Tourists visiting Delhi make it a point to visit Agra to see the marvellous Taj Mahal. We set out from Delhi at 6: 20 am in the morning and reached Agra at 10: 40 am via Yamuna expressway (165 kms). It is better to buy entry tickets for visiting the Taj Mahal, online to avoid long queues. Shoes are not allowed inside the premises, so one needs to get shoe covers outside to prevent the feet from getting scorched on the hot marble.
Some interesting facts about the The Taj Mahal:
The Taj Mahal is one of the seven wonders of the world standing majestically on the banks of River Yamuna. We have all heard of its architectural splendour but the experience of seeing it is truely amazing.
Built in the memory of Mumtaj Mahal , the beloved Queen of Shah Jahan… It is a poetry in marble. The mausoleum is crafted in white marble, intricately jewelled with designs in precious stones. The pietra dura or the stone inlays are a feast for the eyes.
Mumtaj Mahal (jewel of the palace) was originally known as Arjumand Bano Begum. She was a compassionate, learned lady and a poetess. Although she was betrothed to Prince Khurram (Shah Jahan) at the age of 14, she was married to him as his second wife at the age of 19. The prince was 20 at that time. Shah Jahan’s first and third marriages were political alliances, made to increase the kingdom. Mumtaj Mahal, who was dearly loved by Shah Jahan, died at the age of 38 while giving birth to their 14th child in their 19 years of marriage.
Mumtaj Mahal bore him eight sons and six daughters,( seven of whom died at childbirth or at very young age) The emperor was inconsolable after her demise, and planned to build a suitable mausoleum for her. The Taj Mahal took approximately 20 yrs and 20,000 sculptors to be completed.
Shah Jahan also wanted to build another duplicate Mahal for himself in black, but it remained a dream as he spent his last days in imprisonment. He was imprisoned in the Agra Fort by his son Aurangzeb who killed his three brothers to gain the throne. Aurangzeb his sixth son and the next emperor laid him to rest beside Mumtaj Mahal.
Mesmerised by the beauty and the story of the Taj we headed for the Agra Fort as we decided to cover Mathura and Vrindavan after Agra.
Agra Fort- some historical facts about the fort.
The Agra Fort was the main residence of the Mughal Dynasty. In 1638, the capital was shifted to Delhi by Shah Jahan and the Red Fort became the Royal residence.
The Agra Fort stands by the river Yamuna. It is an ancient fort which was first held by the Chauhan Rajputs till the Ghaznis captured it . Sikandar Lodhi and his son Ibrahim Lodhi held it before the later was defeated by Babur (the first Mughal Emperor) in the battle of Panipat.(1526) The Agra fort along with the famed ‘Kohinoor diamond’ was seized by the Mughals. Akbar the Great, rebuilt the old brick fort with red sandstone (1565 -1573).
The semi- circular fort has four gates and several mahals, the white marble palaces belong to the great builder Shah Jahan. He built three marble mosques – Moti masjid, Nagina masjid and Mina masjid. Aurangzeb besieged the fort after the Battle of Samogarh (1658) and stopped the water supply from the river. Shah Jahan could not drink the water from the well (it is somewhat salty, inside Taj Malal premises too) and surrendered , he remained imprisoned in the fort for 8 years. Shah Jahan died in 1666 and was laid to rest beside his beloved in the Taj Mahal.
We went around the fort and feasted on the beautiful art work, especially in the Diwan-i-khas the place where the emperor met his special guests. The fort has witnessed numerous important events that had tremendous impact on history. We also the Taj Mahal from the fort and wondered about Shah Jahan who spent his last days looking at the Taj from Agra Fort.
We had our lunch at Joney’s Place a small but good restaurant near the Taj. we had butter chicken, malai dumplings and biriyani along with banana lassi which was delicious at a reasonable price.
Visiting the Taj Mahal was a fantastic experience. The beauty and majesty of the building, The waterfront, the surrounding garden, the Yamuna river everything added to the beauty of the picturesque monument. We left Agra in the afternoon. For those who opt to stay at Agra overnight- an early morning visit or a visit during sunset is recommended as the Taj changes its colours with the colours of the sky. The best view however, is on a moonlit night when the beauty of the Taj is at its romantic best and a marvel to look at.