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Agra - Beyond The Taj

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Agra is a fascinating city. Capital of the Mughal Empire for a hundred and thirty years, Agra is endowed with beautiful archaeological sites of immense historic significance. The first of these that comes to mind is, of course the Taj Mahal. – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Agra - Beyond The Taj


1
Agra Beyond The Taj
2
Agra is a fascinating city. Capital of the
Mughal Empire for a hundred and thirty years,
Agra is endowed with beautiful archaeological
sites of immense historic significance. The
first of these that comes to mind is, of course
the Taj Mahal. The beauty and fame of the Taj is
so widespread that visitors often make day trips
from Delhi exclusively to visit this glorified
tomb and return immediately. But theres so much
more to Agra than the Taj Mahal so I got myself
an Agra tour guide and set off to explore this
intriguing city.
3
My first stop was Agra Fort. This fortress was
originally a brick structure from the 10th
century. When the Mughals took it over, it got
its new and present avatar of red sandstone under
Emperor Akbar. Though a large portion of the fort
is off limits, there is still enough of it to
make it worthwhile to spend the day there.
Walking within its 70-meter tall walls, I got
beautiful photo ops within the fort and from its
various balconies a favourite is a shot of the
Taj Mahal at sunset. While at the fort, dont
miss the exquisite marble inlay added by Akbars
grandson, Shah Jahan.
4
A short walk north from the fort, and I reached
Kinari Bazaar. This bustling bazaar, overflowing
with people, is a chaotic maze of lanes, each
specializing in a different item. One could
easily spend a day here to look up clothing,
spices, marble work, jewelry and artifacts.
5
Time for a day trip - A short 40-kilometer drive
from Agra, and I reached the abandoned city of
Fatehpur Sikri. This city was Emperor Akbars
capital for a short span of 14 years and after
his death it was abandoned due to water
shortages. It is a unique example of Mughal
architecture, a blend of Islamic and Hindu
elements, reflecting the Emperors famous
tolerance towards other faiths.
6
The next day was dedicated to another day trip,
this time to Sikandra, to visit Akbars Mausoleum
on the outskirts of Agra. According to
tradition, Akbar started construction on this
site in his lifetime. Though completed after his
death in the year 1613 by his son Jahangir, Akbar
had already decided and finalized every detail
there was to be. The entrance to the tomb is
through a massive gate, built to imitate the
Buland Darwaza at Fatehpur Sikri. Its a huge
tract of land and the mausoleum within it is a
square building with arches, canopies, decorative
panels and multiple levels. The setting is
dramatic yet simple and the walled gardens only
add to the grandeur of the place. At the very
centre lies the Emperors tomb, a simple
inscribed oblong marble structure that lies
directly above the actual tomb under the ground.
Nearby are similar tombs of the Emperors
daughters.
7
A kilometer along the road is Mariams tomb,
built by Jahangir. Mariam Zamani, a former
Rajput queen, was Akbars wife and Jahangirs
mother.
8
On the way back to Delhi from Agra, I was advised
to take the hour and a half trip to nearby
Mathura. Mathura is one of seven sacred Hindu
cities, the birthplace of Lord Krishna. The city
is full of temples and bathing Ghats along the
banks of the river Yamuna. I spent the night
here and was able to witness the beautiful
evening aarti ceremony where hundreds of lights
are floated on the river after prayers. A truly
divine experience!
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