Jani Jermans – Travel Diaries

November 8, 2022

Agra – The Capital of Mughal Empire

Filed under: India — jani @ 8:17 pm

About Agra: It is a city on the banks of the Yamuna river in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Agra’s golden age of the city began with the Mughals and it was the capital of the Mughal Empire under Mughal emperors Babur, Humayun, Akbar, Jahangir and Shah Jahan. Under Mughal rule, Agra became a centre for learning, arts, commerce, and religion, and saw the construction of the Agra Fort, Sikandra and Agra’s most prized monument, the Taj Mahal, built by Shah Jahan as a mausoleum for his favourite empress. After Independence, Agra has developed into an industrial town, with a booming tourism industry, along with footwear, leather and other manufacturing. The Taj Mahal and the Agra Fort are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Day 1: It had been my wish to visit Taj Mahal for a very long time, however this had been kept delaying. Finally during the Diwali holidays, Sur and myself decided to visit Agra as we were there in Noida for the holidays. We were informed that 2 days are more than sufficient to visit Agra and Friday is not recommended as most of the monuments are closed on that day. So we decided to travel on a weekend.

We started at 6 AM and within 3 hours we were in Agra. It was a pleasant drive and then we decided to go to Taj Mahal first. We got introduced to the guide Mr. Aman Jain through one of the Auto Rickshaw person and from then onwards the guide was there for both the days to guide us through the entire trip. We purchased the entry ticket and then the shoe covers which is needed to wear before entering the mausoleum. In the morning as we entered the campus of Taj Mahal, it was a beauty to behold, and it was all the more worth it. The Taj Mahal is an ivory-white marble mausoleum. It was commissioned in 1632 by the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan (reigned from 1628 to 1658), to house the tomb of his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died on 17 June that year, while giving birth to their 14th child, Gauhara Begum. It also houses the tomb of Shah Jahan himself. The Taj Mahal was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 for being “the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage”. It is regarded by many as the best example of Mughal architecture and a symbol of India’s rich history. In 2007, it was declared a winner of the New 7 Wonders of the World (2000–2007) initiative.

The Taj Mahal was constructed using materials from all over India and Asia. It is believed over 1,000 elephants were used to transport building materials. It took the efforts of 22,000 labourers, painters, embroidery artists and stonecutters to shape the Taj Mahal. The translucent white marble was brought from Makrana, Rajasthan, the Jasper from Punjab, Jade and crystal from China. The turquoise was from Tibet and the Lapis lazuli from Afghanistan, while the sapphire came from Sri Lanka and the Carnelian from Arabia. In all, twenty-eight types of precious and semi-precious stones were inlaid into the white marble.

Along with being a renowned symbol of love, the Taj Mahal is also a symbol of Shah Jahan’s wealth and power, and the fact that the empire had prospered under his rule. The building appears to slightly change color depending on the time of day and the weather.

Soon after the Taj Mahal’s completion, Shah Jahan was deposed by his son Aurangzeb and put under house arrest at nearby Agra Fort. Upon Shah Jahan’s death, Aurangzeb buried him in the mausoleum next to his wife. It has been pointed out, that the minarets are designed to tilt slightly outwards to prevent them from crashing on top of the tomb in the event of an earthquake.

Then we strolled down in the garden and then headed for a little shopping near Tajganj where we picked up few souvenirs made from the same kind of marble used in Taj Mahal. Since the renovation keeps happening, the smaller marble pieces which are discarded have been used to make souvenirs. Also we visited precious stones stores where you can purchase star sapphire, black star stone etc and then we headed to UP handicrafts art and handloom centre where we found sarees made from Pineapple, banana and bamboo fibre. The prisoners make this and then its sold in these stores. We also found shoes and belts and specially belt made in Deer leather. We were curious as how did they procure deer skin when India has banned deer hunting. Then we were informed that the skin is taken post the natural death of the deer as there are quite a few spotted deers roaming near these monuments.

Then it was time to try the Agra famous Petha (pronounced as Petta) which is a translucent sweetmeat made with cubes or cylinders of ash gourd (white pumpkin), first soaked in slaked lime (chuna) and then slow cooked in Sugar and Kewra water (Distilled from Pandanus flowers) is added later for flavour. We were informed this particular shop uses honey instead of sugar and they also had interesting flavours like Coconut, Chocolate, Butter scotch, Paan and fruit based. We picked up few and left for lunch.

