One of the most popular things that India is associated with is the Taj Mahal. Having one of the wonders of the world in your own country does raise the bragging rights sky high. Besides, when you go to visit the Taj Mahal, you not only see a wonder but a whole city deeply rooted in history. Agra, a city in the state of Uttar Pradesh is not only the seat of the Taj but also one of the epicentres of the Mughal rule in India.
Before I begin the city tour, here’s a bit of history:
The Mughal rule began in India in the year 1526 and flourished right till the 1700s, seeing mainly six major rulers, namely, Babur, Humayun, Akbar, Jehangir, Shah Jahan and Aurangazeb. Agra was the capital of the Mughal Empire for majority of the Empire’s rule until the capital was moved to Delhi in 1658.
Right, armed with history and on with the tour.
So, Our first stop in Agra was the Agra Fort.
The Agra Fort was built by the Emperor Akbar with a lot of decor added by his grandson, Shah Jahan. It was the official residence of the Mughal Emperors and even today, the structure is very intact and complete with a light and sound show. The guided tours here show the relevance of each room and building in the fort, complete with a thorough history of the Mughal Emperors’ way of life.
The interiors of the Agra Fort have the various residences of the members of the Royal Family, court rooms, former libraries and gardens.
This building inside the fort is called the Khas Mahal. This palace was built by the Emperor Shah Jahan for his two daughters, Jahanara and Roshanara. Talk of being ‘Daddy’s girls’. I mean, I’m very grateful to my dad but I’m just saying that a palace would be a very good idea for a birthday gift.
‘Daddy, I want a palace!’
*Veruca Salt vibes intensify* hehe.
Jokes apart, what I found very interesting here is the arrangement of the lawn. The grass is spread in puzzle-like compartments, bordered partially by tiny flower pots. Shah Jahan’s rule was known as the ‘Golden Age of Mughal Architecture’ and his contributions to the fort amplify the fact.
This is the palace built for the Emperor Jehangir, made completely out of red sandstone. A lot of Mughal architecture incorporates red sandstones, another example being the Red Fort in Delhi where the prime minister gives his Independence Day speech.
This structure is a part of a larger palace known as Jodha Bai’s Palace. Jodha Bai was a Rajput Princess who was also the wife of the emperor Akbar. The palace has a large courtyard where tourists can rest and just take in the view.
This is a pretty interesting thing. These pictures are of the wall in a room known as the ‘Shish Mahal’ or the ‘Palace of Mirrors’. It is a tiny room in one of the buildings, close to the entrance of the fort. The black fillings in the designs are small chips of mirrors and back when the room was in use, all the walls were completely covered in mirrors. Now, the interesting thing here is that this room was used as a bathroom by the Mughal queens. It is a pitch dark place and the designs can be seen only by lighting a candle and holding it to the walls, exactly like how the place was illuminated at a time when electricity didn’t exist.
Going into this room was pretty scary as there is absolutely no light and the gate is shut once you’re inside. It felt like being in one of those illusion rooms in horror films where you look into a mirror and see a vampire staring at you in the background. I often imagine what it would be like living in the seventeenth century and suddenly, my heart goes out in gratitude to Ben Franklin for flying that kite in the thunderstorm.
God Bless Electricity!
The Agra Fort Tour takes nearly an entire evening and often the entrance tickets can be combined with the ticket to see the Taj Mahal. We visited Agra Fort on the first evening in the city and the Taj Mahal was on our itinerary the next morning.
This is the gate to the Taj Mahal made of red sandstone and inlaid with marble. It’s a lovely experience to walk through these gates and finally set eyes on a wonder of the world.
Wonder!!!! The Taj Mahal. Built by the Emperor Shah Jahan as a tomb for his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal. The Taj Mahal is completely made out of white marble with intricate designs carved onto it. There is a tour that lets you explore the interiors of the Taj Mahal but I recommend spending a good amount of time outside in the lawns instead of opting for the tour of the interiors as there isn’t too much too see inside. However, if you’ve got time, then you could definitely give it a go. The interiors have the tombs of both Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal along with a lot of marble decor. The effort gone into building this structure is truly commendable.
Our last stop in Agra was the Fatehpur Sikri. This place is like a mini city, complete with palaces and mosques and huge courtyards. It was built by the Emperor Akbar.
The Fatehpur Sikri has a huge gate known as the Buland Darwaza which is followed by a flight of very steep steps. Good for cardio, the Mughals had it all covered.
A tip to remember while visiting the Fatehpur Sikri is that your outfit must cover your knees as it’s a place of religious importance.
And that ends a chapter in Mughal History.
And that is a wrap!
Until next time!