Photographing the Taj Mahal – Seasons, Locations and tips
Everyone knows the Taj Mahal, who wouldn’t? We were born with the story of one’s true love since we were young. And always wondered what is so different about it. It carries great fame which brings in the crowd and numerous photos. The popularity ensures that even without seeing it in person you have seen it.
The golden rays falling on the flawless intricate facade of the Taj Mahal, a lyric in every thought of yours as you see it, the Taj Mahal stands on the banks of the river Yamuna, encapsulates the history and the saga of Love. One of the Seven Wonders of the World has moved thousands of people to an inexpressive emotion.
They say the Taj Mahal reflects the mood of the surroundings with every passing hour. Capturing the changing face of this celebrated monument with the changing light conditions is on the bucket list of every professional and hobbyist photographer throughout the world. Before delving into how and where to shoot the best pictures of the Taj Mahal, let’s know a little bit more about the monument.
The white-splendored tomb was built by Emperor Shah Jahan in the memory of his wife, Arjumand Banu Begum, better known as Mumtaz Mahal. She married Shah Jahan in 1612 to become his second wife and inseparable companion, and died in childbirth at Burhanpur while on a campaign with her husband in 1629.
It was in the memory of his beloved wife that Shah Jahan built a magnificent monument as a tribute to her, which today is known as the “Taj Mahal”. The construction of Taj Mahal started in the year 1631. Masons, stonecutters, inlayers, carvers, painters, calligraphers, dome-builders and other artisans were requisitioned from the whole of the empire and also from Central Asia and Iran, and it took approximately 22 years to build what we see today.
The structure of the Taj Mahal adheres to the Islamic style of Architecture which flourished in India during the medieval period.
Overlooking the Yamuna River, Taj Mahal stands at the northern end of the vast gardens from the Persian Timurid style of gardens, and is based on the concept of paradise garden’ and was brought in by Babur. This garden, filled with flowers, fruits, birds, leaves, symmetry, and delicacy, served many functions along with portraying strong symbolic or abstract meanings about paradise. A paradise which, according to Islamic beliefs, consists of four rivers: one of water, one of milk, one of honey, and one of wine. And it is from this concept that Char Baugh of Taj Mahal originated.
The glowing monument, manicured gardens and clear water ponds is considered to be the pride of India and a masterpiece of Mughal architecture. The architects and designers of the Taj Mahal didn’t limit the symmetry to the main monument. The landscaping of the gardens also follows this principle.
Photographing the ‘Taj Mahal’
Apart from choosing the sunrise and sunset, to get the best pictures of the Taj Mahal, you need to shoot it at the right time of the year. There are three seasons in India, summer, winter and the monsoons. Shooting the Taj is a different experience in every season. Taj Mahal looks its best when the morning sun rays fall on the marble structure. That is when the marble glows at its best and you can get a sun kissed Taj Mahal photographed.
Best Seasons to photograph the Taj Mahal
The Taj has a different look every season. Taj looks different and you can actually get a different shot from the same location in different season. It’s pinkish in the morning, golden in the evening and milky white when the moon shines. In the morning time, you get these golden rays of the sunrise falling on the Taj and you can shoot the Taj in its full glory
The winters offer a different look of the Taj Mahal, there is a slight fog in the air during the sunrise and the sunset. The air is not so clear giving it an almost hazy look to the pictures. The only time that the haze vanishes is when the sun rays fall on the Taj Mahal. This is going to be your best shot in winters. The winter season starts from mid-October to mid-February in India. A little mist or fog could add drama to your shot, due to the fog it is advised to shoot Taj from inside the compound. Also, in winters there are fewer footfalls as locals prefer to stay indoors.
The Monsoon season offers clear view of the Taj. Monsoons are one of the best seasons to shoot from Aug to Sept as the air is clear, there are clouds, storm, lightning in the sky which adds drama to the whole composition, Sunrises and sunsets might not be very clear but there is enough light to expose your shot.
