Although I visited Taj Mahal when I was too young to understand what I was beholding, I was awestruck by the enormity of the tomb. I carried the image of the huge, almost white dome, the intricate designs and the graves of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal with me. I somehow knew at that time that I will go there again someday; go there to absorb the city, to walk alongside the ghosts of the Mughal Emperors.

Almost 15 years later, I was back in Agra, this time with Geet – all romantic and ready to gaze at Taj Mahal turning pale orange while the Sun bow to the night. The first thing that struck me about Agra was how much the city has changed. I remembered it as a disorganized city, sprouting with rickshaws and horse carts, beggars and tour guides, Petha (an Agra delicacy) and souvenir shops. It was less disorganized. Urbanization has touched it.

We checked-in in a hotel which was at a walking distance from the eastern gate of Taj Mahal. In the hotel the water was salty and Dal Makhni was conspicuous by its absence but that is another post. There was an Agra tourism building right next to the hotel from where you could buy tickets for Taj Mahal. It was a clean building with foreign exchange counters, a restaurant/bar and numerous souvenir shops. There were battery operated cars, horse carts, camel carts and rickshaws to take you to the eastern gate. We got a guide from the tourism building and he introduced us to a photographer who was to take our pictures as we circle the white mausoleum.

A tip – It is a good idea to take a photographer with you and the quality of the pictures is great. Make sure you ask him the rate of each photo and then let him know the number of pictures you want him to take. Otherwise you will end up with a big album and a big dent in your pocket.

Needless to say that Taj is a beauty. You will end up staring at the magnificence for a long time. An image of it on television or a postcard can not come close to the experience of seeing it with your own eyes. It’s breathtaking. There is a legend that Shah Jahan wanted to build a black marble replica on the other side of Yamuna with a silver bridge connecting the two. What a sight it would have been.

Fatehpur Sikri was our first stop the next day. It is a city which was built by Akbar and have courts, royal palaces, private quarters etc all carved in red stone. It contains famous structures like Jodha Bai’s palace, Buland Darwaza, Tomb of Salim Chisti, Diwan-i-khas and Panch Mahal. As you move through these structures, you get an incredible feeling of moving back in time. Remind yourself that this was the place where Birbal made everyone laugh with his humor, Tansen sang his spell binding ragas, Jodha Bai and Akbar lived together and Faizi wrote his poems and you will get Goosebumps as you walk through the city.

A tip – Fatehpur Sikri is located around 50 kms from Agra and can be reached by a cab (~1400 Rs for a round trip). Guides, hawkers and small children will run after you all the time but try to avoid them if you know how to read. Learn to say “No” 100 times in 60 seconds.

Agra Fort was our next stop in the evening. The Fort was primarily used by Shah Jahan as his court. He was finally imprisoned and kept there by his son Aurangzeb and died there looking at the Taj Mahal from the southern walls of the fort. There is a sound and light show in the evening which is worth watching. By the time it will be over, you will never forget the bloodline of the Mughal Emperors or the fact that Babur gifted the Kohinoor to Humayun or Noor Jahan invented perfumes.

Next day, we took an autorikshaw from our hotel and reached Sikandra, location of the Tomb of the Mughal Emperor Akbar. It is a beautiful structure and the entrance is carved with beautiful, colorful patterns. On seeing the long, cold tunnel that takes you to the grave, I realized that I have been to this place earlier. It’s strange how I do not remember anything about the beautiful mausoleum but only that I was scared crazy while passing though that dark tunnel into an equally dark dome with a tomb in the center. We roamed on the pathway surrounding the tomb watching herds of deer laze in the gardens and then moved on to our next destination – Itmad-ud-daulah, which is the tomb of Noor Jahan’s father Mirza Ghiyas Beg and is one of the most intricately crafted mausoleums in Agra. With its geometrical decorations on the outside and fruits and flowers encrusted white marble inside, it is a beautifully created building. It might have been peaceful outside the mausoleum earlier, but now it is cramped with shops and blaring music. It’s a shame.

We were back to Taj in the evening, to have a look at it a last time as the sun fades away.

