India’s most revered monument, the Taj Mahal, is closed to visitors on Fridays as it is flanked by a functioning mosque and Fridays are the day of prayers. But plans have been announced to open up the building on these days between 7am and midday – at around US$100 per person as opposed to the usual fee of US$12. Currently the Taj Mahal is open every day except Fridays from 6am to 7pm.
The Taj Mahal hosts a festival every year between the 18th and 27th February called the Taj Mahotsav, and it takes place by the eastern gate, Shilpgram. Showcasing the region’s arts, crafts, music and folk dancing, it’s a great place for visitors to pick up great quality goods such as wood and marble carvings, pottery, brassware, carpets, jewellery, silk from Varanasi, Kashmir shawls, handmade carpets and paintings, and to enjoy the best of traditional foods from around the country.
Some historians say that the emperor Shah Jahan who built the magnificent white marble mausoleum for his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal which means ‘Jewel of the Palace’, also planned to build one for himself in black marble on the opposite bank of the river and have the two connected by an ornamental bridge. However, before he could do this his son declared war, deposed him and imprisoned him in a pavilion further along the river, from which he would gaze at the beautiful testimony of his love for his wife. What a sight it would have been had he completed his own planned mausoleum too!