Agra - the Taj Mahal


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Asia » India » Uttar Pradesh » Agra
September 24th 2018
Published: September 29th 2018
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Today we managed to wake up at 5am and leave our hotel by 520am to head over to the Taj Mahal for sunrise. The ticket office opens 30mins before sunrise and the gate itself at sunrise (0605 at present). Despite all the guide books recommending sunrise it was not very busy at all and it was pleasant being able to enjoy it in relative quiet. The tickets are extremely expensive - 1100 rupees each for foreigners. There doesn’t seem much point coming to Agra and not seeing the Taj though!

Interestingly enough chatting to a local he was saying when the government first increased the prices for tourists there was a week long strike in Agra. Since the price increase they’ve noticed fewer people staying in Agra meaning the hotels, restaurants and tuk tuk drivers are struggling as are the lesser known sites to visit in the area.

Depending on your viewpoint we were very lucky or unlucky. The forecast for the morning was originally thunderstorms. We were lucky on waking to find the expected rain was delayed until late morning. We were also unlucky that it was cloudy and rain was forecast at all since it’s been dry for about 2 weeks before we came and is forecast for sun for the next 10 days...

On entering through the East gate we were soon greeted with the famous views of the Taj Mahal and surrounding gardens. Being cloudy it looked impressive but not breathtaking. As we wondered round, taking the obligatory photos, the sun started to peek through the cloud and caused the building to glow with a reddish tinge. Whilst only graced with glimpses between clouds it was stunning and we could start to understand why it has been described as the most beautiful building in the world.

At this point we were extremely glad we hadn’t got a guide. They seem to whizz people through as fast as possible and most people we entered with were already inside the building by the time the sun actually started to make an appearance. The history of the building is interesting, and well worth reading about, but we didn’t hear any guides saying anything we hadn’t already read (I’m sure there are some exceptional guides who would be very useful but I’m not sure how you’d find one).

Stephen and I enjoyed watching the sunrise from the comfort of a bench off to the side of the central path. Walk off this main path even just a few metres and there are far fewer people - both other tourists and annoying tauts selling photos. This helped it to feel much more romantic - and the Taj Mahal is romantic, although rather sad. It was built by Shah Jahan after the death of his beloved 3rd wife whilst giving birth to their 14th child. She died in 1631, building on the Taj started the year after, she was buried there in 1633 and the monument was finished in 1653. This marble monument was built by over 20000 people and is decorated with inlaid precious stones in flower and geometric patterns. Not long after it was finished Shah Jahan was interred in the fort nearby by his son and only left on his death 8 years later to be buried in the Taj next to his wife.

Once happy we headed into the building to see the beautiful inlays and ornate marble screens. I was surprised by how ornate it is inside and around the outside once you’re close to it. He calligraphy around the doors actually
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View of entrance gate
gets bigger as it gots higher up meaning that it all looks the same size from the ground.
Leaving the main building we wondered around to outer buildings and gardens.

We then waited to go into the museum as this doesn’t open until 9am, it was 8am by this point. It isn’t worth waiting for! This tiny museum contains some line drawings and plans for the Taj Mahal and examples of calligraphy. We were hoping for more history about the building itself, for example the extensive restoration works done in 1908 by Lord Curzon, and again in 2010. It would also have been nice to know why they are currently digging up one of the front lawns! As it happened it worked out well as the sun came out with brief blue skies and it was worth delaying breakfast for.

Leaning the Taj we headed back to our hotel to check out. We found some breakfast and the heavens then opened. Proper torrential rain. Deciding that all the other things to see were both expensive and wet we ended up playing monopoly (Stephen won) and reading up about Nepal. After a delicious meal we headed to the train station to discover our train once again delayed. Only this time we need to catch a connection in Delhi to get to Varanasi...



Additional photos below
Photos: 14, Displayed: 14


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The Taj Mahal

View from river. In bottom right corner you can see the idols of Ganesh in the river from the night before
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The Taj Mahal

Marble with flower carvings and inlay
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The Taj Mahal

The assembly hall (identical to the mosque opposite and either side of the Taj)
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The Taj Mahal

View towards red fort


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