Aka the “Mini Taj”, “Baby Taj” or “Jewellery Box”, this marble tomb was the forerunner of the Taj Mahal. It too lies on the banks of the Yamuna in Agra, but far fewer tourists bother to make the short taxi journey. Which is a shame, because the pietra dura of this translucent marble tomb is even more intricate, and the ornamentation even more ornate, than its better known cousin.
Noor Jahan, wife of Jehangir, built the tomb between 1622 and 1628 for her father, Mirza Ghiyath Beg, “Itmad-ud-daula” (Pillar of the Empire). It is smaller than the Taj, but in its own way just as impressive.
Opening: Daily from sunrise to sunset
Location: Yamuna river – east side, Agra
Price: Rs 110 foreign tourists
Akbar’s ‘City of Victory’ stands alone on a rocky plateau overlooking fields of dust and rocks. In 1569, Akbar built Fatehpur Sikri close to the residence of Shaikh Salim Chisti, the Sufi saint who helped him produce a male heir. It remained the capital of Akbar's Mughal Empire until 1585. Today women still tie a length of wool to the marble lattice windows of the saint’s tomb, in the hope that they too will fall pregnant with a boy child.
Sculpted from blood-red sandstone, the audience halls, palaces, astronomer’s kiosk and Panch Mahal were a powerful reminder to his subjects of Akbar's strength. As masculine as the Taj is feminine, Fatehpur Sikri is an exquisite and unique example of Mughal architecture and enterprise.
An older version of the Taj Mahal, on the other side of the Yamuna river. It's made of brown stone and marble, and is about 100 years older.
When we went, there were only three other visitors - all Indian. Not in such perfect condition, but lovely gardens and very peaceful with beautiful views over the river. Properly, it is the tomb of Itmad-Ud-Daulah, but every taxi driver will know it as Baby Taj.
People go to Agra for the Taj Mahal. But do not forget to go to Fatehpur Sikri. An ill-fated city built by Emporer Akbar, it was discarded as soon as it was built, because of lack of water. Amazing architecture. Good views.
Near Agra, Uttar Pradesh
As with most major tourist attractions, getting to the Taj Mahal as early as possible ensures that you beat the herds (and the heat). Taking in the stunning beauty and tranquility of the Taj (really, photographs do it no justice) and the misty stillness of the surrounding area at sunrise you'll forget you're still in Agra; not so come 8am when the floods begin to arrive.
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