* subject to change
Agra is well connected via road, train and air not only with Northern but also with other parts of India. We reached Agra on Saturday, two days before Holi. Due to the festival the trains were over crowded.
Agra is an all-time favorite among the travelers. It unfolds the history of the Mughals era in India.
To all Agra is synonymous with the Taj, the symbol of eternal love. But apart from this white beauty, there are monuments and forts like Agra Fort, Buland Darwaza, Akbar’s Tomb etc. If you love your camera, here you will have plenty of options for your interest.
Agra is about 210 KMs from Delhi, so by car approximately it takes 3-4 hours if you take the Yamuna Expressway. Since we availed Taj Express from Hazrat Nizamuddin station, New Delhi, it took us 3 hours to reach Agra Cantonment station. We reached Agra around 10 am, so we had more than half of the Saturday and the entire Sunday for Agra. There are multiple options; cabs, autos available outside the station so no worries if you don’t take pick up and drop from your hotel. We had our booking in hotel Mumtaz Mahal which was at a walking distance from Taj.
How can someone resist oneself from not to go to Taj when you are so close to it? So after lunch we left for the Taj. But before going to Taj the must visit is the Shilpgram, as you will get the tickets from here only.
Shilpgram is not only a ticket counter; it’s a complex where you will get restaurants, currency exchange counter as well as handicrafts for shopping. Apart from the normal Taj gate-passes, from here you will get passes for night viewing of Taj. But this ticket needs to be booked a day before. So unfortunately we missed that chance. If you are planning to visit Agra, I will suggest don’t miss the chance of the experiencing the elegance of Taj on a full moon night.
You can refer the list of the full moon from http://www.tajmahal.gov.in/faq_taj.html .
Shilpgram is only about 750 mts from the Taj. So as per your preference you can avail battery run vehicles, horse drawn tangas to reach Taj. You can also take a walk.
Tomb of Salim Chishti - Sikri
Golden Triangle Tour Part II: Agra; The City of Mughals
From there we went to Chini ka Rauza. It is a funerary monument, containing the tomb of Allama Afzal Khan Mullah, a scholar and poet who was the Prime Minister of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. Here you will find one of the finest examples of glazed tile work, called kashi or chini in Mughal era buildings.
From there we returned to our hotel. We were planning for a dinner outside so we went to Shilpgram. But unfortunately the restaurant was closed. Due to security reasons, the restaurant operates only from 10 am - 6 pm*. So we had our dinner at our hotel and packed our bags for our next day’s early morning train for Delhi.
So guys, if you want to really enjoy the beauty of Agra, try to visit in Oct to mid Dec or Feb to Mar, do carry sunscreen, caps, mosquito repellants and cash/Debit Card and don’t forget to taste Petha and Mughlai cuisine.
From Fatehpur Sikri we went Sikandra. On the way to Sikandra there are few restaurants, so you can plan your lunch here.
The Major attraction of Sikandra is the Akbar’s Tomb. The Tomb’s complex is surrounded by a deer park on both the sides. The walls of the buliding were constructed in such a way that if someone from one corner of the building speaks facing the wall, even at a very low voice, the other person, residing at a distant part of the building will be able to hear it clearly. We tried it in two different walls and it worked!
The Akbar's cenotaph inside the mausoleum is situated right of the center of the building. Main entrance of complex can be seen from the tomb.
From Sikandra we went to I'timad-ud-Daulah’s Tomb. Due to its resemblance with Taj it is often referred to as the "Baby Taj" and regarded as a draft of the Taj Mahal.The mausoleum was commissioned by Nur Jahan, the wife of Jahangir, for her father Mirza Ghiyas Beg, originally a Persian Amir in exile, who had been given the title of I'timad-ud-Daulah (pillar of the state). Mirza Ghiyas Beg was also the grandfather of Mumtaz Mahal, the wife of the emperor Shah Jahan.
When I visited Taj 20 years back, I remember we were allowed to park cars at a close proximity of the main entrance, but now due to environmental issues and pollution control not a single vehicle is allowed near the main gate.
The Taj Mahal is truly the crown of all palaces. Work on this enchanting mausoleum on the bank of Yamuna started in 1631 and it took 22 years of about 20,000 workers to complete. To add beauty to this white structure, Lapis-lazuli, Cornelian, Mother of pearl, Agate and Emerald are inlayed in floral and geometrical patterns in the marble itself.
It is a tourist spot which is always crowded by locals as well as foreign tourists. It is the beauty of the Taj that even if you are an average photographer; you will end up clicking some really good pictures.
Considering both religious and pollution aspects tourists are not allowed to enter the Taj wearing shoes. Specially for the foreign tourists shoe caps are available, but if you are interested you can also buy one at a minimal price of Rs 10/20 from the vendors outside the main gate of the Taj premises.
Few years back visitors were allowed to go to the basement of the Taj to see the main sarcophagi of Shah Jahan and Mumtaj Begum. But now only the replica of the same is accessible to the public.
