Taj Mahal, Agra: Shatabdi to Shatabdi One Day Trip

Taj Mahal! Surely my words are inadequate to describe the beauty of the monument. So, I won’t even try. I will restrict myself to the more mundane aspects of getting there on a day trip from Delhi and coming back in one single piece.

We, my two teenaged monkey nephews and I, decided to do a day trip to Agra to spend sometime at the Taj Mahal and Agra fort (Sesha, my husband, still refuses to visit any place that does not has the Himalayas in the background).

We did what is known as a ‘Shatabdi to Shatabdi’ trip. The trick is to take the morning (6.15 am) Bhopal Shatabdi Express to Agra Cant. (8.15 am ish arrival) and take the evening Bhopal Shatabdi (8.22 pm) from Agra Cant. to reach Delhi the same day at 10.30 at night. We also decided to drive to the New Delhi Railway station from Gurgaon and leave our car parked there till the night.

The train arrived right on time at Agra Cant. and deposited the three of us quite clueless on the platform. I had read at Indiamike about prepaid Taxi stand and that was our immediate destination. Our cluelessness must have been quite apparent to the taxi driver who was trying to direct us to the pre-paid booth but skepticism was written all over my face as to his directions. He pointed out the exit to us and we decide to trust him that far because the railway signboard concurred with his directions.

Once we exited, it was easy to spot the prepaid taxi booth. I stood in the line for the ticket. And while the people from other countries before me were asking for taxis to Maurya Sheraton and the like, I could read the signboard at leisure. That is where I came across the phrase ‘Shatabdi to Shatabdi’ tour first. It was packaged at Rs. 950 (taxi charges only) for a non AC vehicle and Rs. 1400 for AC vehicle. It included a trip to Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri. Tempting as it sounded, I decided to stick to our original plan to hire a taxi just to the Taj Mahal. The good folks at the prepaid booth charged me Rs. 125 for the service.

The hard sell started in the taxi itself. Our driver for this trip, extended the offer to retain the taxi for the entire day at the charges of an additional Rs. 325. We told him we were not interested. He persisted saying he could take us to the market too and we politely told him we would not do any shopping. He said I will not find any taxi vacant to take us back to the station in the evening and it would not be safe for us at all to roam on our own. I told him it would be really sad if I can’t feel safe in our own country in broad daylight. After trying for 15 minutes he gave up.

By that time we were almost at the Taj Mahal car parking. Most types of motorized vehicles are not permitted beyond this point. We decided to walk the remaining one kilometer though one can take a cycle rickshaw or a horse drawn tanga to the entrance. The dual pricing policy remains in place in spite of some news that I read quite sometime back that hinted at some changes. Indian nationals pay Rs. 20 and the foreign nationals Rs. 750.

Taj Mahal had braces as repair work going on the day we visited.

But bring in a bit of tree into focus and no one would know about the repair work!

My elder nephew was visiting the monument for the first time and as soon as it came in the full view, he went silent and his jaws dropped in sheer amazement. So did ours’ even though it was not the first time for my younger nephew or me. The guide explained various things to us but something else caught my attention.

I have seen so many famous faces peering in front of it but I liked what I saw on Saturday 21, 2006. I would have liked it even more if there were no long sticks in the picture.

After the guide took us through the history of the monument, we wandered along for quite sometime on our own. It is said that the Emperor Shahjahan cut the hands of the craftsmen who completed the monument but our guide had an interesting take on it. According to him it is not true. He said the emperor made the craftsmen sign an agreement that they will not practice their craft anymore and hence the saying: it is like cutting their hands, a mere figure of speech. I wish his version is true but I guess there is no definitive answer out there?

By 12 noon my nephews stopped speaking. I knew then it was time for lunch. The Taj Restaurant (run by the Ashoka Group, government owned) is just a two to three minute walk from the main entrance towards the car park and that is where we crashed at Agra. It is moderately expensive and we had a hefty meal. Midway through our meal, I had a nagging suspicion that they may not accept a credit or a debit card. On inquiry, the waiter confirmed my fears. I had enough cash on this occasion but I told him to put a sign on the entrance that cards are not accepted or someone may just realize it too late!

Stomach full, our eyes started drooping but we walked out and took a tanga to the Agra Fort (Rs. 25) that is roughly 2 kilometers away from the Taj Mahal. Only 15 to 20 percent of the fort is accessible to public and rest is out of bounds either because of renovation work or because of the presence of the army.

