Words: Amrita Lall
Out of Delhi (230 km)
Some of the world’s most indelible stories are rooted in love, and there’s no greater testament than the Taj Mahal. In June 1631, as she lay on her deathbed while giving birth to their 14th child, Mumtaz Mahal asked emperor Shah Jahan to build her the most beautiful tomb the world had ever seen. Three centuries later, it’s still the most beautiful tomb the world has ever seen.
The Taj Mahal forms the core of Agra’s identity, so it is fitting then that you choose Trident, Agra to be your base as you set out to explore Mughal-era stories of love and war that the small, otherwise nondescript city holds close to its heart. Located five minutes away from the Taj, the property is set amid beautiful gardens, fountains and courtyards influenced by Mughal architecture, with each of its 135 rooms evoking a sense of historical grandeur that perfectly complements the rich heritage of the city itself.
While the city has plenty for you to see and do, if you’d rather spend your time indoors, Trident, Agra has enough to keep you busy. If you’re the kind who enjoys some serious downtime, hit the pool. Open 7am onwards, it’s also perfect for some poolside lazing with your favourite paperback for company. For lunch, call for the signature wood-fired pizzas – they’re excellent and so are the salads, with all ingredients sourced from the herb garden on the property premises. Evenings are best spent in the central courtyard that turns into a makeshift bazaar post 7pm. You’ll find a host of entertainers including a magician and a puppeteer, both surrounded by happy kids, and a henna artist etching pretty little designs onto guests’ hands. For background score, there’s a santoor playing, whose notes perfectly harmonise with the gentle gushing of the fountains. If you have kids in tow, they’ll love hanging out at the Kids Club. From playing board games in the air-conditioned tent to participating in fun group activities like learning the art of origami – the club is sure to keep your little ones occupied for a long time. They can also sign up for interactive sessions such as pizza- and chocolate-making, and even learn how to do a little bit of farming – there’s a small patch in the herb garden set aside exclusively for the purpose.
The Taj Mahal may be Agra’s showstopper, and rightly so, but the city is filled with other architectural marvels as well. Case in point: Agra Fort, which has been witness to generations of Mughal drama. Take your time walking around the majestic structure – you’ll come across many significant spots including Diwan-i-am, where public audiences were held, Khas Mahal where Shah Jahan’s daughters lived, and Musamman Burj, the octagonal tower that served as the palace of Mumtaz. This is also where Shah Jahan was kept under house arrest for the last eight years of his life by son Aurangzeb. When you gaze out into the distance, you’ll spot a familiar structure, a colossal dome of white and four towering spires rising up into the skies, and the sight will overwhelm you.
On your way back to the hotel, make a stop at Pancchi Petha because you can’t visit Agra and not take home a box of the humble ash gourd sweet. As you drive through the city towards the hotel, it’s likely that you’ll find yourself thinking of Mumtaz and Shah Jahan, and how he woke up to the sight of the Taj Mahal every single day till he breathed his last.