The Pride of India, with over global and local 10,000 visitors a day, and 1.2 million a year. Agra not only was once the capital of India but is now the capital of Tourism with only a 2 hour train from Delhi. It the most visited area of India and for one reason. The Wonder of the World that is Taj Mahal.
The journey into the Taj Mahal complex has recently been developed into a no vehicles area, providing a much needed hault to damage and over tourism. The only vehicles allowed are the battery powered carts, mostly everyone else walks, to protect the security of this magnificent architectural masterpiece it works very well.
To enter you must pay 1350 rupees (£15) to the ticket office, with high security and barriers its best to keep bags and belongings to a minimum. You have a 3 hour time slot to visit the Taj Mahal which is plenty of time, and also means the movement of tourists is continuous.
It was a little unbelievable to be honest that I was actually going to go see this mystical monument which i had seen so many images and articles about, with so much history behind it. A World heritage UNESCO site since 1983. It is named one of the Wonders of the World . It took 22 years to build, built from 1631 out of the purist white marble from around the Rajastani region. Built on the edge of the river Yamuna and with clever design aspects that rival the architecture of even todays against earthquakes. Its not only the beauty of what you can see but the hidden ones you find out about which you cant see.
When you first step through the arched entrance gate into the grounds, the White structure in front of you doesn’t look real, it has an almost mirage aspect to it, made up in your head due to just how Pure and grand it really looks. It can’t be real. The further you walk towards it the more detail you can see from the Islamic patterns and writing. The precious gems and coloured stones within the facades. The height of 81 metres tall at its highest point, with ingenuous wood platforms beneath the structured platform, to allow movement when earthquakes strike to prevent any damage to this unique monument. Actually crazy how ahead of the times the architects were on this!
Its real name isn’t actually the Taj Mahal (Royal Palace), its actual name is Arjumand Banu Begum. However when the British came to India they couldn’t pronounce or remember the name so called it the Taj Mahal which stuck forever more (sorry India). It cost in todays money 1.2 million rupees to build, showing just how much wealth and money there was in India around the time of the great Kings.
The gardens around the Taj Mahal, are all sunk compared to the entrance gate and the Taj, the reason for this is the King wanted a heavenly feeling when you walked into the gardens, so when you walk around them you look up to the heavens with lowered paths, you will even see the trees are lowered, because in paradise everything is easy to reach, and therefore the Taj Mahal looks even bigger due to it being raised.
The irony is its not even a palace, it’s the Mausoleum of Queen…. And also her husband King…. A love story for the 16th century. The king used to visit the Bazaars and markets he built for shopping, trading and social purposes. Here he met a woman so beautiful and smart he married her and she became his 4th wife. Before this he had only fathered 6 children all weak or female. Within the 19 years of marriage to the King… she gave him 14 children, but tragically died in child birth with the final child. Her last dying wish was to be remembered, and to make sure the king showed the world their love and his devotion to her, so he came up with the idea of the most stunning Mausoleum. It took 22 years to build, and after 35 years he was also buried here with his beloved forever more. Beautiful right!
The rumours and stories which carry on through whispers and the teachings is that the King was so adamant that no one else would ever copy the design of his unique and wonderful memorial, that he chopped the hands/ bound the hands of the workers and made the architect blind so they could no longer work or design anything so grand for anyone else. The real tale is that with so much money and power at the time, King Shah Jahan Blinded the architect with money, paying him over 2000 rupees a day, which in todays money would be over 2000 pounds a day. So therefore he became blinded by the money. The workers were in truth never allowed to return to the homes they came from like Palastine, Israel, Neighbouring countries to make sure he had the best builders money could buy. He tied their hands in 2 ways, with contracts saying they could never return hone, and secondly with promises and contracts saying he would pay them and their families good pensions and money for the rest of their lives. Some of the workers ancesters still live in the areas around the Taj Mahal
More than 65 percent of the tourists that visit here are actually Indians who have travelled to see the Jewel of India, it is the pride of the country with over 1.2 million nationals and visiting a year along with the tourists from other countries. With this is mind, you will be stared at, whispers will happen,and maybe asked for a selfie or 10! The best thing to do if you don’t want one is to say no thanks and walk away. Sometimes people try to take your photo without asking and I started covering my face when this happened. Its personally made me feel a little weird and uncomfortable for people to do this i think, so please be aware of this kindof behaviour especially in the busier areas. I think it best to tell you this before you arrive, it didn’t spoil my experience but this is also from a female perspective.
