I came, I saw and I was left in awe. It took me 25 years to see the Taj Mahal and it was worth every minute of the wait. Last week, we were in the city of the Mughal marvels, Agra, and seeing the white marble masterpiece was reason number one for being there.
We left Dehradun by car; Rajat (my brother) driving, Bhavesh (Rajat’s friend) in the passenger seat and Andrea and I in the back seats. Clothes, a couple of lenses and a tripod packed and we were all set to witness one of the wonders of the world. A friend of our dad’s repeatedly drilled it into Rajat’s head that we shouldn’t go via the expressway from Delhi to Agra as it was way too dangerous. This led us to a claustrophobic journey of almost 11 hours instead of the usual seven hours everyone had been talking about.
We reached Agra at around 3pm on Thursday and were absolutely battered. The thought of going and seeing a monument was the furthest thing from our minds, so we decided to take some rest, get some food, have a shower, have a good night’s sleep and start early the next day. That evening, we were told that the Taj Mahal is closed every Friday. Our heart sank and we decided to start with Fatepur Sikri and Agra Fort instead and keep the Taj for the last.
Now since this post is about the Taj and the Taj alone, I will not be sharing anything related to the other places we saw in Agra – we’ll save that for a later post. Saturday morning, Andrea and I were up by 5:30am and ready by 6:30am to leave. Unfortunately, Rajat and Bhavesh took three attempts to wake up and finally got ready by 7:00am. There are a few tips that I will be sharing with you relating to visiting the Taj Mahal at the end of the post so you can see why we woke up so early to get there.
We were in and out of the monument’s parking lot by 7:30am, tickets in our hands and a guide at our disposal. After getting our tickets checked and body searched by the cops, we were in the land of love. The whole compound around the Taj is home to the graves of all three wives of Shah Jahan and Shah Jahan himself. Everything you look at has an identical twin right opposite it, in simple words, everything in this compound is symmetrical. Now let’s get to the photographs:
Things to know before and while you are at the Taj Mahal
a) Get there early. Tickets start selling at sunrise and it is the quietest at this time.
b) Tickets are bought from the Government of India office near the car park. You will then need to get onto an electric auto rickshaw or an electric bus in order to get to the Taj Mahal. You can also choose to walk. The Taj is almost 1km from this parking lot.
c) There are three entrances to the Taj: East, West and South. Use East as it is quieter. The South entrance is used by the local public and is usually packed throughout the day.
c) Do not entertain anybody unless they are an authorised Government of India guide. You can identify them from government issued ID cards. Usually you can get a guide for 4.5USD. They come in handy as they tell you things that you wouldn’t have known or bothered to learn otherwise.
d) Watch your stuff at all times. Pickpockets are almost everywhere. Do not trust any strangers.
e) Carry water as its a scarce commodity inside the Taj. It is very important to keep yourself hydrated as it gets really hot in Agra.
Facts about the Taj Mahal
a) All buildings in the compound are symmetrical. The compound hosts six monuments.
b) The Taj Mahal is a symmetrical structure. Doesn’t matter which side you look at it from, it looks the same.
c) The Taj Mahal was built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal and it hosts the graves of both Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan.
d) The Taj Mahal was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.
e) The Taj Mahal was built in 22 years by 20,000 men.
g) The Taj is decorated both internally and externally with almost 28 varieties of semi-precious stones.
h) More than 1000 elephants transported the construction material used to build the Taj.
i) The Taj Mahal appears to be of different colour depending upon the time of the day.