Most tourists come to Agra for the Taj Mahal, they stay 1 night or some come in the morning and leave in the afternoon. We stayed 2 nights not listening to everybody’s advice, and now we laugh at those people, the sights besides the Taj Mahal that Agra has to offer are absolutely amazing and well worth the extra night. Moral of the story? take other travelers advice with a grain of salt and try to make your own opinion instead.
This is Agra – Day 2:
Right now is wedding season in India, everywhere you go you see places decorated for a wedding and even the parades are happening on the streets… at 11:00 pm… with the biggest-loudest speakers in India…. with the most uncoordinated live band consisting of 20 drummers… right outside your hotel window! Even resting here is difficult.
The first stop was the Mehtab Bagh park to see the sunrise with a view of the Taj Mahal for 1 last time. We asked the hotel to hire a driver to get us at 5am. When we got up at 5am the hotel worker said we asked for 6am (we didnt) so we napped for 30 more minutes and the driver was able to make it at 5:30am. Somehow it was already light out so we basically missed the sunrise but still got a beautiful view from a different viewing point while sitting in a very peaceful park area.
The Mehtab Bagh garden was the last of eleven Mughal-built gardens along the Yamuna The Park is perfectly aligned with the Taj Mahal on the opposite bank.
The garden was designed as an integral part of the Taj Mahal complex in the riverfront terrace pattern. Its width was identical to that of the rest of the Taj Mahal. Legends attributed to the travelogue of the 17th century French traveler Jean Baptiste Tavernier mention Shah Jahan’s wish to build a black marble mausoleum for himself, as a twin to the Taj Mahal; however, this could not be achieved as he was imprisoned by his son Aurangzeb.
We then went to the Tomb of I’timAd-ud-Daulah. This is a Mughal mausoleum (like the Taj Mahal). It is Often described as a “jewel box”, sometimes called the “Baby Taj”, this tomb is often regarded as a draft of the Taj Majal. The beauty of starting your day early was that we were the only ones at this site. It was truly stunning and if we never saw the Taj Mahal we would be even more impressed.
Photos inside were allowed but still got in trouble for using a tripod. The detail on the walls is very complex and colorful. This is the first mayor building where the Mughals started to use white marble instead of red sandstone.
We then went to Agra Fort. Sarah wasn’t thrilled about seeing another fort but once we arrived she was glad we came as it was much more impressive than the fort in Delhi. Agra Fort is another UNESCO World Heritage site. The fort is also known as Lal Qila, Fort Rouge and Red Fort. Agra Fort was built by Akbar in Red Sandstone when he was through with the consolidation of his power after accession to power in 1654.
The Fort worked both as a military strategic point as well as the royal residence. Some 1,444,000 builders worked on it for eight years, completing it in 1573.
It was a huge place to walk around especially given that only 20 percent was open to the public (the other 80% still used by the military).
From here you can clearly view the Taj Mahal.
Unfortunately the most famous part the Sheesh Mahal was closed. Sheesh Mahal literally means “Glass Palace” and it was the royal dressing room adorned by tiny mirror-like glass-mosaic decorations on the walls. We had to ask many people to even find it, most had no idea what we were talking about and just gave us a rude stare but eventually someone directed us in the right direction and it was closed. But we were still able to take a look through the door and it was truly stunning.
After the fort, we drove 1.5 hours to the abandoned city of Fatehpur Sikri, this city was founded in 1569 by the Emperor Akbar, and served as the capital of the Mughal Empire from 1571 to 1585. After his military victories over Chittor and Ranthambore, Akbar decided to shift his capital from Agra to a new location 23 miles away on the Sikri ridge, to honour the Sufi saint Salim Chishti.
The Hall of Private Audience is a plain square building with four chhatris on the roof connected to a central pillar. It is here that Akbar had representatives of different religions discuss their faiths and gave private audience.
The Imperial complex was abandoned in 1585, shortly after its completion, due to the exhaustion of the small, spring-fed lake that supplied the city with water. The palaces were occupied by the Marathas after their conquest of Delhi, then transferred to the British army, which used the fortified complex as a headquarters and barracks.
The complex most amazing building is the Jama Masjid (mosque), we were the only locals there so we got a few weird looks while we were visiting. It was built in the manner of Indian mosques, with iwans around a central courtyard. At the center of the courtyard you find the Tomb of Salim Chishti: A white marble encased tomb of the Sufi saint.
You can tell this place is holy for Muslims here and it was really intense to see everybody kneeling, chanting, touching, kissing and giving money to the tomb.
The mosque’s ceiling still shows some majestic original colors.
They have beautiful marble windows where they tie a red string around.
I was able to take a picture of the shrine from one of the little window holes.
Somebody thought that breaking the path was funny. The floor is so hot you can cook an egg in it’s surface, so you need to walk on top of those improvised carpets. The locals don’t mind, but we screamed ouch many times crossing this obstacle.
After exiting the mosque, the view of the little village is nice. We are literally in the middle of India.
On the way back we saw a terrible accident, not surprising considering how people drive here. Our driver stopped to help and after everybody was pulled to safety we continued our drive!
Bonus Pic Of The Day: When you travel around India you will notice that some babies have black mascara called “Kohl” around their eyes. This is to ward off evil eye, by making it imperfect. Other less superstitious families apply this cosmetic to improve sight. This cosmetic is banned in the U.S. for having high amounts of lead btw.