On the other hand due to Indias tourist industry still being very small, I found so many people curious about a fair haired girl visiting this Indian monument. People were asking me if I was enjoying myself, and also saying welcome to India, so curious about where I had been and going in their country . The people of India are really some of the most friendly and interesting I have ever met (and cheeky)
Its busy, so so busy, the shots i took with no one in are the lucky ones who are in the right angle with a great insta friend. We visited 2 hours before sunset so it wasn’t as hot, and apparently less people. However if I came back again I would definitely go for Sunrise. Less busy due to it normally being around 5.30am, cool for people like me who just absorb heat. But the best part is the quiet, calm and a small amount of people around if any for those moments you just want to sit and take in the beauty of the Taj with no crowds. Just set your alarm super early its worth it!
I also walked down the side passages and less busy paths away from the central areas where everyone is crowded around the main marble platform and pool. You will see the Taj Mahal in a beautiful angle with space around to move and appreciate it in all its glory.
You have a 3 hour slot to visit the Taj Mahal which is more than enough time to soak up the atmosphere, scan every little detail of the building from top to bottom, as well as get every photo position you would ever need. The design is in the detail, with precious stones, and gems being places on the interior and exterior of the building. Truthfully a lot have disappeared due to looting many years ago, but the remaining are now preserved and protected. Another area to look at are all the archways, especially the main rectangular one around the entrance to the mausoleum. It has Arabic writing on it, and from any distant or angle the writing is the same size from top to bottom, an optical illusion by the architect so it can always be read and again kept symmetrical. I love design!
One of the most famous photos at the Taj Mahal is Princess Diana, sat on the central marble bench in the central platform of the grounds leading upto the Taj Mahal. Its very quiet, with no one behind her, completely alone, it’s a powerful image due to the fact Prince Charles was also there but the one photo without him became global, sorry Chaz. People even said it was the first step in the independence and freedom she craved, which relates to me so much on my trip to India and my travels (DMM, deep meaningful moment). Everyone loved her and it is shown around the world. Everyone now loves to sit on the seat and feel part of this royal historic moment. Sit where a princess once sat!
I wont lie, to get my Diana moment photo I needed a patient friend, a quick camera, some London rudeness and a little sass. There are people everywhere on the main platform, the best views of the entire monument is here, with several benches and a lot of professional photographers who are hired to take photos of families and couples who hog all the best positions. So I patiently waited, smiled at the couples, waited in an unofficial line. A lot of people asking for selfies, which I politely declined. The seat became free for only a moment but I ran! I have my photo thanks to my friend, and I am sooo happy with it. This truth is mainly to point out that the Taj Mahal may not always be tranquil and relaxed how you would like, so remember to appreciate it! I looked back on the photo and giggle a little due to how much effort it took to get but I am so happy I took the time to do it, how often do you get to go to a Wonder of the World and sit where a princess once sat.
The outcome of the King behind this being built is quite interesting, he was imprisoned from trying to build an even bigger Taj in black marble for his own burial, but was stopped and was over throne by his own Son who put a stop to his spending. He was not allowed to leave the Fort Palace found in the Agra Fort. But could see the Taj every day from his imprisonment windows. They say the last sight before his death was his Taj Mahal and the request of being buried along with his love for eternity came true.
The Taj Mahal is completely symmetrical, from the arches, gardens and even the towers which are at a slight angle. The two buildings either side, and even the gateway into the Taj Mahal. The only unsymmetrical part is actually the King himself. When his queen was buried she was the central point within the Mausoleum. When he was buried next to her the Taj became unsymmetrical. Shocker fact right! When you visit the inside of the tomb wearing socks or covers to protect it, make sure to note this. The other symmetrical design aspect are all the towers which represent the 4 wives of the King who built it, they are all built at a slight angle away from the main dome, so if there was ever an earthquake the tower would fall away instead of towards the Dome to protect it. Clever right! Overall I visited the Taj Mahal twice within 2 days, each time was different in its own ways from where I walked, which photos I took, where I decided to sit and admire the Taj Mahal, to even the time I arrived. One was extremely busy, the other busy but calmer. I hope this post shows some points to look out for, and for you to have the best experience in this beautiful monument
Overall, this was one of the highlights of India and its magic is only something you can explain once you have been, its like finding an enchanted secret kingdom!