Uttar Pradesh – a day trip to Agra and the Taj Mahal

You can’t really go to India and not visit the Taj Mahal. That said, it’s quite common to come from India and never have visited it, as was the case for two of our party. So it was with great excitement that we departed Delhi in the early hours for the three hour drive to Agra, the town where the Taj is located. My map here.

We arrived early, around 9am, but already there were huge queues of people waiting to get in. We discovered though that if you have the wherewithal, you can pay extra for queue jumper tickets that let you in through a different entrance, so our party cheated and went straight in.

As you can see from the photos, you won’t have the place to yourself. It was worth putting up with the crowds though, it really is a stunning building. You can click on these photos to go full screen.

Conceived by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan as a maosoleum for his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, the construction was completed in 1643. A few other facts have stuck in my mind about the Taj. One is that the towers were designed to fall away from the central building if they ever topple. The decoration technique of inlaid polished colored stones fitted together to create images, known as pietra dura in Italy and parchin kari in the India, is the same as that used in Catholic churches in Italy during the same period. Sadly I heard that it was once studded with semi-precious stones but that British soldiers prised them out with their bayonets. Finally I was astounded to learn that had Shah Jahan not been overthrown by his son, his plan was to build an identical black Taj Mahal for himself on the other side of the river on what is the site of what is the Mehtab Bagh garden.

Afterwards we went for lunch at the rooftop restaurant of the Saniya Palace Hotel saniyapalace.com which is near the South gate of the Taj. The food was just okay but the main reason to go was for the view.

There are many other things to see in Agra, but really, once you’ve seen the most beautiful building in the world, there doesn’t seem much point. So maybe go and see the other stuff first.

India does have some other nice palaces…

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