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Exploring Agra Beyond Taj: Other Tales of Love, Art and Architecture

Despite having a strong foothold in history as the capital of the Mughal empire and military base of the Mughals, Agra continues to be less explored and its identity remains hidden in the glory of the magnificent Taj Mahal.

Published: June 27, 2022 4:12 PM IST

By Shrimansi Kaushik

Exploring Agra Beyond Taj, art and architecture
Explore Agra's rich history through its architecture. Picture Credits: Unsplash

Agra: Despite having a strong foothold in history as being the capital of the Mughal empire and military base of the Mughals, Agra continues to be less explored or rather its identity remains hidden in the glory of the magnificent Taj Mahal. However, this phenomenal city has a number of other monuments and places to explore.  There is a lot more history in this place than you can imagine.

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Explore Agra Beyond Taj Mahal By Visiting These Places Here:

Agra Fort

Exploreing Agra Beyond Taj, Art and architecture

The symbol of power and might, Agra Fort. Picture Credits: Unsplash

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If Taj is a symbol of love and beauty, this fort signifies power, might and contains remnants of a family staying here once. Agra being the seat of Mughal empire unti 1638, this palace and fort was also the residence of the Mughals beginning from 1573 when Akbar got it built out of sandstone. The fort is entirely made of sandstone except two sections later added by Shah Jahan’s daughter that are made of white marble. Agra Fort is an architectural masterpiece which is now, one of UNESCO World Heritage Site and is second most tourist attraction places after Taj mahal in Agra. The fort has many structures like Pearl Mosque, Diwan-i-Khas, Diwan-i-Aam, Moti Masjid and Jahangiri Mahal. The fort is a perfect example of fusion of Indian Rajputana and Islamic Persian Architecture. The intricate use of Jalis and corbels, the brilliant architecture from the point of view of eluding enemies and other sections can render one mesmerized.

Itimad-Ud-Daulah’s Tomb

Exploring Agra Beyond Taj; art, architecture

Tomb of a court minister. Picture Credits: theculturedpapi/instagram

Built by Nur Jahan, in memory of her father Ghias-ud-Din Beg, who was conferred the title ‘Itimad-ud-Daulah’ meaning ‘Pillar of the Government’. It is the first tomb to be built in white marble instead of red sandstone. It marks the departure from the red sandstone buildings of Mughal architecture. It is also said to be the inspiration behind the Taj Mahal owing to its delicate artwork with marble lattice screens and fine carvings. For this fact it is also known as the “Baby Taj Mahal”. The main element of the structure is made to resemble a jewel box, in the middle of a lush green gardens. The Mughal characteristic, pietra dura (stone inlay) decoration depicting cypresses, wine glasses, and an amazing variety of geometrical arabesque can be found on the walls of the tomb, much like the Taj.

Mehtab Bagh

Exploring Agra Beyond Taj; Art, architecture

Beauty of Taj witnessed from Mehtab Bagh. Picture Credits: g.kaustav/Wikimedia Commons

Built alongside River Yamuna overlooking the Taj Mahal, Mehtab Bagh is designed in such a way that the view of Taj Mahal, during sunset and amidst beautiful flowers and lush green gardens, appears all the more glorified. When you visit the garden you can notice that the garden is built quadrilateral in shape and there is a large octagonal tank right at center. On clear moonlit nights, you can notice that the reflection of Taj Mahal in the water in the tank. A view not to be missed!


Exploring Agra Beyond Taj: Art and Architecture

The only tomb aligned with Mecca. Picture Credits: Unsplash

Once extensively covered with glazed porcelain tiles and regarded by many as a significant landmark in Indo-Persian architecture, Cheeni Ka Rauza is the mausoleum of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan’s prime minister, Afzal Khan Aalmi, who was also known as Maula Shukrullah Shirazi. The mausoleum was built in 1635 in Itmadpur and is just a kilometre away from the tomb of Itmad-ud-Daulah. The monument is situated amid beautiful gardens, and is renowned for its blue glazed tiles, believed to have been brought from China. While some of these are partially intact on the mausoleum’s façade, the interiors are fairly well-preserved. It features floral designs that are unique to signature Persian art style. It is the only tomb in Agra which has aligned itself with Mecca.

Tomb of Mariam Zamani

Exploring Agra Beyond Taj; Art and Architecture

Tomb of Rani Jodha Bai Picture Credits: Unsplash

Yet another important place to visit in Agra is the Tomb of Mariam Zamani, which marks the resting place of Queen Jodha Bai. Wife of Akbar and a daughter of Hindu Rajput king, Raja Bharmal Kaccwaha of Amber, she was also known by the name of Mariam-uz-Zamani. This highly esteemed tomb is one of those few that does not have a dome. It has four chhatris and columns with inverted lotus, architecture characteristic of Indo-Islamic. The chhatris are made of red sandstone. This tomb is identical on either side. Unlike other structures of Mughal dynasty, the rear end of the mausoleum is not a dummy one, but a real entrance. This magnificently built tomb of Rani Jodha Bai is a popular tourist spot offering a pleasant, serene and calm environment.

Truly a dip into history, a visit to Agra gives pleasure in being dominated by these indomitable structures. There is hardly any kernel of doubt in stretching your Agra plan beyond a three day itinerary that covers Delhi and Jaipur as well. Agra needs to be experienced  slowly, with love, respect and willingness to witness power alongside beauty.

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Published Date: June 27, 2022 4:12 PM IST