We were recommended to go to Pinch of Salt restaurant, where Sur tried the Paneer and mixed vegetables and I tried the lamb curry and the butter naan. We enjoyed the food and then we headed to the next visit of Agra Fort

Agra fort is a historical fort in the city of Agra and also known as red fort. It was built during 1565-1573 for Mughal Emperor Akbar. It was the main residence of the rulers of Sikarwar clan of Rajputs until Mughals occupied it and then the Mughal Dynasty until 1638, when the capital was shifted from Agra to Delhi. It is about 2.5 km northwest of its more famous sister monument, the Taj Mahal. The fort can be more accurately described as the walled city.

Realising the importance of its central situation, Akbar made it his capital and arrived in Agra in 1558. His historian, Abul Fazl, recorded that this was a brick fort known as ‘Badalgarh’. It was in a ruined condition and Akbar had it rebuilt with red sandstone from Barauli area Dhaulpur district, in Rajasthan. Architects laid the foundation and it was built with bricks in the inner core with sandstone on external surfaces. Some 4,000 builders worked on it daily for eight years, completing it in 1573.

It was only during the reign of Akbar’s grandson, Shah Jahan, that the site took on its current state. The fort was the site of a battle during the Indian rebellion of 1857, which caused the end of the British East India Company’s rule in India, and led to a century of direct rule of India by Britain.

Four gates were provided on its four sides, one Khizri gate opening on to the river. Two of the fort’s gates are notable: the “Delhi Gate” and the “Lahore Gate.” The Lahore Gate is also popularly also known as the “Amar Singh Gate,” for Amar Singh Rathore. Indian military (the Parachute Brigade in particular) is still using the northern portion of the Agra Fort, hence the Delhi Gate cannot be used by the public. Tourists enter via the Amar Singh Gate.

Then we headed to Akbar’s Tomb. It is the tomb of the Mughal emperor Akbar. It was built in 1605–1613 by his son Jahangir and is situated on 119 acres of grounds in Sikandra, Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India. Akbar’s cenotaph inside the mausoleum, the real grave as per traditions lies below it.

In the garden there were quite a few very healthy monkeys, peacocks and deers and we enjoyed the greenery around.

Then we headed to Ramada Plaza by Wyndham Agra where we had booked for the night. This is a budget hotel and it was good. We checked in and crashed for the night as I was too tired.

Day 2: We woke up with much needed rest and then we headed for breakfast. It had limited options. We had a toast and omelette and headed for checkout. Then we met our guide and we headed to Fatehpur Sikhri to see the Tomb of Salim Chishti. This is atleast 1.5 hour drive from where we were. The Tomb of Salim Chishti is famed as one of the finest examples of Mughal architecture in India, built during the years 1580 and 1581, along with the imperial complex at Fatehpur Sikri near Zenana Rauza and facing south towards Buland Darwaza, within the quadrangle of the Jama Masjid which measures 350 ft. by 440 ft., It enshrines the burial place of the Sufi saint, Salim Chisti (1478 – 1572), a descendant of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti of Ajmer, and who lived in a cavern on the ridge at Sikri. The mausoleum, constructed by Akbar as a mark of his respect for the Sufi saint, who foretold the birth of Akbar’s son, who was named as Prince Salim after the Sufi Saint and later Jahangir succeeded Akbar to the throne of the Mughal Empire,

As you enter inside, there are mini buses to take you to the top where the tomb is. When you enter the building, make sure you wear clothes which are below the knees. Also you are not allowed to wear the footwear inside the campus. This tomb is believed that if you wish anything and pray to the saint, then the wishes are granted. The descendants of the saint still live there and also they run a school for the local children. We said a prayer for everyone and left from there.

This place being outside the city limits, we were also informed not to go alone or venture alone without the local guide. There was a case of one of the foreign tourists mishandled by the locals and the couple were in ICU for a week or two. Also there are lot of children who come and ask for money and we were asked to just ignore them to avoid any problems with the locals. Since we had the guide throughout, he made sure to arrange local guides in each monuments and they also made sure to purchase the tickets and be ready so it saved our time as we missed the queue as well.

On the way we went to Gopal Das Petha Shop in MG Road for the plain Pethas which are very famous. Then we headed to Taste of India for lunch, it was average and then we headed back to Noida with the great memories.

Stay Safe.

I haven’t been everywhere but it’s on my list……………………..






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