I was scheduled to go to Agra for a conference in February. I had been to Agra before (3 times) but this was the first time that I actually had half decent equipment that could try to capture some of the beauty of the Taj Mahal. The operative word being TRY!!!
I was travelling with my friends, and our train was late owing to some pests sitting on the track protesting. The saving grace was that the train was at least running and not cancelled altogether!!As we were late and had already missed most of the first day of our conference, we decided to miss it in toto and use the time to visit the most well known monument of our country, ” The Taj Mahal”.
We took an autorickshaw to the barrier from which only horse carriages and battery operated golf carts are allowed in, as a measure to limit pollution damage to the marble structure. ( Though far more polluting industries continue to run in the area!!) We bought our tickets and simply decided to walk the remainder of the distance to the actual gates of the monument.
There are three gates to the monument and we took the east one as it was the closest to our hotel. As usual there was a delay due to the security personnel and some south east asian tourists not speaking the same language. Finally after the issue was sorted out we got ourselves patted down and entered the monument through the red sandstone gate.
No matter how many times you have seen the Taj Mahal it always manages to take your breath away. Photos can never do it justice as they don’t show the sheer enormity of the structure. I entered in at around 4 pm and had the sun shining on the white marble giving it a golden glow. Even though three of the four turrets were being cleaned with scaffolding all around them, it still makes for a pretty picture.
After taking a lot of photos at the entrance I rushed to the monument itself skipping the touristy “Diana bench” for taking photos. I knew that the light would change soon and I wanted a photo of the golden looking marble up close. As you approach the Taj Mahal you realise how tall it actually is and your lens is not adequate to capture the whole structure from below!!
Shoes have to be either removed or covered by a shoe cover to climb onto the actual marble platform. I removed my shoes at the provided place and proceeded to climb. As you reach the marble platform you see a line to enter the actual Mausoleum of the Emperor Shah Jahan and his wife Mumtaz Mahal. ( End of history lesson!!) I have seen the dimly lit mausoleum before and didn’t go in as light was fading and the Taj looks different as the sun goes down and the lighting changes.
I photographed the only tower without the scaffolds and the gates on either side of the main monument and walked around the cool marble for a while before descending the stairs and proceeding to the centre pedestal which gives the best photos.
The pedestal itself is always crowded and hardly gives good photos. What interested me was the narrow walkway to the pedestal where you can get a good low angle of the structure without anyones head popping in the frame. I gingerly held my dear camera over the water and took the photos.
They looked pretty decent so i proceeded to the opposite end of the pedestal and took similar photos of the gate through which I had entered some time ago. The symmetry of the shots and the reflection on the placid water makes for a pretty picture even in the fading light.
After that I just sat on a bench at the far end of the Garden and just sat and ogled at the Taj Mahal for a few minutes. After I was satisfied that I had actually seen the structure without the camera interfering I started towards the exit.
By now the sun was down and it was getting dark and we had to leave soon. For those who don’t know, the Taj is open from Sunrise to Sunset. It is also open for night visits two day before, two days after and on the day of the full moon. Tickets to the night visits are almost impossible to get and anyway it was not that time of the month.
I stood on the platform at the gate and watched the darkness descend and the Taj change colour once again. Very difficult to capture on camera but I made a attempt anyway.
It was 7 pm now and we had spent a wonderful three hours at the Taj Mahal. Although its very crowded on most days, The Taj Mahal is beautiful enough to tolerate the masses. If you want to have a less crowded experience you should go at dawn and see the changing colours in the reverse order that we experienced. We had a conference to attend so this was as good as it gets for us!!
Next two days were spent indoors attending what turned out to be a damp squib of a conference. But what made the visit to Agra worthwhile was the long evening at the Taj Mahal.
We had planned trip to Bharatpur and the world famous Keoladeo Ghana National Park after the conference. But that is topic for another post another day.