Taj Mahal: Destination Guide
The Taj Mahal has been profusely photographed, televised and written about. But nothing can match the experience of seeing it yourself. Sunrise and sunset at the Taj are highly recommended experiences. Travel light when you go to see the monument as the security is strict. A camera of course, and water, but heavy backpacks or big bags will not be allowed. The Shatabdi Express train from Delhi takes 2 hours, while the drive from Delhi to Agra is about 3 hours.
The Taj Mahal was built as a mausoleum by the emperor Shah Jahan for his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Built in white marble, inlaid with precious stones, decorated with carvings and calligraphy, it represents the pinnacle of refinement in Mughal architecture. The white marble of the building goes through an amazing range of colours through the day as it reflects the changing sunlight. The Taj is open to visitors from sunrise to sunset, except on Fridays. You can also visit for half an hour on full moon nights and two nights before and after.
Was the seat of power of the Mughal empire for many years and is therefore much more than just a military structure. It is actually composed of a number of buildings and is like a walled palatial town. Shah Jahan, who constructed the Taj Mahal, was imprisoned here by his son Aurangzeb, who usurped power. One can visit the tower within the fort where Shah Jahan died, which had a view of the Taj.
About 40 km from Agra is another city that once served as the Mughal capital in India, though it was soon abandoned because of water shortages in the area. The site has a number of striking red sandstone buildings, built in a synthesis of Hindu and Islamic styles.
Located on the outskirts of Agra is the location of the tomb of Akbar the Great. The level of detail and intricacy in the inlay work is truly sublime. This is another tour de force of Mughal architecture. The colours and geometric patterns are actually pretty psychedelic. You can visit Sikandra on your way in to Agra by road.