Archive for December, 2012

Al-Khidr the green one, swimming at the Taj

December 6, 2012 1 comment

By the eighteenth century, the Mughal glories of Agra were fading, and its great riverfront sequence of aristocratic gardens and mausoleums, of which the Taj is the most famous, were less exclusive spaces than they had once been. The people of Agra started practising an annual swimming festival, in which the still unpollauted Yamuna was crammed with a mixed Hindu and Muslim crowd, and great effigies of Krishna were floated on the water and set alight, fireworks pouring over the slow-moving waters. The swimmers devoted their splashing play to two religious figures: Krishna himself; and al-Khidr, the enigmatic figure of rebirth who is the Absent Presence of the Quran, and who many miles further west overlaps with Elijah, George and the Green Man.

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