Agra...The empire city of the mughals...
If you have great interest in history and are an admirer of monuments and forts then Agra has lot in store for you. It is a small city with just a few tourist attractions yet it is the place where one of the seven wonders of the world, The Taj Mahal, is. Five of us (Anand, Archan, Anoop, Yogesh and Myself) had a nice day at Agra and it was indeed a nice experience to see the Taj.
We started off from Delhi pretty early in the morning in a Qualis cab and we left Delhi outskirts before sunrise. Agra was approximately 200 KM from Delhi and it took just 3 hr 15 mins to reach Agra as it was in the morning and the highway was free. We just had one pitstop in the journey where we refreshed ourselves with some chaaya and coffee. Baaluwala roaming around with bear, doing some tricks with it and begging for money was a common sight here in these areas.
The first place we visited at Agra was "Akbar ka Sikandar" (aka Sikandra Fort). This is the tomb of Akbar supposedly built by Akbar himself. As he was skeptical about whether his descendents will build a monument for his tomb, Akbar made sure that he had one by building it himself well in advance ;) . It was a nice big place with lots of monkeys, deers etc. We had some photo sessions here and pushed off to our next destination.
I was anxious to see the Taj, as I was waiting for reality to unfold my imaginations built in my mind about the Taj Mahal. The cab has to be parked some half-a-km before the Taj entrance and from there no oil-driven vehicle is allowed to proceed. There were battery-driven auto rickshaws and they came as a package with a guide for Taj mahal. The guide was a knowledegable chap and he briefed us about the history involved in the building of Taj. The entrance to Taj is a high raising which has 22 domes on top of it , 11 on each side. "They represent the 22 years which was the time it took to build the wonder", the guide told. Mumtaz was the dearest of the three wifes Shahjahan had and it was in her memory that he built this wonder. He has infact built some memorials to his first two wives also, but they were just some unattractive,insignificant structures in the front of the Taj entrance. We took lots and lots of photo here in Taj as we climbed to the first floor to see the mock-ups of Shahjahans and Mumtaz' tombs.
The next one is the group photo which we took sitting on the "bench" (There is literally a biiiig queue waiting for their turn to sit on this bench and take a snap with the Taj in the background).
This is a nice couple I saw at the first floor of the mahal. They were enjoying the beauty of the Taj with Yamuna in the backdrop. Managed to sneak in a snap of them ;)
We had Lunch at a decent hotel there. We were hungry so the real taste of the food didn't matter a lot. Our next destination was Agra fort and we reached there at around 12:30. Again we caught hold of a guide right from the parking lot and he had loads and loads of history to tell us while roaming about in the Agra fort. The first thing he showed us was a huge bath tub which was used by those yester year rajas to bath. He took us to a mahal which was supposed to be the bedroom of Shahjahan and Mumtaz. It was a beautiful place with a fountain (not functioning now though) in the middle of a building which hosted 362 servant maids of Shahjahan. The photo below is the one which we took sitting in the parliament of the mughals from where Taj mahal can been seen on the backdrop.
The guide then took us inside the Sheesha mahal (Glass Mahal) inside which it was full of glasswork along with some tablas mounted on the walls. It was total dark inside and the guide used a candle light to demonstrate the sparkle of the room. It had some fountains etc in the middle, which was supposedly used by Shahjahan for some perverted activiities ;)
It was almost 2Pm by the time we finished Agra fort and Fatehpur Sikri trip looked like a risk for a moment as Anand, Archan and Anoop have the reception to attend in the evening. But we were not in any mood to miss it, so here we start a 37-km drive to Fatehpur Sikri, the second capital of Moghal empire.
It was a hour drive to Fatehpur sikri and history says that Akbar built Fatehpur sikri as a backup to his kingdom fearing that his sons will destroy the empire. He infact had it as a capital of his empire for sometime before he was forced to get back to Agra due to severe water crisis. There is a worship place inside the sikri and tourists today donate some amount to perform worship according to the customs. We bought some saree kinda stuff from the vendor and offered our reverence to the place. The most-famous historic place "Buland Darwaza" is here and we started back to Agra after getting some snaps with the Darwaza in the background.
We reached Agra at around 5 and me and Yogesh got down at Cantt Railway station before the cab started back to Delhi. After having some light tiffin at the RS, me and yogesh went for a shopping spree in Agra. Thanks to a pestering rickshaw-wala, we went to the Govt Handicrafts showroom and it had all the important things to buy at Agra. I bought a bamboo silk saree for my mom and a Taj mahal marble-model for home. Yogesh got some rugs and sarees for his home. We then bought the Agra special pethas from a nice sweet shop (supposedly the main shop which is famous for the pethas), and then got back to RS.
It was a nice journey in a 3rd AC coach and we reached hyderabad safe and sound after a much-satisfying 3 day escapade to Delhi and Agra.