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  • Writer's pictureVanessa Wrenn-Haye

Exploring the Enchanting Taj Mahal Agra India

Updated: Apr 1


"The Taj Mahal creates an everlasting memory for all who visit this beautiful mausoleum"

Overview


The magnificent 'Taj Mahal' mausoleum, is a symbol of eternal love and one of the new seven wonders of the world; a UNESCO World Heritage site located on the east bank of the Yamuna River in Agra.


Words cannot describe how beautiful this architecural masterpiece is. It is the most visited building in the whole of India and is the main reason why people from all over the world visit Agra. When you visit the 'Taj Mahal' for yourself, you will certainly see why!


We were truly flabbergasted by the sight before us the minute we walked through the main western gate called Drawaza-e-Rauza (literally translating to ‘The Gate of the Mausoleum’), which in itself was another sight to behold.


A double-storey building constructed in 1632-1638 from red sandstone which stands at 28 metres x 45 metres high (93 feet x 150 feet) and designed by the 'Taj Mahal' architect, Ustad Ahmad Lahaur.


The Drawaza-e-Rauza, western gate to the Taj Mahal. A 2 storey high building which opens onto a flower adorned terrace.
'Drawaza-e-Rauzan Gate'

There are in fact three entrances to the 'Taj Mahal', south, east and west which is this particular gate that faces towards the Agra cantonment and Agra city; it is considered one of the most important gates.



Outside the west gate, there is an edifice known as 'Fatehpur Begum' who was in fact another wife of Shah Jahan I who had the 'Taj Mahal' built between 1632 and 1648 in remembrance of his favourite wife Mumtaz Mahal.


We highly recommend that you enter via this gate, which is erected on a beautiful plinth that opens onto a pretty flower adorned terrace in front of the 'Taj Mahal', where visitors jostle with one another for a place to have their first unobstructed photo taken in front of the 'Taj Mahal'. This is the first view you will see as you pass through the gate itself.


Western gate view of the Taj Mahal Agra India
West Gate View

Our Superb Day


Morning:

We visited Agra like everyone else, mainly to see the 'Taj Mahal' and we chose the specific date of 17th January to celebrate my special birthday in this magical place.


Having stayed our first night in another area of Agra at the 'Taj View' hotel, we transferred to our luxury hotel the 'Oberoi Armavilas' to start the day’s celebrations early in the morning, as we were due visit the 'Taj Mahal' at sunrise which is considered one of the best times of day to visit, that and sunset of course.


Not only is this considered the best time to visit because the hues of light cast over the domes by the morning glow of the sun accompanied by a slight mist, showcase the 'Taj Mahal' at its best, but apparently also because it is far less busy at this time and you can beat the crowds.  Generally it is recommended to aim for 5.15 a.m. and upon arrival find yourself somewhere to sit and admire this unbelievable monument.


Unfortunately however, the low lying heavy mist did not allow any sun to shine through and our own personal sunrise visit had to be aborted until the it had lifted, or else we would not of seen the 'Taj Mahal' very well at all, let alone at its best.


We felt a little sad at first to miss out on seeing this beautiful structure at sunrise, especially as our sunset visit from Metah Bhagh on the other side of the river did not materialise either due to the heavy mist that day too. However, our feelings were short lived after checking into our exceptional hotel, where instead we chose to take advantage of the absolutely stunning surroundings until later that day.



The 'Oberoi Armavilas' sits directly opposite the 'Taj Mahal' and is very close to the Taj East Road gate which is reached by golf buggy, literally a few minutes from the hotel and which leads to the main west entrance to the 'Taj Mahal'.


Once inside the hotel, we knew at some point we would be able to take advantage of seeing this magnificent large mausoleum from our room and other locations around the hotel. It is worth noting however, that the 'Taj Mahal' is not lit up at night.


We were greeted by the Hotel Manager who ensured we were settled into our stunning room in no time, as we had requested an early check in for my celebratory day.


Our room was exquisite and had a balcony overlooking the incredible grounds, which had a heated swimming pool and glorious fountains, trees and shrubbery. We were located directly in the centre of the 'Taj Mahal' view. We were so excited being able to see the 'Taj Mahal' from here during our whole stay; it was so exhilarating.



We took a walk around the hotel for some photo opportunities whilst it was quiet, ahead of the hustle and bustle of the day. We were blown away by this superb hotel, it met all our expectations for my special birthday celebration.


We certainly recommend that if you are looking for somewhere truly special for your stay in Agra, that you explore the possibilities of staying at the 'Oberoi Armavilas'. It without doubt created an everlasting memory for us both, which we will always treasure forever more.



After a spot of lunch and a few expertly made cocktails in the Lounge Bar, we could see the mist was lifting and an outline of the 'Taj Mahal' was appearing before our eyes. Our guide who we had spent the previous day with, called to say it was time for us to head out on our visit. We quickly popped up to our room first though and there, it was! The promised 'Taj Mahal' view from our room. Just wow!



A distant view of the Taj Mahal at the Oberoi Armavilas Hotel in Agra India
'Taj Mahal' View From Room

The weather was cold however and we had to wrap up warm, it was even necessary to wear hats, a hat might I add, that was only thrown in the suitcase at the last minute, so not the best of hats for me. Not quite what I had envisaged for our visit and photographs at the 'Taj Mahal', but at the end of the day it really didn't matter. You cannot predict what the weather chooses to do and you have to go with it whatever the case.


Our Taj Mahal Experience


Afternoon:

We jumped on board our buggy and were taken 650 metres (less than half a mile) down the road to the east gate . En route there were plenty of stalls selling a myriad of souvenirs, which we visited later on our way back for our keepsake mementos, as well as a varied selection of restaurants.


