While the romance of Taj Mahal continues to hold visitors spell-bound, there’s one secret about the Taj not many know. The monument, today considered an ode to love, does shut doors post sunset but for 5 very special nights in a month, the gates are open once again and stay open well into the night.
Every Full Moon night, there is a special excursion conducted for tourists interested in seeing the Taj bathed in moonlight. Not just that night but those interested can witness this spectacle 4 other nights too – 2 preceding the Full Moon night and 2 succeeding the Full Moon night.
Number of Seats
There are a limited number of seats and the visitors are taken inside in batches. Not more than 50 people are allowed in a batch. There are 5-6 batches and the demand for the late night batches is higher so ensure you book the slot and the ticket accordingly.
The tickets for the midnight visit also differ and have to be booked separately by furnishing an ID proof. Unlike traditional tickets, these cannot be booked online and have to be booked only at the booking counter. The booking begins 48 hours prior.
If booked through the booking centre, the tickets cost Rs 510/- for Indian nationals and Rs 750/- for foreign nationals. However, in case you are unable to secure a ticket, you can also purchase one in “Black” from one of the many touts. The tickets prices then can shoot up to even Rs 1500/- depending on the slot and the demand. I ended up paying Rs 1100/- for my midnight view ticket as mine was a last minute plan and the tickets were sold out by then.
Rules & Regulations
But once the tickets are booked, you cannot breathe light. There is a long list of Rules and Regulations to abide by. While some of them are printed behind the ticket, not all are mentioned there. Also, in terms of baggage, there’s hardly anything that’s allowed inside the Taj.
Below is a long list of objects you will NOT be allowed to take inside:
– Phones : Both, smartphones and feature phones
– Handbags: Only small, handheld wallets allowed for both men and women
– Cosmetics: Not even lipbalm or kajal
– Keys: Except for the key to the locker provided
– Camera tripods
– Handycams or video cameras
Somehow, the rules didn’t make sense to me so I asked the security guards and the entry crew as to why no watches were allowed and what harm did handbags do to which his only reply was, “Security Reasons”. Anyways, here’s a considedably miniscule list of things you can safely take inside:
– Water bottle (though be prepared to hold it in your hand as no bag allowed)
– Still camera
– Small handheld wallet
The visit begins with the entry through the East Gate of the Taj towards Shilpgram. Entering minimum 30 minutes before is mandatory. I reached well beforehand and it proved to be extremely valuable as once inside, I realised I had only half the ticket! I had to call my aunt who booked it for me to hunt the second half which had torn off and fallen in her purse, rush back home and make it on time again! Luckily I made it!
Once inside, show your tickets to the ladies sitting at the counter in the centre of the room and get the tickets stamped.
Then proceed to show the stamped to the two officials sitting near the lockers. After verification, they will hand over the keys to the locker where you can place your belongings.
The women are then ushered into an adjacent room where there was a complete body check. Post that, the visit officially commences. Tourists are asked to line up at the entry point in the far end of the room and after checking the tickets, security personnel usher visitors to the electric buses.
Each bus can accomodate 12-16 persons and there are 3 buses for each batch. The buses take the visitors to another room where there’s a second security check. Post this, visitors are asked to queue up outside the main entry gate of the Taj – the Red Sandstone structure. There’s again a check conducted and once the members of the previous batch depart, visitors are allowed to enter inside in a queue.
There are barricades placed after the platform so no one can venture inside. Initially, the lights of the gate are kept on and the visibility is low. Once everyone is inside, the lights are shut off, plunging the area in darkness so the beauty of the Taj is highlighted.
Even in the pitch dark night, the white (now yellow) silhouette along with the details is clearly seen. While the eyes do take time to get adjusted, the experience is surreal. The Taj doesn’t shine and glow like before and the magic has weakened but it still is enough to hold the visitors spell-bound.
Though the visit duration is officially for 30 minutes, the actual time to see the Taj Mahal in the moonlight is just about 15 minutes. The rest of the time is spent in the travel and waiting in the queue. Though only for 15 minutes, the experience is bound to leave a mark and be a once-in-a-lifetime moment!
Do’s and Don’ts
– Wear warm and comfortable clothes
– Apply volumes of mosquito repellent
– Carry a traditional camera. Not your phone, a camera. DSLR, Point-and-Shoot, Film Roll cameras, anything is fine
– Take the late night slot. The later the better
– Carry your ID card used for booking the ticket
– Book the tickets well in advance
– Visit the Taj in the daytime once before visiting at night
– Carry phones or wear watches
– Reach late
– Carry a big bag
– Try to sneak a phone in
– Book a Friday visit as Taj Mahal is shut on Fridays
– Talk too loud and ruin the experience for others
– Set your expectations way too high
– Forget to enjoy!