In Delhi And Have A Day To Spare? Board The Gatimaan Express To See The Taj
The Whirlwind Tour
One of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Taj Mahal is one of the most visited monuments in the world. If you are in Delhi, you can easily drop in for a visit by booking a seat on the super-fast Gatimaan Express.
Departure: Delhi (Hazrat Nizammudin Station)
Here’s My Ride: Gatimaan Express – Launched on April 5th, 2016, this is India’s fastest train. On the same day it launched, I booked my ride on the Gatimaan Express to visit the ethereal Taj Mahal. Quite something, isn’t it?
Travelling Within Agra:
Agra is a tourist city. So, when you hop off the train expect to be swarmed by cabbies and rickshawallahs. Have a little patience and you can strike a deal with one of them. One driver offered to take us around the city (in an Innova), for an entire day, at INR 1,200. And we immediately took him up on the offer.
Our driver dropped us off at the entrance of the immaculate Taj Mahal from where we had to make the short trek to the ticket counter. If you aren’t in the mood for the short walk, then, you can hire out rickshaws or camels to take you there.
Since we were there on a Sunday, the line at the entrance was pretty long. But we bumped into a guide who promised to take us through another less crowded entrance and introduce us to the wonders of the Taj. At INR 500, this seemed like a good deal so we snapped it up.
From the west gate, we trekked through a tiny hamlet and made our way to the east gate. This is close to a 1 kilometre walk. When we got there, we noticed that the queue was shorter here and we got our tickets in no time.
The 22 Year Wonder
The minute we laid our eyes on the Taj, we were awestruck by the magnificent beauty of the structure. Standing there, we couldn’t help but recall Rudyard Kipling’s description of the monument. He called it ‘the embodiment of all things pure’ and we couldn’t agree more.
At the entrance, we could see 11 pillars at the top of the entrance gate ( see the picture below ) and another 11 pillars on the other end signifying the 22 years that went into creating this wonder.
My First View of Taj from the entrance.
The ornamental gardens, around the Taj, are set out along classical Mughal charbagh (formal Persian garden) lines – a square surrounded by watercourses and an ornamental marble plinth at its centre. When the fountains are not in flow, you can catch the reflection of the Taj in the waters.
On either side of the Taj Mahal stand a red-stone courtyard called the “jawab” and a mosque. Both these buildings are in absolute symmetry with each other. And you can actually stand in the centre of the garden to check it out.
The Taj Mahal itself stands on a raised marble platform at the northern end of the ornamental gardens, with its back to the Yamuna River. Purely decorative 40m-high white minarets grace each corner of the platform. If you observe closely, they are not quite perpendicular, and have been designed to lean slightly outwards so that in the event of an earthquake they would fall away from the precious Taj.
The Taj is made of semi-translucent white marble, carved with flowers that were once inlaid with thousands of semiprecious stones in beautiful patterns. The whole structure is topped off by four small domes surrounding the famous bulbous central dome and an ornamental finial which is 30 ft high!
Inside, you can see the cenotaph of Mumtaz and Shah Jahan which is directly below the main dome. After taking a walk around, our guide, who has shepherded thousands of tourists through the Taj experience, took a few pictures for us. And we must say that he knew just the angles to capture. Here’s one for instance.
After our impromptu photo shoot, we settled down on a bench close by to enjoy the impeccable view of the Taj. And we suggest you do too!
Travel Tips for Taj Mahal !
- The Taj is closed every Friday to anyone not attending prayers at the mosque.
- Plan your travel to the Taj during full moon days so that you can visit the Taj Mahal in the mornings as well as in the evenings. Night viewing at the Taj Mahal is allowed only on five nights of each month. Two days before and after the night of the full moon and the actual night of the full moon you can view the Taj Mahal night between 8:30 P.M. to 12:30 A.M.
- Night viewing of the Taj Mahal is limited to 400 people per night. Visitors are divided into eight groups of 50 people each. Each group is allotted a maximum of 30 minutes to view the Taj Mahal at night.
- Tickets can only be purchased in person at the booking counter at the Archaeological Survey of India, located at Agra Circle, 22 Mail Road, Agra, Uttar Pradesh. Hours are 10 A.M. to 6 P.M. Tickets for night viewing may only be purchased one day (24 hours) in advance.
- We recommend a morning viewing of the Taj since it tends to be less crowded and peaceful during the early hours.
- If possible, visit the Taj Mahal during the death anniversary of Mumtaz to see the actual grave.
- Agra is known for the petha (a translucent sweet made from ash gourd) and just outside the east gate you can find “Pracheen Petha“ – a store that sells the authentic version.
- If you have some time after visiting the Taj, you can also go visit the Agra Fort which was once the imperial residence of the Mughals at one point of time.