|Opening Times||:||30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes before sunset (Closed Fridays)|
|Entry Price||:||– Indian: 40 Rupees |
– Foreigners: 1000 Rupees (approx. £11/$15) (This includes a small bottle of water and shoe covers which must be worn in the mausoleum).
– Free for children below the age of 15 (Indian or Foreign)
– No charge for taking a camera in but videoing is not allowed past a certain point.
|Location||:||Dharmapuri, Forest Colony, Tajganj, Agra, Uttar Pradesh 282001|
|Getting there||:||Train, Flight, Taxi or Bus to Agra. |
We got the Train from New Delhi to Agra for 745 INR (approx. £8.20/$11.20).
Considering this is a 3-hour train journey and we travelled in 2nd class with Aircon, the price is good.
When most people think of India, they think of the food, elephants, tigers and of course, the Taj Mahal. Labelled by some as the most iconic tribute to love, Emperor Shah Jahan commissioned this enormous mausoleum for his beloved Mumtaz Mahal (whose name meant “Exalted One of the Palace”) his chief wife and consort.
Completed in 1653, this white marble tomb is considered one of the best (if not THE best) example of Muslim architecture in the world. Taking around 21 years to erect and 20,000 skilled workers, it is estimated that today, the Taj Mahal and complex would cost over $800 million dollars.
Architecturally similar to a lot of earlier Mughal buildings in India, the architect drew inspiration from the likes of Humayun’s Tomb, but unlike any that had come before, this tribute to Mumtaz was made from white marble, and the tomb within inlaid with precious stones from around the world. Most other tombs and mosques at this time were mostly built using sandstone, with red sandstone being favoured above all others.
Approaching the main tomb, we got the sense of grandeur and refinement that we hadn’t seen anywhere in Delhi. This was probably the expected effect that Shah Jahan had intended in his choice of materials.
After proceeding up the platform that the Taj sits on, and covering your shoes using the covers provided, you can head inside. No photos are allowed inside the sarcophagi chamber, and whilst plenty of Indian tourists were blatantly ignoring the rules, we chose to respect them.
In the centre of the room sit the fake sarcophagi of both Mumtaz and Shah Jahan. Many think that this is where the bodies reside but Muslim burials forbid grandeur and elaborate tombs, so the actual (plain) graves of the pair are in a chamber below.
The marble screened enclosure around the false sarcophagi are inlaid with a variety of semi-precious gems from around the world, forming flower and vine patterns.
As you walk around the chamber, there will be staff in the centre who will call foreigners over to give them information. This information includes details of where the gem stones come from and they will show you the gems glowing under bright light. The information is basic, and probably not worth the “tip” they will want once they have finished, the small museum in the grounds has examples of the gems and other information freely available.
In the grounds
The garden is set out as a Charbagh (split into 4 by channels of water), like we saw in Humayuns tomb in Delhi, but unlike other Charbaghs, the tomb is at the end of the garden, rather than in the middle.
Opposite the Taj is the entry gatehouse, an impressive sandstone structure. To the right (from entering the complex) is a mosque and the building on the left (which houses the museum), is assumed to have been a guest house.
A lot of work appeared to be in progress in the gardens as many trees had been pulled down.
Outside the main walls of the complex are smaller tombs of Shah Jahans other wives and a larger tomb belonging to Mumtazs’ favourite servant. We didn’t see these but know they are around.
Tour guide or not to tour guide
The tour guides outside the main entrance and also by the ticket barrier will tell you that by not taking a tour guide, you are missing out. We didn’t feel this is true. With the amount of information online, it is easy to read up on everything either before going, or whilst you are there.
We had heard that tour guides often give out incorrect information, which we found to be true – although we didn’t hire a guide, we overheard one telling his group that the museum used to be a Drum House, where music would be played throughout the day, but we know this to be false information as the sign outside the museum specifically states that it was not a drum house. We assume the guide didn’t take them over there.
Myths of the Taj Mahal
A few of the biggest myths surrounding the Taj Mahal are as follows:
1 – After the completion of the Taj Mahal, Shah Jahan decided that he did not want another structure such as this built and so proceeded to order that the artisans who worked on it had their hands removed or be beheaded, thus preventing them to replicate their work. There is no know evidence of this claim but it seems to be a popular myth because it seemingly shows his love of Mumtaz, that he didn’t want anyone else to have what he made for her.
2 – The other most popular myth is that Shah Jahan never intended to be buried in the Taj Mahal, but rather wanted to have a smaller black version built across from it on the other side of the Yamuna River. As with most myths, this has no substantial evidence, but most people will note that whilst Shah Jahan was obsessed with symmetry, his false sarcophagi sits at an angle to the west of Mumtaz, which may show he didn’t plan on being inhumed there.
Was it worth the visit
Whilst we are glad we saw the Taj, we don’t think, in hindsight, that it was worth the detour to Agra.
The Taj, whilst impressive, seems to be romanticised by some due to it being known as the greatest tribute to love, but, it is more likely to have been a show of wealth and power.
We would suggest that if you aren’t heading East in Northern India, then perhaps a day trip might be more suitable. These are available online in various places and in some cases will be cheaper than transport and hotel options. Agra has a few other notable places to visit (although we didn’t) such as the Agra Fort and an Elephant and bear sanctuary, but it wasn’t enough to make us want to go into the city.
If you are heading East, for example towards Varanasi from Delhi, then it may be worth the stop over, but the Taj can be done in a day by getting a morning train, a taxi to the entrance, and then getting back to the train station in the evening for your onward or return journey.
Been to the Taj? Let us know if you thought it was worth a visit and why down below in the comments or start a conversation on Facebook. For us, it will never be a highlight of our Indian Trip, it’s just another sight we saw.