Agra the city of Taj Mahal has much to offer to the discerning tourist besides Taj Mahal. Some of these are mughal monuments while others are from religion and normal city life of Agra.
1. Mehtab Bagh- Every guide book tells you to visit the Taj Mahal at the sunrise time, sure this is the best time to be fascinated with the beauty of Taj Mahal but sunset time is also another exciting option. Visit the Taj Mahal in the morning for the sunrise and gaze at the Taj Mahal during sunset from the Mehtab Bagh. Mehtab bagh gardens are the Northern side of River Yamuna right at the back of the Taj Mahal.
Going with the popular mythical story of black Taj Mahal the Archaeological survey of India conducted an excavation behind Taj Mahal in 1995 and the remains of a beautiful mughal garden were excavated. A garden in the original mughal pattern with flowering trees has been planted since then. The mehtab bagh garden is an excellent spot to enjoy the beauty of the Taj Mahal during sunset. More so the ticket for entry to this garden is a fraction of the ticket levied at Taj Mahal.
2. Agra Fort- It is a massive structure visible from a distance while you are doing the Taj mahal tour with your guide. The high walls and bastions give Agra Fort an invincible Look. Agra Fort was the residence of the Mughal dynasty, though lots of monuments inside the fort were destroyed during the British rule still what remains is enough for a tourist to imagine the might of the Mughal Empire. The towering gates of the Agra Fort and a walk across the narrow winding path after crossing a total of four gates lead you into a courtyard known as the Mughal court of the commoners (Deewan E Aam).
You instantly are left imagining the live Mughal Darba(court). Your guide will sure tell you about the period in detail. From here you go across the series of palaces and the court of special people (Deewan E Khas), The palace where the Mughal king Shahjahan was taken in house arrest by his own son Aurangzeb will bring tears to your eyes (Musamman Burj). The love of the emperor Shahjahan with white marble can be seen over here as fine filigree screens and precious and semi-precious stone inlay work. Khas mahal with ceiling painted in liquid gold and a fine garden supposed to grow grapes in front of Khas Mahal makes it more special.
The red sandstone carvings on the walls of Jahangir mahal and a temple inside a Muslim palace will amaze you. These palaces occupy almost around 35 % of the area of Agra fort. There are three lovely marble mosques as well, only Nagina mosque is open for the tourist. A stone carved tea cup supposedly a bathtub used by Mughal emperor Jahangir lies in front of the Jahangiri Mahal.
3. Etmad-ud-dulah- This small monument lays just 15 minutes drive from the Agra Fort. On the banks of River Yamuna surrounded by a four quartered garden the Jewel box design of the monument also know as baby Taj Mahal sure will mesmerize you. On the four corners are small minarets and the conical chattri top of the monument is different from the usual Mughal domes.
The monument is all inlaid in precious stones depicting wine glasses and casks, swans, flowers etc. The central chamber where the two graves of the father and mother of NoorJahan the Mughal Queen who engineered this Tomb is decorated in fresco paintings. Noorjahan the Mughal Queen built this tomb in memory of her father Mirza Gyas Beg and her mother Asmat-Ul-Nisa. Some other members of the royal clan are also buried in the same tomb. This monument is sure a must visit in your Agra tour.
4. Sikandra- On the national highway connecting Agra with Delhi just 8 km from Agra is the mausoleum of Great King Akbar. The amazing part of the story is that King Akbar himself selected the place for erecting his own tomb. The design was made and king Akbar died in 1605 his son emperor Jahangir later completed the construction in 1613. The Tomb is situated in the midst of a four quartered garden.
There are three dummy gates and the gate leading to the tomb is the best one of them. Beautiful motif designs from Hindu religion and four marble minarets adorn this royal gate. The tomb has a huge dome which is concealed by marble filigree screens from outside. Small cupolas not one but series of them make this mausoleum look more like a Buddhist pagoda.
The free flowing Islamic arches on the gates are adorned with temple top like structures even Christian cross can be sighted. The green gardens are home to an endangered specie of deer called black buck. It is fabled that the Jats marauded the tomb and the tomb was raided with all precious items like carpets, Jewels etc looted. The huge sand stone filigree screen work sure is worth praises. Do get yourself a picture in front of the grand gate of entry at Sikandra tomb.
5. Soami Bagh- This is memorial in memory of Soami Ji Maharaj who laid the foundation of Radha Soami faith. The memorial is a grand structure in pure white marble supposedly constructed in 100 odd years. The structure was started in 1905 finally completed in 2019. The huge dome from inside is decorated with three dimensional carving of flowers, Trees and nature. Naturally coloured stones have been used to depict the three dimensionally carved frescos of fruits, flowers, trees etc. The verses of the sayings of Holy master have been inlaid in precious stones and adorn the walls. The monument is truly majestic and worth a visit.
6 Gurudwara Guru Ka Taal- Just a km away from the Tomb of Sikandra is situated this Sikh Temple. This is a historic Sikh Temple and is made in memory of the ninth master of Sikh faith Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib. The master was taken prisoner by the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb and executed in Delhi as he refused to accept Islam.
The gardens and the building are a beauty and the environment is cool and serene, worth visit is the community Kitchen where anyone can visit and have free food. Being a religious place you will have to follow simple dos and don’t’s like covering of head and abstaining from use of tobacco products while you are in Gurudwara.
7. Sadar Bazar- Agra had a huge cantonment area where British army officers used to reside there are old Victorian era bungalows in vicinity with an old church too, these officers used to shop at an old market called Sadar Bazar. This market is favorite hangout place of Agraites. You can shop here for leather articles, souvenirs, clothes, and electronics . You can also enjoy the street food of Agra over here, There is a lane called “chat gali” where all sort of street food is served and savoured.