The Taj Mahal – Believe the Hype

The Taj Mahal – Believe the Hype

‘The Taj Mahal rises above the banks of the river like a solitary tear suspended on the cheek of time.’ – Rabindranath Tagore

When something becomes as overexposed as the Taj Mahal has, you have to wonder if it could possibly live up to its reputation. It is surely the first thing anyone wants to see when they plan a trip to India, as evidenced by the three million people who visit it every year (almost double the population of Agra). So dubious scepticism on the part of the traveller is understandable; yet very few who visit it leave disappointed.

taj3Obligitary ‘I was there’ shot!

The Taj Mahal dates from the 17th century, built by a grief-stricken Shah Jahan as a tribute to his beloved third wife. As much a monument to grief, then, as it is to love, and he is buried alongside her in the sombre grandeur of the mausoleum.

To experience the Taj Mahal at its most magical and atmospheric, I would advise being there for a sunrise viewing, which means queuing up as early as 5:30am. Unfortunately, with the word being out about this, you will still have plenty of other people for company. But that is the price we must pay when visiting the world’s greatest wonders.

taj8Another thing – they were quite strict on what you’re allowed to take in to the Taj Mahal with you, or at least they was when I was there, and you’re required to deposit certain valuables you have in your bag in the lockers near the gate before they allow you in. I understand the need for security, but I’m not sure what damage they thought the paperback book I was carrying was going to do.

Anyway, that doesn’t take anything away from the moment you step inside. We’ve all heard the phrase ‘the photos don’t do it justice’. I can tell you that this timeworn phrase definitely applies here. Rising magnificent and imperious, the Taj is positioned in a way that makes it look as though only the sky is around it; almost as if it rises above all else to touch the heavens. It’s an overwhelming sight to get the blood well and truly pumping, and something the camera simply cannot capture.

taj2The whole complex, dating from the 17th century and some 22 years in the making, is a highlight. Whether it’s the sombre grandeur of the mausoleum itself (the lighting effect that shines through the filigree screen surrounding the tombs of the Shah and his wife is wonderful – n.b. photography is prohibited inside the mausoleum), the intricate patterns of the marble work, or the jaw-dropping symmetry of everything from the Minarets of the main building to the red sandstone mosque and jiwab flanking the Taj, you’d be hard-pushed to argue against the assertion that it’s one of the most beautiful buildings in the world.
You would have to be extremely difficult to please if you’re not at least a little bit impressed. As beautifully put by the Nobel Prize winning poet Rabindranath Tagore at the top of this piece, the Taj Mahal is a timeless wonder; the ultimate tribute to the eternal, powerful and all too human phenomena we call love.






  • Ugo Cei

    September 19, 2016 at 5:23 pm Reply

    I’m skeptical as well about it, but I guess I should resolve to go there and see for myself!

    • Joe

      September 19, 2016 at 5:30 pm Reply

      Your scepticism is understandable – there’s not many places that are as heavily hyped as this place. But trust me, when you get your first sight of it, you will be blown away 🙂

  • Tryphena Wade

    September 19, 2016 at 6:46 pm Reply

    Beautiful photos. I’ve actually never seen the backside view. What a stark contrast to the beautiful ivory at the front of the structure. Thanks for sharing this piece. There’s definitely lots of hype surrounding it but I’d still love to take a visit.

    • Joe

      September 19, 2016 at 9:47 pm Reply

      Thanks 🙂 It is important to note that there is more to the complex than the facade that we’re all very familiar with. And there is hype surrounding it for good reason, that’s for sure.

  • Naomi

    September 19, 2016 at 8:09 pm Reply

    I think the place is famous for a reason! I have not seen any images that I didn’t like. The building and the gardens are so delicate and well thought through. I love it.
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    • Joe

      September 19, 2016 at 9:50 pm Reply

      Yeah, Shah Jahan certainly wanted to give his late wife a fitting tribute! Hence the immaculate gardens and architecture you refer to. It is arguably the most beautiful building in the world, so not surprised you are yet to find an image of it you don’t like 🙂

  • Travelling Tom

    September 21, 2016 at 10:45 am Reply

    I could imagine the Taj Mahal not living up to my expectations, so it’s nice to know that it lived up to yours!

    • Joe

      September 21, 2016 at 6:09 pm Reply

      Well, no guarantees of course, but I would say it impresses far more people than it disappoints 🙂

  • Shayne

    September 21, 2016 at 12:03 pm Reply

    Grand — one word to describe the Taj Mahal. I wish I could visit it one day. The architecture looks very nice! The only trouble would be at what time of the day to visit wherein not much tourists will flock in there… hmm
    Shayne recently posted…The Ruins of BacolodMy Profile

    • Joe

      September 21, 2016 at 6:10 pm Reply

      Very early morning is the only time to avoid the massive crowds really…and even then the crowds are pretty big! But I do hope you get to see it, it really is a beautiful building 🙂

  • Kathryn Burrington

    September 21, 2016 at 2:02 pm Reply

    I visited many, many years ago but I still have very fond memories of the experience. I also remember the mad crush outside – not for the faint-hearted. Once inside it felt serene and calm. Well-worth nearly being trampled on and the long queues.

