After finishing Bharatpur Bird Photography workshop, Peter, Alicia, and I set out to visit the Winner of the New Seven Wonders of the World—Taj Mahal.
It was a cloudy day and our Guide, Narendra, who is an official guide for the Golden Triangle—Delhi, Agra, & Jaipur—warned me that we might not get the best shots. We both decided to make a trip to Agra Fort first before going to Taj Mahal, in a hope that by then the cloud clears out. Eventually, it did, and we were happy.
By noon, the sky was lot clear and we headed to much-awaited Taj Mahal. The queue as long, as always, but we got a special entry because we had “high-value tickets” for Peter & Alicia.
At the entrance, Narendra showed us with his ever-lasting enthusiasm that we are having a first-look at the Taj. We snapped a few photos as everyone else was doing while Narendra continued with his history lesson.
Though, it was my third time, I was never tired of snapping the pictures. It was yet another time that I wasn’t blessed with the right light. It was still a bit grey. That’s because, my wife was cursing me back home that I didn’t take her. Why shouldn’t she. Taj Mahal is the place you go to with your beloved one, and here I am with my clients/friends. I said it again to Narendra that I have to come with my wife in order to get a perfect photo. I am not sure when would I do that. Next time for sure, as I always say to myself.
A first look at this ivory-white marble mausoleum through the entrance Gate which is a crenellated red sandstone wall, gives you an awe. Every photographer—mobile, point-and-shoot, DSLR—would make a stop here taking one zillionth photo which looks exactly like any other. But, it’s his/her photo, you see 🙂 So, we take ones too.
Then, our Guide and every other guide, pulls Alicia aside to the centre of this enormous gate guiding her to take a photo from “that particular viewpoint” which will give her a post-card view of the Taj framed against this giant wall. Then Peter takes the stage, followed by me. See, Narendra can be your photography guide too 🙂
The first view of Taj Mahal might be amazing, but you might not be sure why this is one of the World’s wonder. It’s not until you go closer to this mammoth monument that you truly experience the beauty and elegance. Narendra makes no mistake to tell this upfront. Every. Single. Time.
You nevertheless make some photographs—post-card types—from this location. The crowd will peep into every one of your photographs, whether you want it or not. Just go with the flow. Find your way, may be irking a few, probably a few hundreds of fellow selfie-shooters, to get a very nice symmetrical shot of the Taj.
As you walk through the crowded place, you start witnessing the sheer elegance of Taj Mahal. It’s way bigger than what you imagined. The closer you get, the more you start to realise why it’s the winner of the New Seven Wonders of the World. It’s breathtaking. It’s unbelievable. It’s incredible.
Every few steps you’d be making pictures after pictures. At the back of your mind you know there are zillions of photos already out there, but you want few more of yours. You want to flood social media with some more. That’s okay. That’s what we did too 🙂 We took pictures. Plenty of them.
Narendra doesn’t forget to tell you how beautiful the reflection of the Taj is from the water body in the front. I love his enthusiasm to say the same thing repeatedly for more than 20 years! That takes something for sure.
As you get closer to the main tomb, you’d see that countless humans there looks “insignificant” in front of the enormous structure. At this point you realise that you can’t capture that experience is photos or videos. It’s just other-worldly-experience that you have to witness in person.
That’s what I said when I first visited Taj, and that’s exactly what my clients/friends said too. So, here’s a reason why you should pay a visit to this marvel. Don’t forget to book a ticket for your beloved one too, otherwise, you wouldn’t get nice photos 🙂
The main tomb has exactly 22 steps and the main entrance gate has 22 small domes to signify that it took 22 years to build Taj Mahal! We all loved that fact.
As you climb up these steps and see the main tomb for the first time, you’ll be awed. No words or photo or video can describe the sheer brilliance that has gone into it. It’s just can’t be described .
Inside the main tomb there are graves of Mumtaz (Taj Mahal was built for her by her husband Shah Jahan) and Shah Jahan. Photography is strictly prohibited inside the tomb.
As we came out of the main tomb, we were looking out towards the Yamuna river. It was very nice weather out there and we were enjoying every bit of it as Narendra went on to explain each and everything to my clients.
While I was busy capturing the beauty of the river, Narendra went on to explain about a concert given by the legendary performer and composer Yanni right on the river bank. When Alicia didn’t get what he meant, he repeated saying “Yanni Master.”
That’s when Alicia bursted out saying, Eddie the Monster, leading to a trip-long laughter.
Here’s how Yanni Master became Eddie the Monster, as we understood it after a mighty laughter. As I mentioned in the beginning, we went to Agra Fort. There’s a moat around the fort that is reportedly filled with crocodiles and alligators to wade off enemies.
