Moving on from my great tour of Rajasthan which covered Jaipur -> Ajmer – Pushkar -> Jaisalmer -> Jodhpur I had decided not to return directly to Kolkata by train as the train journey would have been too long and considering my toddler daughter it would have been a nightmare.
I had planned a short stop over at Agra so that we could rest for a couple of days before finally heading back home. The journey from Jodhpur started late as the scheduled overnight train was delayed for around four hours. Luckily we had packed dinner from our hotel and thus we had one thing less to worry about.
Since the train was not originating from Jodhpur thus we expected other passengers to occupy our berth and that is what exactly happened when we boarded our coach. Not only did a group of passengers who were seated in front of us occupy our place they placed huge boxes underneath our seat. The initial level of politeness was of no use thus a stern voice did the trick.
By the time we reached Agra it was nearly midday due to the initial delay and we were quite exhausted considering the long tour that we had done previously. Agra has three train stations thus it’s important to know which one you are finally disembarking so that you can get the correct direction to your hotel. This was also the first tour that I had done all the hotel booking online, these were actually all home stays and my experience in Rajasthan was much more than fantastic. This all changed in Agra, firstly the owner of the home stay could not give us a proper direction thus, we ended up paying double for our Auto ride from the station. Secondly the hotel had advertised that it has a great view of the Taj Mahal, in reality, it does but one should remember that the Taj Mahal is quite a large and tall structure thus it can be actually seen from quite a distance thus don’t be fooled by that.
Anyways the home stay was really not up to the mark, even though it had an average rating on Trip Advisor but I realized that it was mostly catering to foreign tourists and for them it was a perfect. Not all was bad, the owner doubled up as the cook so when we ordered lunch he got into action cooking lunch for us.
After our lunch, we set out to the first destination Agra Fort. We had hired an Auto for the trip which was arranged by the hotel thus, we have assured our return transportation.
Agra Fort is actually quite old than what I had initially thought, it has its history much before the Mughals. Records suggest that this place had some brick structure around 1080 AD. The fort came into prominence during the Lodi dynasty led by Sikandar Lodi when he had shifted his capital from Delhi to Agra. After facing defeat in the hands of the Mughals the fort was initially captured by Babur and became his initial residence. The fort then changed hands quite a few number of times during the violent time when this region was slowly coming under the full control of the Mughals. The fort in its present red sandstone form was actually built by Akbar in the year 1573.
Our next destination was Tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah, since we had pre-booked our Auto thus it was a quick ride. Built between 1622 to 1628 this mausoleum is also referred to as the “Baby Taj Mahal” due to its somewhat visual similarities with the Taj Mahal. This place houses the tomb of Mirzā Ghiyās Beg who was the father of Nūr Jahān.
Since it was getting late in the evening thus we decided to skip Taj Mahal for the day and head towards Mehtab Bagh, this place is just opposite to the Taj Mahal on the northern side of the Yamuna River. Built by Babur in the year 1530 this twenty-five acre garden has a very different view of the Taj Mahal. Mehtab which means moonlight was purpose built for the emperor to enjoy evening strolls in the gardens.
This was not my first visit to Agra but a rather second one. The first time that I had visited Agra was in the year 1988 along with my parents. During that time, there was actual no existence of Mehtab Bagh since this site was forgotten in time. The restoration of this garden was taken by ASI (Archaeological Survey of India) in 1993 – 94, painstakingly historical documents were searched and excavated and the entire place was restored. All the plants and trees that we see now have been replanted according to the historical records which had the preference of the Mughals.
By the time we finished up with Mehtab Bagh it was late evening and we decided to head straight back to our hotel. The next day we had two big plans, one to visit Fatehpur Sikri and next to visit Taj Mahal. Since these two sites were quite far from each other thus we decided to hire a car for our visit.
Taj Mahal is the jewel in the crown not only for Agra but for India as a whole. Considered as one of the Wonders of the World this place sees a steady stream of visitors all year round. The time when we visited was during a full moon night and the Taj Mahal is supposed to look like a dreamland on a full moon night. Special night tickets are available but these are issued in very limited quantity. I tried my level best even ready to pay an extra premium for the tickets but still could not get hold of any. Apparently all of them were sold within minutes of the counter opening.
We had to settle visiting Taj Mahal only during the daytime, for me, it was the second time that I was visiting this place and it looked as majestic as it used to be more than two decades ago. Unfortunately, excessive pollution around Agra meant that there was a heavy smog all around and it was distinctively hazy with a yellowish tone on the white marble.
Built between 1632 – 1653 by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan as a tomb for his wife Mumtaz Mahal this site is now a designated UNESCO heritage site. More than what my words can describe its best to see the Taj Mahal in its actual, face to face. Our next destination was Fatehpur Sikri but that I will show you in my next blog, hope you have enjoyed the visual journey, thanks for going through my blow.