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Taj Mahal
 
Taj Mahal India
 

The Taj Mahal is an immense mausoleum of white marble, built between 1631 and 1648 by order of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favourite wife. Taj Mahal means Crown Palace; one of the wife's names was Mumtaz Mahal, Ornament of the Palace. The Taj is one of the most well preserved and architecturally beautiful tombs in the world, one of the masterpieces of Indian Muslim architecture, and one of the great sites of the world's heritage.

The Taj Mahal has a life of its own that leaps out of marble, provided you understand that it is a monument of love. The Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore called it a teardrop on the cheek of eternity, while the English poet, Sir Edwin Arnold, said it was Not a piece of architecture, as other buildings are, but the proud passions of an emperor's love wrought in living stones. It is a celebration of woman built in marble and that is the way to appreciate it.

Although it is one of the most photographed edifices in the world and instantly recognisable, actually seeing it is awe-inspiring. Not everything is in the photos. The grounds of the complex include several other beautiful buildings, reflecting pools, and extensive ornamental gardens with flowering trees and bushes, and a small gift shop. The Taj framed by trees and reflected in a pool is amazing. Close up, large parts of the building are covered with inlaid stonework.

There is an apocryphal tale that Shah Jahan planned to build an exact copy out of black marble on the opposite side of the river. His plans were foiled by his son, who murdered three elder brothers and overthrew his father to acquire the throne. Shah Jahan is now buried alongside his wife in the Taj Mahal.

If you are taking a camera, beware that because the Taj is white your camera may underexpose your photos. If it is a film camera you will not find out until it is too late. Overexposure by 1 or 2 stops is recommended.

The Taj is open from 6:00 AM to 7:30 PM every day except Friday. Entry costs Rs 250 (plus levy of Rs 500) for foreigners and Rs 20 for Indians. Get there as early as possible to beat the crowds, and plan to visit the Taj at least two different times during the day (dusk and dawn are best) in order to experience the full effect of changing sunlight on the amazing building. It is also utterly stunning under a full moon. To buy tickets, you can go to the south gate, but this gate is 1 km far away of the entrance and the counter open at 8:00 AM. At the west and east gate, the counter open at 6:00 AM.

The Taj is located pretty much in the middle of town. Expect a line to get into the grounds. There are three gates. The western gate is the main gate where most tourists enter. A large number of people turn up on weekends and public holidays and entry through the western gate may take hours. The southern and eastern gates are much less busy and should be tried on such days.

There are night viewing sessions on the nights of a full moon and the two days before and after (so five days in total). Exceptions are Fridays (the Muslim sabbath) and the month of Ramadan. Tickets must be purchased 24 hours in advance, starting at 10am, but do not always sell out, so it can be worth looking into it when you arrive even if well after 10am. Tickets only allow viewing from the red sandstone plaza at the south end of the complex, and only for a 1/2 hour window.

Make sure to wear mosquito repellent.

Rules and Regulations at the Taj Mahal

Security is tight and rules and regulations are very important and must be followed at the Taj Mahal. There are many rules to be followed at the premises of the monument to maintain the holiness of the monument and other rules are mostly for the maintainance and protection of the monument. Remaining rules and regulations are to be followed for the protection of all the tourists visiting the Taj Mahal.

Arms, ammunitions, fire, smoking items, tobacco products, liquor, food, chewing gum, headphones, knives, wire, mobile charger, electric goods (except video camera) such as Tripods, iPods and similar MP3 and music players are prohibited inside the Taj Mahal complex.

Mobile Phones are allowed but must to be kept switched off.

Eating and smoking is strictly prohibited inside the Taj Mahal complex.

Lockers are available at the gates to keep your belongings (of course, at your own risk).

Avoid carrying big bags and books inside the monument as this may increase your security check time.

Video camera (handicam) is allowed up to the red sand stone platform at the main entrance gate of the Taj Mahal complex. There is a charge of 25 Rupees per video camera.

Photography is prohibited inside the main mausoleum, visitors are requested not to make noise inside the mausoleum.

Tourist must co-operate in keeping the monument neat and clean by making use of dustbins.

Avoid touching and scratching the walls and surfaces of the monument as these are old heritage sites need special care.

Tourists are advised to hire approved guides and photographers who exhibit their identity cards.

Water bottle is allowed inside the monument. Shoe covers, 1/2 litre water bottle and Tourist Guide Map of Agra are provided free of cost with the foreigner's entry ticket for the Taj Mahal.

Wheel Chair for disabled persons and First Aid Box is available at A.S.I. Office inside the Taj Mahal complex. A refundable charge of 1000 Rupees is to be deposited as security charges before making the wheel chair available for the disabled.

All the above mentioned items along with the mobile phones are banned for the night viewing of the Taj Mahal.

Video camera, extra batteries are prohibited though, still video camera is permitted after the security check during night viewing of the Taj Mahal.

Remember that the Taj Mahal is a religious site and it is best to dress conservatively when visiting the Taj Mahal complex, not only because the Taj Mahal itself is a mausoleum, but there are also mosques inside the Taj Mahal complex, if you wish to visit them as well.

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    Source: http://wikitravel.org/en/Taj_Mahal
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