I couldn’t think of a more fitting end to my 3 and a half month trip around India than to lay my eyes on the Taj Mahal. It’s been a secret dream of mine to visit, ever since I can remember, and I can guarantee that if I asked you to name 3 things in India then the Taj would right be up there.
So on the very last morning of my trip, I rose to my alarm clock at the ungodly hour of 5am, ready to catch the first rays of the new day glancing off the marble of the most famous building in India.
The early start was about as welcome as a boot to the brain, and it took me a while to shake off the sleep and to drag myself up. But as we stayed deliberately close to the Taj, so we were able to walk there easily.
Just before 6am, we started the short 15 minute walk from our guest house (Maya, at the West Gate) through a small park to the monument. Considering it was so early in the morning, I was surprised to see hundreds upon hundreds of people out enjoying the coolest part of the day.
The park was filled to the brim with children climbing on frames, men playing cricket and women challenging each other to a game of badminton. It was like a scene from a park back in London at the peak of a summer’s day.
Except in London, we don’t have camels…
Before my trip, I’d heard horror stories about long queues and rigorous bag checking, but when we arrived at the ticket booth, I was number 3 in the queue for foreigners… I’ll take that!
At the Taj, the ticket price for foreigners is a princely 750 rupees (£7.50), compared to 20 rupees for an Indian visitor. That’s a bit of a stinger to be honest but hey, after more than 3 months travelling through India, I’m used to being overcharged!
The price of foreigner’s entry includes half a litre of water and some comical shoe covers which you must wear whilst you’re on the monument to prevent scuffing and damage.
In fact, did you know that no motorised vehicles are allowed within 500m of the building to prevent it being marked by air pollution? Fun fact!
I guess I have the fact that it’s currently ‘off season’ to thank for this, but after buying my ticket I proceeded straight through security with absolutely no fuss. A quick body search, and I was in!
Things you’re NOT allowed to take into the Taj Mahal:
Smoking items, including lighter
Video camera (although how they can differentiate nowadays, I have no idea!)
So basically, take yourself, your 750 rupees and a small camera and you’ll be good to go.
Entrance from the West Gate was marvelously straightforward. I highly recommend doing it this way, as at the East Gate, the ticket booth is 800m from the security check point, and if you find yourself carrying any of the banned items, you’ll be sent the long 800m back to the start to store them. Not ideal, and very time consuming if you want to catch that sweet morning light.
I approached the entrance archway to the Taj. The excitement was palpable, and I couldn’t stop the skip in my step despite the early hour. I was so close to fulfilling a lifelong dream!
Now, we’ve all seen this famous building on TV and on postcards, but to see it with your own two eyes really is a treat. The white marble structure glinted cheekily as I passed through the entrance and suddenly, there it was, revealed in all its splendour!
It was a little unlucky that we happened to choose the day that the water was drained from the pools for cleaning. But it didn’t tarnish my experience. I was too excited to care!
The approach to the building is littered with benches, so you can recreate that famous ‘I’M SITTING ON A BENCH IN FRONT OF THE TAJ!’ scene. I know I got a few of these…
And then followed hundreds and hundreds of pictures. I don’t know how many pictures of a building it’s socially acceptable to own, but at last count, I had over 300. Yeah.
I won’t bore you, but here’s a few of my faves of the walk up to the front of the Taj…
Then on went the sexy shoe covers and I was ready to climb up on the monument itself!
I think I actually prefer the look of it close up. The distance view is nice and everything, but you really get to appreciate the detail when you’re right on top of it.
I mean, LOOK AT IT!!
Bah! It’s TOO beautiful.
Then came the good part. Actually going inside to see the tomb of Mumtaz, who the Taj Mahal was actually built for. There are no photos allowed inside so you’ll just have to use your imagination for this bit.
The inside is a lot smaller than I had imagined, and the domed ceiling reflected every sound back with a boom. The noise was incredible!
It’s a circular room, with the tomb of Mumtaz, and her husband, the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan who commissioned the Taj, in the middle. Mumtaz takes centre stage as after all, it’s all for her, and Shah Jahan is off to the side a little. They are both surrounded by intricately carved marble shields.
The level of detail is utterly astonishing, and we saw as a guide took out a torch and pressed it up against the marble. As he moved it, he revealed a myriad of colours, all the way through the design, reflecting back. It was jaw-dropping.
The other thing I noticed is just how small Mumtaz’ coffin is. It’s barely a foot wide, and maybe 4 feet long. I know she was beautiful enough to inspire one of the wonders of the world, but crikey, was she tiny!
Going back outside, I managed to take a couple of snaps of the exit, and even there is a display of superb craftsmanship.
Yet more photos of the awe-inspiring building from the east side, where the sun was reflecting perfectly…
After sitting and enjoying the structure for just a little while, the heat of the day started to arrive, and as it’s only a month away from monsoon season, the mercury tops 45 degrees during the daytime. I was already over 35 degrees so we decided to take our leave.
Not before a few more pictures, though!
OK, now it’s really time to leave.
Just one more…
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