Agra is one of the most populous cities in Uttar Pradesh, and the 24th most populous in India!
Agra was first mentioned in 1080 AD.
In fact, the capital of India was moved from Delhi to Agra in 1506!
Not long after, the Golden Age, otherwise known as the Empire of the Mughals, began and took influence from 1556 to 1648.
Agra was then known as Akbarabād and remained the capital of the Mughal Empire. This was the period of religion, economic stability, art and architecture with palaces, gardens, rivers, towers and forts such as the Agra Fort, a stone military city such as Fatehpūr Sikrī, and of course, the building of one of the most iconic monuments in the world built in sorrow and to the memory of a most beloved wife – the Taj Mahal.
After the decline of the Mughal Empire, the city came under the influence of Marathas and was renamed Agra, before being taken over by British rule, otherwise known as Queen Victoria, the Empress of India, or the British Raj, in 1803.
India remained a British colony until Indian Independence in 1947!
If you’ve seen it a million times before, then by all means, don’t bother.
But if you haven’t.
You ought to see why a man took years.
To build a monuments in sorrow and to the memory of a most beloved wife!
Are you listening people?
A monument that has lasted almost 500 years!
HERE’S SOME FUN FACTS!
The Taj Mahal was built by the grief-stricken emperor Shah Jahan whose wife – Mumtaz Mahal – died in 1631, while giving birth to their 14th child!
Mumtaz Mahal was Shah Jahan’s third wife
Her name means “Jewel of the Palace” or “Chosen One of the Palace”
Construction of the Taj Mahal began in 1632
The name Taj Mahal means “Crown of Places”
It’s an Islamic tomb
There are 99 names of Allah inscribed calligraphically on the side of Mumtaz Mahal’s tomb
It took approximately 20 years to build
20,000 workers were used to build it
And 1000 elephants!
The Taj Mahal complex also has additional mausoleums, a mosque, a reflecting pool and large garden
In fact, there’s a piece of land outside the official area – Mehtab Bagh park – and if you’re short on budget, you can actually see the Taj Mahal quite well from there and take photographs and videos to your heart’s content!
The Taj Mahal is 561 feet tall
The material used to build it is white marble
It has a large white dome surrounded by four smaller domes. The large white dome in the center is approximately 115 feet tall
It’s colour appears to change, depending on the time of day or whether there’s a sufficient amount of moonlight!
There were about 28 different types of precious and semi-precious stones inlaid into the burial tomb of the Taj Mahal
During the Indian Rebellion of 1857, most of the precious stones were stolen and stripped from the walls
Over 200,000 tourists from around the world and up to 2 – 4 million local Indian tourists, visit the Taj Mahal every year!
It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site
It’s also one of the “New” Seven Wonders of the World
The four pillars around the main dome are slightly slanted so that if the pillars were to collapse,the tomb would be protected!
It was believed that once work on the Taj Mahal was complete, Shah Jahan had the hands of skilled expert workers, chopped off. It was probably true, as many monarchs around the world equally did the same …!
TAKE ME THERE?
As you all pretty much know by now, I’m a great believer in train travel so we travelled by first class Gatimaan Express train from Delhi (Hazrat Nizamuddin) to Agra (Agra Cantt).
Yes, we did!
We had planned just 16 days in India – three (3) days in Delhi, two (2) days in Agra, three (3) days in Jaipur, two (2) days in Pushkar, three (3) days in Udaipur and three (3) days in Mumbai!
You can of course, just do a day trip Delhi – Agra – Delhi.
However, we wanted to spend at least 2 days in Agra, so we opted for the express train to Agra, and a really nice hotel!
This would never in a million years happen, if we had “negotiated” rides ourselves.
In fact, I vividly remember trying NOT to pay ₹500 (INR – Indian Rupees) in 2005, for a ride that we discussed would be ₹200 (INR – Indian Rupees) to simply go to the book market that was a 10-minute ride away, and which ultimately took 2-hours as the rickshaw driver took me from shop to shop for “commissions” instead!
Most people are really nice, eager to help and respectful.
