One of the wonders of the world, people from all over the world come to India to visit the Taj Mahal and it is still pending in our list, Not done !
This was on our minds before my son’s summer vacation would start this time in April and my husband said,’ why don’t you take him to places of historical importance in India given that we have been reading about Akbar and other Moguls to him. Am sure he would enjoy and would be able to relate better to the history.’
What next, we booked our tickets to Delhi and then to Agra & Jaipur. Delhi was as hot as expected. With lots of sunscreen and Ola cab at help, we went on to see India Gate, Red fort , Rajpath, Qutub Minar, Humyun’s Tomb and lodhi gardens.Though we keep visiting Delhi for work or during transit but going to Delhi as a traveler is a different experience.
India Gate, Rashtrapati Bhawan ,Vijay Chowk and Rajpath
We have seen republic day parade only on TV and hence my son insisted on going to India gate, Rajpath etc. India gate is a war memorial built in the memory of 82000 Indian soldiers who died in first world war. In front of the gate is Amar Jawan Jyoti, or the flame of the immortal soldier which was built in December 1971 to commemorate Indian soldiers killed in the 1971 war. It serves as India’s tomb of the unknown soldier. It is manned round the clock by the soldiers from the three armed forces.
Residence of Mughal emperors for more than 200 years approx until 1857, it is a unesco world heritage site. It houses museums and hosts a light and show program in the evening.Red fort was also built by Shahjahan and its design is credited to the same Ustad Ahmad Lauhari who was behind the construction of Taj Mahal too. Long history, interesting stories and the architectural confluence of various styles can only be experienced in person.We missed light and show program here as I reached late to Red fort post my chandni chok & parathe wali gali trip.My son literally hated me for my dedication to over eating that day.
Again a unesco world heritage site, it is the tallest brick minaret in the world,almost 73 meters in height.Started by Qutab-ud-din Aibak, and later completed by his successor Iltutmish, Qutub minar was built after defeat of Delhi’s last hindu kingdom.
If the impetus behind the construction of Taj Mahal was a man’s devotion & love for his wife, it is a wife’s devotion for her husband which resulted in the erection of this edifice named Humayun’s tomb.The mausoleum is a synthesis of Persian architecture and Indian traditions. This is the first proper example of Mughal style architecture.The tomb made up of red sandstone and marble stands in the centre of a square garden. Several rulers of the Mughal dynasty have been burried here. This is also the place where Bahadur Shah Zafar had taken refuge with three princes during the first war of Independence in 1857 and was later captured by Lieutenant Hodson.
Things you should do in Delhi
Delhi has history, Delhi has Art & Culture and Delhi has excellent places to shop and eat, Check this list to know what all you can do in Delhi.
In Delhi you will not only get authentic punjabi cuisines but also the cuisines from all other parts of India & the world be it Eastern cuisine, South indian cuisine or International cuisines. Let me name a few places that you can try
High end & fine dining- Dum Pukth (ITC),Indian Accent Bukhara, Zaffran, Baluchi, Barbeque nation & Orient express. Oh calcutta for Bengali cuisine , soda bottle openerwala for parsi cuisine, Sevilla for Mediterranean food in a romantic setting and Yum Yum cha for various asian cuisines.
Budget- Chandi chowk food street, Haldirams for snacks,short eats and sweets and you could even try Dilli haat for various regional dishes of India.
Shop till you drop
- Delli Haat- To buy local and regional art and handicrafts,this is the place to be especially if you are from out of India and are looking at souveniers , gifts etc. The prices are quite reasonable as well.Delhi haat is in two places one is INA and another one in Pithampura.
- For budget shopping (Indian traditional outfits) – Chandni chowk, Lajpath nagar and Sarojini nagar market
- For Antique and knick kancks check out sunder nagar market,Janpath & Tibetan market and khan market in delhi.
- For high end , branded markets head to Connaught place and Greater kailash in Dellhi.
Various exhibitions and events
Delhi being the capital of India hosts many art and craft exhibitions as well as cultural events. I personally try visiting the National Gallery of Modern Art, the Lalit Kala Academy the Sanskriti Kendra and the India habitat centre whenever I am in Delhi.
For dance and music performances I can name a few – FICCI Auditorium, Kamani Auditorium, Chamber Theater at Triveni Kala Sangam, Sri Ram Center, Siri Fort Auditorium, the India International Center, LTG Auditorium and Auditoriums at Pragati Maidan.
Some events that you can club your Delhi visit with are:-
- Shankarlal, Dhrupad and Tansen Festivals that happen in the month of February and March.
- Vishnu Digamber Festival in August where top musicians of the country come together to perform.
- Qutab Festival held in October at the famous Qutab Minar in Delhi.
- National Film Festival and Bi-Annual International Film Festival, held in the month of January.
