Agra- From Taj And Beyond
It was 8:00 in the evening and we had been riding through the city for quite some time now, in search of some place to settle for dinner. Reason- Most restaurants were closed on the occasion of Diwali, a trend I found to be rather strange. “This isn’t Mumbai” my friend exclaimed in response of my astonishment.
I was in Agra and this was the first of many surprises that were to be disclosed during the rest of my trip.
By the banks of Yamuna, lies the historical city of Agra that was once the capital of Delhi Sultanate, under the regime of Sikandar Lodhi. Even after Lodhi dynasty ebbed away, the city continued to be seat of the Mughal empire, which successively advanced to power. What remains today is the architectural legacy of the Mughal empire interspersed across the city and nearby.
The mere mention of Agra instinctively brings Taj Mahal to one’s mind and this inimitable monument of love allures millions of tourists every year, from across the world. However; the city offers much more beyond the Taj when one sets for an intensive exploration of its rich history and patrimony.
Like all my travels, even this time, I had not decided on any set itinerary however; I had in mind the places I wanted to explore during my 3 day visit. I came back with mixed emotions and impressions about the city, its people, the tourists, heritage and of course, the Taj Mahal.
Listing down my experiences in the city, both good, and bittersweet.
The Taj Mahal- A Grand Ode to Love
Well, Taj Mahal needs no introduction. Having read and heard so much about the monument of love throughout my life, my excitement had somewhat frizzled out by the time I finally stepped into the city. However, one look at the grand monument and I could not contain my adoration towards it and the sentiments that led to building of this architectural marvel. The entire structure is epitome of rich and intricate artwork that leaves one mesmerized to the core.
While Agra’s historical significance dates back to the times of Mahabharata, the city gained its golden age only under the rule of Mughals. I explored the interiors of the old city that are least visited apart from the prominent ones.
The Agra Fort, one of the finest Mughal forts built out of red sandstone and marble represents a small city within its premises with quite a few palaces, mausoleums and gardens. Sikandra is home to grand Akbar’s tomb along with an unknown Lodhi tomb within the site. Tomb of Mariam-uz-Zamani, Chini Ka Rauza, Tomb of Itmad-Ud-Daulah, Aram Bagh (the Persian garden built by Babur) and the black mosque behind Taj Mahal are few structures with varied architectural styles and elements. You may also visit the catholic cemetery to get a glimpse of some beautifully structured tombs, all inspired by Mughal architecture.
People and Goodwill
The most important element of a place is its people. As happens with me all the time, I met some awesome people while on my trip. My rickshaw driver, whom I had hired for 2 days, invited me to the inauguration of a new restaurant that his close friend had opened. Also, the hotel staff where I had stay put, was very helpful. One of them dropped me to Taj Mahal East gate early morning on his bike when I had forgotten to inform my driver about the pickup time.
I cannot thank my stars enough whenever I meet such wonderful people during my travels.
Sheroes – The Real Heroes
A first of its kind, Sheroes’ Hangout in Agra is a quaint café run by 5 acid attack survivors. The restaurant is very tastefully designed with graffiti and trinklets adorning the walls. This place was recommended by a friend and I surely came back feeling overwhelmed. As an initiative of “Stop Acid Attacks” and Chhanv Foundation, the café runs on no-set-price menu. So, you pay whatever you feel like.
That’s one place to spend money a bit generously.
Tourists and Intolerance
“So much money spent on a dead king. That too an invader” blurted out one of the tourists while coming out from Akbar’s tomb in Sikandra. The comment left me appalled. I have, however; omitted the part of the comment which was far more shocking and disturbing. This instant was just the tip of the iceberg and it made me realize the extent to which intolerance has crept into the minds of people.
Travel is not always about good experiences and when it is in your own country, a not-so-positive experience is more than disappointing. While India does have a rich cultural history, the heritage and legacy left behind by former rulers is something we should be equally proud of and not something that has to be held in disdain.
Whom do we hold responsible for such intolerance?
I wish for a blue sky under which people are a little more respectful, accepting, tolerant and humane.
Howdy folks! This december starts with a bang on my blog as I run a unique bloghop with 28 bloggers to write guestposts for me and each other all this month. I hope my readers will catch all the action and support this drive with their comments and feedback to encourage the writing. To know more about this blog hop in detail, you could catch this post here.
Dipanwita is a solo backpacking traveller who loves to indulge in photography too. Being a history buff, she loves exploring untamed roads, veiled cultures and everything that’s almost lost in history. Her travel stories reflect connection with history, culture and people of the places she has been to. Coffee, good books and good conversation can get her going anytime.
A post she would love some traffic on is here
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