When a local turned into a tourist for a day to rediscover Agra
Ahead of World Tourism Day (September 27) as a new post-pandemic tourism season is about to begin, a group of three walked the lanes of Agra to find out what other attractions might delight visitors. , in addition to the 17th century love monument, the Taj Mahal.
We left early, in an old-fashioned, battery-operated rickshaw, when people still struggled to venture out of their cozy homes, to experience a “yatra heritage typea fast food through the old town of Agra.
We were trying to assess not only the architectural heritage of the city, but also to explore life in all its resplendent colors, in a city that still lives in three areas of different history: Hindu Agra, Muslim Agra and Christian Agra. Our goal was to soak up the unique flavors of the city that has evolved over eight centuries and more.
We started from the Etmauddaula viewpoint park where a daily Yamuna River Aarti is held, near the Taj View Apartment complex on Yamuna Kinara road, from where you can see not only the Yamuna river but also five great monuments Mughals.
Our first stop was Old Chungi, the library of Dara Shikoh, the son of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. It is a structure that is worth seeing, especially the reading rooms which benefit from a supply of filtered sunlight and fresh air.
Old documents say that Dara Shikoh was a great Sanskrit and Persian scholar, very fond of books. This building also served as a rallying point for political activists during the struggle for freedom.
Winding through the narrow alleys of the Belanganj area, famous for its traditional restaurants, and the famous 300-year-old Bhagat Halwai chain that has moved to new settlements, took a look at the sect’s Sri Mathuradheesh temple. Almost four centuries old Vaishnav Ballabhacharya, our next stop was Huzuri Bhavan, the seat of a sect of Radhasoamis, which is a philosophical organization.
Our next stop was Athe haveli in the Kala Mahal area where the dean of Urdu poetry Mirza Ghalib was born. It is now a middle school for girls. The parallel road, Mal Ka Bazar, connecting Sev Ka Bazar and the Fountain District, is notoriously famous for the high balconies occupied by painted sex workers whose obscene hugs from customers raise eyebrows.
“How many people miss the ‘mohalla’ (neighborhood) culture, the aroma of confectionery, the images of people busy doing odd jobs. Really, the old world romance has been missed,” commented a member of the Devashish Bhattacharya group.
We also took a look at the Mankameshwar temple complex before heading to Jama Masjid and Johri Bazar. With half a dozen temples surrounding the main temple of Shiva, the neighborhood was once the nerve center of the city.
“The feeling is rich and when you meander through the alleys it is hard not to cough and sneeze as the area is also the wholesale market for chemicals and spices. The high balconies still retain the charm of yesteryear. At Johri Bazar and Kinari Bazaar still retain the authentic oriental flavor.
“Although new markets have opened up various upscale settlements, most of the old ones still prefer to come to our stores for special occasion purchases like weddings or birthdays,” said Bankey Lal Maheshwari, a trader in the area.
Through Lohar Gali, the dimly lit and stuffy cosmetics market that was just starting to wake up, we hit the outer periphery of the Agra Fort station, the only train station in the world near two heritage monuments. world – the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort.
Next, we stopped at the famous century-old Chimman Poori wala store before heading to ASeth Gali, a popular alleyway with a dozen halwais and chaat shops. “Because of Shraddha Paksh, the halwais are busy making Imartis and Malpua, to treat the pundits,” said Jugal Kishor pandit, who accompanied us.
We are now approaching the main Petha manufacturing center in Noori Darwaza and Gur ki Mandi. More than 100 units continue to manufacture the popular Petha d’Agra.
Suddenly our vehicle slowed down as schoolchildren, sweepers and vegetable vendors were now on the streets.
Our trip ended at Akbar Church in the St Peter’s College complex, but before that, Padmini, a member of the group, suggested that we should also take a look at the oldest convent in Asia at St Patrick’s Junior College, founded in 1842 by six sisters from CJM. The Archbishop’s House and the area’s famous cathedral are other major attractions.
The Ghatiya Azam area in Wazirpura is dotted with over half a dozen Catholic institutions, providing quality education to over 20,000 students. Across the road, a sprawling new shopping complex has sprung up after the central prison was dismantled and moved out of town.
On the way back, some of the old havelis with beautifully carved arches fascinated us. As senior journalist NR Smith said: “Agra lives in three eras simultaneously, Mughal, British and modern post-independence.
Surendra Sharma, President of the Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society, said: “Unfortunately, heritage is only associated with stones and structures.
Culture, literary traditions, conventional industries, traditional media and people’s lifestyles also collectively constitute heritage. “