Take a break in Agra, Uttar Pradesh
Most people visit Agra for a pretty photo in front of the Taj Mahal. But, if you’re willing to venture beyond the chaotic maze of lanes and pesky souvenir vendors, you’ll find another side to Agra that has a lot more than just a beautiful, grand mausoleum.
A great way to start your tour of Agra is by paying a visit to the Agra Fort, which serves as a significant relic of the area’s history. The mammoth structure overlooks the Yamuna River, and serves as a great reminder of the past glory of the Mughal era. A walk through the fort will reveal the evolution of Mughal architecture, especially the shift from sandstone to marble as a primary construction material. Originally built as a military structure by Akbar, it was extensively revamped and modified by his grandson Shah Jahan, who lived thee with Mumtaz, and his other wives.
Lying right across the Taj’s riverbank is the tomb of Itmad-Ud-Daulah, a title that was bestowed upon Mirza Ghiyas Beg, Noor Jahan’s father. Also known as Baby Taj, this was the first Mughal structure that was built entirely from white marble. Constructed between 1622 and 1628, this is also the resting place of Lady Jahan’s mother and siblings. This tomb also, supposedly, inspired Shah Jahan to build the Taj.
If you’re looking to take a break from all the monument hopping, head to Mehtab Bagh, a garden built by Emperor Babur. According to local legend, this was the land on which Shah Jahan wanted to build the ‘Black Taj’, but that plan never entirely materialised. The garden lives on even today, and makes for a peaceful viewing point for the Taj, without having to make your way through the usual crowds at the monument.
Finish your tour of the city with a drive to Akbar’s Tomb. The tomb itself gets sort of overshadowed by the ornate main gate, which will leave you marvelling at its ornate red stone and marble work that features more than 20 panels inlaid with intricate floral and geometric patterns. At the end of your time at the monument, you’ll be left thinking that even though the Taj Mahal is Agra’s showstopper, and with good reason, the city is full of other architectural marvels that are waiting to be explored.