The world famous Taj Mahal may have put Agra on the map for tourists but truth be told, this ancient city is alive with many other atmospheric monuments and mausoleums. Shrouded in the legacy of the Mughal Era, they carry almost as heavy a weight of mystical history as the Taj. For starters, Agra Fort and the nearby Fatehpur Sikri are two other UNESCO World Heritage Sites, though not parts of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Although best known for its reign under Akbar, Agra was mentioned even in the much older Mahabharata. However, modern Agra came into prominence when Sultan Sikandar Lodi made it his capital in 1506. The city remained the capital of the Mughal empire until mid-16th century, which is also when the construction of the Taj Mahal was completed. A mere three and a half hour drive from Delhi, the city is also well-connected by air and rail and there are many 5 star hotels in Agra for a luxurious stay. Here are some not-to-be-missed jewels on your Mughal trail through Agra.
Commissioned in 1632 by the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan as a tomb for the love of his life Mumtaz Mahal, the Taj Mahal needs no introduction. One could go on and on about its architectural marvels but the essence of its beauty is still a thing of mystery, best captured in a passing moment of poetry.
The sprawling brick fort was originally known as Badalgarh, as it was held by Raja Badal Singh, a Hindu Sikarwar Rajput king. Often described as a ‘walled city’, the sight of lighted candles at Sheesh Mahal in the night is nothing short of ethereal. There are several palaces within the 94-acre fort, guarded by four different gates. Make sure you visit the Diwan-i-Am and Shah Burj.
Itimad-Ud- Daulah Tomb
A mausoleum commissioned by Nūr Jahān, the wife of Jahangir, for her father Mirzā Ghiyās Beg, the Tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah bears a slight resemblance to the Taj Mahal. Its beautiful white marble walls are decorated with cypress trees, wine bottles, cut fruit and vases of flowers constructed from semi-precious stones like cornelian, jasper, lapis lazuli, onyx, and topaz.
Translating to ‘Moonlight Garden’, Mehtab Bagh is built in the Persian Charbagh style. Charbaghs are usually quadrilateral gardens partitioned by walkways or flowing water into four smaller divisions. Built by Emperor Babur, the gardens afford a stunning view of the Taj Mahal.
Tomb of Akbar the Great
The list of architectural wonders in Agra simply doesn’t seem to end. Akbar’s Mausoleum in the Sikandra suburb is spread across 119 acres. Fashioned out of sandstone and marble, the tomb features an arresting gateway and three-storey minarets at each corner.
Outside of Agra city, Agra district is also strewn with relics of the Mughal era and you may extend your trail to Fatehpur Sikri and the Jama Masjid mosque. Fatehpur Sikri was founded in 1569 by the Mughal Emperor Akbar, and served as the Empire’s capital from 1571 to 1585. The palace city houses several spectacular structures like the Buland Darwaza, Tomb of Salim Chishti, Panch Mahal, Birbal’s House, Anup Talao and Hiran Minar. For those wishing to visit a Gurudwara, Guru ka Tal in the Sikandra suburb of Agra city is a great choice.
Featured image courtesy: Gerard McGovern