INDIA – Agra, Taj Mahal // Octopussy (1983)
One say a person can only find one big love in a lifetime. The Taj Mahal is a strong supporter of that theory – as it was built as a monument for the love between an Indian shah and his wife. But how does James Bond fit in here?
Why Bond was here
James Bond (Roger Moore) goes after a smuggling enterprise, run by wealthy Afghan prince Kamal Khan (Louis Jourdan) and mysterious occultist Octopussy (Maud Adams). They operate from the Rajasthani city Udaipur southwest of Delhi. But when Bond arrives, he takes a little detour with his helicopter to the Taj Mahal further east. Well, it’s the most iconic monument of India; sometimes even a spy has to do a bit of sightseeing. Though, he arrived late for a Taj Mahal sunrise experience…
Home of the Taj Maha, this most famous Indian site, is Agra. With only 1.7 million people Agra is a fairly small city in densely populated India. About three hours in the South East of capital New Delhi, Agra is easy to reach by car (any hotel in Delhi organizes tours for the sunrise) or by bus. Check the official government website for current schedules from Delhi and back. A more convenient way to travel in India is always the train. Trains run all day, although the booking is a bit difficult. Ask in your hotel or in one of the few agencies who book for a small fee as you need an Indian address and mobile number. For schedules check the travel site MakeMyTrip which is great for booking domestic flights for small money. The train tickets vary from 60 rupees for a general ticket to 130 rupees for a sleeper. The rickshaw from the station to the southern gate of the Taj Mahal should be around 100 rupees. This gate is the less touristic one, while the main entrance is at the eastern gate (due to the big parking lot, where busses drop the guided tourists).
It is a bit odd that the southern gate lacks such importance, because it offers the most magic entry. It is directly opposite of the mausoleum and thus offers the best view when entering the compound. Also, an old bazaar with a lot of vendors – also a great photo subject – leads up to the southern gate. Close by are some hotels that offer breakfast on their rooftop. Their view? The Taj Mahal!
Taj Mahal sunrise photos
Good to know
The most atmospheric – and romantic – view is the Taj Mahal sunrise. While it shines in a bright white at day, the morning sun coats the marble in a soft milky white, letting it glow like a shy jewel in a rose sky. There are different spots in and around the compound for good pictures.
The first and easiest: Enter the compound directly at sunrise via the eastern or western gate (foreigners pay 1000 rupees, Indians 40 rupees). Be careful: The southern gate opens later. Within the compound, hurry to get your best view from the southern side.
Another good option (and our favorite) is from the northern banks of Yamuna River. Find a driver and ask him to drive you over Amekdar Bridge west of the city center to a small village called Moti Mahal. From there, go for Mehtab Bagh, which means literally the Moonlight Garden. It is a garden, that was planned as an extension along with the Taj Mahal compound. It is perfectly aline with it, only the Yamuna River separates the two sites. The best view of the Taj Mahal sunrise is directly from the Yamuna bank. You can either enter Mehtab Bagh at dawn (100 rupees for foreigners) or pass the garden on your left hand to get to the river. But be aware – there are some grumpy soldiers guarding the shoreline, as a military site is situated right next to Mehtab Bagh. But being here offers the most significant view at the mausoleum directly from the north.
Third and most exotic option is to hire a boat. Where do you find one? Follow the small pathway north from the eastern Taj Mahal gate. At the river banks you’ll find a small jetty and a little temple next to it. There are always some people around. Ask them where to find a boat captain. Maybe some tell you it’s forbidden (remember the army being in charge of the Yamuna banks), but others will offer you a trip. It is all in the bargain game. A tour on a small boat should be less then 200 rupees.
After the early morning photo session, go back to the southern entrance of the Taj Mahal. Find yourself one of the small hostels, that offer rooftop breakfast to enjoy the rest of the Taj Mahal sunrise with a hot chai in your hands.
Many myths twine around the Taj Mahal. Our favorite is the story of the Black Mahal. The legend says that builder Shah Jahan planned to build a negative image of the white mausoleum in black marble just opposite of the river where he wanted to be carried to his own grave. Again united with his beloved wife Mumtaz. Unfortunately no excavation could ever support this story. Yet.
© 2015 Huntingbond (1,3, gallery), © 1983 Danjaq, LLC and United Artists Corporation (2)