Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Agra Fort

I am a greedy when it comes to travel. Almost at the end of every travel I console my self saying, Akhila, there is always a next time’. I’ll never improve when it comes to travel. I wanted to do Matura, Vrindava, Agra and Fatehpur Sikri all in a day!

As planned I was ready by 5:30 AM, for the 6:15AM Taj Express to Agra. Hazrat Nizamuddin Railway Station was a 10min ride from the company Guest house. The Delhi cops were good enough to get me a Rickshaw at that time of the day. Another story is that, I was a bit scared as I was all alone and everyone around me had warned me thousand times that Delhi was not a safe place. Precautions taken : Ensured I were in trousers and shoes always, had my cell phone and Delhi Hertz number handy for emergency, carried a dagger and never wore any precious jewelry. I’m laughing out loud as I write this ....

The Yellow and Green, typical of Delhi Rickshaw brings a smile on my face. Most of the trains too are painted with the same contrast.

Crossed River Yamuna and was at Hazrat Nizamuddin Railway Station at 5:45AM. People always find it easy to tag me a South Indian. When this had been the case in Winchester, Delhi was no exception. I failed to see any female soul at the station; ignoring all those Auto and Taxi wallahs, I scurried down trying to find the entrance. The entire place looked like a refugee camp to me. Adding to that was Pan stains which had created patterns on the walls. The next thought was, ‘oh god, I’ll never crib about Bangalore and Mysore stations again’. I then found a flight of stairs, which took me to the platforms. But, I was still looking out for the ticket counter. Unable to find a decent-literate-looking chap to query, I waked down only to read, ‘Welcome to Hazrat Nizamuddin Railway Station. No Platform ticket is required to use this Station’. I have never heard or seen of one such Station. Hope those terrorist organization in neighboring Pakistan aren’t aware of this.

I am finally at the ticket counter, still desperate to spot a female soul. Its not crowded, but its ridiculously hot at 6 in the morning. INR 86 is a decent fare. I walk down towards platform 6. Gosh, I have a shock. The platform looked like it had survived an earthquake the previous night, people in colorful clothing busy with their morning ablutions. They are bathing, washing and drying clothes! And the platform has ceiling fans running to keep away the heat.

I settled down in a window seat. Within minutes a girl in her mid teens occupied the seat beside. One interesting observation was that, no rule of reservation is followed. The seat is occupied in first-come-basis as long as the other person has bought a ticket. I was thinking of the platform 6 in Bangalore Railway station, from where I would take the 6 :15 train to Mysore. The clean platform, granite benches, dustbins at regular intervals, Coffee day shops, purified drinking water, the old red tiled roof, wrought iron railings and the 18th century floral fabrications............

And entered a Railway police to check people and their belongings. People are questioned with, 'Where are you from? Where are you going? What is there in the bag? to what nots'.. Soon it was time for selling Samosa, Jalebi, Kachori and Chaat. The girl beside me kicked of a conversation by offering Samosa. She eagerly wanted to share it with me. But, I couldn’t have imagined a oil dripping Samosa at 6:45 in the morning. And there begins our conversation.

Girl : You don’t eat Samosa in the morning?

Me : No, it’s a evening snack for us.

Girl : You from South India.

Me : Yes. (oh, I really have to change myself to look different!)

Girl : Which place?

Me : Bangalore

Girl : ooooh, Bangalore…. It is better than Delhi no.

Me : (I simply smile)

She tells that, she is from Jhansi and in standard 8th. And the guy beside is her brother and the other her Father.

I have a tendancy bump into talkative people, although I am never the first to start a conversation.

Girl : What are you in Bangalore?

Me : Engineer

Girl : Whaaaaa…. (To her it seemed like I had landed after a Mars mission)

Girl : You have seen a computer? You know computer?

Me : Yes, a little.

Girl : You have one?

Me : Yes.

