The history of Mehtab Bagh
Just north of Taj Mahal, on the opposite side of the Yamuna River, you’ll find the lush charbagh complex known as Mehtab Bagh or Moonlight Garden. A charbagh is an Islamic quadrilateral(four corners) garden layout based on the four gardens of Paradise mentioned in the Quran. Mehtab Bagh measures about 300 by 300 meters and is perfectly aligned with Taj Mahal on the opposite bank.
The garden, which actually predates Taj Mahal, was originally built by Emperor Babur as the last in a series of 11 parks on the Yamuna’s east bank. 100 year later it was identified by Emperor Shah Jahan as the best place to view Taj Mahal. He then spruced it up with an octagonal pool, white walkways, pavilions, fountains, fruit trees and flowers. It got the name Moonlight Garden because it was mostly used in the cool of the night when the moonlight shined on Taj Mahal so you could see the reflection in the pool and the river.
Over the years Mehtab Bagh fell into disrepair and in the end, it was buried under a huge mound of sand and mud. To protect Taj Mahal from the sand which blew across the river, the garden was re-excavated in the 90s and is today again the best places from which to view Taj Mahal.
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If it hadn’t been for the extreme heat I could have marveled at Taj Mahal from this garden for hours and hours. But in the very unlikely event that you’ll get tired of the Taj Mahal view, there are also plenty of interesting birds and beautiful flowers along the river and in the gardens, for you to watch. Mehtab Bagh is like a peaceful oasis, the perfect escape from the busy streets of Agra and the Taj Mahal complex itself.
My favorite photo from India! There are just so many great angles to shoot from in this garden. Edited with my Faded Pastel Lightroom preset
Mehtab Bagh opening hours & entrance fee
The entrance fee for Mehtab Bagh is 300 Rs for foreigners and 25 Rs for Indian, SAARC and BIMSTEC citizens.
The garden is open every day from 6 am to 6 pm / sunrise to sunset.
How to get to Mehtab Bagh
Although Mehtab Garden is located close to Taj Mahal, just on the opposite side of the Yamuna River, it actually takes over 20 minutes getting there by car. And 35 minutes if you go by tuk-tuk.
We met a lovely driver outside the gate of our hotel, Radisson Blu Taj Agra East. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the driver’s name but he said he’s working from the same spot every day. We negotiated a 3-hour tour to Mehtab Bagh and then to Agra Fort for 600 Rs. We loved him because he’s an animal lover just like us. He was feeding stray dogs while we were in the garden and then we stopped to feed some birds on our way back to the hotel.
I definitely recommend negotiating with the drivers yourself as it can get expensive if you book through your hotel. Especially if you’re staying in a chain hotel like Radisson.
The best time to visit Mehtab Bagh
The best time of the day to visit Mehtab Bagh is in the early morning and in the afternoon right before sunset. We went there around 8 am and it was perfect timing. There were only a few other people around and the sun was just strong enough to cast a soft, warm light on one side of the Taj Mahal. I can’t describe it as anything other than magical… and hoooot. As the sun was rising it got incredibly hot and humid fast, so we only lasted about an hour before we had to jump back in the air-conditioned car.
Although incredibly beautiful in the morning, the garden is most popular at sunset when couples, families and tourists alike gather on the lawn to watch the sky turn pink. Do note that it can get very crowded in the evenings, especially during the high season from October to March. Unfortunately, we missed the sunset from Mehtab Garden both nights in Agra because I was so jet-lagged I fell asleep at 5 pm.
I’ve heard that sometimes during the monsoon season, the ground becomes partially flooded. Though it wasn’t a problem when we were there in August this year.
Black Taj Mahal
Legend has it that Emperor Shah Jahan, who commissioned the Taj Mahal, wanted to build a black marble mausoleum for himself in Mahtab Bagh to mirror Taj Mahal. Some believe that he even began the construction of the tomb, but it was left incomplete after he was imprisoned by his own son Aurangzeb. Shah Jahan spent his last years gazing down at Taj Mahal from a window in Agra Fort. After his death in 1666, Shah Jahan was buried with his beloved wife Mumtaz instead of in his own mausoleum.
All I have to say is damn you, Aurangzeb! Just imagine how incredible it would be with one black and one white Taj Mahal!
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Remember to pin for later! You don’t want to miss this place 😉