    I had to leave my tripod in one of the lockers and a young man ended up doing it for me as I would never have been able to push my way through the crowds. At the end of the day, when I got back outside, he happily battled the crowds to retrieve my tripod, for a small tip of course. Is it still that manic outside?
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    • Joe

      September 21, 2016 at 6:12 pm Reply

      What time of day did you visit? I would say it was an orderly crush, rather than a mad one, but I steered well clear during the very busy daylight hours. I guess it’s just one of those places that will always, always have lots of people…but yes, it is a lot calmer and serene once you get to the beautiful grounds 🙂

  • Brianna

    September 21, 2016 at 2:52 pm Reply

    I have definitely considered whether or not the Taj was worth seeing. It seems like it would just be hot and overcrowded. But your article has convinced me to give it a shot! If I ever make it to India, the Taj Mahal is back on my list!
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    • Joe

      September 21, 2016 at 6:13 pm Reply

      Great, glad to have helped change your mind 🙂 It is undeniably hot and overcrowded, but you scarcely notice when it’s as beautiful as it is; plus going in either the early morning or evening helps to mitigate the heat factor.

  • Suma Jain

    September 22, 2016 at 1:37 pm Reply

    Ashamed to say that being a Indian myself never visited the Taj Mahal (not that I dont want to). Your post just made up my mind to tick this off my list by the end of 2016 :). Anyways I totally agree with you, pictures dont do justice to such beautiful structure, one has to experience it in real to know how stunning it is! Loved the picture where the sunlight seeps across the tower.

  • Suma Jain

    September 22, 2016 at 1:40 pm Reply

    Ashamed to say that being a Indian myself never visited the Taj Mahal (not that I dont want to). Your post just made up my mind to tick this off my list by the end of 2016 :). Anyways I totally agree with you, pictures dont do justice to such beautiful structure, one has to experience it in real to know how stunning it is!! Loved the picture where the sunlight seeps across the tower.
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    • Joe

      September 22, 2016 at 6:27 pm Reply

      Thank you for your kind words 🙂 It’s funny how we sometimes don’t visit the famous things that are in our own country isn’t it? I’ve lived in the UK all my life and in London for 6 years…and I still haven’t been on the London Eye! Hope you do enjoy the Taj when you get to see it…I’m sure you will.

  • Sia

    September 25, 2016 at 6:56 am Reply

    Quite a lot of people for such an early time in the morning. Can’t imagine what it would be like during the day. Probably one of those expectations vs reality photos. But it looks gorgeous and would definitely visit if I am there, something just can’t be missed. It is always interesting to see places that you have such huge expectations about and wonder whether they will live up to it.

    • Joe

      September 25, 2016 at 8:33 am Reply

      Indeed! And sometimes those special places don’t always live up to the hype…fortunately this one really does, and I hope you do get to visit one day 🙂

  • Tatum Skipper

    September 25, 2016 at 4:03 pm Reply

    I feel the same way when traveling to places…I’ve tried so many times not to have such a high expectation of places but it’s so hard! I am happy to hear however that it was still a magical experience even with all the crowds of people. It seems like way more people are traveling now days but I hate sharing those places with selfie sticks and Ipads! Can’t wait to visit this soon!!

    • Joe

      September 25, 2016 at 4:30 pm Reply

      That’s the double edged sword of travelling – it’s easier than ever for so many of us (let’s not forget that it’s a privelige to travel and not a right!), which is great, but the downside is the mass tourism and hordes of camera-toting tourists you refer to. The Taj is one of those few places that is able to rise above all that…although I can’t speak for when it’s at its busiest of course!

  • Kerri

    September 25, 2016 at 10:58 pm Reply

    Yes the big icons are hyped but with good reason. Seeing all the big icons in a city is one of the first things I do leaving me then time to explore the not so iconic. I haven’t seen the Taj Mahal but if I get here, I’ll definitely be doing to see it.
    Kerri recently posted…A special dining experience at Le Train Bleu : ParisMy Profile

    • Joe

      September 26, 2016 at 11:44 am Reply

      Indeed, and that’s not a bad rule of thumb to go by when visiting a city for the first time 🙂

  • Subhadrika Sen

    October 24, 2016 at 5:37 pm Reply

    I saw the Taj Mahal when I was 20. It had kept me waiting for a long time but i must say It was a beautiful experience. You were very lucky to have seen the Taj at such an early hour with less people. When I went there were so many people ; probably because it was one of those rare ‘free entry’ days.
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    • Joe

      October 24, 2016 at 7:20 pm Reply

      They have free entry days sometimes? I guess that it being busy is the trade off…There is an element of luck luck to it being quiet when you go early, but ultimately it’s a case of you making your own luck. You simply have to get out of your bed at 5am if you want a chance to beat the crowds.

  • Priya

    March 28, 2017 at 7:38 pm Reply

    Your photos are really cool. I visited this place way back in 90’s as a kid.

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