Since, we had a good explanation from Narendra about enemies and some brilliant tactics used by the Kings of that time, Alicia was still drooling over it. This thought process of enemies and our British-India accent made the matters worse. And here’s what I mean.
In India, we pronounce Maaster (Maa…Ster) which might be confusing when we use it with other words, especially for the Americans as the pronunciation for the word “Master” is quite different.
So, that’s how Eddie the Monster was born. That’s how I become Photography Monster. You see 🙂
I am not sure if you can appreciate my explanation here. I can’t tell you exact pronunciation through writing, but you get the point.
It’ll not be long before you hear me mentioning Monster instead of Master in many of my communications. It’s fun. It’s a lot of fun. We all thoroughly enjoyed it. Thanks Alicia 🙂
Just when we are walking out of the main tomb, we saw the glitter from the firestones from the Taj Mahal. It was a sight to behold. It was stunning.
While walking back, we tried various compositions, some suggested by Narendra! It’s never tiring to photograph this beauty. It’s just exceptional. Photos don’t make ANY sort of justice.
You’ll have to go there and experience it for yourself.
The Best Kept Secret
Do you know that you can photograph Taj from the Yamuna river bank even today. If you ask anyone, they’ll say they don’t allow it anymore. But, that’s wrong.
When you exit from the Taj East Gate, take a left turn right after the gate and walk for about 200 mtrs. You’ll see a gate, walk past the gate and you’ll see a ancient Shiva temple and the river bank. There you find this guy with a broken boat, well…almost broken. You have to bargain well with the boat guy there.
A word of caution here: If you are afraid of the Monsters, don’t go 🙂
Here’s how gorgeous the Taj Mahal looks from the boat on banks of Yamuna River.
Here we are, four of us (left to right): Alicia, Peter, yours truly, and Narendra (Guide).
Invariably, my foreign clients love Indian food, even get confused whether they are in India for food or for photography. When you come out of Taj, you’d normally feel hungry. I feel hungry, at least. That’s when you go to this tiny hotel right outside the East Gate on to your diagonal right, assuming you are standing looking away from the Gate 🙂
If you are with Narendra, he’ll do the needful.
You get hot (as in served hot) spicy (as in chilly) Samosas. I don’t like samosas. Yeah, you can blame me for that. I eat them once in a while when there’s no choice. But, these samosas, blew me away. They were too good. You should try at least one.
The masala chai with these samosas rounds it all up very nicely.
For meals or dinner, Narendra is your best bet. He’ll take you to the best places.
Important Notes if you are considering to visit Taj Mahal
- There are several list of items that you can’t carry inside the Taj. One of the main item for us photographers is the Tripod. You can’t carry a Tripod.
- If you are not going with a guide, don’t forget to purchase the shoe cover at the ticket counter.
- The queue to enter can be overwhelming at the gate, so be prepared.
- Taj mahal is closed on Fridays. Plan accordingly.
- Full-moon day is the best day to see Taj Mahal in its glory, as they say. But, the number of entrees are restricted considerably. Research it or talk to our extraordinary guide, Narendra @ +91-9837171314
Entry fee as of this writing, Feb 2018, is INR 40/- for Indians and INR 1,000/- for foreign nationals. For the most up-to-date information, check the official website of Taj Mahal.
Note: Taj Mahal is closed on Fridays.
Narendra Gupta : +91-9837171314. He has over 20+ years experience and is an official guide from Ministry of India for the Golden Triangle circuit—Delhi, Agra, Jaipur. He’s one of the best English speaking guide there. You’ll be surprised by his immense knowledge and his English.
If you happen to meet him, don’t forget to mention the “Monster Story”, you’ll have a great time for sure 🙂
His charges are fixed by the government. I think it’d be around INR 1,700 to 2,000/- per day. But, I am sure you’d end up paying him a fat tip. He’s that good.
If you are planning to visit Agra from Bharatpur (which is just about 1.5 hrs drive), you can call up Bhupendra @ +91-9784395384 or +91-7610996611. For any round-trips from Delhi or Jaipur, you can contact him.
If you are coming from Delhi, you can contact Upendra Kumar @ +91-9718367666.
As an aside, just that I clear myself, these people don’t work for me or with me. I don’t get any sort of benefits if you go to them. I am doing this because they’ve been extremely helpful and are respectful towards my clients. If you mention my name, they’d treat you more like friends and family and take good care of you. Since, you are reading my article here, you deserve a better treatment 🙂 Makes sense?