When most people think of India, the first image that comes to mind is that of the beautiful Taj Mahal. India travel guidebooks have the iconic photo of the Taj Mahal on their cover. When I prepared my trip to India, the Taj Mahal was the first destination people advised me to see. And when all travel agencies put the Taj as a centerpiece to their route, I knew I had to see this architectural beauty.
Revisiting older photo galleries from India the Taj Mahal was an obvious start. India offers a lot to the traveler – from beautiful Mughal forts to colorful festivals and jaw-dropping monuments like the Taj. From a photographic point of view India really deserves the famous ‘incredible India’ ad. India is a huge place, and I cannot hope to ever see all parts of it, but some places really stand out as must-see and offer beautiful memories. A few days spent in Agra (the city where the Taj Mahal is located) are near the top of any list of things to do and see in India.
For a monument that each year attracts millions of tourists the Taj Mahal also has a very romantic history!
a few Taj Mahal facts
Taj Mahal means “crown of palaces”, and the Taj (as it is affectionately called) stands proud of its name. It is located in Agra, a city in Uttar Pradesh state in India. There are not many things to see and do in Agra, so people mostly come to the city in order to visit the Taj Mahal. Agra is located a few hours drive from New Delhi, but the few hours can extend to many more depending on traffic or holidays. Agra is part of the classic “golden triangle” travel introduction to India: Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. And what an introduction it is!
The Taj Mahal is considered a wonder of Muslim art (architecture) and one of the greatest monuments humanity ever built. The Taj Mahal is a jewel in the UNESCO World Heritage SItes.
An immense mausoleum of white marble, built in Agra between 1631 and 1648 by order of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favourite wife, the Taj Mahal is the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage.
While deceptively small in pictures, the place is pretty big and 3 or more hours are necessary to explore every part of the complex.
when visiting the Taj Mahal there are a few places not to miss:
- the white marble central dome, surrounded by four minarets offers the “classic”image of the Taj Mahal
- surrounding the mausoleum there are Mughal gardens, with stone pathways between areas with beautiful flowers
- between the main entrance and the Taj Mahal marble dome you should not miss a pool that conveniently reflects the Taj and creates photo opportunities
- surrounding the mausoleum complex are red sandstone walls that offer some much-needed shadow!
- the wikipedia article on the Taj Mahal offers even more ideas of places to see
visiting the Taj Mahal
The entry price is 2-tiered (like most places in India) and when I visited foreigners had to pay 750 rupees (about 10 euros). The price fortunately also includes a tour guide, which was pretty nice. It is important to really take your time when photographing as the guides prefer to rush things a bit. The Taj Mahal is open from 6am to around 7pm, and if possible try to visit in the early morning. The Taj Mahal can become pretty crowded and long queues form at the security check. As the Taj is also a place of worship normal rules for dress code have to be observed. I still had Holi paint on my face and hair and I had to really clean up.
It is also possible to visit the Taj Mahal at night, for 5 nights in total before and after the full moon. However the night-time visits have to be arranged a few days before. There are restricted numbers of tourists allowed. Unfortunately I was not able to make a reservation, but when I will next visit India this is must-have experience!
short Taj Mahal history
The mausoleum complex was built in the 17th Century, between 1631 and 1648. The marble mausoleum, with the four minarets were completed first and the surrounding garden and sandstone walls later. Countless workers were involved in the building. Some 1000 elephants were used to carry materials from all over India. The quantity of marble used is amazing.
The Taj Mahal is a monument in the honor of Mumtaz Mahal built by Shah Jahan, and their tombs are located in the central white marble dome. Surrounding the mausoleum are also smaller tombs of Shah Jahan wives and some of their servants.
The four minarets were an innovation in Mughal architecture, and they give the Taj Mahal a sense of symmetry. They also serve as spatial references and of course are work of art in their own way.
The Taj Mahal is under threat from pollution and the ground drying. The white marble has received a yellow-ish cast, but fortunately there are very strict regulations about pollution in the surrounding areas. However, like all exposed monuments the Taj Mahal is slowly degrading.
I hope these photos and info were helpful. Some famous “must-see”travel attractions are over-hyped, the Taj Mahal is not to be missed.