Agra, the heritage city of Mughal Empire, holds India’s treasure, the Taj Mahal. The city full of tourist is visited to see one of the world’s wonders. I take you to an Agra which represents a remarkable ensemble of Mughal heritage beyond the Taj. Glimpses of some rare places which make Agra much more interesting will make you spend a whole week embracing the beauty of Mughal culture visiting the Mesemersing Mughal Gardens- Agra beyond The Taj.
The resemblance of Persian architecture can be seen in in the astonishing Mughal gardens of Agra. Architecture from Persia has always been a part of the rich heritage of Agra’s monuments. As per the holy Quran, the Mughal gardens were made to resemble the Gardens of Paradise on earth. They indeed do that. A recent visit to Agra took me to these Mughal gardens on the banks of river Yamuna.
The Mughal Gardens can be the reserves for history enthusiastic and explorers that they may wander around them for days. Our guide was particularly helpful and shared information about the history, arts and architecture. He talked us through the gardens with ease. The historical facts, interesting and exciting, were told and helped us in appreciating these gardens much more.
One of the oldest Mughal Gardens of Agra is the Aram Bagh, which was later renamed as ‘Ram Bagh’under the British rule. This ‘Bagh-e-Nur Afshan’, meaning ‘the light scattering garden’ was conceptualized by the first Mughal emperor in India, Babur. The explicit Persian design of fountain with water channels covering the entire garden of Charbagh pattern is an attraction for tourists. This astonishing piece of Mughal architecture has numerous stories behind them. The ‘Lazy Garden’ with its two sides incorporating ‘tahkhana’ has a tale related to Babur’s grandson Akbar and his wife.
Mehtab Bagh, another beautiful attraction, is located on Yamuna’s Eastern Bank. ‘Mehtab’ meaning ‘light of the moon’ was identified by Emperor Shah Jahan to ensure that there would be no monument behind the Taj, made for his beloved. Overlooking Taj Mahal, this garden is splendid for a moonlight view of the Taj. The garden spread across a 25acre plot is adorned with fountains, flowers, pools and shaded pavilions, reminiscent of the beautiful architecture of Mughal Era. This romantic destination provides a beautiful view of Taj Mahal with its reflection in the pond.
The tomb of poet and scholar Allama Afzal Khan, the Prime Minister of Shah Jahan,is situated in the monument ‘Chini ka Rauza’ which fashions unusual and exotic architecture along with a Mughal sultanate dome. The increasing pollution and natural calamities have, however, taken away the intricate pietra dura work from the walls, but its glorious architecture is still visible.
Touring Agra, I came across a small draft of Taj Mahal, known as Itmad-ud-Daulah. This Taj-like structure is often designated as a ‘jewel box’ and consists of a number of gardens and outbuildings. The beautiful walls of red stone are incarnated with white marble.The mausoleum consists of four hexagonal towers giving it a Taj like look. The gold painted ceiling gives it a jewelry box resemblance. A water channel system accompanies the walkway towards ‘bachcha Taj’ (little Taj) with gardens blooming with flowering plants.
The marvelous architecture took my heart at the first glance. The red entrance gate reminded me of the red stone from Rajasthani culture with marble designs inscribed in it. The remarkable windows of the monument represent classic Mughal architecture with concrete net-type structure.
Another appealing destination for tourists is the lush green Shah Jahan Bagh. The emerald colour floor adds to the glamour of this alluring garden which is stretched towards Taj Mahal in the west. The ambience and enchanting beauty of this garden increases with an expanded golf course, making it one of the most attractive Mughal Gardens in Agra.My history-rich thoughts ripened here as the Agra air worked its magic on me.
Moving further ahead, another popular attraction of Agra lies in the old city’s streets and food. The crowded streets of the old city define its own heritage, along with several spots which are considered to be iconic. The street consists of a handful of local milk products shops, flowers and pickle shops as well. How can I forget the iconic paan shops? These paan shops get their betel leaves from the town of Varanasi and Mahoba, which are situated nearby and are famous for their paan shops. The Mankameshwar Mahadev temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. A tale behind this temple included the presence of this temple at the time when Shiva met Krishna in Mathura. The ancient temple left a serene impact on me and I was thankful to have come across the fascinating religious beliefs of Agra dwellers.
Havelis from late 19th centuryhave running households till date. Living in an ethnic Indian house and maintaining it since ages are the jobs beautifully done by the tradition rich people of Agra. Walking down, I happened to meet a one of its own kind spice market selling every spiceof India. The spicy fragrance would add a pinch of flavor in the ambiance.
Agra is also a hub of traditional Indian food blend with spices and a lot of sweets. Talking of sweets, the special pethas of Agra are delightful. You will find many shops selling these pethas made of pumpkin in the market. Eating pumpkin could not get sweeter; not to forget the delicious deep fried ‘aalo tikkis’ and other street food savories.
The history behind every nook and corner of Agra has left me amazed. What disheartens me is the condition of these monuments. Many of them are in need of a restoration. There are broken bits, having suffered at the hands of time and miscreants. It would be a blessing to have these monuments maintained and restored by the government agencies involved. Also, let us all, as tourists, ensure to not pollute this city. The seat of Mughal throne was in Agra, as is Taj, acting like a jewel in India’s crown. Let us pledge to not litter and pollute this history-laden city, for the deeper you dig in Agra, the more you get. The tales from rich Mughal era gone by provides meaning to every bit of Agra.If you are planning to visit Agra, rest comfortable as the drive is smooth and easy on the Yamuna Expressway.
Go beyond the beautiful Taj and take a glance of these attractions for views that will bedazzle you.