He sat in the moonlight gardens and wistfully gazed at her tomb His memories were refreshed as he inhaled the fragrance of those blooms. He recounted her smile with affection As he pictured her by him - in the pool's reflection. Such must have been the experience of Shah Jahan gazing at the Taj Mahal from Mehtab Bagh. Discover all about these mughal gardens on the east bank of Yamuna with this ultimate guide to Mehtab Bagh Agra.
Mehtab Bagh – the Mughal Gardens on the east bank of the Yamuna River is one of the most popular viewpoints for the Taj Mahal. It is also, the site connected to the story of the fabled Black Taj Mahal. However, what generally is not known is that these epic moonlight gardens of Agra existed even before the Taj Mahal was built. It was during my recent visit to Mehtab Bagh that I could dig deeper into the history of the place. The story unearthed and the unobstructed view of the Taj Mahal are reasons enough for me to recommend adding this place to your sightseeing list in Agra.
In this guide, I will be sharing the complete history of Mehtab Bagh which includes the mystery of the black Taj Mahal, how these gardens were lost and finally recovered. Along with the best things to do in these Mughal gardens, I have also included helpful information on Mehtab Bagh timings, ticket prices and how to get here.
Planning to visit Agra and the famous Taj Mahal?
In case you are looking for some quick links to tours, places to stay and travel accessories for your Agra trip, you can consider using these online options.
- Booking.com has several good Agra hotels listed on their site. You could use this link to browse and book the same.
- Viator.com offers several tours to the Taj Mahal as well as other attractions in Agra. You might want to consider this Agra tour by tuk tuk to Taj Mahal, Agra fort and Mehtab Bagh. You will even book skip-the-line tickets to the Taj Mahal and a Taj Mahal and Mehtab Bagh day trip from Delhi .
- GetYourGuide has various local tours and car bookings available that you can use to explore Agra. Here too, you can book your skip-the-line tickets using the link given.
- For any of your travel needs or general shopping, consider using Amazon through this link.
Disclaimer: This article includes affiliate links. This means that at no cost to you, I will receive a small commission if you purchase through my link. Thank you for supporting me with this.
- 1 Where is Mehtab Bagh located?
- 2 Mehtab Bagh history
- 3 The Black Taj Mahal – a mythical Mehtab Bagh story
- 4 The layout of Mehtab Bagh Agra
- 5 Mehtab Bagh restoration
- 6 Best things to do in Mehtab Bagh
- 7 Mehtab Bagh timings and the best time to visit
- 8 Mehtab Bagh ticket prices
- 9 What is the best way to get to Mehtab Bagh, Agra?
- 10 Common FAQs about Mehtab Bagh
Where is Mehtab Bagh located?
Mehtab Bagh is Char Bagh styled Mughal Gardens that are located on the eastern bank of Yamuna River in Agra. It is exactly opposite the Taj Mahal. It is around 5.5 km from Agra Fort.
Mehtab Bagh history
The name “Mehtab Bagh” literally translates to “Moonlight Garden.” Though it was named by Emperor Shah Jahan (the one who commissioned Taj Mahal), these gardens were actually built by his great-grandfather and the first Mughal king of India – Babur in 1530s.
During his reign, Babur constructed 11 Charbagh-styled Mughal gardens in Agra– of which Mehtab Bagh was the last. All these were believed to be along the same banks of Yamuna and were said to be interconnected. With the constant flooding, most of them are now lost with time. Only the first garden called Aram Bagh (present-day Ram Bagh) and Mehtab Bagh survive to date.
Trivia: Aram Bagh was in fact, the first Char bagh garden in India. Babur was temporarily buried here before his body was shifted to Kabul to his present tomb.
Babur had laid the foundation of Mehtab Bagh with beautiful pathways, fountains, water channels and pools. However, it was Shah Jahan who developed it further. Since the gardens were located perfectly across his beloved Taj Mahal, Shah Jahan included Mehtab Bagh as an integral part of the Taj Mahal complex. For him, the primary purpose was to create the perfect viewpoint for observing the mausoleum of his beloved from across the river – especially on the moonlit nights when the pure white Taj created a magical reflection in the river.
The pleasure gardens of the Mughals sadly, fell into a state of neglect and disrepair. With the constant flooding and deposition of silt, the gardens literally got buried. Worse was the encroachment of the area and pilfering of the building materials that led to its eventual disappearance. With that, Mehtab Bagh was largely forgotten. It was only in the 1990s that a massive excavation and restoration effort was made to bring back the glory of this long-lost moonlight gardens of Agra.
The Black Taj Mahal – a mythical Mehtab Bagh story
To be honest, I was one of those people who believed in the legend of the Black Taj. Turns out that I wasn’t the only one captivated by this story of Mehtab Bagh.
