The tomb is the central focus of the entire complex of the Taj Mahal
To buy tickets, you can go to the South gate, but this gate is 1 km far away of the entrance and the counter opens at 8:00 AM. At the West and East gates, the counters open at 6:00 AM. These gates also have smaller queues in peak times as the big tour buses drop groups off at the South gate. Alongside the ticket counter, you can also purchase a self-guided audio tour (allows two to a device) for ₹100 in English and foreign languages and ₹60 for Indian languages.
The Taj is located 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 during full moons and two days before and after (five days in total). Exceptions are Fridays (the Muslim sabbath) and the month of Ramadan. Tickets must be purchased 24 hours in advance from the Archeological Society of India office situated at 22, Mall Road, Agra. Ticket fare is Rs. 500 for Indian Nationals and Rs. 750 for Non Indians. Night tickets go on sale starting at 10am, but they 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. Viewing hours for night viewing is from 8:30pm-9:00pm and 9:00pm-9:30pm. Arrive 30 minutes early for security check at Taj Mahal Ticketing counter on East Gate or you may lose your chance. The night view is not worth spending as the visitors are kept quite far from Taj Mahal nearly 200 Mts away and there in no light so it could hardly be seen during night hours at viewing hours. Cameras also do not give images with near zero flux can easily be avoided for night viewing.
Tomb – This large, white marble structure stands on a square plinth and consists of a symmetrical building with an iwan(an arch-shaped doorway) topped by a large dome and finial. Like most Mughal tombs, the basic elements are Persian in origin.
The base structure is essentially a large, multi-chambered cube with chamfered corners, forming an unequal octagon that is approximately 55 metres (180 ft) on each of the four long sides. On each of these sides, a huge pishtaq, or vaulted archway, frames the iwan with two similarly shaped, arched balconies stacked on either side. This motif of stacked pishtaqs is replicated on the chamfered corner areas, making the design completely symmetrical on all sides of the building. Four minarets frame the tomb, one at each corner of the plinth facing the chamfered corners. The main chamber houses the false sarcophagi of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan; the actual graves are at a lower level.
The marble dome that surmounts the tomb is the most spectacular feature. Its height of around 35 metres (115 ft) is about the same as the length of the base, and is accentuated as it sits on a cylindrical “drum” which is roughly 7 metres (23 ft) high. Because of its shape, the dome is often called an onion dome or amrud (guava dome). The top is decorated with a lotus design, which also serves to accentuate its height. The shape of the dome is emphasised by four smaller domed chattris (kiosks) placed at its corners, which replicate the onion shape of the main dome. Their columned bases open through the roof of the tomb and provide light to the interior. Tall decorative spires (guldastas) extend from edges of base walls, and provide visual emphasis to the height of the dome. The lotus motif is repeated on both the chattris and guldastas. The dome and chattris are topped by a gilded finial, which mixes traditional Persian and Hindustani decorative elements.
The main finial was originally made of gold but was replaced by a copy made of gilded bronze in the early 19th century. This feature provides a clear example of integration of traditional Persian and Hindu decorative elements. The finial is topped by a moon, a typical Islamic motif whose horns point heavenward. Because of its placement on the main spire, the horns of the moon and the finial point combine to create a trident shape, reminiscent of traditional Hindu symbols of Shiva.
The minarets, which are each more than 40 metres (130 ft) tall, display the designer’s penchant for symmetry. They were designed as working minarets—a traditional element of mosques, used by the muezzin to call the Islamic faithful to prayer. Each minaret is effectively divided into three equal parts by two working balconies that ring the tower. At the top of the tower is a final balcony surmounted by a chattri that mirrors the design of those on the tomb. The chattris all share the same decorative elements of a lotus design topped by a gilded finial. The minarets were constructed slightly outside of the plinth so that, in the event of collapse, (a typical occurrence with many tall constructions of the period) the material from the towers would tend to fall away from the tomb.
The Taj Mahal • Locations & Activities