This is the tower in which Shah Jahan was imprisoned by his son. It was actually built by Shah Jahan for his queen Mumtaz Mahal - later buried in the Taj Mahal. It is an octagonal tower on the river side of the fort and has great views over the river to the Taj Mahal.
To get to the site itself you first have to buy a ticket from the main ticket office. If you have bought a 750 rupee ticket this entitles you a ride on the electric car which takes you about three quarters of the way to the site, water bottle and coverings for your shoes. You will still have to walk part of the way to the main entrance whereby you have to run the gauntlet of stall owners and other touts selling various wares. Once you get to the entrance you have to queue and be prepared to be searched. There are a number of items you cannot take into the Taj Mahal: lipstick, spare batteries, pens, pencils, sharp objects. There are two separate queues for men and women and once you get to the security guard a separate section for foreigners. If you want to use a video camera there is an additional 25 rupees but you cannot videotape on the Taj platform. The day viewing closes at 6.15pm.
Overlooking the Yamuna River directly opposite the Taj Mahal, Mehtab Bagh is a Mughal garden originally built by Emperor Babur in the 16th century. A century later, after the construction of the Taj Mahal, Mehtab Bagh was redesigned to complement the mausoleum to the south. A large octagonal pool was placed at the garden's centre to allow the visitors to see the reflection of the Taj Mahal in moonlight, hence the name of the garden which translates to "Moonlight Garden." Unfortunately, a great flood in 1652 AD severely damaged the garden, including the Octagonal towers at the corners. In 1996, the garden was finally restored and is nowadays a fantastic place to view the Taj Mahal. When you do visit, you may want to think of the myth of the Black Taj Mahal. This legend, which first appeared in the 17th century, claimed that Shah Jahan had intended to build himself an identical Taj Mahal, but in Black Marble, on the site of Mehtab Bagh and in symmetry with his wife's white mausoleum across the Yamuna. There will never proof that such idea did exist, but it should not stop us from imagining how amazing it would have been to have a mirror image of the Taj Mahal in black across the river...
One of India's holy rivers, the Yamuna is represented in Hindu culture by a goddess. The wide river is a tributary of the Ganges that flows from the Himalayas and into the Ganges further downstream, also passing through Delhi on the way. In Agra, it meanders into an L-shape around many of the city's treasured monuments, such as the Taj Mahal and the Fort. When I visited in February 2009, in the heart of the dry season, the Yamuna was reduced to its lowest point such that its riverbed was accessible and offered great views to the Taj Mahal from the northern side.
Do come earlier in the day. Not just because of the line up, but you would need enough time(and LIGHT) to enjoy the details of the architecture. Prior to entry to Taj Mahal, one will be required to deposit bags so to avoid falling in line again, try to bring only things you can slip into pockets. Don't forget to wear socks because shoes will need to be deposited as well. I felt the place most not inside Taj Mahal but behind it, gazing at the river which flowed as far as the eyes can see.
Interesting room in the fort was where Shah Jahan got imprisoned by his own son. The Taj Mahal could be seen from this room-an intentional move by the son as punishment for the father. It was said that the shah took his last breath looking at the Taj Mahal where his beloved was entombed.
The 17th century Fatehpuri Masjid is a Mughal-period mosque named after Fatehpuri Begum, one of Emperor Shah Jahan's wives (another mosque in Delhi also carries her name). It is located just outside the West Gate of the Taj Mahal and is built using the typical red sandstone of the period. The structure is raised on a platform and consists of a prayer hall, open to a small courtyard, and topped by one bulbous dome. Below the platform is an arched portico that may have once been used for commerce. Although small, the mosque is beautifully decorated with lattice balustrades and polyfoil arches.
A new tourist attraction, first of its kind in India, was recently opened next to Taj Mahal. It is called 'India in Motion'. It's a kind of multi-sensory experience, combining 3D movie, motion seats, special effects such as wind, rain, scents, bubbles, smoke, and multi-interactivity. It shows all India (history, diversed culture and religions, heritage and sights) in 25 minutes.
It is HIGHLY recommended.
The interior of Chini-ka-Rauza is also splendidly decorated. It consists of a domed burial chamber with niches in the walls, all covered in polychrome stucco decorations in floral, geometric and calligraphic motifs, resembling a Persian rug. Intricate stalactite "muqarnas" decorations hang from the inner dome and the pointed arches within the niches. Although the interior is badly in need of restoration, its beauty is nevertheless quite astonishing.
