Explore India – Agra, Beyond Taj Mahal – #1

The Lesser Known Monuments

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Ask any tourist (whether from India or from abroad) what they would like to see in India- the answer would be Taj Mahal. Why blame the tourists – in all the promotions with regards to Indian Tourism, Taj Mahal finds a prominent space. Every single tour operator/travel agent across the globe who is promoting Indian Tourism would have a photograph/a poster with Taj Mahal on it. Even in the Uttar Pradesh (the state where Taj Mahal is located) Tourism advertisement, Taj Mahal is the highlight point.

Agreed it’s among the seven wonders of the world a beautiful monument but then there is much more to India, and also in Agra. Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has more than 60 protected monuments in Agra alone (and many more in the entire circle). Agra has 3 world heritage sites and not just one Taj Mahal as is the popular misconception – The Agra Fort, The Taj Mahal and Fatehpur Sikri complex.

A trip to Agra is limited to visiting Taj Mahal (yes, that’s the first priority), then a very short visit to Agra Fort and a very rushed visit to Fatehpur Sikri. Trip complete – in just one single day, then move back to Delhi or go further to check out heritage sites in the Rajputana.

Most of the other sites are generally missed. In this series, would try, explore and talk about all the sites worth a visit. Trust me, once you have read about all of them, Agra would not be a one day wonder for you.

अरे कुछ दिन तो गुजारो आगरा मे ….(Spend some days in Agra)

In this part we would talk about lesser known heritage sites. These are the sites which people are aware, the tourist flow is less but still some do visit them. These sites have a huge potential to become a huge crowd puller.

The Sikandara Complex

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Sikandara was named after Sikandar Lodi (Lodi dynasty) and one can find many heritage sites of Lodi era along with Mughal era heritage sites scattered in this area.

Sikandara complex is located on the outskirts of main Agra city. If one is travelling from Delhi to Agra via NH19/NH 44 (via Mathura), it will fall on the left a little before the Guru Ka Taal Flyover.

There are two main sites in the main Sikandara complex – the tomb (mausoleum) of the 3rd Mughal king Akbar and the Kaanch Mahal (Glass palace) which served two purpose during the reign of 4th Mughal king Jahangir – a harem quarter of resort for ladies and hunting lodge (royal shikargah).

The Kanch Mahal is a beautiful two storied red sandstone structure which has exterior embellishments with mosaic of blue, orange and yellow glazed tiles.

From the Kaanch Mahal walk left to reach the tomb complex of Akbar. Akbar had started building his own mausoleum but died before its completion; the tomb was completed by his son Jahangir and was completed in 1613.

In the entire complex one can see hybrid of different style of architecture – Hindu, Islamic, Christian, Jain and Buddhists – a patent style of Akbar as a result of his religious inclinations.

The complex is a peaceful haven. It is a ticketed monument maintained and restored by ASI.

Read in detail about the Sikandara complex here

The tomb of Mariam-uz-Zamani

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The tomb of the mystery lady in the Mughal history, the tomb of Bollywood director Ashutosh Gowarikar’s Akbar’s love interest, the tomb of the mother of the 4th Mughal king – yes this is the tomb of the mother of Jahangir, the tomb of the so called Christian wife ( a popular myth), . Surprised??? Yes, mother of Jahangir was a Rajput princess from the royal family of Amer (Jaipur). Wasn’t she the most loved consort of Akbar? So how come she has a tomb, why was she buried and not cremated as per Hindu/Rajput rites? And who is this Mariam (sounds like Hindi version of Mary – mother of Jesus Christ)?

Visit this beautiful but little known tomb and get your answers.

The tomb is located around a kilometre away from the main Sikandara complex. It’s located on the other side of the road and not immediately visible from the main road, one has to take a left turn onto a small lane.  It’s a ticketed monument but tourist activity is negligible. Visit to this place would clear all your misconceptions and also would fill your heart with sadness for the one who is buried here.

Intrigued, want to know more, read in details about the Tomb of Mariam-uz-Zamani here

Guru Ka Tal

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Photo Courtesy : HolidayIQ

Guru ka Taal/tal (The pond of the Guru) shares a deep bond with Sikhism. It is said that 4 out of 10 gurus of Sikhs had visited this place.

This place earlier was a reservoir (taal) built in 1610 AD to collect and conserve rainwater during the reign of the 4th Mughal king Jahangir. The reservoir had beautiful stone carvings. Today this place has a Gurudwara (constructed in the 1970’s). The Gurudwara is called the Gurudwara Guru Ka Taal. It is located close to Sikandara complex. If you are coming from the main city (MG Road), the Guru Ka Taal Flyover would bring you right in front of the Gurudwara.

Guru ka Taal is the place where the 9th Sikh Guru, Guru Teg Bahadur ji voluntarily got arrested. It is said that he did this act to protect the Kashmiri Hindus who had been captured and were tortured by the 6th Mughal king Aurangzeb and also for the sake of freedom to practice one’s own faith. Guru Teg Bahadur ji was kept here for 9 days and then later moved to Delhi where he was killed by Aurangzeb (his head was cut, two of his close aides were tortured and killed). The place where he was killed is now Gurudwara Sisganj.

To the east of the Gurudwara there is a well. It is said underground water in this area was salty (it still is in most of the areas in Agra), but because of Guru’s miracle the water in this well and nearby wells became sweet (or without the salty taste).

The Gurudwara is frequented by the followers of Sikhism. It has a place to stay also along with Langar facility. (free accommodation and free food – the terms are used only for the purpose of explaining, Langar and Dharamshala have a deeper meaning and go much beyond just the literal translation ).

Read more about the Gurudwara

This is just the tip. There are many more such sites dotting Agra, just wait and watch this space. Coming soon

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42 thoughts on “Explore India – Agra, Beyond Taj Mahal – #1

  1. Exploring Agra sounds like a great idea and you’re right, there’s so much more to see than the Taj Mahal (though admittedly I will be heading there someday). I’m actually heading to India next month but I’m going to Kerala.

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  2. Great post. I always find visiting the must-see places afor bit disappointing and aleays look for other cool places that aren’t so overrated. Like when in Parus, I try not to even see the Eiffel Tower in the distance 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Love India, I traveled there some years ago, I must be the only person who didn’t go to the Taj Mahal, although it surely must be amazing, I went to other amazing places as well, but less touristy.

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  4. I must add the Kanch Mahal to my list. I grew up as a toddler for 4 years in India and I look forward to coming back to visit yes the Taj but also the cities and places like Agra that aren’t on a lot of peoples radar. Thanks for listing!

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