The Taj Mahal has always been a monument of fascination for the tourists both Indian and foreigners. There’s something about it that draws everyone towards it and everyone wants to see it atleast once in their lifetime. I am also a pure lover of this monument, deeply mesmerized by its beauty. Though i have seen it 2-3 times during my childhood and adolescence, yet Taj Mahal is something that i never get enough of. This UNESCO World heritage sight always entices you to come and explore its beauty. No doubt its beauty captured the attention of many and it was declared a winner of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007.
One fine day i too had a spell of Taj Mahal on me and wanted to see it once again. The craving was intense because since the time I had grown up into an adult I never got a chance to visit the Taj Mahal. And whatever memories I had of Taj Mahal in my childhood, were all faded and blurred. So I decided to get on to my journey to explore it once again which I will remember for a longer time. I packed my necessary essentials for a day’s trip to Taj and began my journey using the new Yamuna Expressway from Delhi to Agra.
The Expressway is very well maintained and there are few eating joints and washrooms on way so that the commuters won't have much problem. Only thing that may bother a budget traveler is that the toll taxes at this Expressway are very high. However when you see the smooth road and the amount of time it saves, these tolls look meaningless. Using this Expressway, Delhi to Agra distance is covered in about 2 hours unlike the other old National Highway which earlier used to make the journey 4-5 hours long. So you should never have a second thought about taking this Expressway if money is not a concern. However don’t try to overspeed here because cameras are installed at intervals to ogle on your speed and if you cross it then you get fined also. There have been many accidents also on this Expressway due to overspeeding. So be relaxed, play it cool and enjoy your journey through the countryside to the Taj.
In about 2 hours we entered Agra and in about 30 minutes further we reached the Taj. The cars or any private vehicle were not allowed to go near the monument. Instead we had to park our car in a parking about 1 km away from the monument. We took the horse drawn carriage for reaching to the site. This was a good idea by the authorities to keep the polluting vehicles away from the Taj, however I so wished they should have also paid some attention to clear the road of the droppings of the horse too.
The horse tonga dropped us near the southern entry gate of the monument. We entered the complex and to the left was the grand south gateway to the monument. Like other Mughal gateways it was also too huge made of red sandstone and decorated with the white marble engravings.
The huge gateway led to a huge garden styled on the charbagh mughal garden architecture. Once you enter through this gate you see a beautiful white Taj mahal sitting at the far end of the garden. The sight of the sparking white Taj against the backdrop of blue sky and green garden was too heavenly.
A lot of people here were busy taking their selfie with the Taj. I too could not escape this desire and decided to take my personal selfie with my love which was the Taj....!!After our coveted selfie with the Taj as we proceeded further, there came an elevated water pool approximately in the middle of the Taj and the southern gate. Seeing the reflection of the Taj Mhal in the turquoise blue water of the pool was a sight in itself. There was a bench at the both ends of the pool where you could sit and get your picture clicked with the beautiful Taj mahal in the background. However since there were so many tourists around, you literally had to wait for the bench to get vacant. And your dream of getting your perfect click with the Taj gets spoiled by the fact there are so many people in the frame between you and the Taj.
After clicking my pic, it was now time to see more closely the real beauty of the Taj Mahal which is built on a huge elevated rectangular base with four minarets at the four corners of the base. A large central dome is built on the tomb with four kiosks with domes at four corners surrunding the central dome.
At the two ends of the Taj are two red sandstone structures- one on the west is a mosque and the one on the east side is believed to have been built to look symmetric to the mosque and hence balance the entire look with the Taj Mahal in the middle. However you cannot climb onto the plinth wearing your shoes - either wear shoe cover on them or take off your shoes. We took off our shoes and alighted the plinth. .
We alighted the plinth from the eastern side and first saw the monument on the eastern side , took a circle around the Taj and finally decided to enter into the main Taj mahal structure. This central structure is nothing but a tomb containing the graves of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan and his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal. This mausoleum was built on the instruction of Shah Jahan for Mumtaz Mahal who had died while giving birth to their 14th child. However later after Shah Jahan’s death his body was too buried alongside the grave of his late beloved wife. The construction of the central tomb is belived to have taken more than a decade for construction and that too using a labor force of about 20,000 which meant a big deal considering the times it was built in.
The entry into the tomb was through a big arched facade with a small arched gate with the marble jaali design. The arched facade of the the Taj mahal was decorated with engraved calligraphy, pietra dura work of vines and flowers inlaid in semi precious stones. I was too mesmerized by the beauty of this work on the tomb's facade.
There was a long queue to enter inside the central tomb but I decided to brave it all and see it myself once again. We entered inside and there was a huge dome inside on the roof intricately carved from inside. There were the sarcophagi of the emperor and his wife which were itself intricately carved and decorated with designs in semi precious stones. However these were not the real graves. The real graves were in the lower level where entry is not allowed now. However when I visited here as a 5 year old , those days you were even allowed to see the actual graves. I remember going down a steep staircase into a small room which was darker and very dimly lit by the lamps. There were two graves which are the real graves of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal. I remember seeing the graves. shuddered me and scared me to the hell. I had clenched my father’s hand tightly then and almost began crying. Oh now I so wish I could have got a chance to see the real graves again, but this time I would have felt excited instead of being scared. But entry was prohibited so we only saw the false sarcophagi on the upper level and admired the beautiful engravings there.
Finally we came out totally smitten by the beautiful work inside the tomb. We decided to again take a round on the plinth around the tomb. We saw Yamuna river flowing by the side of the Taj mahal and i was really amazed how the architects in those times had managed to build such a grand Taj Mahal just besides the river. Sure it would have taken lot of hard work and labour during those times. From here you can also see the Agra Red Fort. It is believed that Shah Jahan spent his last days in the Red Fort looking at the Taj Mahal, his wife's burial tomb. He even breathed his last looking at the Taj Mahal. Sure his true love for his beloved wife had stood the tests of time and people even today remember his love when they look at the Taj which has become a symbol of eternal love for people today.
My overall ratings for this monument:
Beauty and visit worthiness of place- 5/5
Food availability-0/5 (Nothing is available inside although you can get something to eat outside the complex)
Taj Mahal is located in the Agra city which is the capital of state of Uttar Pradesh In India. Refer the map below.
How to reach Taj mahal
By Air: Nearest airport is the Agra domestic airport. The nearest international airport is IGI Airport Delhi at a distance of about 220 km from Agra. From Delhi take a domestic flight to Agra airport and then from there take a taxi to reach Taj Mahal.
By Train: Nearest railway station is the Agra railway station. From station take a taxi to Taj Mahal.
By Road: Agra is well connected by road. You can get buses and taxis from all major towns and cities.
Best time to visit Taj Mahal
October to March is the best time of year to visit here as these are the cool winter months.
As far as time of day is concerned then sunrise, sunset and full moon nights are also the best time to see the beauty of the Taj.
Taj is open from sunrise to sunset Except on Fridays. It is also open for night visit for 5 days ie on full moon nights and two days before and after.with exception on some days with the exception of Fridays and Ramadan. Also the night viewing is restricted to a maximum of 30 minutes at a time.
What to wear
Carry woolens if visiting between November and February. For remaining months of the year carry light summer clothes.
Few Tips that may benefit the tourists
I have few Tips for the tourists who are travelling there for the first time:
Tickets can be bought from outside the Taj Mahal and there are two different pricing slabs for the Indians and the foreign tourists. Tickets can also be bought online through the official site of Taj mahal. However the entry of children below the age of 15 years whether Indian or foreigner is free.