Lonely Planet Magazine India
Beyond the Taj Mahal Image Credit: Lonely Planet Magazine India
Beyond the Taj Mahal Image Credit: Lonely Planet Magazine India

Beyond the Taj Mahal

Saahir Ebrahim discovers an Agra replete with great architecture and experiences.

Saahir Ebrahim

THE lure of the Taj Mahal draws at least seven million visitors to Agra every year, and the world’s eternal monument to love is certainly worthy of the thousands of new faces that gape at it every day. This marble mausoleum was built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan to be the final resting place of his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Her tomb is the centrepiece of a 42-acre complex that was largely completed in 1648, which includes a mosque and a guesthouse, pulled together by beautiful gardens. The Taj Mahal was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 and made part of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007.

If photography is your thing, be sure to visit the Taj Mahal by sunrise. You’ll end up avoiding much of the rush; peak time for the hordes of tourists is 8am and 5pm. When you get there, take the time to admire the stunning gateway, soaring 30m high, walking through which gives you your first sight of the mausoleum. This gateway is inscribed with Quranic verses, and the spider-web design on the inner ceiling of its dome is said to represent the spider webs that once saved the prophet Muhammad’s life by fooling his pursuers into believing no one was within the cave he had retreated into. The Taj Mahal itself is set on a raised plinth, symmetrical on al


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