GATEWAY TO THE TAJ MAHAL
The historic Taj Ganj neighbourhood in Agra, India is where the Taj Mahal is located. This cultural hub, market district, business precinct, and residential area surrounding the grand monument forms part of the UNESCO world heritage site of the Taj Mahal complex, at the South Gate of the world famous attraction.
The Taj Mahal receives up to 8 million visitors every year. That is a staggering amount of people, who all descend on the town of Taj Ganj, the gateway to one of the Wonders of the World.
Origins of Taj Ganj
The Taj Ganj area is one of the oldest parts of Agra. It was originally a noble area during the time of Akbar The Great of the Mughal Empire.
The area was later established as a housing precinct for the builders of the Taj Mahal in the 17th century. There were some 20,000 workers involved from all over Asia!
The market of Taj Ganj is believed to be where the Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahan, met his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal, for whom he had the monument built, after she died in childbirth. The majestic tomb was completed in 1648.
The main road leading up to the Taj Mahal used to be a thriving bazaar selling luxury goods, such as gem stones. It was always a proud gateway to the main attraction of India.
Taj Ganj is of great significance to the cultural identity of the nation.
Stunning marble inlay patterns and floral designs using semi-precious stones on the Taj Mahal
Taj Ganj Today
Today the town of Taj Ganj is a vibrant and bustling district. Home to tens of thousands, many who rely on tourism to the Taj Mahal to make a living.
But sadly, other than the Taj Mahal, many people don’t stop here for much else.
The old bazaar road leading to the monument is a walkway with shops, food places and accommodation. It’s also a meeting place for many locals and tourists from other parts of the country.
The Taj Ganj residential neighbourhood just a short way from the famous site, still has many of the old houses from the rich Mughal past.
It shocks me a little that just a short distance away from one of the most glamorous and architecturally impressive monuments in the world, which has been estimated to be worth US$916 Million, there are many locals living in poverty in one of the most touristy areas in the country.
Be careful if you are visiting, as tourists get swarmed with touts and beggars which can be quite persistent. I had them knocking on my car window and trying to open the car door, which was a little scary.
Taj Ganj neighbourhood with views of Taj Mahal – photo credit
Taj Ganj Locals
Many locals living in Taj Ganj today are descendants (Pachchikars) of the original Taj Mahal builders. The ancient crafts of stone and marble inlaying and carving have been passed down from their ancestors, and are still practiced today, forming part of the heritage industry of the area.
Most importantly these craftsmen are the only ones who can properly maintain the artistic integrity of the Taj. It requires regular restorations to conserve the magnificent and intricate artwork on the monument.
The people of Taj Ganj, and the whole area, are considered a living cultural heritage.
Photos of Taj Ganj
Taj Ganj Artisans
You should take the time to visit the artisans at a workshop and watch them at their craft. It’s truly fascinating and gives you a better appreciation of the meticulous work they do and the amount of detail that went in to the making of the Taj Mahal. Watching is free, but of course you are encouraged to peruse the showroom and see the finished products, of which there are many to choose from if you wish to make a purchase.
Support of these local trades helps the Taj Ganj community.
Old bazaar roads - around Taj Mahal south gate
Vehicles are not allowed near the monument, to prevent pollution damage to the marble exterior of the Taj Mahal. Pedestrians only are permitted on the road leading to the gates.
Tours of Agra
Accommodation near the Taj Mahal
Some of the hotels and guest houses here offer views of the Taj Mahal and have rooftop eateries, such as the Saniya Palace Hotel. Night time views of the Taj Mahal lit up are lovely although they me be partially obstructed.
Taj Ganj is popular with some budget travellers for its low cost accommodation and eateries.
For upscale hotel accommodation try Fatehabad Road, but it is chaotic and noisy, as it’s the main thoroughfare.
I recommend the Oberoi Amarvilas Agra or Taj Hotel & Convention Centre Agra.
Have you been to Taj Ganj, Agra?
I would love any comments below.