Let’s face it, you know about The Taj Mahal.
It’s one of the 7 Wonders of the World. You’ve either visited it at some point or have seen pictures of it at another. And, you have a faint idea of what makes it so special.
Still, here you are, wanting to know and see just a little bit more, even though it hasn’t changed in all these years.
That’s the magic of The Taj Mahal.
I’ve been going to Agra, and visiting “The Taj” all my life. Since it happens to be the prime destination in India for any visitor, often these visits are to take guests and show them around. It helps that Agra is about a 5 hours drive away from my home in Delhi and with the highways getting better and better, this time has only reduced over the years.
Everyone comes with somewhat of a preconceived notion of the Taj Mahal, but no one is ever ready to take in its grandness as soon as it becomes visible through the arch of the Main Gate. A walk though the well maintained gardens with fountains – bringing some respite during Indian summers; the closer you get to this labour of love, the more evident do the intricacies of the handiwork done on the marble impress you.
The architecture of this mausoleum is awe inspiring and the fact that it comes with a back story that is filled with intrigue and is often mysterious about certain aspects makes it all the more special. But it is not just the Taj that impresses, rather the entire complex with its location next to the often dried up river Yamuna, the minarets that corner the main monument, the mosque and the guesthouse on the west and the east, the gardens and pools, all add to the enchanting beauty of this wonder of the world.
What makes Taj Mahal a “wonder” is that it isn’t simply architecturally magnificent – and one of a kind – but as a monument it holds a lot of emotions; that of tragedy, death, and most importantly love – the real reason for its existence. It is this bond that forms between religion, architecture, and human nature that makes the Taj Mahal remarkable and in a league of its own.
A visit to the Taj Mahal is a moment full of excitement and enthusiasm, especially for a first timer, so here are some tips that can help you;
The Taj Mahal remains closed on Fridays for the general public.
U.P. Tourism now has a designated website with all the information on Taj Mahal and a place where you can book tickets in advance. I recommend visiting it – http://www.tajmahal.gov.in/
The last time I was at the Taj with a foreign guest, we had to buy a Foreign Tourist ticket. Although priced higher, at the time, it came with a lot of perks – entry through separate less crowded gates throughout the complex, water bottle, a designated guide (you may or may not choose to pay him extra at the end). The good thing was that we – having Indian National Tickets – were also allowed to use the same entry lanes since we were accompanying our guest and trust me, that itself is a good enough reason for buying that Foreign Tourist Ticket at an extra cost.
The walk from the parking to the entry can be made on foot or via a camel or horse driven carriage. Do remember that there is a lot of walking outside and inside, so it might be wise to save energy and use one of the latter modes of transports when travelling to and fro from the parking.
For a few days around the year, The Taj Mahal is open at night time – usually on full moon nights. There are limited seats available for these days and as you can imagine this is quite a spectacle.
You are more than likely to be approached by local guides along the way to the Taj, but simply remember to keep you calm, refuse if you don’t want one, and even if they are persistent, keep quiet and continue onward. They might keep on asking you, but they never get physical or cross the line.
Be as early as possible. Check the opening times and try and reach before the crowds. Furthermore, during the summer months, it can get really hot so stay hydrated and carry sun protection.
It’s a good idea to keep some change handy when visiting the Taj. There are a lot of “street sellers” selling knick-knacks like key-rings and postcards outside the main complex and not only can you put your bargaining skills to test with them, but also it’s a great way to support the locals.
Be respectful at all times. The Taj Mahal is also a religious monument, so be aware of the customs and traditions and abide by the rules.
Although you get shoe-covers when entering the Taj Mahal, it is a good idea to wear socks in case you have to take off your shoes and walk on the hot ground.
Carry a camera, obviously. In case you want slightly more professional photos, there are local photographers in the complex who can take and process the photos for you by the time you are done viewing the Taj. You may try your bargaining skills with them as well although most of them already have a printed price sheet handy.
In the streets that surround the Taj Mahal complex, you are likely to find some great street food and souvenirs at comparatively cheaper prices. It can get crowded there, so keep that in mind if being adventurous and venturing out.
Lastly, don’t forget to enjoy and marvel at the beauty of the Taj Mahal.