I was quite looking forward to the trip to Agra during the week that my niece was visiting, as I had not seen the Taj in nearly 2 decades and some of the other sites for maybe far longer. In the earlier part of the week we made some short excursions around Delhi, (Humayun’s Tomb) as my mother was at home and we wanted to spend time with her. So, the Agra trip happened in the later part of the week. We started out early on Friday morning, and although from I live on Sohna Road in Gurgaon from where it is 191 KM via NH2 to Agra, we decided to go by the longer (an extra 30-40Km I think) new Yamuna Expressway. The expressway is new, squeeky clean, wide, smooth and expensive (Rs 500 return) and had very little traffick. The expressway end South of the Yamuna at Agra, close to Itimad-ud-Daulat and as sson as you cross the bridge, the Taj and Fort are close by.
So, we crossed the bridge and drove up to the Taj a little before 10 am. And lo and behold, we drove into an empty parking lot, to find that the Taj was closed on Fridays!!! We did feel foolish, since we never venture out in any tourist destination without getting all the dope that the internet can provide!! And here we were, all the way to see the Taj, and we could not get in. We had to do with a glimpse of the top of the dome from the terraceof a 2 storey Govet shopping complex.
Then we headed to the Red Fort. This is larger than the Delhi one, but has a similar organization with quarters for the men and women, the harem, a private mosque, halls for the public (Diwan-e-am) and for the court (Diwan-e-khas) etc.. The gardens are well laid out and maintained and with the view of the Taj down the river, there is no better place to wander around on a sunny, clear North Indian winter day.
Agra Fort was originally a brick fort and the earliest mention of it is said to be in 1080 AD. Sikander Lodi (1488–1517) was the first Sultan of Delhi who shifted to Agra and lived in the fort. He died in the fort at 1517 and his son, Ibrahim Lodi lost it when he was defeated and killed by the Mughal, Babur, at Panipat in 1526. Babur’s son, Humanyun was crowned at the fort in 1530 and was later defeated in 1540 by Sher Shah Suri. Agra changed hands a number of times until Akbar, defeated the Hindu King Hemuat the Second Battle of Panipat in 1556. When Akbar made it his capital and arrived in Agra in 1558, it was in a ruined condition and he had it rebuilt with red sandstone. Akbar’s grandson, Shah Jahan, the builder of the Taj Mahal, had much of the fort rebuilt in his favorite stone, white marble. At the end of his life, Shah Jahan was deposed and restrained by his son, Aurangazeb, in the fort.
From Red Fort, we struggled out of the city towards Sikandra, the tomb of Akbar. This is an amazing structure, architecturally vry different form the one of his father Humayun in Dlehi.
After a late lunch, we headed for the last and the best stop pf the day – Itmad-ud-Daula’s Tomb. It was built by Nur Jehan, Jehangir’s wife, for her parents between 1622 and 1628. Located on the Southern bank of the Yamuna River, it is an exquisitive marble structure, with wonderful inlaid work. We wandered around watching the rays of the setting sun on the marble. Then we headed home, satisfied with a great days outing to Agra, albeit without the Taj!!