If you’ve ever wondered whether the Taj Mahal is a mosque, you’re not alone. Many visitors are curious about the religious significance of this architectural wonder of the world. The Taj Mahal, located in Agra, India, is a UNESCO World Heritage site that attracts millions of visitors from all over the globe.
So, is the Taj Mahal a mosque? The answer is no. Although the Taj Mahal complex includes a mosque and other buildings, it is primarily a mausoleum. The central structure houses the tombs of Shah Jahan and his wife Mumtaz Mahal.
We’ll cover how to visit the Taj Mahal, from getting tickets ahead of time, to when to visit and what to bring with you. We’ll also cover where to stay, and the best tour to take if you want to visit from Delhi.
We visited the Taj Mahal as part of our Family Gap Year (what is a Family Gap Year?) when our kids were 5 and 8. We spent more than a month in Northern India exploring from Delhi to Jaisalmer, and up to Dharamshala.
The Taj Mahal was the 6th of the “New Wonders of the World” that our family has visited. You can see the Colosseum in Rome via a golf cart tour, or climb to Machu Picchu after exploring the Sacred Vally of Peru. From Christ the Redeemer in Brazil, to Chichen Itza in Mexico, we’re hoping to see all seven as a family!
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Is the Taj Mahal a Mosque? What is the Taj Mahal?
The Taj Mahal is a mausoleum, built on the south bank of the Yamuna River, in the city of Agra by the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan, to house the tomb of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Commissioned in 1632CE, the immense structure is constructed of white marble and took seventeen years to complete.
The tomb is the centerpiece of a 17-hectare (42-acre) complex, which includes a mosque and a guest house, and is set in formal gardens bounded on three sides by a crenelated wall. The mosque on the west side, the guest house on the east, the main gateway on the south, the outer courtyard, and its cloisters were added subsequently and completed in 1653 CE.
The site in its entirety cost an estimated 32 million rupees at the time of completion, which in 2015 was approximately ₹52.8 billion rupees or $827 million dollars. The construction project employed some 20,000 artisans under the guidance of a board of architects led by the court architect to the emperor, Ustad Ahmad Lahauri.
Why is the Taj Mahal Famous?
Regarded by many as the best example of Mughal architecture and a symbol of India’s rich history, the Taj Mahal was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. The Taj Mahal attracts some 7–8 million visitors each year and is considered “the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage”. In 2007, it was declared one of the “New 7 Wonders of the World” along with other monuments such as the ancient city of Petra and the pyramid of Chichen Itza.
A Symbol of Eternal Love
The Taj Mahal is also a symbol of eternal love, considered one of the most enchanting and beautiful places in India. Commissioned by Emporer Shah Jahan in honor of his favorite wife Mumtaz Mahal, whose name means something like “Chosen One of the Palace”, who died while giving birth to their 14th child.
How Can I Visit the Taj Mahal?
There are several ways to visit the Taj Mahal. If you are looking to view the Taj Mahal with the least amount of people, the best way is to stay in Agra and get up early to be at the gates before the site opens. You can visit on your own, or take a sunrise tour.
You can also take a tour of the Taj Mahal from Delhi. These include transportation to and from your hotel in Delhi, tours of both the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort with a private guide, and a buffet breakfast at a 5-star Hotel.
This tour starts early- expect a 3 am or earlier pick-up from your hotel in Delhi. You’ll have a 3-hour drive to Agra, where you will head directly to the Taj Mahal. After spending time at the site, you’ll head to Agra Fort, then on to Mehtab Bagh where you can view the Taj Mahal from across the river.
This tour gets five-star reviews and includes a hearty buffet breakfast before you head back to Delhi.
Book Now: Taj Mahal Sunrise Tour from Delhi
This highly-rated tour is a private full-day tour beginning and ending in Agra. You’ll start with the Taj Mahal, head back for a rest and breakfast at your hotel, then continue your day with a visit to the Agra Fort in the afternoon. After an included lunch, you’ll drive out to the ghost town of Fatehpur Sikri, your third UNESCO World Heritage Site of the day.
Book Now: Taj Mahal Sunrise Tour from Agra
Getting to the Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal is located in the town of Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India, which is about an hour and 40 minutes by fast train, or around 3 hours by car from Delhi. You can visit on a day trip from Delhi, or spend a day or two in Agra visiting other nearby sites such as Agra Fort.
Where to Stay in Delhi
We highly recommend staying in New Delhi. The streets of Old Dehli are quite narrow and crowded, and you’ll be negotiating walking in areas with high traffic and few sidewalks. We enjoyed walking around Connaught Place and recommend staying close by. This area is also at a metro stop, which we found was great for getting around to other attractions in Delhi, like the Akshardham, without having to worry about the traffic.
