By LB THAPA FOR ONTOTHEROAD.COM, recently in Agra
If you are planning to visit Agra to see Taj Mahal, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, then this article is for you. The purpose of this article is to make your journey to Agra safe, hassle free and meaningful. So, are you ready? Then let’s make a move!
History of Taj Mahal
Before we embark on a journey to Agra, I think it would be appropriate to start with a little bit history of Taj Mahal. It is always advisable to know more about the place before we visit them. So, let me present a brief history of Taj Mahal, the archeological wonder of the world.
Taj Mahal is also called the Crown Palace of India. Without doubt, Taj Mahal is the most famous architectural wonder. Many writers and poets have expressed their admirations about the monument. The English poet Sir Edwin Arnold was right when he said, ‘Not a piece of architecture, as other buildings are but the proud passions of an emperor’s love wrought in living’.
Taj Mahal is located on the bank of River Yamuna. This great monument was built by the 5th Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan. Its construction work had started in 1632 and finally completed in 1648. However, outside courtyard was added later and subsequently entire project was finalized in 1653.
It is said that when Shah Jahan was on his mission to crush a rebellion in Burhanpur, he was also accompanied by his beloved 3rd wife Mumtaz Mahal, who was then heavily pregnant. All of a sudden, Mumtaz Mahal had labor pain but it was more painful than queen’s attendants thought of. Finally, the baby was born but Mumtaz Mahal died in the ordeal. The death of Mumtaz Mahal had left the emperor devastated and broken.
When the emperor recovered from the loss of Mumtaz Mahal, he decided to make Mumtaz Mahal immortal in the pages of history and for this, he decided to construct a grandiose monument, which he named Taj Mahal and this way Taj Mahal came into existence.
Shah Jahan entrusted the responsibility of constructing Taj Mahal to Ustad-Ahmad Lahori. He was the main architect of the Taj Mahal. A large numbers of masons, stone sculptures, carvers, painters, dome builders and calligraphers were called from all over the empire and as far as Central Asia and Iran. Today Taj Mahal is considered one of the most valuable architectural achievements in the world.
Does the color of Taj Mahal change?
You might be wondering whether this is possible or not. At first glance, it seems an exaggeration but the truth is that ‘yes, the color of Taj Mahal changes in different hours of a day.
This has become possible because the dome of Taj Mahal is made of white marble, but the adjoining structures are built with red stone. Besides, several green and red colored stones are used all over the building of Taj Mahal. As a result, the entire Taj Mahal turns golden under the early morning sunlight and shines like a snow when the sun is right above Taj Mahal.
Not only in daytime but Taj Mahal does also glow under moonlight. It sparkles like a jewel when moon light reflects from the white marble and precious stones. This is the reason why Taj Mahal appears in different colors from dawn to dusk.
What about a black Taj Mahal?
Jean Baptiste Tavernier, a European traveler, who had visited Agra in 1665, wrote in his travelogue that Shah Jahan was planning to build a black Taj Mahal on the other side of the Yamuna River.
But before his dream could be materialized Aurangzeb, his own son, dethroned him and put Shah Jahan under house arrest for the rest of his life. This way Shah Jahan’s dream of making a black Taj Mahal remained unfulfilled. When Shah Jahan died, his body was buried beside Mumtaz Mahal in an ordinary fashion.
The best way to get to Agra
Many people who want to see Taj Mahal actually arrive in Delhi. From Delhi, there are three options to go to Agra: Private car, luxury bus or trains. The hotel where you stay will definitely advise you to take a private car or luxury bus, but they will never advise you to take a train. It is because Indian railways don’t give them any commission but private car and luxury bus do give them hefty commission…Now you have understood what I mean.
Keep in mind. The best way to go to Agra is by train…I am sure you will not regret.
Which train is good to travel to Agra?
New Delhi Railway Station is the major railway station of Delhi, it is located at Paharganj. Some trains do also depart from Hazrat Nizamuddin Railway Station to Agra. Don’t get confused as there are seven railway stations in Delhi.
1. New Delhi Railway Station
2. Old Delhi Railway Station
3. Hazrat Nizamuddin Railway Station
4. Anand Vihar Terminal Railway Station
5. Delhi Sarai Rohilla Railway Station
6. Delhi Shahdara Junction Railway Station
7. Delhi Cantonment Railway Station
You can try these trains which depart from Delhi to Agra
The following trains leave Delhi to Agra and may be convenient for you. You can choose one as per your suitability or accessibility from the part of Delhi you are staying.
Gatiman Express (Train No.12050)
This train has been in service since 2016. The train runs at the speed of 160km per hour and it will take you to Agra Cantonment Railway Station in one hour and 40 minutes. The train leaves from Hazrat Nizamuddin Railway Station at 8.10am.