Trip to Agra from Delhi
From Delhi, took a day train to Agra. As the train chugged from Delhi for Agra, we bade goodbuy to the capital and looked forward to finally seeing the wonder of the world in person. It was about a 4hr journey to Agra via Mathura.
We reached Agra in the evening.With the time left at hand ,I decided to attend light and sound show at Agra Fort along with my son, which is conducted everyday around 7 pm. Trust me, its quite fascinating to hear the stories of old times, the Mugals , their royal lifestyles and the happenings of the forgone era.My child couldn’t understand urdu very well, given that even mosquitoes denied him the chance by their hum and bite every now and then.However, I did try to answer his questions to the best of my ability which kept coming up after every sentence spoken by Naseeruddin Shah in the sound part of the show.
I knew it was summers and it would be difficult to visit Tajmahal in the afternoon due to heat plus crowd,so we woke up early the next day and reached at the gate of the TajMahal by 6.30 am sharp.
For first few minutes it was a tussle between me and my son over the camera, both of us wanted to capture the beauty of the Taj Mahal. He wanted to click more often while I was taking time hoping to click pictures of the monuments minus crowd.
Anyway, as we moved on ,we found many cameraman there who help you take pics in typical poses like holding Taj, Pointing at Taj , Touching the top etc . After going through all those stunts as per my son’s desire, we entered the Taj Mahal. My son reached the tombs of the Shahjahan and Mumtaz Mahal and said in astonishment ,’there are just tombs here’! He was not even happy with the fact that Mumtazmahal was not the only wife of Shahjahan, afterall this great Tajmahal, the finest example of Mugal architecture was built for love. Probably he also expected many gems and riches to be still there as that is something that truly fascinates him about those days and royal kings and queens.
Nonthless,he was like a true traveller there. He had to have the headphone to know all stories, a map in hand to keep telling me where to go next and a camera to take pictures himself.
Frankly, I had a sense of achievement to be able to witness & appreciate the Taj beauty standing in front of it. Behind any work of art, it is the story and inspiration which makes it special and the same is true for Taj as well.
20,000 workers toiled for approx 22 years to build this astounding piece of architecture.And the cost involved in today’s value of money would be approx 1 billion usd. The white marble symbolizes beauty, pain and purity. Rabindra Nath Tagore ( Nobel award winner for literature) called Tajmahal ,’a tear drop on the cheek of time’. What an apt simile !
Agra trip is incomplete without fatehpur sikri. Infact, I hadn’t really planned Fatehpur Sikri then but got to know how important it was to visit Saleem Chishti’s Tomb only after being told by Agra localites. People come from far and wide to visit Fatehpur Sikri which includes Parvez Musharraf and his wife. It seems Mr Musharraf couldn’t go inside for some reason and people do believe that not everybody gets to visit the tomb, it totally depends on the saint’s(Saleem Chishti) wish.
Fatehpur Sikri which has Buland darwaza , Saleem Chishti’s tomb was founded by Akbar ,who at 26 yrs of age didn’t have any heir and had come to see Sheikh Saleem Chishti who stayed in Sikri then, for his blessings. His blessing gave Akbar 3 sons. As a gesture, Akbar built a whole new city in Sikri.
Apart from these prime attractions in Fatehpur Sikri are Diwan-I-Am, Turkish Sultana House, The Treasury, Daulat khana-I-khas, Palace of Jodha Bai, Hawa Mahal and Nagina Masjid, Birbal’s Palace, Sunehra Makan and The Jama Masjid.
I rented a car from Agra for fatehpur Sikri , its a half day trip and costed almost the same as bus operated by the Agra tourism department(runs only when the number of tourists for fatehpur sikri are enough).
We have been reading about the Mughal kings and queens in history since childhood but witnessing the places where they lived, imagining how they lived and what would have life been like in those days is quenching the thirst in true sense. My son sat near the place where Tansen used to sing for a click. Tansen, the god of singing !
We saw the old house where Jodha gave birth to the children who grew up to be kings of India one day, we saw Anarkali darwaza (which reminded us of the legendary love story of Salim and Anarkali) . We also saw the tomb of Akbar’s favorite elephant ,Hira Minar, an unusual tower studded with stone elephant tusks.
Despite Agra heat at its best, we didn’t lack in our zeal to go to every nook and corner of the palaces, listen to the audio and videos for the story and click pics despite afternoon(not an ideal time for outdoor photography). I only wish this place around the dargah was without sellers who have literally seized every place in the four walled city.
On the way back to Agra, our driver took us to a sher- e- punjab dhaba for lunch.My son who is a fussy eater and always says ‘not hungry’ ate like a true Mughal . I was surprised at the way he kept ordering for more just to relish mutter paneer to his level of contentment. I looked at the waiters and smiled at the small child turning into a Mughal within hrs of heat and sweat at Fatehpur Sikri. Then what, he didn’t sleep like a Mughal ofcourse but like his father..snoring in the car all the way back home
The same evening I had a train from Agra to Kota. Again a lifetime experience, since the train got delayed by almost 10 hours. Me and my son at Agra railway station along with one more family who had to board the same train….it was a nightmare but hats off to my child who kept patience for that long.
