Snippets of my very first visit to the Taj Mahal at the age of 5 was etched in my memories. I remember being awe-struck by the sheer magnificence of the majestic marble mausoleum. I remember climbing down a narrow flight of stairs, clutching tightly onto my parents’ hands. I remember the damp smell that greeted me while I stood in front of the tombs of Mumtaj Mahal and Shah Jahan. I was too young to understand the tale of monumental love and heartbreak of the Mughal Emperor. However, the romance that was in the splendor and beauty of Taj Mahal was not lost on me.
Second time at the Taj
My second visit to Taj Mahal was a whirlwind one. And disappointing, as well. I was around seventeen or eighteen years old then. I wanted to relive my childhood memories of Taj and had begged my parents to take me to Agra once again. So they set aside an extra day post our Nepal vacation for the visit. It was a one-day bus trip from Delhi, which included a visit to Mathura-Vrindaban as well. It was late in the day by the time we reached Taj Mahal and there was a long wait before we could get in. Our guide (who was a part of the bus tour) rushed us to make up for the lost time. It was hot, the marble was scorching and we weren’t allowed to wear shoes inside the Taj. I am not sure if shoe covers were available then for local tourists (this was circa 1998) but our guide certainly did not arrange for any. I was mighty disappointed that we were no longer to go down the flight of stairs to see the real tombs. The list is long. For the longest time I regretted going back to Taj Mahal and ruining those sweet snippets from my first visit.
My third visit to the Taj
Fast forward to the year 2016. The (then) 6-year-old read about Taj Mahal in a book that he had borrowed from his school library. He is fascinated and cannot stop talking about it. He wants to visit this World Heritage site that had made it to the new Wonders of the World list. The kid kept reminding me all through 2016 and 2017. So when I planned our 5 week-long India vacation, a visit to Taj Mahal was on the cards. This would be the husband’s first visit as well.
We flew into New Delhi and went to Agra directly. We had pre-arranged for a car (along with driver). The 3.5 hours drive was very pleasant.
Taj Mahal in the moonlight.
This time, I wanted to see Taj Mahal in the moonlight.
I could not find much details on the internet about apart from the general information about days of visits, ticket costs and rules available on the official website. What it does not tell you is that during the months of December to February, the chances of seeing the Taj in moonlight is close to nothing. The skies are overcast with fog and smog, with little to no chance to see moon rays reflecting off the Taj. The best months are March to November, and our guide said that Sharad Purnima is the best night for the seeing the Taj at night.
No Cellphones or Video Cameras
You are not allowed to take cellphones or video cameras inside and this is pretty much what my Nikon D750 could capture before I cranked up the ISO way high. Once I cranked it up, my camera caught more details than my naked eyes.
But I have to tell you that it was perhaps not the ethereal experience that I was hoping for, but it was still surreal. You get to gaze at the mausoleum for an uninterrupted 30 minutes with just 30 odd people around you. You think of the rich history, of the thousands of artisans that worked relentlessly and of the magnificence of the mausoleum. There was a hushed awe-inspired silence broken just once by a disappointed woman who lamented rather loudly what a waste of time it was.
Information about visiting Taj Mahal at night
Timings: 8:30 PM – 12:30 AM for 5 days a month (except Fridays) on full moon day, and 2 days before and 2 days after.
8 batches of maximum 50 visitors are allowed each night
Tickets have to be purchased one day prior to the day of visit from Office of Archeological Survey of India (Address: Agra Circle, 22 The Mall, Agra, between 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM. Your hotel can arrange for it or you can get it through a travel agent.
A photocopy of your passport is required for buying tickets.
For more information on visiting Taj Mahal at night – Click here
Taj Mahal at sunrise
We went back the day after early in the morning to catch the sunrise. I got caught in the slow-moving ‘women only’ line while the ‘men’s line was moving way faster. Following rules go a long way. I just had my camera, my I.D. and few hundred rupees on me. It took me less than a minute to pass through security whereas women carrying bigger bags/books/food items had to go through a longer screening process. Here’s a list of Dos and Don’ts.
Plan to reach at least 45 minutes to an hour before sunrise. The lines can be long. We entered from the East Gate and this was the only bit of sunrise that we could see. Still beautiful!
And there it was… the first glimpse!
Our guide borrowed my phone to take this photo. And I took a photo of him taking the photo! It wasn’t very crowded in the morning and we had a very pleasant visit. And since the fountains do not start before 9:30am, I managed to get the perfect reflection shot. You are not allowed to wear shoes inside the mausoleum but you can buy shoe covers.
And then there it was.. the mausoleum in all its splendid glory. It was a beautiful morning to visit the Taj. And what a visit it was. Our 8-year-old was smitten. He listened intently to our guide and asked him so many questions.
As for me, I was smitten by the Taj all over again. A 4th visit during Sharad Purnima is definitely on the cards.