Places to Visit in Agra – Taj Mahal, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra Fort

by admin on May 16, 2012

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taj mahal

Symbol of Love - Taj Mahal, Agra

Taste the heat in Agra, I thought. After all, Emperor Shah Jahan had survived it. Building a mausoleum called the Taj Mahal (and a township called Mumtazabad) to enshrine the memory and beauty of his wife, Mumtaz, forever. I checked into the Clarks Shiraz, which was just a stone’s throw away from the fabled Taj Mahal. And, not wanting to cast the first stone, I went to the Taj by moonlight.

Using 20,000 workmen and 17 years (from 1632 to 1648), he built this monumental masterpiece in marble, which Tagore aptly described as “a tear in the face of eternity.” Yes, it did have an otherworldly glow in the moonlight.  The interlocking arabesque design flummoxed me a little. The octagonal design, the crystal clear reflecting pools, and the flowing Yamuna nearby all cast their effect as I went around the once bejewelled monument. Even the tombs of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz were located in a chamber at the heart of the Taj.

Fatehpur Sikri beckoned. My hired car and guide took me dutifully towards it. This ancient city can only be entered through its various gates.  I took the Lal Gate.  Earlier called Sikrigarh, it was actually built by Sangram Singh, a Rajput ruler, in the 1500s. The Mughal Emperor, Akbar, used it as his capital from 1571 to 1585. It had everything, courts, quarters and harems.  Most of it was built in sandstone, available from the nearby quarries. I gazed at the 54-metre Buland Darwaza, built to commemorate Akbkar’s victories in Gujarat. I also learned that “Fateh” in Persian means victory. The nine jewels of Akbar or the navaratnas were located here, famous amongst which was the Anoop talao (pond) where legendary singer Tansen once performed on an island in the middle.  I saw the ruins of the palace, and amongst the rubbles rose a takshsal (mint) where gold and silver coins were minted. There was even a sort of plastered tank where rainwater was collected to cook for the royalty.  The city was later abandoned due to water shortage.

The Agra Fort was next; entry is through the Amar Singh Gate only. Some parts of the inside are still used by the army and are non-accessible for the general public. I kept my visit short. The Diwan-i-Am was used by Shah Jahan to give public audiences in 1628. Some pillars, pavilions and mosques stood nearby, I took a look and went on to the Nagina and Mina Masjids. Seeing the ancient bazaars, my stomach felt hungry.

fatehpur sikri

Inside view at Fatehpur Sikri

The appetizing aroma of dal and aloo kachoris wafted through the air as I neared Baluganj Road. Mouthwatering kachoris and aloo sabzi disappeared down my throat. I topped them off with some deliciously sweet jalebis.

I walked around in Sadar Bazaar without anything taking my fancy. I went to the Handicraft Inn at the Garg Niketan on Fatehabad Road. Wooden artifacts and tiger and elephant lampshades looked up at me. Some caskets too. I settled for a nice hookah, wondering if I would get the required tobacco and the charcoal back home in Delhi. Looking for something else to buy, I remembered Agra was famous for leather goods too. I bought a nice pair of shining leather boots from Katra Wazir Khan. They fitted me snugly. Agra is some 200 kilometres from Delhi so I decided to dine like an emperor. The Clarks Shiraz had a rooftop restaurant called the Mughal Room and I dined with pure gusto.

Let’s get to the Corbett Park before the mating season begins and the park closes, I thought.

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