One glance at the Taj and you know you are experiencing something surreal, other-wordly. Even after over 400 years since it was built, this breathtaking poetry in white marble is still one of the most fascinating pieces of architecture ever known to mankind. When Rudyard Kipling described the Taj Mahal as ‘the embodiment of all things pure’, he echoed the romance, the beauty and the glory of this masterpiece that shone brilliant on full moon nights, and threw up an evocative reflection in the still waters of Yamuna when the sun was high. For Rabindranath Tagore, Taj was ‘a teardrop on the cheek of eternity’, and like Tagore millions of tourists even today find a reason to visit the Taj Mahal each year, and stand in awe before its eternal beauty.
The Taj Mahal was built by Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahan, in the memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal who died in 1631 while giving birth to their 14th child. Mumtaz, Shah Jahan’s third wife, was known for her exceptional beauty, and the emperor was known to be mad about her. Crestfallen by her sudden death, the emperor, it is believed, turned grey-haired in just one night. Work on the Taj began in 1632, but it wasn’t until 1653 that the whole monument came together in its current form. But as fate would have it, soon after the Taj was built Shah Jahan was overthrown by his son Aurangazeb who held him prisoner in the Agra Fort, where he spent the rest of his years yearning for the Taj. Shah Jahan after his death in 1666 was buried beside his beloved Mumtaz in the Taj Mahal.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983 for being the “jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage”, an army of 20,000 artisans from across India, Central Asia and Europe were employed to work on the Taj.
Things to Do in Agra
Some of the major things to do in Agra are shopping at the Shilpigram market area, taking the Mughal heritage walk, and watching the light and sound show at Kalakriti Cultural And Convention Center.
How to Reach Taj Mahal
From the NCR, you can drive down the 165-kilometre-long Yamuna Expressway connecting Greater Noida with Agra. Agra is 235 kilometre from Jaipur and 125 kilometre from Gwalior.
Nearest Airport : The Agra Airport is a military base and also serves as a public airport. You have flights between Delhi and Agra, which you need to book at least a couple of weeks ahead for better rates. There are two flights daily between Delhi and Agra, and the popular airlines serving the route include Air India, SpiceJet, and IndiGo. A nonstop flight takes about 3 hours to get you to Agra from Delhi. From the Agra Airport, the Taj is approximately 13 kilometres, taking you about 40 minutes by road.
Nearest Railway Station : Agra Cantt is the prominent railway head in Agra, and at a distance of approximately six kilometres from the Taj Mahal. It is well-connected by taxis and other local modes of transport like state buses. To get to Agra Cantt from India’s capital, take the country’s fastest train, the Gatimaan Express departing from Hazrat Nizamuddin at 08:10 am and arriving into Agra Cantt in a cool 100 minutes by doing an average speed of 112 km/hr. Alternately, you can also take the second best option, the Shatabdi Express that departs from New Delhi at 06:00 am and brings you to Agra Cantt by 08:00 am. There is the Taj Express too which makes the journey in an average of 2.5 hours between the cities. This train too like the Gatimaan and Shatabdi Express now goes all the way to Gwalior and then Jhansi.
Nearest Bus Stand : The Idgah bus station is Agra’s biggest and most prominent bus terminal. It is in close proximity to the Idgah railway station and also the Agra Cantt, Agra’s main railway station. The UPSRTC (Uttar Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation) operates regular deluxe, semi-deluxe buses from here to different parts of the city. Alternately, you can hire a taxi and reach the Taj Mahal. The Taj Mahal is approximately six kilometres from the Idgah bus stand.
Taj Mahal Timings & Entry Gates
Taj Mahal Western Gate : To enter through this gate, you can buy the tickets near Saheli Burj. Taj Mahal opening hours for this gate are an hour before sunrise and about 45 minutes prior to sunset. This is actually the main entrance to the mausoleum and looks out to the Agra Cantt and the city at large. Outside this gate, don’t miss the beautiful red sandstone structure ‘Fatehpur Begum’, dedicated to another of Shah Jahan’s wives. Sprawled out across an open terrace, the courtyard of the building is fit to accommodate about 200 people at a time who wish to offer Namaz.
Taj Mahal Eastern Gate : The tickets are available at this gate itself. Again, the Taj Mahal visiting hours remain the same; an hour before sunrise, and 45 minutes before sunset. Facing Fatehbad, there is a domed tomb here nestled on an elevated plinth, also known as ‘Sirhi Darwaza’. This too is a tomb to another of Shah Jahan’s wives, Sirhindi begum. The main structure is an architectural marvel what with its 24 arches, a giant hall and courtyard, and built in a unique eight-sided style.
Taj Mahal Southern Gate : You can only exit from this gate; no entry is allowed. Meant for pedestrians alone, this gate faces the old town, Mumtazabad. There is a tomb here too of red sandstone complete with a rambling courtyard and a dome. The grave is believed to be of a maid of Mumtaz Mahal’s who always kept her company and looked after her.
Be apprised of the fact that there are separate queues for domestic and foreign tourists.
Taj Mahal Opening Days
The Taj Mahal is open for viewing to the general public on all days of the week except Fridays.
Opening Time : 06:00:00 am
Closing Time : 06:00:00 pm
Entry Fee (Indian) : INR 50 ( Additional INR 200 to see the main mausoleum)
Entry Fee (SAARC and BIMSTEC) : INR 540 ( Additional INR 200 to see the main mausoleum)
Entry Fee (Foreigner ) : INR 1100 (Additional NR 200 to see the main mausoleum)
Entry Below (Children Below Age 15) : Free
The Taj Mahal entry ticket for Indian tourists is INR 50 and an additional INR 200 if you wish to see the main mausoleum. For citizens of SAARC and BIMSTEC countries, the Taj Mahal ticket price is INR 540 and the additional INR 200 for visiting the main mausoleum. And if you are a foreign national, the Taj Mahal entry ticket price is INR 1100 and INR 200 is the optional fee for exploring the main mausoleum. For both domestic and foreign tourists, no entry fee is charged for children below the age of 15.