Taj Mahal – The Eternal Show

Boatsmen wait for passengers across the Yamuna. The boat is painted in the Indian Tri-colour to attract tourists. (sanjay austa austa)

Boatsmen wait for passengers across the Yamuna. The boat is painted in the Indian Tri-colour to attract tourists.


The first time I  visited The Taj Mahal was in 1997. I was a rookie journalist  then and was lucky to be sent to cover the Yanni concert at Agra. Today you’ll  hear Yanni Orchestra music   play in hotel elevators but those days every socialite, politician and page-3 wannabe made a mad scramble to  get  front row seats for the Yanni show.  Organizing a concert at The Taj was Yanni’s whim or perhaps a great publicity stunt.  It raked in lots of controversy with both archaeologists and environmentalists up in arms. But Yanni had big bucks and who can argue against that?

When I went to see the Taj Mahal on the morning of the concert I was not impressed at all. It did not  live upto my expectations of it. I thought I had seen better Indian Monuments.  Since then I have visited the Taj Mahal  more than a dozen times but I realised The Taj has a way of growing on you. The more I visit this symbol of love the more I begin to appreciate its beauty, its scale, its architecture and its importance in indian history.

Fishermen fish in the waters of the Yamuna at the Taj However the water is shrinking and getting polluted year by year. (sanjay austa austa)

The river is so polluted that its surprising there is any fish in the river at all for these local fishermen.

 In october 2006,  I  was in Agra on my 4th visit to The Taj Mahal .  And this time more spellbound by it than ever. I shot the monument for two consequent days. I went across the Yamuna before the break of dawn and shot it from across the banks of the river. This was where the Taj Mahal was  actually meant to be seen from.  Mughal emperor Shah Jahan had designed the Taj Mahal that way. He would come on a boat from the Red Fort and see this grand monument  reflect in the Yamuna waters.

 The Yamuna is now a cesspool and has more filth in it than water.  But if you go  early in the morning or late evenings the blue sky reflects beautifully in this dying river  giving  an illusion of blue river waters pure as crystal. But back in the day the Yamuna was indeed a very clean river not only adding to the aesthetic appeal of The Taj but was also the source of potable water for Agra residents.

The Yamuna has not only considerably shrunk in volumn over the decades but become increasingly filthy around the Taj. (sanjay austa austa)

The Yamuna. Gone to the Crows?

Unfortunately after the Mumbai terrorist attack of 26/11 in 2008 , the security apparatus has been beefed up at the Taj. The loonies apparently want to blow up Shah Jahan’s creation too. Now you can get on the boat on the Yamuna but you cannot get off at the other end. You can however see the Taj Mahal from Mehtab Bagh- a large garden opposite the Taj Mahal.

I am surprised to see huge crowds at the Taj Mahal every-time I visit it. There are an average of 60 thousand visitors each day. Apart from the foreigners its  mostly the poor and the lower-middle class that turns up in overwhelming numbers to visit our monuments. Sometimes making long arduous journeys crammed up in train’s sleeper class  for days.

The upper-middle class and the glitterati are conspicuous by their absence at not only The Taj but at any other Indian Monument. Except ofcourse when a fashionable concert like Yanni’s is organised near it. But then now we have The Malls and The Multiplexes- the  new monuments of our age.

its usually lower middle-class or rural folk like these who stand for hours to get a glimpse of monuments like The Taj Mahal. (sanjay austa austa)

Rural Indian women queue up at the Taj Mahal’s ticket counters

Just outside the eastern walls of the Taj Mahal wrestlers gather to grapple every morning. They have been wrestling here since almost 90 years. (sanjay austa austa)

Wrestling which happens just outside the Eastern Walls is an interesting side show near The Taj.

18 Responses to “Taj Mahal – The Eternal Show”

  1. amazing angles…it must be quite a challenging task trying to capture what thousands of photographers have already captured and still being able to make it look fresh.

    • sanjay austa says:

      Thanks Tushar. I am glad you liked the pictures. It was a challange however i am not too sure if I have shot anything different. But this was my first Taj Mahal shoot. Maybe next time 🙂

  2. preetjyot says:

    sanjay sir wanna ask u somethin… d picture u produce are in raw format or jpeg dat u edit later on??

  3. pankaj anand says:

    very nice article Sanjay.. Its good to see someone accepting thatthe beauty of Taj Mahal didn’t appeal to him at first visit. 🙂

    Marvelous images ..beautiful 🙂

  4. sanjay austa says:

    Thanks Pankaj. 🙂

  5. Manoo says:

    Sanjay, I love your pictures. The angles might be the same as in other photographers’ pictures, however, they tell a different story altogether. Your pictures are simple yet strong. They have the ability to speak without words. And you know what, your pictures inspire me a lot.

    May you be able to be better and better by each passing day!


  6. Richa says:

    I agree. Even i wasn’t impressed when i saw it for the first time ( in 92), while still in school. i don’t know what was i expecting… and i thought probably that was my first and last visit.

    But no. It wasn’t.I have gone there thrice now and each visit is a revelation. i love it now. I guess as a kid i was just looking at the monument and as i have grown up i have started seeing it with it’s historical context.

  7. Rajesh says:

    Sirji ! Great Work…I am aspiring Documentary photographer and need some guidance from you.Can you please suggest a wide lense for my Nikon D7000 and is there market for Documentary projects ? Documentary photography is my passion and I don’t like to pursue any other form of photography. Your guidance is highly solicited.



    • sanjay austa says:

      Rajesh thanks for your comments. This particular post is on Taj Mahal. Can i request you to make the same query on the Photography Notes section of my website. It would be best answered there.. thanks

  8. Manoj Sahay says:

    Hi Sanjay,

    Have come onto your site many times in the past year, directed by various searches. Earlier in the year, looking for tips to photograph the kanchenjunga (obscured by rain clouds unfortunately). Tomorrow morning I plan to squeeze some time out from a work trip and weave my way to Mehtab bagh. It’s my first trip to the Taj (unfortunately on Friday), but I gained some reassurance looking at your brilliant captures!! Hope to catch some luck, good light and the labor of love. I learnt though that there is now a barbed wire fence at Mehtab bagh, so not possible to go down to the river. You have been there recently, so any tips ? ( this is so last minute and I am not expecting a reply, but no harm in asking is there ? )

    • sanjay austa says:

      Hi Manoj,
      Thanks for you e-mail. Yes you are right there is a barbed wire fence at the Mehtab Bagh and the police don’t let you to to river bed anymore. Its because of the terrorist threat to the Taj Mahal made several years ago. If you want to go to the river and take the boat that however is possible . For that you will have to go down from the East Gate of the Taj Mahal past an akhara and along the outer wall of the Taj Mahal. Hope you are able to get there. Do share your images when you are back. Thanks , Sanjay

  9. santosh says:

    Nicely written actually recently i visited taj mahal for first time and had the same feelings it was not up to my expectations

  10. Satyen Mahahta says:

    Hi Sanjay

    Wish you a very happy Bohag Bihu and assamese new year

    I do always admire your photography and relevant write up in connection with photographies
    The analysis on TAJ MAHAL &KUMBH MELA is thought provoking

    Pls do visit Jorhat , Assam whenever possible and I shall take you to. MAJULI. the centre of living heritage of Saint Sankaradeva Legacy


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