The best seasons to shoot the Taj Mahal would be when the air is clear and there are no clouds in the sky. This is the time to capture the best sunrises and sunsets with the TAJ Mahal. Even full moon rise shots are possible at this time. This is the time the light during the sunrise will lit the Taj Mahal beautifully. The end of winters and start of summer would be ideal to photograph the Taj Mahal. This is during the months of March and April. These are one of the best months to photograph the Taj Mahal.
Best day during the week: It would definitely be during the sunrise. The gates of the Taj Mahal open at sunrise and are closed after sunset. Weekends are the most crowded and you should avoid visiting, if you intend to shoot the Taj Mahal from inside the compound. Sometimes Mondays can be crowded too due to extended weekends. The ideal days to photograph the Taj Mahal would be Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday during the sunrise. You will find the least of crowds at sunrise when the gates open. That is when you can spend all the time photographing the beauty.
Best nearby places to shoot from: Apart from shooting from within the compound, there are few other places which will give you the shot of your life time. These are the places near the Taj Mahal from where you can witness the monument and take all your time to get it photographed for your portfolio.
- Mehtab Bagh:This is a small garden situated exactly behind the Taj Mahal. The Taj Mahal is symmetrical from all the sides. It looks exactly the same from behind as it appears from the front. You can avoid the entire crowd and be at Mehtab Baug in Agra. The best part is they open before sunrise and stay late past sunset. You can get the best shots of your life from this place. Advised to carry your wide angle as well as telephoto lenses to this place. During Friday’s Taj Mahal is closed for public viewing, so generally Mehtab Bagh is much crowded with tourists on Fridays.
- Chandrashekhar Garden: This is a place little bit far away from the taj. They have a special platform in the garden from where the Taj Mahal is clearly visible. You can capture the sunrise from this place and get really awesome pictures. Since the Taj is far away from this place, your telephoto lenses will suit best from this place.
- The Yamuna river bank: If you want to shoot sunrise and in specific a FULL Moon rise, this is the best place you can choose to go. You can get really awesome sunrise pictures from this place which is located on the west side of the Taj Mahal. This place again is less crowded and you can also try sunrises from this place. More than sunrise and sunset pictures, this place is best suited for photographing Taj Mahal during the full moon nights. Make sure you carry your wide angle and telephoto lenses at this place.
- Dussehra Ghat: This is the ideal place to click sunsets along with Taj Mahal, it’s a ghat having a temple where locals worship. You can actually click Taj along with the Agra fort from here. Don’t forget to carry your wide angle lenses.
- Suburbs of Agra: Along the banks of Yamuna and exactly behind the Taj there is a small suburb area where you can get onto the roofs of houses to take pictures of the Taj Mahal. House owners are quite welcoming and you can request people for access to their rooftops.
Apart from the 5 locations mentioned above there are specific days during the year where there are celebrations and festivals inside the compound and you can beautiful pictures from inside.
During EID one can take pictures of the TAJ during Namaaz. For photographing Taj Mahal during Namaaz, You have to arrive early at the venue. The best place to shoot is either from the Main platform of the Taj or from the Jharokhas of Mosque if you want Taj in the background.
“Urs” is another iconic event which takes place in May on Shah Jahan’s birthday. Colourful chaddars or from around the world are offered to the main mausoleum which is also kept open for public viewing.
How to reach Agra.
The Taj Mahal located in the city of Agra that lies approximately 204 km to the south of Delhi.
The fastest way of reaching Taj Mahal, Agra is by air. The city of Agra has its own airport that is around 7 km from the city centre.
There is a good network of trains connecting Agra with the rest of the country. Apart from the main railway station of Agra Cantonment, there are other two stations Raja-Ki-Mandi and Agra Fort.
There are regular busses from Agra to a number of important cities. The main bus stand of Idgah has a number of buses running for Delhi, Jaipur, Mathura, Fatehpur-Sikri, etc.