Agra is today like most other large cities in northern India with its people. You will pass through markets thronged with locals buying their household produce and goods. There are also the dimly lit stores and workshops stacked to the roof with goods and parts.
The best in India was... people. We couldn't understand any signs of the different castes, only evident signs of poverty in most people. All nice, simple and gentle.
Would it be the result of the old democracy?
Itmad-ud-Daulah's Tomb - The Baby Taj
They say that "practice makes perfect", right? So if the Taj Mahal is a perfect building, it stands to reason that "they" had to practice somewhere. It turns out to be true, and the practice structure is pretty darned impressive itself.
Itmad-ud-Daulah's tomb was built "by" the Empress Nur Jahan (wife of the Emperor Jahangir), for her father. Her dad was a Persian nobleman, and it's said that much of the work and design on the tomb - now known in Agra by the moniker "Baby Taj" - incorporated Persian techniques and architecture. It's also thought that much of the actual construction was done by Persian workers.
The tomb includes a great deal of yellow and brown marble (a color degree... it's still basically a "white" colored stone). It also marked the first appearance in Indian of Persian-styled marble inlay work - the practice of adding design by inlay of semi-precious and precious stones into the marble. This highly-skilled art was obviously very impressive to the Indian royals, and was well-learned by local craftsman. The inlay on the Taj Mahal that follows is breathtaking. And, the inlay work at the Baby Taj is quite impressive as well... it's just that it seems a bit more pedestrian when you see it AFTER you've seen the Taj itself.
Our guide said that a very small percentage of visitors to Agra visit the Baby Taj. Basically, they see the Taj Mahal and the Agra Fort and then zip on to Jaipiur or Udaipur or other destinations. And, that's a shame. There are incredible vistas, artwork and stunningly laid-out gardens throughout the tomb's grounds. The aim of a peaceful and grand resting place for Itmad-ud-Daulah and the subsequent members of his family was clearly achieved.
Admission fee for the Baby Taj is a "baby-sized" (compared to the Taj itself) 110 Rs. I don't remember having to pay a fee for video or still cameras. If I did, it was very low. If you have a bit of time, take a moment to see where the skills that later led to the "world's most beautiful building" were honed. The Baby Taj is just 5 km north of the Taj itself, also on the banks of the Yamuna River. It both amazed and saddened me to hear that so beautiful a building, and so important a part of architectural history, is basically ignored by the touring public. Then again, I understand the concept of "not enough time". This is a perfect reason for planning one's own trip, and for leaving room for additions and changes along the way. I'd never really heard of the Baby Taj before we arrived in Agra. Our guide, Rajiv, was the one who said we'd enjoy the visit... and he was totally right.
Festival of Agra
Shilpgram holds the Taj Mahotsav festival every year in February. There is entertainment in the form of classical dancing and folk music, arts and crafts, camel and elephant rides as well plenty of good food with a food festival being incorporated. The event last for 10 days. Shilpgram is about 1 km from the eastern gate of the Taj Mahal
travel light. in winters-(from december to february) woolens are must. from march to october cottons are the best bet. medical supplies etc are available in all the good hotels. do carry your cameras handycams with you with enough flash cards/memory stick/negative rolls. coz agra is full of picturesque beauty. carry sun cream during summers.it gets very hot during day times