The Taj Mahal, Agra

The Taj Mahal, Agra

I am still buzzing from such an incredible journey to the Taj Mahal. 

I left the hotel at 5:30am to get in line at the Taj before it opened. It was a cold brisk morning waiting for the sun to come up, but as we were walking to the line, we could hear chants and morning prayers come alive from the city streets. We look over and see a small shrine with a group of people performing their daily prayers.

Taj Mahal, Agra

Taj Mahal, Agra

The fog is clearing from the sky, an incredibly fortunate and unusual event. Typically the entire Taj is covered in fog in the morning.


Fortunately, I am the first one in line--a benefit of getting to the gate an hour early. 
The Taj opens at a different time every single day. Each day it will open either one minute later or one minute earlier depending on the time of the sunrise.


You want to be there first and much earlier than the actual opening time. By the time the gate opened, there was already a line of 100 people behind me.


Walking into the Taj Mahal when it is empty is a soul opening moment. You get a feel for what it was really like when it was first constructed. You can sense the energy and enjoy uninterrupted beauty.

You'll walk out and have the stunning blue pools cascade over the grounds in front of the Taj. The first photo you will want is the iconic scene with these same pools.

Taj Mahal, Agra

Taj Mahal, Agra

 
Unfortunately, the Taj Mahal is currently under renovations that will continue though 2018. This means you will have to be extremely selective about how you take your photographs. You have the ability to keep the scaffolding out of the shots if you choose the right angles. If you are traveling past 2018, then make sure to get there before first light!

There are a couple of angles you will want to take photos from, especially if you are there at sunrise.

You'll of course want the iconic shot when you first walk in.
Then make sure to look back for a similar shot, but with the stunning Royal Gate.

Royal Gate, Taj Mahal, Agra

Royal Gate, Taj Mahal, Agra

Next up, make your way to the first platform where you can get two different shots:

The first is underneath the bench to capture the Taj in the arches of the bench (it is the front of the bench on the left side).

Taj Mahal, Agra

Taj Mahal, Agra

The second is another shot of the Taj in the second set of pools.

Taj Mahal, Agra

Taj Mahal, Agra


If you are there at sunrise, head left (make sure you have cloth covers for your shoes).

There are a couple of photographs you can capture here, but my favorite by far is by walking to the back left corner underneath the arches. I was incredibly lucky with the positioning of the sun (I traveled to the Taj mid-December), and was able to capture a star sunrise between the pillars.

The other couple of photographs are:

Taj Mahal, Agra

Taj Mahal, Agra

Taj Mahal Complex

Taj Mahal Complex

Taj Mahal Complex

Taj Mahal Complex


You'll walk around and do a bit of the tour and find out that the only nonsymmetrical item in the entire palace is the king's tomb. There was suppose to be another black Taj Mahal on the other side of the river for the king, but it was never built.

Some history on the Taj Mahal:
Commissioned by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, in 1632, the Taj Mahal was created to house the remains of his wife. It was built over more than 20 years and is the most outstanding example of Mughal architecture, which is a combination of Indian, Persian, and Islamic influences. It remains to this day one of the world's most famous structures and the most iconic of India's rich history.

In accordance with Islamic tradition, verses from the Quran were inscribed in calligraphy on the arched entrances to the mausoleum, in addition to numerous other sections of the compound. You will also notice, on the inside as well as surrounding the base of the shrine; the hand-carved flowers made of semi-precious stones. 

The process for creating these flowers is an arduous task. Workers use a spinning spool, rotated by hand, to etch out each piece of the flower. They then trace it on top of the marble, carve out the marble and use a special glue to hold it in place.
It is an incredibly time-consuming task; to give you an example, a chess board that is two feet by two feet can take two months to create. 

Hand Carved Flower, Taj Mahal

Hand Carved Flower, Taj Mahal

Hand Carved Flower, Taj Mahal

Hand Carved Flower, Taj Mahal

Hand Carved Flower, Taj Mahal

Hand Carved Flower, Taj Mahal

Hand Carved Marble Chess Set, Agra

Hand Carved Marble Chess Set, Agra

The other place to photograph the Taj Mahal is across the river. It can be great for sunsets, but know that there will be a ton of people in the photograph!

Taj Mahal, Agra

Taj Mahal, Agra

Taj Mahal, Agra

Taj Mahal, Agra

Taj Mahal, Agra

Taj Mahal, Agra

After you leave the Taj, you have a couple of options for the day. I ended up going to the Agra Fort & Fatehpur Sikri, but if you are with a guide, they will try and take you to go shopping. 

Just know that they are going to get a kickback for taking you there and that they are hustling. The quality that I encountered was quite decent, but be forewarned.

 

Gear

  • Canon EF 24-70mm ƒ2.8 L II USM Lens
  • Canon EF 70-200mm ƒ2.8L IS II USM Lens
  • Canon EF 11-24mm ƒ4L USM Lens
  • Canon EOS 5DS R DSLR Camera
  • Canon EOS 5D Mark IV DSLR Camera

Travel Tips:

  • Get to the Taj early! You have the chance to get some incredible photos if you do.
  • Every tourist guide there is going to try and pull a fast one on you. Be on your guard.
  • There is more to see in Agra than just the Taj Mahal

Photography Tips:

  • Go for sunrise.
  • Plan on going a couple times if you you're looking for the perfect photograph as you never know what the weather is going to have in store for you
  • Bring a wide angle lens. Most of the photos here and my favorite is from using an 11-24mm.
  • Go now or wait until the renovations are complete!

 

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