Agra, India, is not just about the Taj Mahal — take in the charming Baby Taj and the impressive Old Fort before catching the train out of town.
In This India Article You Will Discover:
- What is the Baby Taj?
- Old Fort Photos
- Agra Survival Skills
I hadn’t done proper research on Agra. I had expected a quiet town — a picturesque, serene setting for the Taj Mahal. In retrospect, that was pretty naïve. After all, Agra is the home of one of the world’s most popular tourist attractions — so of course, it’s one gigantic tourist trap.
Agra-vating. The roads here are more chaotic than in Delhi — lacking the sheer volume, sure, but the absolute pandemonium of it all more than makes up for that. Dump trucks, cargo trucks, cars, cycle-rickshaws, auto-rickshaws, motorcycles, bicycles, pedestrians, goats, chickens, camels, donkey carts, camel carts, an elephant or two; everyone seemingly driving in whatever direction they feel, at whatever speed, meandering where ever they choose. Roads converge without traffic signals or stop signs — not that they’d be heeded anyway. Thinking of renting a motorcycle and self-driving? As one person put it, “Get a check-up from the neck-up.”
Still, Agra is a must-do, not only for the Taj Mahal — but also for the Baby Taj and the Agra Fort.
Our auto rickshaw driver, the perpetually annoying “Johnny,” swerves out of the way of an oncoming bus, skimming the grille and avoiding getting us T-boned by such a narrow margin I can only assume it was blind luck. He turns to us, beads of sweat on his brow and his eyes bugged out.
“Good driving, yeah?”
Sure, Johnny. I guess we’re all still alive…
A flat-deck truck carrying burlap sacks of chilli and curry powder accelerates past. The spices waft off the truck like poison gas, choking us and burning our eyes. Even Johnny is gagging. I turn my head to the side to catch my breath and take in a lovely vista of what appears to be a gigantic garbage dump-turned-cow-trough. Oh no, that’s just the Yamuna River.
Lesson one: when in Agra, reserve a nice hotel (not a flophouse like we did). You’ll need a respite at the end of your day. A pool would have been so nice…
Perhaps that’s why I loved the Baby Taj— actually called Itimad-ud-Daulah — so much. In the midst of all this chaos, it is quiet, beautiful and a little unexpected. I could have stayed all afternoon, although it takes only 20 minutes or so to tour the grounds.
An ornately carved marble tomb, the Baby Taj almost appears to be a rough draft of the Taj Mahal; it was completed a couple of decades earlier, in 1628. The intricacy of the marble is astonishing; it is more ornate than the Taj Mahal, although lacking the sheer magnificence. Indicative of the symmetry so common in Mughal architecture, the Baby Taj is in direct line with the Taj Mahal, though located on the other side of the city.
Panoramic views of the Yamuna River valley are found behind the Baby Taj — and don’t be afraid to spend some time here, strolling the manicured grounds. It’s a nice break before heading back out into traffic — from within the tomb, not a single horn-honk can be heard. (Entrance fee of 110 Rupees, open dawn-dusk.)
While the Baby Taj is charming, the Agra Fort is spectacular. Dating back to 1565 — but with much construction commissioned by Shah Jahan (of Taj Mahal fame) in the mid-1600s — this sandstone castle takes a few hours to appreciate fully.
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