The cenotaphs of Mumtaz and Shah Jahan are surrounded by beautifully designed perforated marble screen “Indian Jali”. The hand crafted motives of semi- precious stones corals adds aura to the spectacular designs of the screens. The cenotaph of Mumtaz is exactly in the center of the hall. The larger cenotaph of Shah Jahan was added on its western side.
By Golden Triangle Tour people generally understands Delhi-Agra-Jaipur tour in the said sequence. But we started the reverse way, instead of completing the tour with Jaipur with started with it. So this time our destination was the city of Taj Mahal, Agra. It is a city which I think most of you have already visited. For foreign travelers it is a must visited city during their India tour.
People who are not from Delhi/NCR prefer to include Agra with their Delhi, Mathura-Vrindavan or Haridwar tour. But for people who are from Delhi/NCR, Agra often becomes a choice for weekend or a 2-3 days holiday trip. We went to Agra during Holi to see how the Mughal City Agra celebrates the festival of colour.
Anup Talao- Platform where Tansen used to perform different ragas
Taj gives the experience which one can never afford to ignore. Though it portrays the glory of the Mughal architecture, to me it also glorifies the hard work of thousands of workers without whom the Taj Mahal would not have become a reality.
We were too tired that day so we planned to return to our hotel.
If you are a shopaholic and want to collect some souvenir where ever you go, Agra will give you ample options to spend your money. The most common thing purchased by the travelers here is the small marble replica of the Taj. Here don’t forget to bargain even if you are buying from an established shop. Normally the retailers give discounts. The small shops might not have the options of credit cards. So if you are planning to use only your card for shopping it’s better to go to the big showrooms.
Apart from Taj and Agra Fort, Agra is also famous for its “Petha”. Panchi Petha of Agra is considered to be the best among others. I tasted around 7-8 different varieties of pethas, the best one to me was the Pan. It has an awesome blend of the flavor of pan stuffed with gulkand.
Fatehpur Sikri is a finest example of Mughal splendor; a blend of Hindu, Persian, Islamic and Buddhist architecture. The prime attractions of Fatehpur Sikri are Diwan-i-Khas, Diwan-i-Aam, Panch Mahal, Tomb of Salim Chisti, Buland Darwaza, Turkish Sultana’s House, The Treasury, Daulat khana-I-khas, Palace of Jodha Bai, Hawa Mahal And Nagina Masjid, Birbal’s Palace, Sunehra Makan and The Jama Masjid. Since it has so many attractions in this complex we hired a guide, who took Rs 250/ person. As we were only two people, the guide was in much hurry to complete our tour and was not even giving us time to take pictures. So if you are not in a hurry and want to explore the area properly, it’s advisable not to take a guide.
Jodha Bai gave the Mughal dynasty the heir, so her mahal is the most spacious one. From Fatehpur we went to Sikri. Fatehpur is the palace area and Sikri is the Jama Masjid premise.
Here irrespective of your religion one can offer flowers and chadar. But the items are highly priced; a handful of rose petals may cost more than Rs 100 and a chadar more than Rs 500 .
In the Masjid you will find some finest example of Jali Work. In this premise there is Anarkali Darwaja where Anarkali is said to have fled from Fatehpur Sikri. Buland Darwaza, the stupendous piece of architecture, the highest gateway in the world, is located in this premise.
Copyright TravelGateways. All rights reserved.
The way to Taj
From Taj we returned to our hotel to keep our boxes of pethas and the showpieces. But it was only 4pm so we felt like going to the Agra Fort. The Agra fort is only 2-3 kms from Taj Mahal so we took an auto to reach there.
Like other monuments here also you have to get the tickets to enter the monument. If you are interested to see the light and sound, you have the option here.
The Agra Fort is located on the right bank of Yamuna. It was constructed by the third Mughal emperor Akbar on the remains of an ancient site known as Badalgarh. Shah Jahan raised white marble palaces here. He built three white marble mosques in it: Moti-Masjid, Nagina-Masjid and Mina-Masjid. Shah Jahan was imprisoned in the fort for 8 years until his death by Aurangzeb.
The massive structure is built of red sandstone. During sunset the sunrays make the fort mesmerizing.
Here since we had tickets for the light & sound we were allowed to stay in Diwan-e–Aam area of the fort. There are two shows running; Hindi- 19:30 to 20:23 PM and English- 20:30 to 21:23 PM*. So if you have any prior plans to see the light & sound do carry a mosquito repellant cream.
If you have seen light & sound in Red Fort you might not like this one. Truly speaking to me it was disappointing. But it is informative; it will tell you the history of the Agra Fort.
It was already late and we were tired, so we returned to our hotel, had dinner at the roof-top restaurant and planned our next day trip.
Next day we went to Fatehpur Sikri and Sikandra. We booked a cab from our hotel. The fare was Rs 1800 *. Though Fatehpur Sikri is about 40 KMs from Agra, due to traffic it took us around 2 hrs to reach there.
Fatehpur Sikri was built by the Mughal Emperor Akbar. At the age of 26 Akbar was without any heir. So he went to a saint, Shaikh Salim Chishti who lived in a city called Sikri. His blessing gave Akbar 3 sons. As a gesture, Akbar built a whole new city in Sikri. Akbar named his new capital Fatehpur Sikri or the City of Victory.