There is no doubt that the stellar attraction of Agra, a city of some of the most fascinating remnants of the Mughal era, is the famous monument of Taj Mahal. However, there are plenty of interesting things to do in Agra for the discerning traveler.
The congested lanes, choked roads and the constant heckling of touts notwithstanding, Agra has still many other worthwhile places to explore apart from the most instantly recognizable landmark in the world. Home to a record three UNESCO World Heritage sites, the city simply stands apart with the sheer excellence of some awe-inspiring man-made wonders and inherent natural beauty.
From grand forts, elaborate mausoleums, massive monuments, to shopping in the colorful Kinari Bazaar while relishing some authentic Mughlai cuisine, Agra has much more to offer to all kinds of visitors. You can easily join some tours in Agra to understand the heritage and history of the “City of Taj“.
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First, let’s understand what is all this fuss about the mighty wonder of the world – Taj Mahal.
Were it not for this sublime monument of love, the name of Agra would have just any other dot on the map of India. The brilliant architecture which has gone into making this marble beauty has left many a viewer speechless and tearful with its grandeur. Constructed by Shah Jahan, a Mughal emperor, in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal, the Taj is considered to be one of the most exotic wonders of the world.
Things to do in the City of Taj .. Apart from Visiting the Taj
With so many other places to see in Agra, there is no dearth of options for architecture buffs, historians or just travelers who love to explore. Here are some of the best options for your visit to Agra.
Tucked in behind the Jama Masjid, the old city of Agra is a maize of narrow lanes housing a surprising number of goods like clothes, saris,spices, shoes and jewellery. The traditional marble work of Agra can be witnessed here firsthand through the adept craftsmen who have kept the art alive over the generations.
Another impressive architectural presentation of Emperor Shah Jahan, the Jama Masjid took six years to complete under the guidance of the best artisans of the county of that era. It is said that each stone was laid by reciting the Holy Quran. At any given time, the mosque can accommodate up to a congregation of 25,000 people.
Situated roughly an hour’s drive away from Agra, the once proud capital of the Mughal Empire, had to be abandoned due to severe scarcity of water, thereby giving it the name as “City of Ghosts”. It enjoys Heritage stature and is a top tourist destination, especially because of the fabulous architecture on display.
The interiors of this red sandstone structure resembles the Taj Mahal in many ways giving it the name of Baby Taj. The tomb is surrounded by beautiful gardens and was constructed in memory of Nur Jahan’s father, and is till date considered to be a marvel of architecture.
Since the custom at that time of the Mughal era was to construct one’s own tomb, Emperor Akbar,went about building it in 1600 at the neighbouring city of Sikandra.The tomb was completed by his son Jehangir and is flanked by four minarets, similar to the one seen around the Taj Mahal.
This fort, built in the 16th century, is yet another living example of some of the brilliance of Mughal architecture and craftsmanship. Similar to the Red Fort of Delhi, the Agra Fort has many inbuilt palaces which were not only homes to the rulers, but were strong fortresses as well. Shah Jahan was ultimately kept captive here by his son, and it was through these wall that the once mighty emperor spent his last days gazing lovingly at the distant monument of Taj that he had so painstakingly erected for his loving wife.
The Pear Mosque, as it is more commonly known, was another masterpiece of Shah Jahan. The mosque radiates like a pearl in the sunlight, thereby giving it the name. Located on the banks of the Yamuna river, the views from the mosque are said to be truly breathtaking.
Another red sandstone marvel of architecture, the fort houses the tomb of Emperor Akbar. Paved paths,water channels and causeways all afford a glimpse of the excellence which of construction which prevailed at that time.
Jodha Bai ka Rauza
This place was built for Akbar’s favourite queen Jodha Bai. The place was constructed in such a way that the Taj Mahal could be viewed between the slits provided in the wall openings. Since the queen was originally a Rajput, the designs of the palace have been designed keeping that in view.
Just as you cannot think of Agra without the Taj, these other marvels of architecture described above too occupy a place of pride in the must see destinations of this historical city. In spite of the magnificent Taj, every other place is equally educative and gives out its own message in an informative and entertaining manner. Visit Agra for Taj.. and beyond!