Recommended Delhi Hotel: Hotel Palace Heights
This hotel has a fantastic location right on Connaught Place. The rooms are comfortable and the onsite restaurant gets good reviews as well. You’ll be an easy walk to restaurants and shopping and a quick metro or tuk-tuk ride to wherever you’d like to go around the city.
Book Now: Hotel Palace Heights
Where to Stay in Agra, India
Best Budget Hotel: Joey’s Hostel Agra
We stayed at Joey’s Hostel Agra, where you can sit on the rooftop terrace and order dinner and look out over the Taj Mahal. This was also a great place in that it is less than a five-minute walk to the east gate and when you are getting up before dawn, makes getting there easy.
We had a private family room with a full bed and bunk beds for the kids and our own private bathroom. We had breakfast included (though it was not great), which was not served upstairs, but on the rooftop next door. Everyone was very friendly and helpful.
Book Now: Joey’s Hostel Agra
Best Mid-Range Hotel: The Coral House Homestay by the Taj
This colorful homestay includes shared areas full of plants and free use of bicycles to explore the area. Breakfast is included and guests rave about how comfy and well-cared for the space is. Includes a roof terrace with views of the Taj Mahal. About a 10-15 minute walk from the Taj Mahal.
Book Now: The Coral House Homestay by the Taj
Getting Tickets to the Taj Mahal
The best way to purchase tickets is online, up to a week ahead of time. There is a slight discount to do so, and this is a great way to ensure you are able to get a ticket and do not have to wait in line to buy them. Buy Taj Mahal tickets online.
Tickets are also available for purchase one hour before sunrise and until 45 minutes before sunset at either the East or West Gate. You can enter via the West Gate, near Saheli Burj, and at the East Gate. You cannot enter through the South Gate but you can exit there.
After the Taj Mahal closed in 2020, it reopened six months later, then closed again, before reopening in 2021. When it first reopened, tickets were only sold online, and not available in person. In-person ticketing has resumed, so if you don’t get tickets ahead of time, you should be fine, you’ll just need extra time to wait in line.
The price of admission for Foreign Tourists is around $13 USD, plus an additional fee (about $3 USD) to enter the mausoleum (highly recommended). Children under 15 years old are free.
Can I Visit the Taj Mahal at night?
Yes, there are special night viewings of the Taj Mahal on the full moon, and on the two days before and after the full moon. Time slots for your night tour begin at 8:30, with the final slot at 30 minutes after midnight. Only 50 tickets are available for each time slot. There are no night viewings on Fridays, or during Ramadan. For a full schedule and to book night tickets, check out the government website.
When is the Taj Mahal Open?
You can visit the Taj Mahal every day except Friday, and it opens 30 minutes before sunrise and closes 30 minutes before sunset on normal operating days. You can enter via the West Gate, near Saheli Burj, and at the East Gate. You cannot enter through the South Gate but you can exit from there.
When is the Best Time of Year to Visit the Taj Mahal?
You can visit the Taj Mahal year-round, but the dry, cooler months of October to March are ideal. Even though you are most likely visiting in the early morning, it can still get quite hot in the summer months.
Entering the Taj Mahal
There can be long lines just before dawn as the Taj Mahal opens for the day. Here’s what to expect, and how to navigate the process.
Arriving early is the best way to avoid the crowds. The gates open half an hour before sunrise, and you will need time to get through the ticket and security lines. Even with an early arrival, be prepared for crowds around popular photo spots. We saw a lot of people in fancy outfits or flowy dresses with friends or guides taking lots of photos for them.
As the day wears on, more and more people arrive and the area around the fountains is full of people taking photos and selfies. One of the more popular locations to take photos from is the Diana seat. This is a bench where Princess Diana sat in 1992 on her visit to the Taj Mahal. While not original to the site, the bench has become a favorite of tourists looking to capture their own timeless moments.
What Not to Take to the Taj Mahal
You’ll want to plan to bring as little with you as possible when you visit the Taj Mahal. You can bring in a cell phone or camera, but not much else.
You may not bring in a mobile charger, or any kind of snack or toy. We actually saw a woman get to the front of the line, have her bag checked, and be rejected because she was carrying a pack of UNO cards. They are not joking around.
You can bring in water- no other snacks or liquids, including gum. Eating and smoking are strictly prohibited inside the Taj Mahal. Headphones, tripods, and anything electric are prohibited. Also no smoking items, tobacco, or firearms.
As you enter the Taj Mahal site, you’ll be split into separate lines for men and women. As you reach the front of the line, you’ll go through a bag check, then proceed through a metal detector and body scan.
Visiting the Taj Mahal
Once you finish with security, you will enter the Taj Mahal complex. You will then walk to the Main Gate. Through this archway, you will get your first glimpse of the actual Taj Mahal in all its early-morning light glory.
