The first in the travel themed mini blog series covering the Aquila Jewellery collections and how they got their names.
Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India. Home to one of the most iconic and easily identifiable monuments in the world - the Taj Mahal. But whilst this remarkable mausoleum is the inspiration behind our Agra range, it isn’t the only thing that is worth exploring in the bustling streets of Agra. Read on to find out where to go, what to buy and how to blend in....
A short history
Agra was founded way back in 1475 by Badal Singh according to AgraIndia who also state that the city was appointed as capital city by the first ruler of the Lodi Dynasty, giving it huge national significance. From 1556 to 1707, the much talked about Mughal Empire ruled. Within this timeframe many of the famous historical buildings we recognise now were constructed, such as the Agra Fort and Taj Mahal, says Holidify. Fast forward to the mid 1800’s and India was under British rule until 1947 during which time Agra lost some of its status with Calcutta chosen as the capital city. Today, Agra is one of India’s main cities for tourism and is also a hub for industrial commerce.
What to buy
We just love market stalls, with our founder Stacey spending much of her time when she visits a new destination tracking down and rifling through locally made trinkets in busy street markets. Not to disappoint, Agra is a city famous for its myriad of busy market stalls. One to visit is the centrally located Sadar Bazaar with handcrafted items such as jewellery, shoes, fabrics, bags, belts and souvenirs. It’s a great place to grab some street food too like pethas (white pumpkin sweets), momos (steam-filled dumplings) and soya chaap (cooked soya meat on a stick).
Got your handmade Aquila wedding bands and need some more inspiration for your wedding? Kinari Bazar, found directly behind Jama Masjid is a marketplace where you can find all things wedding related. Perhaps you can pick up some unique accessories for the big day that have a nice travel story behind them too.
Check out the beautiful marble work of local artisans at the popular marble and precious stone showroom Agra Art Gallery. It’s a place where you can browse handcrafted tables, coasters, miniatures of famous monuments, jewellery and fountains amongst other items. Anyone that visits it either ends up buying something for themselves or as a gift even though they swore they wouldn’t - beware!
Do you love to buy locally made traditional clothes when you go abroad? Going to Agra is the chance of a lifetime to purchase some unique styles and fabrics just like the local Indian people wear. By wearing native clothing we don’t mean intricately woven silk sarees or expensive lehenga cholis (long, flared skirts). Just everyday fabrics and styles that will keep you cool and covered will do. Try somewhere like FabIndia. There are two FabIndia shops in Agra, this one on Fatehabad road and and this one on Church Road. Popular choices are salwar kameez (trousers and loose, long dress) or a dhoti or lungi (loose skirt or loose shorts for a man). People in the street will be thrilled to see you wearing Indian clothing if you choose to do so - expect to be stopped often for a chat about it! Of course, wearing Indian clothing isn't strictly necessary, you can absolutely breeze around in your tried and tested baggy travel slacks. Just make a mental note to keep covered up.
What to visit
You may be someone who doesn’t like to visit any ‘top 5 most popular’ tourist magnet kind of places. We totally get it! Often wandering off the beaten path, getting a little lost and going against the crowd leads to much more authentic experiences. However, you must visit the Taj Mahal - it will truly take your breath away!
Either head there at dawn or dusk as it’s the best time to beat the crowds and take some photos with otherworldly lighting. Take in its ethereal pearlescent glow which needs to be seen to be appreciated- you won’t be disappointed! When you get up close you can see not only the magnificent ornamentation, but how it took 22,000 workers 22 years to create, all in the name of love (you can read the love story behind the Taj Mahal here).
Looking at the structure of the Taj Mahal, you can see how the incredible Amrud Dome in the centre of the monument, the elaborate Pishtaq archway below and the decorative spires either side that directly influenced the design of the Agra Collection. The symmetrical design of the Agra ring, and Agra necklace replicates the incredible architectural harmony of the Taj Mahal, from the contrast of its smooth dome in the centre to its tiles, ornamentation and the lattices that surround it. These jewellery pieces embody a deep connection and powerful love just like the Taj Mahal itself, making them the perfect gift for someone special.
Whilst forts may not usually be on your agenda, make an exception for Agra Fort. An incredible 16th century structure complete with grounds covering a vast 93 acres, it is a fort of epic proportions. Enter through the Amar Singh Gate and be amazed by the sheer scale of the fort, built with both red sandstones from Rajasthan and areas of cool, white marble. Some of the stonework and detailing in the marble areas such as the Khas Mahal where the Emperor resided leaves you marveling at the workmanship of the ornamentation long after you leave. Set on the Yamuna River, it is connected via the river to the Taj Mahal.
To absorb some of the local religious culture, pay your respects to the Shri Mankameshwar Temple near Agra Fort Railway Station. It is the oldest temple in Agra and can be found in the basement area. Best avoided on Mondays as this is Lord Shiva day, it has a magnetism that draws in locals and tourists from all over the world.
As travelers on a budget, Stacey and Clare from Aquila Jewellery have been lucky enough to travel to Agra in the past. While reminiscing, they agreed that there is a certain magic in the air, in amongst the smell of incense and spices, in amongst the colourful saris and intricately stone carved temples, thick with spirituality - there is clamour and vibrancy in Agra that amounts to a calm chaos.
Stacey fondly remembers visiting the Taj Mahal shortly before sunrise and seeing the sunlight spill over its dome and lattices to reveal their elaborate detailing. She loved finding places to admire it from, outside of the standard locations like this list here from weseektravel. Clare remembers stepping inside the Sheesh Mahal in Agra Fort and being in awe of the white marble and mirror work in the structure giving it a reflective quality. Photos just couldn’t do it justice.
So there you have it. A quick glance at Agra from us at Aquila Jewellery, sharing with you the inspiration behind our Agra Collection.