In Sikandra, about 7 kms from Agra, is a huge red sandstone gateway with marble minarets, leading to the tomb of Mughal emperor Akbar. The construction of the tomb was started by Akbar himself, but he died before it was ready, and the work was completed only during the reign of his son, Jahangir.
The marble tomb of Etmad-ud-daulah, built by his daughter Noor Jahan, Jahangir’s wife, would probably have received a lot more attention had it not been in the same town as the Taj Mahal. This was the first structure with walls entirely in white marble, decorated all over with inlay work using semi-precious stones, and intricate jaali work. It is often called the Baby Taj, because it is believed that this was a precursor to the Taj Mahal.
For a long time, Mughal emperor Akbar had no son to succeed him. On hearing that the Sufi saint Sheikh Salim Chishti could perform miracles, he went to see him and seek his blessings. And it worked! Soon Akbar was blessed with his first son Salim, who went on to become Emperor Jahangir. As a mark of gratitude and respect, between 1571-73, Akbar had the city of Fatehpur Sikri built around Salim Chishti’s camp, about 40 km from Agra, and shifted his capital there. The city was the Mughal capital only for about 14 years and is a bit of a ghost town now, but it is a fascinating example of Akbar’s secular beliefs, with its mix of Hindu, Persian, Buddhist and Christian architectural elements.
A beautiful white marble dargah dedicated to Sheikh Salim Chishti is a part of the palace complex. It is believed that if you tie a thread onto one of the marble jaalis or grills of this dargah and make a wish, it will come true.
Fatehpur Sikri’s most iconic structure is the Buland Darwaza, a gateway built to commemorate Akbar’s victorious conquest of Gujarat. At a height of 176 feet, it is the world’s tallest gateway, probably symbolic of the might of the Mughal empire.
I cannot possibly say anything about the Taj Mahal that hasn’t been said before, so I’m not even going to try. Photos don’t do justice to its unearthly beauty either, but they are all I’ve got, so here goes 🙂
Some of the best views of the Taj Mahal are from a garden called the Mehtab Bagh across the river Yamuna. We were lucky to be there at sunset.