A tip– Try taking an autorikshaw to roam around in Agra if the weather is good. They are cheaper and we found the drivers very polite, even helpful. Day 3 cost us Rs 300 for the whole trip from East gate of Taj Mahal to Sikandra to Itmad-ud-daulah and back.

A recurring pattern which was disturbing was that many mausoleums require some urgent restoration. I really wish they are restored before they end up as irrevocable ruins. There were patched on the domes and walls which were missing. Elaborate craftsmanship lost forever.

The city left us in a flux of emotions. Although there are pockets of Agra which are underdeveloped and poor (You will encounter them while going to Fatehpur Sikri and Sikandra), urbanization and the remains of the Mughal era stand side by side as a reminder of how times have changed. In that way, the city is very similar to Delhi. It was the city of kings and looking at those proud structures made me wonder if we have an equally powerful legacy of our own times to leave behind.

[all the pictures are taken by me]
2017-11-11T00:38:51+05:30 Tags: , , , , , |

About the Author:

Amit Sharma is the Author of fiction novel False Ceilings published by Lifi Publications in January 2016. Amit always keeps a book and a portable reading light in his bag (much to the amusement of his fellow travellers). His other hobbies include watching world cinema, travelling, staring at hills, digging into various cuisines, cooking, listening to music, painting, blogging, making his daughter laugh and helping his wife with her unnecessary and prolonged shopping. He is currently working on his Second novel which is a thriller.

12 Comments

  1. Indian Homemaker February 26, 2012 at 11:48 pm - Reply

    Love the pictures and the tips. I have been meaning to go there, and with a camera – basically to take beautiful pictures 🙂

    • Amit February 27, 2012 at 9:52 am - Reply

      Thanks IHM.
      Its a very picture friendly city. I clicked close to 800 pics in 3 days. 🙂

  2. Maddie February 27, 2012 at 12:10 am - Reply

    Lovely pictures as usual! When the sky is clear it makes for a wonderful background isn’t it?

    • Amit February 27, 2012 at 9:54 am - Reply

      Thanks Maddie. Taj is really stunning. I could sit there for hours and stare at it.
      Yes, it does. 🙂

  3. Reema February 27, 2012 at 3:12 pm - Reply

    wonderful pics! thanks for the tips. can u let me know the hotel name and price if it was good.

    • Amit February 28, 2012 at 2:40 pm - Reply

      Thanks Reema.
      The hotel was all right. The room was clean and it was at a good location. Food was ok. If that is all you want. 🙂 Water was salty though but I think that is a problem everywhere in Agra. It’s called Bhoomi Residency. It’s near the East Gate of Taj Mahal. You can find that on makemytrip.com. It cost us around 5000 for 2 days.

  4. scorpria March 9, 2012 at 3:55 pm - Reply

    Have been to Delhi at least 10 times, but never to Agra. ANd how I regret it. I’ll got here someday, very soon. I’ve had a lot of people telling em that Taj Mahal has lost all its beauty, it’s not worth all that travel, blah blah…but I refuse to buy any of that. I’ve been charmed by pics and videoas and stories, and I really want to see it.

    Sit and stare, like you said. Thanks for this post! 🙂

    • Amit March 9, 2012 at 5:33 pm - Reply

      I don’t think it has lost its beauty. I saw it after 15 years and it’s still very beautiful. And there is so much to see in Agra besides Taj. Yes, you should go there at least once. 🙂
      You are welcome. 🙂

  5. Deepa March 16, 2012 at 12:08 pm - Reply

    Lovely pics. I had also been there when I was little. I dont remember much but would love to go back one day. Helpful tips! Thanks.

    • Amit March 17, 2012 at 1:44 am - Reply

      Thanks Deepa. Yes, you should definitely go there once. 🙂

  6. Preeti March 20, 2012 at 4:10 pm - Reply

    Hey! not read ur new posts but seems like u r back from ur break, rite? 🙂
    Would comment more after reading the posts..

    • Amit March 21, 2012 at 9:18 pm - Reply

      Yeah, I am back but God knows for how long I will be able to sustain this. My life is a madhouse right now. 🙂
      Thanks for coming and commenting Preeti. 🙂

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