After you pass through this gate you will have a view from a terrace, across the reflecting pools of the Taj Mahal, and to the monument itself. While it may be tempting to stay here for a while taking photos, take your sunrise photos and keep moving to get closer to the Taj Mahal before it gets too crowded.
When you are ready to leave the Taj Mahal you’ll go back through these same spaces, so you’ll have a second chance to take photos in full daylight.
Water Garden and Diana’s Bench
There is a large water feature that divides the gardens of the Taj Mahal into four spaces. This Persian garden is called a char bagh and is supposed to represent the four rivers of Paradise that flow from a central point. They also represent water, wine, milk, and honey.
In the center of the garden is a raised area with views forward to the Taj Mahal, and back to the Main Gate. Here you will find Diana’s Bench, a small marble bench made famous by the photos taken here by Princess Diana in 1992. There is often a line for the bench, so head here early and be patient.
Visiting the Mausoleum
Visiting “the Mausoleum” is actually entering the Taj Mahal.
If you chose to go into the mausoleum when purchasing your ticket, then when you are ready, walk through the garden and to the left, following signs for “high value” ticket holders. This will lead you next to the mosque and there you will pick up shoe covers. This is basically what your extra money went towards.
If you are visiting with kids and did not have to get them a ticket, then the shoe covers are not included in their entry and you will need to pay ₹200 Rs ( $2.50 UDS) for their shoe covers before you get into the line to enter the mausoleum. From here you will proceed along the path and up the steps to the mausoleum’s entrance.
The Mosque at the Taj Mahal is Closed
The Mosque to the west of the Taj Mahal used to be a popular location for taking photos at sunrise of the Mousalium through the archways. This is now no longer possible. Only Muslims with an Agra residence card are allowed to enter the Mosque to pray on Fridays. You will still be asked to remove your shoes to stand on the terrace of the Mosque to take photos of the Taj Mahal.
To the East of the Taj Mahal is a similar style building called the Mehman Khana (“guest house”). This is a popular spot to head to for photos of the side of the Taj Mahal, which often has smaller crowds.
A Brief History of the Taj Mahal
Built between 1631 and 1653, this grand mausoleum was commissioned by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as a tribute to his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal. The story goes that Mumtaz Mahal, the emperor’s favorite wife, passed away while giving birth to their 14th child. Stricken by grief, Shah Jahan decided to build a monument that would forever commemorate their love.
The Taj Mahal’s construction involved a workforce of more than 20,000 architects, craftsmen, and artisans who brought the emperor’s vision to life. The exquisite marble structure is an architectural marvel, blending elements of Persian, Islamic, and Indian design. Its central dome, flanked by four minarets, is the iconic symbol that adorns countless postcards and photographs.
In 1666 the Emperor died and was buried in the Taj Mahal next to his wife. Today, the Taj Mahal stands as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and attracts millions of visitors annually.
FAQ: Visiting the Taj Mahal
The best time to visit the Taj Mahal is in the morning, from October to March when you can avoid the heat. You’ll get the best changing colorful light and the lowest crowds by entering at dawn.
No, you don’t need to visit the Taj Mahal at sunrise, but you’ll have the coolest temperatures and the lowest crowds. Some people speak of the beauty of the shifting light on the Taj Mahal as the sun rises, and the sparkle of the jewels inlaid in its marble. However, we found there was very little change in color on the day we visited.
Yes, you can go inside the Taj Mahal, by buying tickets to the mausoleum, you are entering the Taj Mahal. There is a small extra fee for this, which you need to pay when you get your ticket to enter. There are no photos allowed inside the mausoleum.
There is no actual dress code for the Taj Mahal, but as with other religious and historical sites in India, it is advised to dress respectfully by covering your legs and shoulders.
There are several days a year when entry to the Taj Mahal is free. These days include the Urs of Shahjahan in February (the anniversary of the death of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan), this is also the only day that the basement is opened for viewing the actual tomb of the Mughal and his wife. Other days include World Heritage Day (April 18), and the first day of Eid-Ul fitr (dates vary).
There are two people buried in the Taj Mahal- the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, and his wife Mumtaz Mahal for who he built the memorial.
Foreign tourist entry is ₹1050 Rs (approx. $12.80 UDS) plus ₹200 Rs ( $2.45 UDS) to enter the mausoleum. Children under 15 years old are free.
There You Have It: Is the Taj Mahal a Mosque, a Guide to Visiting the Taj Mahal
Now you know that the Taj Mahal is not a mosque, but rather a mausoleum that symbolizes the everlasting love of Emperor Shah Jahan for his wife, Mumtaz Mahal. We’ve covered how to plan a visit to the Taj Mahal whether you’re looking for a day trip from Delhi, or to spend a few days in Agra. You’ve learned how (and when) to buy tickets, and what to bring from your visit. We hope you have a better sense of what to expect from your visit to the Taj Mahal.