DC, hunched over a dimly lit desk, cranking out a legal brief -- was in desperate need of something more beautiful and free-flowing and turned immediately to your blog for my fix. Mission accomplished. Thank you. :) xoxo, Jung

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    Replies
    1. Wow, that's amazing. One of those magical moments in life to see this in person. Did you ever read The Secret Life of Bees and how she talks about an entire room in a house whose walls are pulsing from the bees living within?

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  8. Thanks for all the thoughtful comments. Just looking at the PICTURES of the Nepali honey collectors is enough to get me all giddy- going to watch that doc tonight! Thanks for that awesome link! And Eva, I cheated and watched the movie (didn't read the book) but I do remember the magic of some of those scenes. My father in law used to keep bees and our friends in Durham are avid apiarists, and it's just a matter of time (and space!) before P. and I have our own lil' hive.

    xo.

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    1. it's an amazing doc - it kinda made me want to go to nepal! (yep, just for honey. no, i don't have that kind of money. SIGH.) i hope you like it...! :)

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  9. Oh man, first I was just gazing longingly at your gorgeous photos and scribbling this stop down on our ever growing things-to-see-while-in-india list, but now I have something to watch about honey in Nepal too! Yeehaw! Also, your vocabulary is to die for. Kev and I have both used "phantasmagorical" today. Your posts are always so chockful of goodness; thank you for sharing with us.

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  10. Your photographs are stunning! I love the way you frame things. The shot of the door with the blankets in the alcove is wonderful, as is the one of the man on the floor with the fans.

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  11. I can't stop thinking about this. I read it the other day and I couldn't even muster up a comment-I was too engrossed in this beautiful world you introduced me to. What an otherworldly combination of happenings that somehow compliment each other perfectly. Beautiful Lily.

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  12. i've been to this mosque in Agra! it truly is such a crazy experience of calm/ quiet/ buzzing. but i especially love walking slowly through the courtyard. oh to be back in india...someday

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  13. thanks for all the thoughtful comments, team. you guys really know how to make a gal feel like she's in good company.

    another feather- NO WAY. do you have pics? would love to see!!!

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