A View from the Agra Fort

When our guide showed (same story here too, charge Rs. 150, even though his card said Rs 275) us Divan-e-Aam (a place where the king would meet the common people) my younger nephew remarked as I was clicking a picture, “Why can’t they include such a picture in our history text books? When I read about it in class 7th I had no clue it would be such a place.” Good question indeed, why not?

The fort is full of history, so many great kings, battles, polts, treachery, the place has seen it all.

Diwan-e-Aam at Agra Fort

Once again we embarked on the photography session after the guide completed the tour and we sat for an hour and a half near the Hava Mahal for the simple reason that there indeed was a cool breeze blowing around it. I was reading ‘Mansfield Park’ by Jane Austen for a while and wondering what activities people would have been doing 300 years before at the same place. And yet some have the courage to write graffiti. Even though we saw it at the Taj itself, Agra Fort has it real bad.

Graffiti at the Agra Fort

View of the Taj Mahal from Agra Fort

Around 4.30 in the evening we decided to take a tanga back to the Taj and spend some more time there but the huge queue deterred us. Instead we went to the restaurant of ‘The Rooftop Hotel’ (seedy and overpriced place, but from their roof you can see the Taj in all its glory) and had our tea.

We decided to head back to the railway station soon after. The search for auto was complete after a little bit of bargaining. The auto guy charged us Rs. 40 after bargaining (So much for prepaid taxi that charged us Rs. 125 for the same).

My kids once again enjoyed the train journey though we all were very tired by now. The air conditioned chair cars of Bhopal Shatabdi has decent leg space that contributed to the happiness of my nephews, as at six foot plus both will have significant difficulties if the leg room is not ample.

Once we reached Delhi at 10.30 at night it was a struggle to reach home because of some moronic ‘kanwaria’ festival going on. They organized some kind of running/walking event at night and of course they had to block traffic with their mini trucks to make way for the runners. But for this, I don’t think I would change much from our day out. On second thoughts, I would also choose a cooler month than July for our next visit. Maybe we will go again in October or November.

36 thoughts on “Taj Mahal, Agra: Shatabdi to Shatabdi One Day Trip

  1. Lynn

    wow, thanks so much for the pics and narration. I was very worried about going from new delhi to agra – and surrounding area…we are going next week…but you have put up a very helpful tips….

    have a few questions though…

    u have any idea how much for agra (taj mahal, etc – spend one night here) – jaipur (one night) – new delhi..if such package was available at the train station?

    how much was for the guide at taj mahal? we are not locals, so, would love to know the history in detail

    Reply
    1. Mridula Post author

      Lynn I am not aware of a Jaipur inclusive package at the station. I have forgotten what the guide costs but should be less than 300 rupees or about 300 rupees. Just ask a few and you would get to know. If it sounds outrageous just don’t hire. At some places at Jaipur you can hire an audio guide but not sure if it is at Taj Mahal too.

      Reply
  2. Tareq

    Hello Mridula,
    Nice writing. I like your one day trip and will try to go for it. One small question, do you need to buy tickets for “Bhopal Shatabdi Express” early? Or you can buy it on-site at railway station. Best regards…Tareq

    Reply
  3. Patrik Jonsson

    Great job! I believe you might have saved my life!
    I’ll be sure to get back when I’ve tried your guide!

    Kind regards,
    Patrik

    Reply
    1. Mridula Post author

      Many thanks Patrik for stopping by. If you are thinking of going to Agra my besy wishes for a good trip.

      Reply
  4. Crystal

    What a beauty that Taj Mahal is! As far as the double pricing system, that is something I ran across all the time while in Africa, whether it be park fees or musuem fees. Sometimes it’s a bit exploitative, but for the most part I think it’s only fair to give locals a discount, otherwise the tresures of their country would be off-limit to them. While in London I visited Kew Gardens, a botanical park, and entrance cost about $20. I converted the 750 rupees to $$$ and looks like that’s only $16, a fair price to pay to see one of the world’s great monuments, especially considering that in the West you pay so much more even to see some little musuem/attraction. Anyway, I really do hope to travel to India one day, and it’s always nice to hear of your experiences.

    Reply
    1. Kapil Bajaj

      Double pricing is common in many places…even in few cities and sites in Mainland Europe of all places.

      Reply
  5. Khakra

    One mystery that took my fancy was the “Black Taj.”. It was a black marble version ordered by Shahjahan to be built across the Yamuna, so both were in direct view of each other. Basically, two grand tombs. Archaelogists dug up opposite the Yamuna, didn’t find much. Apparently the black marble tomb was a Shahjahan cover up. Latest research says a reflection of the Taj in the Yamuna was meant to be the “Black Taj.” If that’s true, ingenuous!

