WEDNESDAY, MARCH 22
NEW DELHI and AGRA, INDIA
Meeting with Opposition Leader Sonia Gandhi
Maurya Sheraton Hotel
Sonia Gandhi is the head of the opposition Congress I Party, a nationwide party that ruled India for many years after independence. Ms. Gandhi is the widow of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and the daughter-in-law of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
Located in New Delhi’s Diplomatic enclave, this five-star hotel with 500-rooms and suites rises seven stories and is patterned after the cross section of a pyramid. Named for the Mauryan dynasty in the 3rd century, B.C., the architecture recalls period Buddhist stupas and boasts a 300-square-foot mural painted by one of India’s leading artists, Krishen Khanna.
Address to Joint Indian Parliament
After being introduced by Speaker G.M.C. Balayogi, President Clinton will give remarks to approximately 700 guests assembled at the Parliament House.
Parliament House is the seat of the two houses of the Indian Parliament. Members of the Lok Sabha (Council of the People) and the Rajya Sabha (Council of the States) hold sessions in the Parliament House at least three times a year, with each session lasting several weeks. The Prime Minister of India is the leader of the ruling coalition, the Lok Sabha, in the lower house. The Speaker, who is elected from among the members of the house, presides over the proceedings of the Lok Sabha. The Vice President of India chairs the Rajya Sabha, the upper house. The President of India addresses joint sessions in the Central Hall of the Parliament. The Hall is used also for special functions.
The Parliament House was designed by Herbert Baker (a colleague of Edwin Lutyens) as a Council House that had the Chamber of Princes, the Council of State, and the Legislative Assembly. Work on the building began in 1921 and was completed six years later. The building was inaugurated by then-Viceroy of India, Lord Irwin, on January 18, 1927. Since Independence in August 1947, the Parliament has served as a symbol of India’s vibrant democracy and as a reflection of the authority of the federal government.
Designed as a circular structure, the Parliament House is 171 meters in diameter and about one-third of a mile in circumference. The two semicircular house chambers flank the Central Hall with its impressive dome. The building has a continuous open corridor on the first floor fringed with a colonnade of 144 creamy sandstone pillars. The exterior walls of red sandstone are carved in geometric patterns that echo Mughal jaalis (Urdu for lattices). Baker is believed to have been more influenced by Hindu and Mughal architecture than Lutyens and liberally used Indian motifs. The structure was built entirely of indigenous material. The Parliament House encloses an area of six acres and has 12 gates, five of them distinguished with magnificent porches. Interior courtyards contain a number of larger-than-life-size statues of historic Indian political leaders.
U.S. Ambassador Reception
At the Roosevelt House, the President will be joined by the Congressional delegation, U.S. Ambassador Richard Celeste, and approximately 500 guests. He will highlight the 50th anniversary of the Fulbright educational exchange program and 50 years of USAID in India at the reception.
After the reception, the President will depart New Delhi for Agra.
Visit Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal was constructed by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife Arjumand Bano Begum, popularly known as Mumtaz Mahal (the light of the palace). She died in 1630 while giving birth to their fourteenth child. Construction began in 1632 and ended in 1648. Among the 20,000 persons who worked on the monument were master craftsmen from Europe and Central Asia. The main architect was Usad Ahmad from Lahore.
The Taj Mahal was constructed using materials from all over India and Asia. Over 1,000 elephants were used to transport building materials during the construction. The white marble was brought from Rajasthan State. The jasper is from Punjab State. The jade and crystal is from China. The turquoise is from Tibet. The lapis lazuli is from Afghanistan. The sapphires are from Sri Lanka. The cornelian is from Saudi Arabia. In all, 28 types of precious and semi-precious stones were inlaid into the white marble.
The central dome of the tomb is surrounded by four identical minarets, which slant outwards so that in the event of an earthquake they will fall away from the tomb. To the left of the monument is a mosque made of red sandstone. It was constructed in order to sanctify the area and provide a place for pilgrims to worship. On the right is an exact duplicate of the mosque, known as the jawab (answer), which serves to maintain architectural symmetry but is not used as a mosque because it faces away from Mecca. Finally, the front of the monument had featured a traditional Persian char-bagh (four garden) display of lush flowers and densely grown trees. British Viceroy Lord Curzon (1899-1905) replaced this garden with the more English-looking lawns that are visible today.
Environmental Signing Ceremony
The U.S. and India will sign an agreement to increase cooperation on the environment, and the President will announce a package of initiatives to promote clean energy and combat climate change.
The Taj Khema is five hundred yards from the Taj Mahal in a reserved forest area along the banks of the Yamuna River. It was constructed in 1979 to provide unique views of the Taj Mahal, particularly at night. Khema is a word used for the royal Mughal tents that were often used as temporary residences. The Taj Khema is a state tourism corporation property that, in addition to the overlook point, contains a small hotel, a restaurant, and tented accommodation.
Agra is one of the most polluted cities in India because of its 150 iron foundries, nearby oil refineries and emissions from trucks and other vehicles. In 1982, the GOI declared a large trapezoidal region around Agra area (the “Taj Trapezium”) to be a specially protected area with regard to air pollution. This designation subjected the area to a special set of air and water pollution regulations designed to eliminate certain uses of coal and coke fuels for such applications as foundries and leather treatment. The intention of these rules was to move heavily polluting industries out of the Agra area.
A writ petition filed in the Supreme Court in 1984 focused specific attention on the deleterious impacts of air pollution on the marble of the Taj Mahal. Following a series of interventions since then, the Supreme Court finally ordered in 1999 the closure of non-compliant sources of pollution. In addition, motorized vehicles are not permitted in an area directly nearby to the Taj Mahal. Thus, electric-powered buses and taxis are commonplace in the area immediately around the Taj Mahal. Some examples of India’s growing electric vehicle industry will be on display at the Taj Khema hotel.
Apart from the federal Taj Trapezium mandates, the city of Agra is also fighting back with an initiative called "Green Agra, Clean Agra." They have planted hundreds of thousands of trees and worked to raise awareness of the environment, particularly among young people.