The Taj Mahal, Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India
At the top of our list of must places to visit when on our six-week trip around India was the Unesco World Heritage Site, the Taj Mahal. Declared in July 2007 as one of the world’s Official New 7 Wonders of the World, it’s easy to understand why we were eager to see, in person, this magnificent work of art in all it’s glory.
The Taj Mahal stands proudly in the city Agra in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. There are a number of ways to get to Agra, by car, bus, train or plane, depending on where you are coming from. It’s a little over 240 Km from Delhi so by car it would take over three hours. We travelled by train from Delhi, which took roughly the same amount of time.
If you decide to travel by train, there are a number of options from express seat only trains to regular seat and sleeper trains. Before you purchase your ticket, check the type of train, the seating arrangements and in some cases the class of seat.
Your ticket will ultimately depend on how much you want to spend (or save) and what kind of seating arrangements you are comfortable with. When you arrive at Agra Station, for your safety and security always use the official rickshaw and taxi booths just outside of the train station.
You shouldn’t have a problem getting to the Taj Mahal from the train station or your hotel, after all, no matter what language you speak it’s the same name.
Do be aware though that you won’t be able to get the majority public transport straight to ‘The Taj’ gates. Regular vehicles have been banned from the area for many years to combat pollution that causes the marble of The Taj to yellow. So if you do get a ‘regular’ bus or taxi, you can either walk to gates or get the electric bus or a rickshaw from one of the car parks.
There are three gates to enter the Taj Mahal from. The South Gate, East Gate and West Gate.
Once you buy your ticket from an official ticket booth outside the gates, the next step is security and to go through the gates.
Security is strict when it comes to rucksack’s, video camera’s and electronics including laptops. There are lockers available at each gate which you can use to store your belongings. These lockers are free at the east and south gates but there is a small fee at the west gate.
My advice though is, if you can, travel light to the Taj Mahal. Leave your rucksack in your hotel and just carry your passport, monies, phone, camera and bottled water in a small secure bag.
Once through your gate of choice be prepared to be in awe of what stands before you, the main entrance, the Darwaza, and then The Taj Mahal … (I could excuse Patrick’s shaky camera work but I feel it adds to the excitement we felt)
When at the entrance, you will most likely be asked if you would like your photo professionally taken, just as I was in the video above. We didn’t bother, but do go for it if you like. Even better, I’ve heard it be suggested you ask the photographer to take the photo with your own camera. That way you’ll have all your photo’s of your experience together.
The Taj Mahal is a white marble mausoleum (tomb) that was built between 1631 and 1648 by Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahan.
Shah Jahan was stricken by heartbreak from the death of his third and favourite wife Arjumand Bano Begum in 1631, who died giving birth to their 13th child together.
To show his love for her and keep her memory and beauty alive within Agra, Shah Jahan spent two decades designing and building the mausoleum and gardens we see today.
The watercourse which becomes the Reflection Pool before it becomes a watercourse again practically runs the length of the garden, like a runway for the main attraction.
It can’t be denied that from every angle The Taj Mahal is a work of art. However you really don’t understand it’s enormity until you edge closer to it.
As you walk through the gardens to your ultimate destination, you will see that the Taj Mahal and its gardens in its entirety is completely symmetrical.
The Jami Masjid mosque (pictured below) to the left of The Taj Mahal …
… is equally matched in every way to the same style of building on the right called the Guesthouse.
Once at The Taj Mahal you will want to experience walking around it.
It is forbidden to wear shoes on the floor of The Taj Mahal. When we visited there were a mix of visitors walking around in shoe covers and those in their bare feet or socks.
The beautiful brightness of the mosque hits you and it’s a memory to last a lifetime.
It can get busy but this is something you should be used to, or indeed you need to get used to if you are visiting world-renowned sites anywhere in the world.
There are tour guides available to show you around but in my opinion, do a little reading about the place before you go and then relax and enjoy every minute while you are there.
Inside The Taj Mahal is quite spacious, but ultimately ‘low-key’ in comparison to its marble tiled exterior.
Still to this day you will witness artists and crafts people maintaining this ‘Wonder of the World.
There’s a myth that Emperor Shah Jahan wanted to build an identical mosque to The Taj Mahal but in black marble across the Yamuna River. But it’s a myth.
You really never know what sights you’ll see in India.
Looking back down the garden towards the main entrance, you will see visitors leisurely stroll through the garden, queue up to take pictures from ‘Princess Diana’s Seat’ and of course take photo after photo … trying to capture their experience.
When it’s time to go always keep your eyes out for some real life amongst this fairytale tomb.
Talent’s come in every form.
Before you go give The Taj Mahal one last look goodbye and hope you’ll see it again some day. I know I did.
We visited The Taj Mahal in March and the weather was perfect for us as it wasn’t too hot. The recommended time to visit is November to February. With opening times of every day except Friday from sunrise to sunset, it is suggested you get there as early as possible to beat the crowds. From our experience, get there when you feel like it, there will always be crowds to see The Taj Mahal. After all it is the jewel of Muslim Art in India.
The Taj Mahal Official Website here explains the history of this amazing place, which is worth a read before you visit. It also has price and entrance information.