When I was in Varanasi, I met some travelers who told me that it wasn’t worth it to go to Agra.
The Taj Mahal is just a huge tomb, they said. Really? Isn’t it like saying that the Great Pyramid of Giza is just blocks of stone clumped together? Undeterred by their cynicism, I pushed through with my trip to Agra, and I wasn’t disappointed. The Taj Mahal is magnificent!
Built between 1632 and 1653 by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, the Taj Mahal was indeed intended to be a memorial for his wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died giving birth to their 14th child. The emperor reportedly was so heartbroken he didn’t spare any expense to build the Taj.
When it was done, though, the emperor’s son had him imprisoned at Agra Fort where he spent his last days looking out the window at the completed mausoleum. He died in 1666 and was buried in the Taj Mahal alongside his wife.
I had taken the overnight train (Marudhar Express) from Varanasi to Agra Fort, and arrived there at 6.30am. Immediately after checking in at Hotel Siddhartha, I went to the West Entrance. There were a lot of people queuing up, but most of them were Indians.
If I were a local, I would definitely visit the Taj again and again. Entry fee for locals is only 20 rupees, compared to 750 rupees for foreigners!
Huge bags are not allowed inside the compound. To make sure your stuff doesn’t get confiscated at the gate, just bring a camera (video or still), a bottle of water, and your mobile phone. Tripods are not allowed.
Sunrise is the best time to visit the Taj Mahal. There aren’t so many people yet, and the Indian heat is not as bad. There’s nothing much to see inside the mausoleum except for the replica of the tombs of the emperor and his wife (they’re actually buried underground). Photography is not allowed inside.
Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983, Rabindranath Tagore called the Taj “a teardrop on the cheeks of time.” What a perfect description for this ultimate display of romantic love!
How about you? Is the Taj Mahal in your bucket list?