There are three other interesting Mughal-style structures next to Chini-ka-Rauza, pictured in the attached photos. Immediately to the north, by the River Yamuna, is a beautiful red sandstone octagonal tower with stacked pointed arches. It has four floors, with the top one in the form of a chhatri (domed pavilion). Another similar, smaller structure lies immediately to the south of Chini-ka-Rauza. Next to it is a rather plain, square, domed mausoleum, clearly also from the Mughal period. I have not been able to find any information on these structure, so if you know anything, please let me know.
This little visited mausoleum lies on the east bank of the River Yamuna, north of the Tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah, amid trees and small local farms. Its name, Chini-ka-Rauza, means "China Tomb" in reference to the glazed tiles that once covered its entire exterior and made it look like Chinese porcelain. Only fragments of these tiles have survived, albeit faded, but speak of the former splendour of the structure. It was completed in 1639 AD by the finance minister of Shah Jahan, Mulla Shukrallah Shirazi. His Persian origin explains the purely Persian design he chose for his own mausoleum, which is crowned by a large cupola, covered in glazed tiles in floral and geometric motifs, and has a large iwan portico with a pointed arch on each façade. Although the mausoleum itself is not very well-preserved, the garden in which it lies is perfectly maintained with stunning views over River Yamuna.
For more photos, take a look at the travelogue "Chini-ka-Rauza."
If you are staying in Agra I highly recommend a day trip to Gwalior. Not everybody goes there as it is slightly off the normal Golden Triangle (Delhi-Agra-Rajasthan) circuit but everybody should!
The majestic clifftop fort is both imposing and impressive, with it's facade of yellow and blue tiles and pictures of elephants and ducks! The Jain rock sculptures, carved out of the mountain are definitely not to be missed and the mother/sister-in-law temples are reminiscent of Mayan archetecture and wonderfully peaceaful.
The Jain rock carvings are free and the ticket I had for the fort was also valid for the temples.
The Jai Vilas Palace and Scindia Museum in town is also worth a trip to. It is outrageously opulent - simply dripping with quirky splendour!
Stop off in Dholpur. It is a lovely, agricultural village that does not see many tourists. The people were friendly. There was lots of staring, giggling, smiling and head wiggling in our direction and when we replied we were greeted with even bigger smiles, more giggles and even more enthustiastic wiggles!
It is not worth making a huge concerted effort to get here but, if you are passing... pass through!
Chambal river is the most pristine and unpolluted river in India as it flows through a sparsely populated area devoid of towns and industries , thanks to an inhospitable terrain and dacoits . The bandits have , of late ,shifted to the Parliament and Legislative assemblies for easier pickings so this area is pretty safe for nature lovers . 400 km of this river has been declared a national sanctuary to protect the Gangetic Dolphin .
Crocodiles , gharials and a wide ...variety of avifauna thrive in this haven . A boat safari on the river is an unforgettable experience and the Chambal Safari Lodge is the best possible launching pad for this . Situated in a thick grove of ancient trees , this property is amazing in its layout and landscaping with plenty of birds easily spotted . The cottages are very comfortable with all mod cons . The lodge arranges for various activities of which the boat safari is not to be missed . If you are driving in with your own vehicle , you might have to take it to the river bank down a ravine so both car and driver have to be sturdy and sharp. Part of the proceeds go into a trust for preservation and protection of the Chambal natural heritage . Choose a sunny winter day . Cold and foggy weather can be a spoilsport even for the guided nature walks around the lodge .
The most marvellous book telling the real story of the Taj Mahal is called:
A TEARDROP ON THE CHEEK OF TIME
by Diana & Michael Preston.
Everything that one ever wishes to know about the Taj Mahal is here- the history, the construction, the court intrigues that were rampant during the Mughal Empire.
It is available in paperback, and has coloured photographs. And it chronicles the long & fruitful love affair & marriage between Shah Jehan and Mumtaz.
We all have stared at the Taj Mahal in awe- but how many of us REALLY consider the almost unbelievable task of the actual construction of this man-made marvel?. This book relates the facts- without getting technical & turgid. Well researched and beautifully written.
Its a fascinating account of the life & times also of the Mughal Emperor & his beloved Mumtaz.
I reccommend that everyone read this book after seeing the Taj Mahal
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