My sole purpose for making a brief stop in India in December 2014 whilst on my way back to Southeast Asia was to visit the Taj Mahal. Known the world over for it’s beauty and one of the seven world wonders (for which I have a goal of visiting all seven) I had to make the trip since I was already in the area. After a rough morning in Delhi which included a canceled train to Agra (where the Taj Mahal is located) I managed to get on a new sleeper train at about 9:30AM and was finally on my way to Agra.
At about 12:30 pm I arrived in Agra after getting some much needed sleep after the long night beforehand. I got off the train and exited the Agra station. Almost immediately I was assaulted by a group of men looking to provide me their rickshaw service. I said no thank you to most of them and kept walking until the crowd dissipated a little and then ended up going with another driver a little further out. I asked the price to see what he charged and he was straight up with me showing me the sign that had the regulated prices listed and how much it would cost to go to the Taj Mahal from the train station. He even suggested we go to the south entrance (as it is the better entrance) rather than the east or west even though the east was closer for the same price and the west would make him more money but is a little further away Being that he was so up front and honest with the prices I decided to go with him.
Here are the current prices (in Indian Rupees) from the Agra railway station to various destinations around the city via auto rickshaw:
|Taj Mahal, East Gate||100|
|Taj Mahal, South Gate||80|
|Taj Mahal, Western Gate (Purani Mandi road)||60|
|Any five star hotel||100|
|Agra Red Fort||80|
|Full day Agra local (8 hours)||500|
|Taj Mahal, Red Fort, Bazar and back (6 hours)||400|
|Taj Mahal, Red Fort, Trupati Balaji Mandir, Bazar and back (5 hours)||300|
|Agra Red Fort railway station||100|
|Sadar Bazar, Idgah bus station||50|
|Taj Mahal and back (2hours)||150|
|Sikandra and back (2hours)||200|
|Etmadulla (baby Taj), Mahtab Babh and back (4 hours)||300|
|Dayal Bagh and back (2 hours)||200|
|I.S.B.T. bus stand||120|
I got in his rickshaw and we went on our way. During the ride, he offered to be my driver for the day taking me to the Taj Mahal, the Red Fort, a few other stops in between and finally to my hostel for a mere 300 RS (about $4.5 USD). Sure, I could have probably gotten it a little cheaper had I just got a driver for each individual place I wanted to visit but a few Rupees here and there is not very much and it means a lot more to them than it does to me. Also the convenience of having a driver who you could trust and who waited for you at each stop was nice too.
As mentioned before, there are three entrances to the Taj Mahal; the east gate, west gate and south gate. There is no northern gate because the Taj is bordered by the Yamuna river on the north. My driver informed me that the south gate was the best one since it opens right to the front to the Taj Mahal with the best and most popular views. Arriving just down the street from the south entrance, my driver told me where to go, where to buy the entrance ticket and how much to pay. He also told me not to buy any souvenirs here (although I never do anyways since it adds weight to an already full backpack) since they are overpriced and of lesser quality. He said we would stop at a better area later for souvenirs if I wanted them.
I made my way to the south entrance and purchased the entrance ticket from a small booth off to the left side of the gate. The ticket costs 750 RS (about $11.5 USD) and includes a pair of shoe covers that must be worn inside the Taj over your shoes if you do not take your shoes off beforehand and leave them outside. For reference, here are the current entrance prices for the Taj Mahal:
Entry Fee For Taj Mahal
|S.No.||Tourist Type||Amount (Rs.) (Inclusive of ASI & ADA fees )|
|2.||Citizens of SAARC and BIMSTEC Countries||
Entering through the south gate I was now inside the grounds of the Taj Mahal complex but was not yet within eyesight of the building itself. There was a garden area surrounded by red sandstone walls. Walking forward a couple hundred meters you come to Darwaza, the main gateway to the Taj Mahal area. This gateway is built of marble and sandstone with arches that mirror that of the Taj. It is quite impressive in and of itself. Walking through the gateway, a large Mughal garden opens before you with the Taj Mahal bearing down on it at the far end, in all its beauty!
The Taj Mahal is quite an impressive structure especially for the fact it is made out of marble (a stone that is very hard to work with). It definitely pays homage to India’s rich past and heritage. Walking through the beautifully landscaped garden there is a large water fountain that runs up the center towards the Taj. Compared to the rest of India I had seen that day, this seemed like a different world. It was so clean here and very well kept!
On either side of the tomb there are two red sandstone buildings, one being a mosque and the other being the Jawab. Apparently these two buildings were constructed to provide a sort of architectural balance to the entire complex, and rightly so as it does add a more complete look to the entire structure.
I proceeded to walk around all sides of the tomb before putting on my shoe coverings I was given earlier and entering the tomb. I have to say, the interior of the Taj Mahal was a little underwhelming due to the fact that only a small circular area of the building was accessible. You simply enter, walk around what is presumably the tomb in the center and then leave. The entire time inside is very crowded, rather dark and you are not allowed to take photos. The lineup just moves around the circular interior and then you exit some 5 minutes later. To me, the more impressive side of the Taj was the exterior.
Exiting the Taj I spent a while wandering around the gardens and the various other buildings within the complex before heading back out the south entrance and returning to my driver waiting outside and continuing on my trip around Agra visiting the Red Fort next (but that will have to be a post for another time!).
All in all, the Taj Mahal is a magnificent structure that definitely pays tribute to India’s past and is well worth the visit if you are already in India or contemplating a trip to. Despite my disliking of New Delhi, Agra and the Taj Mahal definitely made up for it and helped improve my liking of India!