This wonder of the World represents not only love, but precision and symmetry. Enjoy the pink hues at sunrise or silver during sunset
One of the World’s wonders, the Taj Mahal was built on the orders of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favourite wife Mumtaz Mahal and is located in India’s Agra, Uttar Pradesh region.
Designated as an UNESCO World Heritage Site, construction started in 1631 and was completed in 1648.
The famous mosque, guest house and main South gateway, outer courtyard and its cloisters were added subsequently and completed in 1653 AD.
Positioned on the right bank of the Yamuna river, the Taj Mahal majestically sits in a vast Mughal garden that encompasses nearly 17 hectares and considered to be the greatest architectural achievement in the whole range of Indo-Islamic architecture, it incorporates Quaranic inscriptions in Arabic script and colored marbles and gemstones decorate this masterpiece.
Getting through the door early is the key for some great photos.
The building material used is brick-in-lime mortar veneered with red sandstone. Further, marbles in muted tones were brought from Rajasthan and additional supplies of stones were available from sources throughout the subcontinent, jasper from the Punjab, and chalcedony from Sri Lanka.
Considered to display perfect symmetrical planning, there’s an emphasis of bilateral symmetry along a central axis on which the main features are placed.
Visiting during the day is also a treat. Midday onwards and the crowds are big. If you want photos without the crowds, sunrise is your thing.
TIP: The best views to consider when visiting are from inside the Taj grounds, from Mehtab Bagh – Moonlight Garden, framed from the archways, from the Yamuna river or at the top of the Taj Mahal dome.
TIP: Tourists are advised to hire approved guides. Tourists commonly get continually harassed by sellers and vendors on the way to the Taj Mahal. Additionally, the guides can provide more information about the building, the stones and marble and know where to get all the best photos.
TIP: Take the mini buggy back to the road when finished. It’s free and frequent.
How to get there:
Train: The main trains connecting Agra with Delhi are Palace on Wheels, Shatabdi, Rajdhani, Gatimaan and Taj Express. Agra’s main railway station is Agra Cantonment. For timetables, click here: https://www.irctc.co.in
Car: Agra is well connected to major cities in the country and is situated in the Golden Triangle (Delhi-Agra-Jaipur). It is connected to Delhi and Varanasi by NH-2, to Jaipur by NH-11 and Gwalior By NH-3. It is also connected to Delhi and Lucknow by moterways.
Bus: There are regular bus services from Agra to a number of important cities. The main bus stand of ISBT and Idgah have a number of buses running for Delhi, Jaipur, Mathura, Fatehpur-Sikri.
Once at Agra, hop into a taxi, auto-rickshaw or cycle rickshaw at ask them to take you to the Taj Mahal. Every local driver will know where to go. Make sure to negotiate the price before getting in.
From parking to the Taj Mahal gate, there are battery buses and golf carts available.
Opening times and entry fees:
Weekdays except Fridays. The Taj Mahal opens 30 minutes before sunrise and closes 30 minutes before sunset during normal operating days.
One adult ticket for a tourist costs Rs 1100 (includes a bottle of water and show covers), plus an additional Rs 200 to visit the main mausoleum.
There are separate queues for Foreign tourists and Domestic tourists to enter to Taj and signs will direct you accordingly. You also need to go through security. Backpacks are not allowed and there are lockers at the entrance.
You can buy tickets from multiple gates:
Taj Mahal Western gate: tickets are available on Western Gate near Saheli Burj. (Timing-one hour before sunrise up to 45 minutes before sunset).
Taj Mahal Eastern gate: tickets are available at Eastern Gate of Taj Mahal. (Timing-one hour before sunrise up to 45 minutes before sunset).
Taj Mahal Southern gate: there’s no entry from this gate at present, only exiting is allowed.
When to visit:
Most tourists visit in the cooler months of October, November and February. Allow around 2-3 hours exploring the site.
Things to see:
Sunrise / sunset tour
Most tourists opt to see the Taj Mahal at sunrise, when the twilight covers the building with pink colours. However, this means you have to be there before 6am, as the queue can get really long. If you opt for a guide, they will take you to the gate and get your tickets.
A sunset visit means that your visit will be in a cooler temperature and the monument is surrounded by soft silver light. A downside is that there are more visitors at sunset than at sunrise.
TIP: There is also the option to do a night visit, to see the Taj Mahal in silhouette form. The tourist fee for this tour is Rs 750. Viewing is allowed between 8.30pm – 12.30am for only 30 minutes.
The white marble mausoleum is not completely made out of marble – it is also made of red sandstone bricks, with white marble plating. The whole monument is perfectly symmetrical with a few exceptions, but overall symmetry was very important as it represents precision and order.
The large double storied domed chamber, which houses the cenotaphs (false tombs) of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan, is a perfect octagon in plan. The exquisite octagonal marble lattice screen encircling both cenotaphs displays creative and precise workmanship.
Photography is prohibited inside the main mausoleum.
You need to take your shoes off before entering.
TIP: You can opt for a full day tour, where you will see the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort & Fatehpur Sikri. This starts at 10.30am from Agra Cantonment railway station, retuning at around 6.30pm. This tour costs Rs 3600 for tourists and excludes entrance to the main mausoleum of the Taj Mahal.
Alternatively, many hotels will have drivers, so simply ask at reception about a tour and you can plan a day trip. Our day trip, which included Tomb of Akbar the Great, Samadh Soamiji Maharaj, Agra Fort, Chini Ka Roza, Itmad-ud-Daula, Jama Masjid cost 3,770 INR for a regular car. The price will alter depending on how much you want to see and what type of car you want.
Explore the décor
The Taj Mahal is influenced by Islamic, Persian and Hindu culture. Carved flowers sometimes with animal motifs indicate well-being, while there are inlaid flowers and Calligraphic inlays. It is thought that the iconography displays 46 different plant species, representing 42 genera, though some do not actually exist.
Also look out for the iwans (archways), representing Persian style. The Taj Mahal has four main iwans and 12 secondary ones, smaller, on the ground floor, and 12 more on the floor.
The dome is also an element of Persian architecture.
Sit in the famous seat
In 1992, the late Diana, Princess of Wales, sat in front of the Taj Mahal when she visited the mausoleum on an official state visit to India.
Seating in the Mughal garden came were Persian influenced and are often placed near water features.
Be prepared to wait a while to sit in the seat, as it is a popular attraction. Be cautious as people may come up to, offering to take your picture for a fee.
TIPS: You are not allowed to sit in the gardens and will be ushered off by security.
Checking out C & J.