The idea of the Black Taj Mahal emerged from the chronicles of a French traveler – Jean Baptiste Tavernier. According to his notes, Emperor Shah Jahan, intended to construct a matching black marble mausoleum for himself on the opposite bank of the Yamuna River. It was believed that he, in fact, laid the foundation of the Black Taj until he was imprisoned by his own son – Aurangzeb.
This story gained traction due to the contrasting symmetry it presented and the romantic notion of the emperor’s eternal love and desire for a parallel structure. However, there is no historical documentation, architectural plans, or archaeological evidence to substantiate the existence of the Black Taj Mahal.
In fact, when Mehtab Bagh was being excavated, there were remains of fountains, pavilions and other parts of the garden found. There was, however, no sign of any foundation of the Black Taj Mahal. And well, that information totally bust my romantic myth of this black mausoleum.
The layout of Mehtab Bagh Agra
In my earlier posts on Humayun’s tomb and the Taj Mahal, I did explain the Char Bagh (also, called Chahar bagh) gardens of the Mughals. The layout of these gardens was inspired by Persian architecture – basically to emulate the gardens of Paradise described in the Quran.
These gardens are generally in the shape of a quadrilateral that is divided into four equal parts by channels of water. The four channels symbolize the four rivers of wine, honey, water and milk. In the case of Mehtab Bagh, there were fountains and pools interspersing these water channels.
The four parts of the garden were filled with scented fruit trees and flowers that apparently, glowed under the moonlight. Species of Narcissus (daffodils) were a part of this flora as were the rose bushes. The white pathways lined the way through the gardens that were bounded by red sandstone walls with pavilions at each corner.
Today only these walls can be partially seen and only one of those pavilions still exists. However, with the restoration underway, I could see some hints of this glorious garden back – enough for me to close my eyes and imagine how Shah Jahan would have walked to his favorite viewpoint in Mehtab Bagh and gazed at the Taj Mahal.
Mehtab Bagh restoration
Recovering the lost gardens of Mehtab Bagh was a huge exercise that was undertaken by the ASI (Archaeological Survey of India) only in the 1990s. The main aim of ASI was to bring back its original beauty and create a perfect viewing spot for the Taj Mahal.
The restoration process started with excavations to unearth the remains of the garden complex. Around 25 fountains, water tanks, and channels were discovered during this process. In addition to these, I was told that they even found a letter from Aurangzeb to his father informing him about the floods of Yamuna.
With the help of historical records and drawings, the team managed to get an understanding of the original layout, design, and features of this Mughal garden. With that as the blueprint, massive restoration attempts are being made. Not only is the original base being preserved, but the same plants that were a part of the original garden are also being cultivated. I was told that they have actually, managed to get some of the exotic plants from the Mughal gardens in Kashmir (Shalimar bagh).
Even today, when you visit Mehtab Bagh, you will find certain sections off-bounds as the restoration still continues. However, trust me when I say, it did not hamper my own experience at Mehtab Bagh.
Best things to do in Mehtab Bagh
The original purpose of viewing the Taj Mahal in its full glory is one of the key things to do in these moonlight gardens. What makes this even more attractive is that Mehtab Bagh is open on all days – even Fridays when the main Taj Mahal is closed. While I cover that in the list, there are a few other interesting activities that you can indulge in when you visit Mehtab Bagh in Agra.
Witness the sunset at Taj Mahal
If you are looking to witness the orange glow of the setting sun over the white Taj Mahal, then the Mehtab Bagh viewpoint is the one that I would recommend. I was completely mesmerized by the rosy-orange glow of the monument in that light. The colors are a little different from the soft pink hues of the Taj Mahal during sunrise. The flock of birds flying over the river Yamuna definitely added some drama to the otherwise clear skies at sunset.
Sunset at Mehtab Bagh definitely has a lesser crowd than what you would otherwise get inside the Taj Mahal at dusk. As I sat across the river, I could see the swelling crowd on the Taj Mahal platforms.
You can also, experience a sunrise at Mehtab Bagh as recommended in my earlier post. However, since there is a lesser crowd at dawn inside the Taj Mahal, I would recommend you opt to get there instead of Mehtab Bagh. That way you can get closer to the actual monument.
Taj Mahal at dawn is one time that you can explore the monument at leisure. This is when the crowds are relatively lesser. Also, the colors of the rising sun on the Taj Mahal will leave you mesmerized. Check out this post on how you can plan a tour of Taj Mahal at sunrise
Enjoy the Taj Mahal from Mehtab Bagh on a full moon night
This one is something that I still have not yet done. I have always wanted to witness the Taj Mahal on a full moon night but so far, my dates of visit have never coincided with this lunar phenomenon. If I ever get a chance, I would like to witness the white beauty with its luminous glow from Mehtab Bagh. I believe you can see its reflection in the River Yamuna.
Walk around the Royal gardens
It is true that you encounter these Char Bagh gardens in many of the Mughal monuments like the Taj Mahal and Humayun’s tomb. If you are like me, then you might find yourself drifting towards the main monument and realizing that you really did not pay any attention to these gardens.