Jaipur is near Agra so Delhi, Agra, Mathura, Bharatpur and Jaipur all of these can be done by renting a car as well.I had to go to Kota first and hence I took this particular train 🙁
Anyway the interesting part is Jaipur is another place associated with a legendary love story. No.. no not the story of any Mughal/Rajput king and queen but our story 🙂 There is no Taj Mahal in Jaipur but Veena Apartment near Bapu Bazar which takes us to the same old beautiful memory lane of our lives. Everytime we go to Jaipur and stand in front of that building, we wonder at time and all the years gone by.
Besides , Jaipur is another heaven to eat,shop and experience regal lifestyle.
Must do things in Jaipur
- Amer Fort-Light and sound show in the evening
Amer fort was built by Raja Mansingh, one of the navratnas in the court of Akbar.Amer Fort is 11 kms from Jaipur on a hill overlooking lake Maota. It is the principal attraction in Jaipur for its artistic blend of various hindu style elements. You can go walking to the fort, you could even enter the fort on an elephant in royal style.
Amer fort consists of the Diwan-e-Aam, or “Hall of Public Audience”, the Diwan-e-Khas, or “Hall of Private Audience”, the Sheesh Mahal (mirror palace), or Jai Mandir(where the legendary song pyar kiya to darna kiya was shot), and the Sukh Niwas where a cool climate is artificially created by winds that blow over a water cascade within the palace. You should dedicate atleast half a day to this fort.
Go towards the evening for approx 2 hrs before sunset to see the fort properly and club it with the light and sound show which happens towards the late evening to witness the striking play of lights along with the musicals that highlights the rich folk culture and legends of Jaipur
- Hawa Mahal & Citi Palace
Start in the morning after breakfast visit hawa mahal and city palace which is in the heart of the city , shop in Johri bazar and have lunch at LMB (Lakshmi Mishtan Bhandar). What say??
Hawa mahal at the edge of the city palace is a 5 storey building in the shape of a pyramid (some also say Krishna’s crown) having 953 intricately carved jharokhas (windows) built out of pink and red sandstone.This palace of winds was primarily built to provide a sense of freedom to royal women who couldn’t come out in public but wanted to be the part of daily life, events and street processions. But in addition to that, the mahal architecture also acted as an aid to provide cooling effect into the chambers during summer season.Its a mesmerizing fusion of Mughal and Rajput style of architecture.
- Early morning at Ram Nivas Garden
This too is located in the centre of the city and I found this quite beautiful everytime I would travel across places in Jaipur. One fine morning I decided to get down and take some pictures before moving ahead.
- Spend one evening at Chowki Dhani
To get the real flavor of Rajasthan and its hospitality, head to Chowki Dhani for a scrumptious meal. You only get rajasthani food here which is unlimited and very heavy . Go empty stomach to be able to eat.
- Literature Festival in Jaipur
Literature lovers should attend the 5 days literature festival in Jaipur around January.It is world’s largest free literary festival.Meet who’s who of the literature world with back to back parallel reading sessions, debates and discussions. All this toppled with great food and music. You could club your Jaipur trip with this festival if you love literature.
- Eat and Shop in Jaipur
- Try pyaj kachori along with Lassi in Jaipur either at Raawat mishtan bhandar or at Ratan kachori wala in Vaishali Nagar.
- Go to Tapri for a home-style quick grub without any major damage to your wallet. They offer new wave fusion food presented in a creative fashion for ex Flowery Flirt Tea, Pesto Khakra Pizzas and cheese phutkas. Try Ishpecial Vada Pav with cheese and chutney there.
- 1135 AD for north Indian and muglai cuisine in an imperial ambiance for dine in style experience. Try Laal maas & paneer aftab here.
- There are many good places for non veg food like Spice court, Peshawari , Baluchi, Barbeque nation , Four seasons etc. And for local Rajasthani food other than chowki dhani, LMB, you can go to Bikanerwala as well.
Jaipur is hub of handicrafts in India famous for Gems, jewellery,handicrafts, textiles, pottery, marble, stone and wooden carfts and various other handicrafts like bangles, dyed fabrics, carpets, traditional leather shoes, puppets etc.For shopping you can go to Johri bazar, Bapu Bazar, Nehru Bazar and Tripolia Bazar.
What does a traveler need in a city? Good place to stay, great food to eat ,amazing places to see in terms of history, colors and culture… Delhi, Jaipur and Agra trip has everything to offer if only you do your research well and plan accordingly. So get started guys !