Back to a bygone era
By Anil R Nair | Published: 04th October 2012 08:57 AM |
The mere mention of the historical city of Agra may bring to the fore the picture-perfect images of the monumental beauty — Taj Mahal. The most extravagant monument ever built for love needs no introduction. Though the city got its fame through this marble wonder, many aesthetically-built monuments in Agra stand testimony to the engineering dexterity of the yesteryear masters.
On the way to Agra from Delhi, I try to enlighten myself with the memories of my first trip as a child. I realise that only the image of the most popular Taj Mahal pops up. My mission is to explore other monuments in Agra which seem to get less attention despite their unforgettable historical importance and charm. My driver suddenly doubles as a guide and throws light to the Mughal era. Taj Mahals’ sister monument, Agra Fort is an interesting mix of Hindu and Islamic architecture. A visit to this walled city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, would bring alive many valiant tales of love, war and treachery.
The invasion of Mughals which led to the dawning of the Indo-Mughal architecture is part of history. The Panipat wars and the red sandstone Agra Fort on the bank of the Yamuna River share an inseparable bond. The three-km long walls of red sandstone, Amar Singh Gate, palace audience hall and mosques on the eastern side of the fort are built with great aesthetic sense and architectural skill. Mughals got a vast treasure, including Koh-i-Noor diamond from this fort, it is said. Along with tourists from across the globe, I try to capture the images of Diwan-i-Am (public audience hall), Diwan-i-Khas (private audience hall) and Moti Masjid (pearl mosque) which were built under the rule of Shah Jahan. Our guide Manish, who migrated to the historical city from Bihar at the age of 10, goes gaga over the kingly fights and in an effort to test my knowledge in history, keeps asking, “Saab, aap ko Mughal history malum nahin hai?”
Apart from mineral water bottles, which are essential to beat the Delhi heat, guides of different age are readily available here. Manish makes it a point that I go down the memory lane to rewind history lessons and look at the monument with a renewed familiarity. Babur, Humayun, Sher Shah, Rajput Kings, Akbar, Shah Jahan and Aurangazeb, all these kings either lived or fought for this red beauty. Earlier, the Fort had pictures of varied Hindu and Muslim traditions. The 94-acre fort’s semicircular plan and 70-feet walls stand unique as the chord lies parallel to the Yamuna River. A long view of Taj Mahal from Agra Fort is worth for a lifetime.
Four gates were provided on its four sides; one is opening towards the river. Historians consider the two gates — Delhi Gate, Lahore or Amar Singh Gate — as Akbar’s masterpiece. The unquestionable power of Mughals and the richness of their engineering can be noticeable in the inlay work in white marble. Tourists can use a wooden draw bridge to cross the moat to reach the gate from the mainland. The drawbridge and the 90-degree turn between the outer and inner gates make the entrance unconquerable.
Visitors can’t use Delhi Gate as it is still used by Indian Military (Parachute Brigade). The biggest private residence in the Fort is the Jahangir Mahal and the Gateway buildings lead to the Jami mosque, believed to be the replica of the main mosque in Mecca. There is small white marble tomb of Sheik Salim Chisti. The tomb was built in the exact spot where the holy man sat in meditation in his lifetime. Visitors are seen praying in silence here. Our guide reveals that mainly childless couple throng this tomb to get blessing from the saint. Back to Delhi after visiting all the Agra’s architectural jewels. Though tiresomely accompanied by scorching sun, the trip back to history was as intriguing as it can be.