One of my very good friends “Bhuvan Gupta” is a major buff about Mughal architecture, Mughal history and the Taj Mahal at Agra. As much as me, he loves to travel too. Albeit, most of his travel itinerary would include visits to places of historic importance. Mughal history and the story of Taj Mahal to me is a subject that I would really not be able to elaborate more upon. Thus I requested Bhuvan, to write a guest post for Pixellicious and I’m glad he agreed and, I knew he would, considering the madness he carries about Taj Mahal and Agra.
So here is what Bhuvan Gupta has to say about his experience with Taj Mahal, Agra and Mughal history.
When I was approached to write about Mughal architecture and history, I was pleasantly amused. Being a Mughal history buff, my vacations and my personal reading collection is mostly centered around, the glorious Mughal architecture and their lives. Sometimes much to the annoyance of my wife. Allow me to take you to a journey through the mystical city of Agra. When we speak of Mughal architecture and Agra, undoubtedly the first picture that comes to our mind is Taj Mahal. And Taj Mahal is exactly what I am going to write about. Shahjahan, the Mughal emperor commissioned and built the Taj Mahal, Agra. The entire monument was built in a span of approximately 20 years from 1632 to 1652. It is one of the many monuments in India built by emperor Shahjahan himself, his predecessors and his successors. Built in the memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal, Taj Mahal is one of its kind.
About our visit to Taj Mahal
It was a pleasant summer morning when we decided to visit this place. I would advise to schedule your visit early in the morning, to avoid the crowd that follows in the day. The queue of visitors at the Taj Mahal can be a real big one. After a wait at the queue we found that we could not carry water or any eatables inside the complex so we had to leave them at the security desk. As we proceeded we were surrounded by a lot of guides and photographers wanting to show us around the place. Though my love for Mughal architecture and history is an open secret, my wife was a bit skeptical, that I may not know as much as a guide would And thus, we hired a guide. When you first approach the Taj Mahal, you manage to catch a tiny glimpse of it as you pass through the narrow door of a slightly lower height. You have to bend a little to pass through the door. The idea here is that it serves a kind of respect to the deceased that you bow towards their final resting place.
Enter this door and you arrive to the main complex of Taj Mahal to see it in its grand splendor. It was really overwhelming for me to be looking at a Mughal architectural marvel which is also one of he seven wonders of the world. This where the cameras and the humans behind the cameras go berserk as well. Taj Mahal, Agra can be a photographers delight. Photos start getting clicked rapidly digital cameras, professional DSLRs, phone cameras, traditional cameras get held up to capture what the eye is seeing.
I too went berserk as well trying to capture what I was seeing. Eventually I left the clicking part to my wife sat down to soak in the raw beauty of Taj Mahal. Something that will remain in my heart more than a click. The raw beauty had me awestruck completely and I couldn’t take my eyes away. Eventually it required a subtle reminder from my wife for us to move ahead to explore further. Despite the fact that I was reluctant to do so. Slowly as the beauty begins to reveal itself, the view that lies ahead of us, is what the holy book of Emperor describes as heaven. Arriving closer, we find that the 4 minarets seem to be slightly tilted away from the main structure. As explained by our guide, that is not an architectural error. The idea behind the outward tilt, as per our guide was that in case of a natural calamity such as earthquake, the minarets would fall away from the main structure, hence keeping it safe and unharmed.
Visitors at Taj Mahal, Agra
As we start walking towards the main structure, I noticed co-visitors. The crowd was full of people of different nationalities, color, race. but all of them bound together by the very fact that everybody had the same kind of excitement to see the grand monument. The Taj Mahal, Agra.
In recent years the Government of India has also built a small museum inside the main complex which is also a short but delightful worthwhile visit. As we get closer to the main complex we learn that footwear is not allowed beyond a certain point. Those who can afford to brave the hot scorching marble floor or freezing cold depending on the weather choose to deposit their shoes at a locker and the rest of the people are provided with some kind of a weather to cover their footwear. My wife and I decided to be the brave ones and decided to go barefoot. We climbed the stairs to reach a veranda of sorts. This place surrounds the main area where lies the final resting place of the queen Mumtaz Mahal and the Mughal emperor Shahjahan himself. This entire part is a marble structure covered with delicate work of flowers carved onto it. This used to be inlaid with precious stones but all carried away by invaders.
On one side of this beautiful monument flows, the river Yamuna. The guide informed us that the emperor’s approach was via water. Soon we decided to enter the main area where the graves lie. The entrance is carved with the verses from the holy book. Photography is officially prohibited in this area and visitors are just quickly rushed through. Entrance to this area was earlier open to visitors in as our guide pointed to us, but was later blocked for safety reasons. We noticed that lot of people were throwing coins and notes on the graves. I was told by the guide that it is believed that this action fulfills wishes. I didn’t want to do something like that. Not that I don’t have wishes but I believe that one should have respect for the deceased be it an emperor or a man on the street. Once again, I would like to reiterate that usage of camera in this area is strictly prohibited.
Taj Mahal in Recent Times
I would like to also mention a few things about what is Taj Mahal is like, today. Due to industrial pollution the gleaming white marble is turning yellow. Though government has now put a stop to it. But some permanent damage has already been done. The glorious Yamuna has been depleted of its pure water again due to dumping of industrial waste which once again the government did not managed to curtail in time. It would be unfair to blame the government alone. We the people have forgotten to take care of our own cities and our historic monuments. People in our country have become somewhat indifferent to what is happening to others. Unless it affects them directly. This should however not dissuade people from the grand monument, Taj Mahal. One should still visit it for the raw beauty of it still takes away the heart and soul of a man. It took away mine leaving me wanting a bit more…
Entry Fee at Taj Mahal
- ₹ 1000 for Foreign Tourists
- ₹ 530 for Citizens of SAARC and BIMSTEC Countries
- ₹ 40 for Indian Citizens
Visiting Timings at Taj Mahal
- Taj Mahal is open from Sunrise to Sunset during operating days.
- Taj Mahal is closed on Fridays for general viewing. Remains open on Friday afternoon for people who have to attend the prayers at the Taj Mosque.
- No cap on the amount of time a tourist can spend inside the main complex within the normal operating hours.
Three ticket outlets at Taj Mahal
- Taj Mahal Western Gate
- Taj Mahal Eastern Gate
- Taj Mahal Southern Gate
For more details please visit the official website of Taj Mahal Monument.