So, back to the point of entering the 'Taj Mahal' complex via the main gate. The first thing you notice whilst on the terrace is the long glassy lotus pool of water, lined with beautiful trees and the pristine gardens that lead directly to the mausoleum.


The gardens in the ‘Taj Mahal’ complex are divided into four parts; they are symbolic of the Islamic concept of the four beautiful gardens in heaven.  The use of water in the garden also has a symbolic meaning, which is reference to the river sources in paradise which represent water, milk, wine and honey.


'Vanessa & Richard on the Terrace'

Wow, wow, wow!


My dream for my special birthday finally became a reality after months of planning our month long trip to India with Carol from our travel company, Audley and our wish to have not only the 'Oberoi Armavilas' hotel added to our itinerary, but to be in front of the 'Taj Mahal' for our photo together at last, on what they call the 'Princess Diana' seat! It was quite an emotional moment on the whole that everything had come to fruition just as we had planned.


Vanessa and R8chard from Escape wlWith Us Blogs and Vlogs sitting in front of the Taj Mahal on the 'Princess Diana' seat.
Richard & Vanessa on the 'Princess Diana Seat'

We wandered slowly towards the 'Taj Mahal' taking it all in. The closer we got, the more the beautiful it became. The gorgeous solid white marble is intricately hand-carved all over and the colours reflect the different lights, even the sky looks different around the structure. Every angle tells a different story; such a wonderful sight to behold, we were in complete awe.



When purchasing your ticket to see the 'Taj Mahal' make sure you obtain the ticket that includes access to the mausoleum itself, not just the general access ticket or you will be disappointed to miss seeing Shah Jahan I and his wife’s Mumtaz Hamal's sarcophagi, as well as having the opportunity to get up close to this incredible place to appreciate all the stunning Quranic inscriptions and the gemstones which are intricately engraved on the walls.


The tomb is obviously the central focus of the ‘Taj Mahal’ which sits on a large white plinth and has a symmetrical arched doorway topped by a large dome and finial.



You will be issued with shoe coverings before entry to this particular area so you can walk on the marble; this is to prevent deterioration. You can imagine how necessary this is with all the millions of people visiting each year. You can expect crowd control in this particular area with a single file queue to see the tombs, before exiting the outside to walk around freely.



The other two sandstone buildings on the east and western wall of the lower platform of the ‘Taj Mahal’ are the Mosque to the west, and the Jawab (answer) to the east, which it is thought was constructed purely to provide architectural balance.


As you can imagine, our whole tour of the ‘Taj Mahal’ was an exhilarating experience and I am so glad we chose to visit for a special occasion.  After our meander around the complex we headed back to our hotel for an evening of further celebrations.


Tips for Visiting the ‘Taj Mahal’

  • You must not wear revealing clothes when visiting the ‘Taj Mahal’ and by wearing modest clothes it is respectful to the local people and culture.

  • Do not carry too much - a water bottle, camera, phone and purse/wallet is sufficient.

  • Photography is allowed around the ‘Taj Mahal’ complex, but not inside the main mausoleum.  Remember not to adopt indecent poses either which is strictly prohibited and no photos with a brand logo or a national flag.

  • Drones, video cameras, tripods, and camera stabilisers are not allowed to be taken inside the ‘Taj Mahal’ complex.


Evening:

In continuation of our celebrations, and after watching the traditional Indian folklore dancers on the upper terrace opposite our room's balcony, we had arranged to have drinks in the lounge bar and dinner in the hotel. Advance dinner reservations are a must at this hotel even if you are a resident, as many non-residents visit too.



We decided to opt for traditional Indian dress for the occasion which made us feel really good, plus we received lots of compliments from other guests which was a nice touch.



Before dinner we took a stroll around the hotel grounds as it all looked so beautiful with all the twinkling lights in the trees and fountains.  Everything looked so different at night and we wanted to fully absorb everything that this hotel had to offer.



After our early evening stroll, we headed to the hotel’s fine Indian dining restaurant called 'Esphahan'A really relaxing and pleasurable experience sampling the delightful flavoursome foods and listening to the musician.  What a wonderful evening!



When we finished our meal we were led out to the main terrace of the hotel for a genuine surprise, and what an absolutely wonderful surprise it was!  The Food & Beverage Manager who had commented on our beautiful Indian dress earlier that evening, had gone out of his way to arrange a special celebratory finish to our evening. 


A table set up with a white cloth, a stunning birthday cake surrounded with a display of candles and sweet smelling rose petals.  We were each handed a glass of champagne for a birthday toast and then low and behold, they set off fireworks in front of us; the Food & Beverage Manager and his waiters even sang ‘Happy Birthday’.  What a true spectacle this was and brought a tear to our eyes!



17th January 2024, what a birthday to remember - treasured memories in Agra with my lifelong dream of being up close to the 'Taj Mahal', sharing it with my dear husband Richard, topped off with an extremely special hotel to relax and enjoy our time, culminating in a lovely dinner and an unexpected birthday surprise at the end of what was a truly special day.


Our Conclusion

"No visit to Agra is complete without visiting the 'Taj Mahal', so make sure you include it on your itinerary when travelling to India, you will be in awe of the outstanding architecture and sheer size of this beautiful mausoleum".

We hope that you have enjoyed our blog about the 'Taj Mahal' Agra India, despite it being somewhat personal, but we have done this for a reason, because we would say if you are looking for a truly unique and special visit, it is worth investing in a hotel close to the 'Taj Mahal' with a view and with nice facilities to enjoy your time.


If you have a lovely story that you would like to share with us about the 'Taj Mahal', then please do not hesitate to contact us via the link below.



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