North India, winters in full swing, Christmas weekend around the corner and body & mind craving for a change! That is when we decided on a road trip to Agra from Jhansi covering Datia and Gwalior en route. Little did we realize that while we drove down from Jhansi, we would be imbibing parts of history within us, traversing through different eras of rulers, kingdoms and dynasties. The legends and stories of historical and dramatic valor stared at us through the forts, palaces and temples of the bygone era.
Day 1, we started off for Jhansi Fort in Jhansi, the stage where the warrior queen fought for her people and her Jhansi. A part of Bundelkhand which was ruled by Bundela Rajputs, followed by Mughal rulers and lastly the reign was in the hands of Maratha rulers when the talented and courageous warrior queen took the battle ground to satisfy the aspirations of nationalist Indians, women’s movements, poets and historians alike. It is rightly said, “ Bundele harbolo ke munh humne suni kahani thi, khub ladi mardani wo to Jhansi wali rani thi.” The fort was built in 1613 and has Shiva and Ganesha temples inside. The queen’s cannons, ‘Karak bijli’ and ‘Bhawani Shankar’ are still on display here. Rani Mahal, palace of Rani Lakshmi Bai is now a museum which houses a collection of sculptures of the Chandela period between 9th and 12th centuries.
After an inspiring visit to the Jhansi Fort, we headed to Datia which has a magnificent architectural gem, the fortress palace at Datia. The fort displays an exemplary combination of the Rajput and Mughal architecture. Bundela chief, Raja Bir Singh Deo built the fort in 1620 on a rocky elevation. It is a five storied palace, 130 feet in height and stands tall in the wilderness of Datia. In 1818Datia played host to the then British Governor-general, Lord Hastings and then again in 1902 a splendid durbar was held here for the viceroy , Lord Curzon. The fort conceived as a single unit which is integrated as a whole, the facades are decorated with bracketed balconies, kiosks, arcades and wide eaves which exhibit an interestingly glorious play of light and shade.
After a quick grab, we left for Gwalior and spend a restful and uneventful night at Tansen Gwalior.
Day 2 began with a refreshing breakfast we went to visit another fort reminiscent of the Majesty and glorious life of the Hindu dynasties that ruled Gwalior. THE Gwalior fort is well equipped with its jagged toothed battlements and sky kissing and menacing towers. The fort is two miles long and 300 feet high. Urwahi Rock face is home to 22 marvelous Jain rock sculptors from the 15th century. Man mandir palace is of special mention with its cool underground chambers and clever lighting and ventilation systems. The crocodile holding lotus buds on the façade are lovely.
Saas-bahu temples dedicated to Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva respectively, Teli-ka-mandir built in 8th-9th century CE, Suraj kund and Gujjari Mahal (built by Raja Man Singh for his Gujjar love Mrignaynee) are other attractions in the fort.
We hired an MP tourist guide who helped us navigate through the forest easily. Gwalior fort is worthy of one full day dedicated trip to be explored and enjoyed completely.
After spending the night in Gwalior , we left for Agra, early in the morning on Day 3. After making a short trip to Fatehpur Sikri, we rested for the night in Agra, the city of Taj.
Fatehpur Sikri was built by Akbar, 37 Km west of Agra owing to the hallowed presence of the Sufi saint, Shaikh Salim Chishti. It is built in red sandstone with pavilions & courtyards, domes, balconies, terraces, gardens, elegant cupolas, tanks, pools and baths. The architecture sheltered the imperial household from the harsh north Indian sun, but allowed for the play of refracted light and air through latticed windows and doors.
Next morning, on day 4 we went to see the ultimate destination of our trip, THE TAJ MAHAL, one of the seven wonders of the world. Everyone has heard so much about Taj Mahal, and most of them cliché, but still nothing you have heard or read can prepare you for the jolt with which the ethereal beauty and elegance of the white marble hits you! personally for me Taj Mahal is more about architectural ingenuity and less about the monument for love! Taj Mahal can very well be phrased as the epitome of Mughal architecture. The tomb is the representation of the house of the queen in paradise. Take an official tour guide who will assist you in exploring and help you in understanding the complexity, simplicity and the genius of the marvel called Taj Mahal.
After being awe struck by this awe inspiring visit to the Taj Mahal our next and last stop was another architectural marvel, the Rd Fort of Agra.
Agra fort is situated about 2 Km from Taj Mahal. Built alongside Yamuna river, Agra fort was built in red sandstone and its walls are flanked by 2 gates, Delhi gate and Amar Singh gate , which is also the public entrance.
The first spot inside the fort is a great courtyard, on the right side of which there is a many pillared Diwan-e-aam built by Shah Jahan in 1628 for holding public meetings. Next is the royal pavilion housing beautiful mosques (Nagina and Mina Masjid) palaces (Macche bhawan, khas mahal, shish mahal, Shah Jahan Mahal) and Zanana Mina bazaar. Here again some buildings are made in marble with beautiful carvings inlaid with gold or semi-precious gems.
After revisiting the past through these monuments that have seen ages go by through them, and are reminiscent of a rich cultural, traditional and political legacy, it was time to head back to our present day lives!