I have been to Agra few times. We went by Taj Express the first time, way back in 1988 and then with friends in a Maruti 800 in 1999 or so and then again drove myself in my Wagon R in 2003 or so, dont remember exact year/date and finally the fourth time in Mahindra Scorpio in Jan 2006.
Interestingly I dont have too many photos and the last time when we made a trip, we fell sick and sort of rushed back. But any travel-blog site is not worth its salt if it doesn’t mention Taj so I was planning to write one for quite some time. Would try to remember all those special things.
How to go
- From Delhi, there are many trains. You can book your tickets at www.irctc.co.in and choose the option of e-ticket. Book it, take a print and thats it. Best is to take Bhopal Shatabdi (2 hours, leaves 6.15 AM reaches 8.12 AM), Taj Express (3 hours, leaves 7.15 AM, reaches 10.07 AM) or intercity (4 hours, leaves 5.30 PM, reaches 9.35 PM).
The other way is to drive. Get on to Mathura Road (take ring road from anywhere in Delhi, reach Ashram and then turn towards East which will you left if you are coming from ITO side or right if you are coming from AIIMS side). Its about 200 KMs, fantastic road, decent traffic but watch out for cattle and petty traffic. Benefit of car is that its pretty handy as Fatehpur Sikri is quite a distance away.
When to Go
Agra gets hot and humid in summers and real cold in winters. Taj is ………………
magnificent so go anytime but if you can choose then avoid the months of May-Aug and then December-January.
What to see
On the way to Taj, stop at Sikandra, Akbar’s Tomb. Its a massive structure in Red and is the place where Akbar the great was buried. Probably its one of the only places where you can see cheetals and deers roaming freely in the open gardens. There is real big, really very very big green land where these deers roam freely. To get to the tomb, you would need to climb down a ramp and reach a dark, large hall. If you notice you can see the gate from there, the road is in line of sight and is made to ensure that passers-by can pay homage. The arches can’t be missed and probably if you take a guide he would tell you interesting stories behind the carvings. One of them being Akbar so secular, there are carvings depicting Hindu, Muslim as well as Christian faith. In the main area, there are pillars and a grid. If you stand in any cell and are close to a pillar and whisper something then the person standing diagonally opposite to you can hear everything. Its really magic, the design is such that the sound echos at certain places. Try it for sure.
Roam around the structure to see other interesting things. The terrace right on top of tomb has been left open so that no one can walk on top of tomb and so many other small intricacies. All in all a very marvel structure, had it not been along side Taj, Sikandra would have earned more but probably anyone who goes here is in hurry to get to Taj or Sikri.
Agra Fort – A fort made on the lines of Delhi’s Red fort. I dont remember much but there is Deewan-e-Aam and Deewan-e-Khas , lot of structures, open spaces and general grandeur which stands a testimony for great Mughal Architecture.
The Taj -Taj deserves a separate post and for that I would need to visit it again. But its magnificent, standing like a big white elephant amid vast open with Yamuna quietly flowing at the back. As you enter the gate, you sort of get carried away and keep looking at it for a while, trying to understand whether its real and whether its really as old. A monument of love and one of the seven wonders of the world. Take a guide for getting to know small small things like why the four minarets around Taj are tilted outside at an angle of 2 degrees so that if they fall because of some reason, they dont do that on the main building. Then the stories on how the marble was sources from Persia or someplace in East and so on. These days Taj is open on full moon days and I can imagine what the white marble would look like, shining and oozing energy. Taj is beautiful. Simply out of the world. Both the Taj photos have been shot by Aditya in Jan 2006.
Fatehpur Sikri – Just like Taj, Sikri also deserves another full post. But for the time being, Fathepur was the old capital of Mughals. It was built in honor of Salim Chisti. There is this great Buland Daarwaaza (big might door) then a very large courtyard, a mosque, a small fort and lots of calm. Enjoy sikri in the evening , just sit in courtyard and listen to sufi live music, its bliss. There is a small market as well where you can buy souvenirs and likewise. I would definitely write more on Sikri, I like it like hell. Again since its so close to Taj, its not getting the due recognition. Its on World Heritage list and notable one of the finest pieces of Mughal Architecture.
If you are driving and get a piece of advice to take a short cut to reach NH3 (Delhi Road) then ignore the tip and rather take the normal longer route, the shortcut can kill you if you dont know the inner lanes and the longer route has some of the great beers , put alongside by their masters, ready to do a show for few bucks :)