By Ila Tyagi:
The mollifying sound of ‘Namaz’ fills the air, and the sun is descending to its resting place. It is the month February, I sit on the ramparts in Mehtab Bagh beholding the exclusive marvel of art – the Taj Mahal. The first time I saw the wonder, an overwhelming sense of awe came over me. Since then visiting this monument has become an addiction of mine. There is an old charm in this city of the Mughals which lures me for a sojourn every winter.
The city served as the capital of the Mughal emperors for a lengthy period of time. The Mughal emperor Babur had migrated to India from Afghanistan and established his capital in Delhi. The golden age of this rustic town commenced when Babur’s grandson Akbar shifted the Mughal Capital to Agra. The Mughal’s Empire is known for its contribution to art, architecture, music, dance, and food in India.
The Taj is often referred to as a token of love. The Mughal emperor Shah Jahan ordered its construction the memory of his beloved wife the Mumtaz Mahal upon her death. It accommodates the tombs of both Shah Jahan and his wife Mumtaz Mahal. Shah Jahan as an emperor was an unremarkable ruler. However, his passion for architecture and his love for white marble gave India its leading tourist attraction and a wonder in every sense of the word. The Taj stands tall on the banks of river Yamuna. The choicest view of the Taj can be obtained from the other side of the river through a Mughal garden called the Mehtab Bagh.
The perennial city of Agra has much to offer to fans of history and architecture. Diagonally opposite to the Taj Mahal stands the magnificent Agra Fort. Visiting this monument would give you a detailed insight in the Mughal forms of architecture, and the history of the Mughal Empire. Every emperor in the Mughal Empire has built his own palace to suit his tastes. Each emperor’s chamber reflects a unique trait about his character. Glorious palaces and temple complexes have been constructed to gratify the many wives of various emperors. The entire fort is constructed in carved red sandstone and white marble. The highlight of this attraction is the prison where Shah Jahan was kept captive by his ambitious son Aurangzeb during the last days of his life. The prison is built of white marble carved with semi-precious stones few of which glow in the night. The prison faces the Taj Mahal so as to allow Shah Jahan to take his last breaths while feasting his eyes on the mausoleum of his adored wife. The in-lay work in the walls of the prison is elegant and conducted with fine precision. A sound and light show depicting the eventful tale of the Mughals is conducted every night in the fort.
Other attractions of this city include the tomb of Emperor Akbar aka Sikandra. Akbar is considered to be the greatest of all Mughal emperors. He ascended to the throne at the tender age of fifteen. Akbar’s illiteracy did not hamper his leadership abilities as he was uncommonly wise. The entrance to his tomb is intricately bejeweled with verses from the Islamic holy book –Quran. These verses are inlaid with white marble in the red sandstone. The mausoleum is located in the center of four gardens surrounding it. There is an arched gate on all four ends of the gardens. This system is called the ‘Char Bagh’ system and almost all Mughal monuments will be located in the center of these gardens.
A few kilometers away from the city, on an isolated hillock, stands the crumbling city of Fatehpur Sikri. This is a must visit on every tourist’s itinerary. It was built when Akbar defeated the Rajput kings of Chittor and Ranthambore regions. It served as the capital of Mughal Empire for approximately sixteen years. It was abandoned due to shortage of water. It comprises of many palaces, the court of the emperor, and a mosque. The Diwan- e- Khas or the hall of private audience is structured with bewitching carvings which display a Hindu architectural influence. Akbar had invented his own religion borrowing values from Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity. This new religion was called Din-e–Illahi. It is rumoured that the Diwan- e- Khas symbolizes these three religions in its construction. There is also a shrine of Akbar’s mentor, Salim Chisti. The highest gateway in the world, the Buland Darwaza built to commemorate Akbar’s victory over the Rajput Kings is located at Fatehpur Sikri. Another edifice of interest is the Birbal’s palace; Birbal was Akbar’s esteemed chief minister. Various craftsmen display and endeavour to sell their talents and artwork outside the monument.
The colourful market of Sadar Bazaar offers an enchanting observation of life in small town India. I visited the old city on a camel ride. For a few moments my mind was occupied in absorbing the mighty population of India. My experience of this royal city is never complete without treating myself to the delectable Mughalai cuisine concluding with the toothsome local dessert called ‘Petha’.
It strikes me that the appeal of this city lies in its glorious history, the populous markets, and the welcoming people. But the most significant is the Taj Mahal. The vision of the Taj compels me to question the existence of true love in our contemporary individualistic times.