In fact, I was surprised at how many people actually asked if they could take photographs with me.
And if they asked, I would usually accept.
Local Indians don’t often see Western tourists and their way of greeting and excitement can be over-whelming.
Take a look at this video taken by German YouTubers – The Nile Brothers (Nick and Lenny)
It’s crazy, these fellows were travelling together, and they’re blokes!
Indian men can be over-enthusiastic and creepy by the constant staring, touching, peeping and inappropriate questions.
It’s awful that as strong independent women today, if you’re travelling solo, YOU have to watch how you come across, rather than the obvious use of common sense and if-you-don’t-have-permission-or-clearly-worded-stated-consent, don’t touch.
It’s as simple as that.
In the spirit of #MeToo, both men and women in Western nations are working towards this.
Use the Taj West Gate. It’s easy to find, simply follow the signs!
You are entitled to a bottle of water. For free! Make sure it’s completely sealed!
You can of course, bring your own bottle of water
If you are a “high value ticket holder” / foreigner, you are entitled to shoe covers free of charge! Make sure you get them as shoes aren’t allowed at the inner sanctum and you’ll end up in your socks or bare-footed on a very hot and dirty floor!
If you are a “high value ticket holder” / foreigner, you are entitled to a tourist guide map of Agra and battery bus and golf cart services free of charge, which we didn’t see or get!
The Taj Mahal is closed on Friday. Every Friday
Honestly, it’s perfectly walkable, but if you have small children or mobility issues, then rent a horse and carriage!
Books, food, wine, toys, helmets, torches, toffee and flowers are not allowed inside the Taj Mahal!
Bags are not allowed inside the Taj Mahal so either leave it at the hotel, securely locked in your car / taxi or in the locker, which is provided near the gates!
Drone cameras are not allowed inside the Taj Mahal
Tripods are not allowed inside the Taj Mahal
Shoe racks are available just below the main mausoleum free of cost
Photography is not allowed inside the main mausoleum but I observed that practically every second Indian tourist completely disregarded this and were taking pictures
WHAT IS AGRA LIKE?
It doesn’t have a reputation for being the prettiest place in the world.
In fact, as a city, it’s quite ugly.
However, you can overlook this by virtue of the fact that Agra is of historical and architectural interest.
It’s also part of the tourist trail known as the Golden Triangle, so if you’re short on time or have never been to India before, then I absolutely recommend Delhi – Agra – Jaipur – Pushkar and Udaipur, as the absolute minimum.
In that wise, we spent 24 hours not only visiting the Taj Mahal but also:
To hire the car where the driver would wait for us for the day, cost us no more than ₹500 (INR – Indian Rupees) or €6.40 / $7.25 / £5.52!
And even for a Premier InterCity city-to-city pre-booking taxi hire for a journey of 153.95 km that took 4 hours and 51 minutes, was the ridiculously cheap price of just ₹1,399 (INR – Indian Rupees) or €18.00 / $20.00 / £15.50 and that was BEFORE the 20% discount for a first intercity ride price of ₹1,119.20 (INR – Indian Rupees) or €14.40 / $16.00 / £12.50!
For many international visitors, India isn’t a destination that immediately comes to mind, but if you’re feeling adventurous, want to push boundaries, willing to get out of your comfort zone, yadda yadda, make it a point of duty to spend a few months weeks, in as many places as you can manage.
Well, follow me over the next few months, and find out!
So what are you waiting for?
AN INTRODUCTION TO THE TAJ MAHAL IN AGRA. AND WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU GET THERE! – INCREDIBLE INDIA!
This article isn’t sponsored, and all opinions and thoughts on Agra, the Taj Mahal, and Agra Fort, are utterly, my very own!
That’s it for now.
See you soon!
Watch this space!
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A win-win for all!
Note! I never travel without insurance as you never know what might happen.
I'm a British girl from Manchester living in Berlin with my German husband and my half British – half German son.
My blog is a lifestyle expat travel blog and puts a focus on my promotion of culture, history, travels around the world, Europe, Brexit, the Royal Family, British-German life and being British in Berlin - I am The British Berliner!