At Mehtab Bagh, you can actually do this at leisure. They have a gorgeous rose garden that gives you a perfect foreground to the Taj Mahal. The other sections have fragrant plants and fruit trees. There was a lot of development work and pruning happening when I visited in February – owing to which I could only restrict myself to the rose garden. Hopefully, you will have better luck.
Try some bird watching
Just sit on the ledge across the Yamuna river and you will spot a variety of birds. From egrets to herons, pelicans, and ducks – there is plenty of bird activity around the river. Every now and then, flocks of pigeons and geese cover the sky, and the gardens are filled with the sounds of parakeets, mynas and cuckoos. I believe, the river also, sees a lot of migratory birds during the season. In short, if you are a birder, you are in for a treat at Mehtab Bagh.
Mehtab Bagh timings and the best time to visit
Mehtab Bagh is generally open from sunrise to sunset. It is best to get here by around 6 am to witness the sunrise or around 5 pm for the sunset. You will get the best view of Taj Mahal from Mehtab Bagh at either of these twilight hours.
This Agra Mughal garden is open during the full moon nights. It is best to confirm the same beforehand by phone at this number – 0562-2511887.
In terms of the season, the best time to visit Mehtab Bagh, Agra would be between October to February, viz, the winter months. Summers do get really hot but if you are out for a sunrise or sunset, you should be fine. Being close to Yamuna, Mehtab Bagh does get affected by flooding that usually happens during monsoons (July – September). It is possible that the garden is closed down during these months.
Mehtab Bagh ticket prices
~ Get your skip-the-line tickets with a guide through this link ~
Mehtab Bagh ticket prices are Mehtab Bagh ticket prices as below –
- Indians and SAARC nationals – INR 20 per adult
- Foreign nationals – INR 200 per adult
There are no additional charges for photography. You can get these Mehtab Bagh tickets in any of the following ways –
- At the counter, right outside the gardens
- The ASI website
- Through Viator which even includes transfers and a guide.
What is the best way to get to Mehtab Bagh, Agra?
To get to Mehtab Bagh, you need to cross the river Yamuna. The only way to do this is to go around and take the Ambedkar bridge across the river. It is best to hire a local autorickshaw to get here. The e-autos as well as the regular ones take around INR 150 for a round trip from Agra Fort.
One big tip from me is to take a round trip rather than one way. There isn’t much of an option for a return journey and the auto drivers at Mehtab Bagh charge double the rates given this deficit of supply. Make sure they agree to your waiting time. They may decide to charge extra if it is over 30 -40 minutes.
The other option is to hire one of the local cabs – either through your hotel or using Ola or Uber. Even here, I would recommend booking a round trip. My experience with booking a return through the app has not been very good. I tried for almost 30 minutes and failed to get a ride.
Common FAQs about Mehtab Bagh
What is Mehtab Bagh famous for?
Mehtab Bagh, also known as the Moonlight Garden, gained fame for its historical significance and breathtaking views of the Taj Mahal. Built by Emperor Babur in the early 1500s, the garden’s dimensions align perfectly with those of the Taj Mahal, making it an ideal spot to appreciate the mausoleum’s beauty. Emperor Shah Jahan, the creator of the Taj Mahal, even identified Mehtab Bagh as the perfect location from which to admire his masterpiece. Today, Mehtab Bagh continues to captivate visitors with its lush greenery, serene ambiance, and unmatched vistas of the iconic Taj Mahal, making it a must-visit destination for history enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.
Is Mehtab Bagh and Taj Mahal same?
No, Mehtab Bagh is not the same as the Taj Mahal. They are actually historic gardens that are located opposite to the Taj Mahal, across the River Yamuna. It is one of the best viewing points for the Taj Mahal.
Is a tripod allowed in Mehtab Bagh?
Yes, tripods are allowed inside Mehtab Bagh, but not Taj Mahal.
On which day is Mehtab Bagh closed?
Mehtab Bagh is open on all days of the week. However, do check the status during monsoons when the river tends to get flooded – owing to which the gardens might be closed. You can call on +91-562-2511887 to check the status.
Before you go, pin this
I hope you have found your reasons to get to Mehtab Bagh. Remember to bookmark this to plan your visit.
Popularly referred to as a Restless Ball of Energy. My Mom refuses to entertain my complaints about my equally restless daughter & assures my husband that I was born with a travel bug.
I am a Post-Graduate in Marketing by qualification and a travel blogger by passion. Besides travel, I enjoy photography and if you don’t find me at my desk, I would be out playing badminton or swimming or just running. I believe in planning for every long weekend through the year. And when I cannot travel physically, I travel virtually through this travel blog. My travel stories have also, got published on various websites and magazines including BBC Travel, Lonely Planet India and Jetwings. I have recently published my first book – When Places Come Alive – a collection of stories that are based on legends, landscapes, art and culture of a place which is available in both ebook and paperback format.
You might also like these posts –