    Reply
  6. Cuckoo

    One should make it a point to first visit this site before going there. I remember my last and only visit to the Taj at the time of total Solar Eclipse in 1995. I must say it still looks the same… beautiful, awesome, actually beyond words. Well described and nice pictures though graffiti part makes us sad. I liked the picture of bulls… an interesting one. Thanks for this online visit to the Taj. :)

    Reply
  7. Sigma

    Wonderful pictures, and interesting account. I really liked the picture of Taj taken from Agra fort. And it is indeed sad that people vandalize monuments so thoughtlessly; it is almost criminal. I am a complete loss to understand what joy could anyone possibly derive from defacing things of great beauty.

    Reply
  8. Akshay

    Great post, as deepak pointed out many of our historial and heritage are filled with all that dasterdly graffiti, Sunita Loves someone and someone else loves someone else and I hate them all – or atleast the guy with the butter knife who scratched it in.I on the other hand am headed to Alwara on the other side of our great capital. Speaking of our capital I should be spending some time there around the first week of August – we should meet.

    Reply
  9. Deepak

    Oh that graffiti just makes my blood boil. I still remember walls in the Diwan-e-Khas in the Red Fort just covered with “Sunitas”, “Babitas” and “Bobbys” and their “I love you”s – it’s just so sad that people dont respect beautiful things enough not to deface them!! It’s the very same group of people who would run out to beat you up if you even placed a finger on their shiny cars!!

    Reply
  10. Shruthi

    Nice account – I did this Delhi – Agra trip in July last year. Almost read like my own trip :) It was the second time I saw the Taj, and my jaw dropped all the same :)Lovely pics.

    Reply
  11. Akira

    Hi Mridula,One monument, different perspectives…I happened to visit the TAJ this May (I know, WRONG TIME!!)…http://reverberatesparks.blogspot.com/2006/06/huh-taj.htmlI'd like to visit it again..although I guess I need to be careful about the time..anyhoo..Enjoyed reading your post, as always! :)…The pics are great…I found the one w/ the bull interesting and unique…One suggestion though…could you change the font/style of the photo-titles?…I feel it’ll be easier to spot them that way…

    Reply
  12. sathish

    the foto of the bulls walking with Taj Mahal as backdrop is awesome.. graffiti on Indian monuments is our lifestyle.. everyone wants to leave their impression there, god knows for what..

    Reply
  13. Maverick

    we visited taj in our school trip to delhi,evryone was awe struck by its beauty the very first time we saw it.But i still repent tht i havent seen it in the moon light, thts real beauty poets say.n yes, the grafitti episode tht ur pics show r disgusting.people just seem to be enjoying the feeling of immortality by writing their name on taj, i hope they’d realise if they continue to do it, taj will not be taj anymore.

    Reply
  14. lily b

    I remember that feeling of awe when we first saw it, too. I would go back again in a heartbeat. I would especially like to go back on a bright, beautiful day like in your pictures. We were there on a hazy day and it makes a huge difference in the way the Taj looks.I really like the third picture. Definitely a different view!

    Reply
  15. Vj

    beautiful shots. Incidentally ,I was planning an agra Trip , this weekend too. but office work held me up .The grafittis on the wall perturbed me . I think responsible people should be severly punished.Very soon .You’re going to find my version of TAJ. I might go there next week

    Reply
  16. AJEYA RAO

    Awesome….I have still not been to Taj and I feeling really bad about it. :((Have to put that in my list for this year or at least next. :-))Nice post…Excellent Pictures

    Reply
  17. Pooja Aggarwal

    Nice pictures, Mridula. And an interesting account. I actually don’t think much of the guides at such places – most of the times they will tell you the “heresy” and make it seem as if its coming out of a history book. But its always good to hear what their take is. I remember questioning our guide when we visited the Taj in February about something and it completely threw him off.

    Reply
  18. Aadil

    Hi Mridula,Brings back fond memories of my visit there last year and it is always better to take the rickshaw as they are better to bargain with!!! I made a trip to the Agra fort, Itmad ud daulah as well as the Sikandrabad for Akbar’s tomb and memorial for about Rs250!!!Cheers,Aadil.

    Reply
  19. Nilesh

    great naration Mridula. I am yet to visit Taj :(. Reading abt your trip made me think of visiting it next time I go to Jhansi. one more place i think now is Khajuraho.

    Reply
  20. travel plaza

    Sounds like a great trip Mridula. I remember visiting the Taj Mahal, about 10 yrs back. I can imagine the look of amazement on all your faces. It is indeed a wonderful monument. Your pictures and narration once agian had my full attention.

    Reply

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