Well I needn’t explain how bemused she was. She told me that she was at Delhi to meet her sister, and was heading home. And I told her that I was going to Agra to see Taj Mahal.

Girl : I have seen Taj Mahal once when I was a kid, because it is near to Jhansi. Why should you come from Bangalore to see Taj?

Well, I didn’t have an answer. To her I looked a crazy person to have traveled all the way to Delhi and now to Agra just to Taj. :-)

Around 9 AM, I was at Raja-ki-Mandi Station. I had predicted that Agra Cant to be the first and Raja-Ki-Mandi as the last station in Agra, but it was a other way round. I bid her a bye, accepting her invite to visit Jhansi sometime.

Holiday Inn was a 10min walk from the station. But, I heard Taxi, Auto and Cycle Rickshaws approaching me from Rs 150 to Rs 30. I opted for a Cycle Rickshaw, as that is a rarity in the South. And that too for Rs 10! I was joined by a friend at the Holiday Inn. A quick refresh, a leisure breakfast, and we decided to visit Agra Fort first. Both of us decided to tour Agra only by Cycle Rickshaw that day. She too seemed to have a fascination like me.

Agra Fort is Lal Quila there, and there is not such thing called Agra Fort which the Rickshaw wallahs would understand. When we told the Rickshaw guy that Lal Quila is in Delhi, he replied saying, ‘Lal Quila is in Agra, there is no such thing in Delhi. I then told him that I had visited Red Fort in Delhi the previous day, and showed him prints from Wiki, he then said, 'I’ll take you to Agra ka Lal Quila, that is where tourists go apart from Taj Mahal.'

Agra Fort is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The great Mughals Babur, Humayun, Akbar, Jehangir, Shah Jahan, Aurangazeb lived here and the country governed from here. During Akbar’s reign, the main part of the Agra fort was built. Construction of the fort started in 1156 and was finished in 1605.

The fort is built alongside the Yamuna river and stretches almost 2.5 km. The wall has 2 gates, the Delhi Gate and the Amar Singh Gate or Lahore Gate. You can only enter the fort via the Amar Singh Gate.

Amar Singh Gate

The Fort is vast and its best seen along with a map of the Fort.


Moti Masjid

Isn't this tiled pathway more interesting than those English cobbled ways? I loved walking this only to occupy the lone bench under a shady tree at the other end, where we then chit-chatted for hours....


This instantly reminded me of Jodha Akbar aka Hrithik and Aishwarya.

This belonged to some British general, whom I have forgotten now.


Nagina Masjid - This Mosque was specially built only for the Women.

Thatz a water fall in the background and a fountain in the foreground. Carved out of Marble, it really fascinated me.

Aaaaha, the first glimpse of Taj we caught for the day, while we got out of Nagina Masjid.

The Agra Fort, River Yamuna and Taj Mahal.

The Taj and the Yamuna River from the ramparts of Agra Fort.

From the pavilions you get nice view of Yamuna river and the Taj Mahal. It was here in the Agra Fort, that Shah Jahan was imprisoned by his son Aurangzeb, where he was allowed a view on the building erected for his deceased wife.

Diwan-i-Am , Diwan-i-Khas, Nagina Masjid & Mina Masjid,Macchi Bhavan, Khas Mahal, Shish Mahal, Shah Jahani Mahal and Zenana Mina Bazaar, that was really tiring......

Less than 3 kilometers from Agra Fort was Taj Mahal. But, we wanted to roam around the city to get a feel of the place. This time too the Cycle Rickshaw guy was more than eager to take us around and then drop us at Taj Mahal.

Some bits of shopping at the Agra Emporium, a visit to Mall/Sadar Road - A lively road full of handicraft, leather goods and not to mention Chaat. The best Chaat I have ever tasted is at Agra.

The next Cycle Rickshaw ride was to Taj Mahal.

Post on Taj Mahal here.

Agra ka Petha and the Marble Taj Mahal are the must-buys, which I never forgot.

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