I will not write about fare charges because fare charges regularly fluctuate depending on various factors known to us.
The train leaves everyday to Agra except Friday, because Taj Mahal is closed for tourists on Friday. The train is comfortable as passengers can enjoy multi media and on top, foods provided on train are excellent.
New Delhi Bhopal Shatabdi Express (Train No. 12002)
Many passengers’ first choice is New Delhi Bhopal Shatabdi Express. It leaves New Delhi Railway Station at 6 o’clock in the morning. It will take you to Agra at 7.57 am. The entire train has chair car and air-conditioned. The train runs every day of the week. The train ticket can be booked online as well.
Taj Express Superfast (Train No.12280)
This train leaves from Hazrat Nizamuddin Railway Station to Agra. It departs at 7 o’clock in the morning and arrives in Agra at 9.38 am. This train has three stoppages and it runs every day. However, some passengers told me that the train would mostly reach late to Agra—30 minutes to one hour.
When to visit Taj Mahal
Most appropriate time to visit Taj Mahal is October to March. During these months, weather is excellent. Weather in India turns hot during April to June and July to September it is monsoon season.
You need a ticket to enter Taj Mahal premises
Western Gate of Taj Mahal
Tourists should walk up to Saheli Burj to get ticket. Tickets are available one hour before sunrise until 45 minutes before sunset.
Eastern Gate of Taj Mahal
Tourists can get tickets from the Eastern Gate of Taj Mahal. Tickets are available one hour before sunrise until 45 minutes before sunset.
Southern Gate of Taj Mahal
Until this article was penned, no entry was allowed from this gate. This gate is used for the exit only. However, tickets can be purchased from all three gates. All necessary arrangements have been done here for the visitors—it is completely hassle free. Foreigners and domestic tourists stand in separate queues.
What about entry fee
Ticket rates vary to the visitors of different countries. Foreigners should pay Rs.1100. However, the citizens of SAARC and BIMSTEC countries should pay Rs.540; but Indian citizens pay Rs.50 only.
Buy ticket online
Yes, you should buy ticket online. All tickets can be bought online get Rs.5.00 discount and it is very easy as well. Online tickets can be purchased from www.asi.payumoney.com No tickets required for the children below 15 years.
Do not carry such things with you
Do not carry any bags with you while going to see Taj Mahal. No bags can be carried inside. You should also purchase a pair of shoe covers. Without shoe covers no one is allowed to step on to the porch of Taj Mahal. Security officials do allow one mobile and one camera per person.
Such items like mobile chargers, iPads, pens, torches, knives, tripods, electrical items and edible items are strictly prohibited to take inside the Taj Mahal.
The tomb complex of Taj Mahal
The visitors who enter Taj Mahal from three different gates finally reach to a large arcaded courtyard. The aesthetic beauty of the garden, which is spread right before Taj Mahal, is breathtaking. The garden is built in a symmetrical Persian-style with lawns and waterways. A mosque and an assembly hall built on the both sides of the mausoleum enhance the glory of Taj Mahal.
Should you hire a guide?
My first advice is a big ‘No’. You can get plenty of information from google. I swear, the moment you see Taj Mahal, you cannot stop yourself from taking as many photos of Taj Mahal as possible. Captivating beauty of Taj Mahal will not allow you to take your eyes off even for a moment. Guides will disturb you more than helping you.
So, my advice is not to take a guide and spend money unnecessarily. However, inside the Taj Mahal, some local photographers are allowed who will invariably ask you to take photos. Most of them take nice photos. The issue is paper quality. Mostly they print photos on cheaper quality paper. I took two of my photos and paid Rs.80—they charge per photo Rs.40.
They will give you photos in 20 minutes. To collect photos, either they will ask you to contact a shop outside of Taj Mahal; or simply they will say, “A boy will deliver your photos at the gate of the Taj Mahal”…No worry! They will provide photos as soon as you step out of the Taj Mahal.
You should avoid crowd
If you think of spending more time in bed in the morning and go slowly to see Taj Mahal, then you are inviting troubles for you. As day progresses, Taj Mahal gates are flooded with several large groups of tourists who arrive from different hotels. If you reach the gate little late in the morning, you will find yourself standing in the last in the long, serpentine queue.
I advise you to reach the ticket counter at 6 o’clock in the morning. At this time, the queue will not be longer and you can make your Taj Mahal tour hassle free.
If you want to know more about the Agra trip, then please feel free to contact me on my email. I will be happy enough to answer all your emails. I hope your travel to Agra will be safe, exciting and memorable.
Thank you very much for reading this article. I hope you liked this article. I will be glad if you take little time and make comment about this article. Your comment is highly appreciated.
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