Look beyond the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort in this Agra Beyond Taj Mahal tour. The city’s colonial-era monuments offer respite from crowds as well as stunning architecture. This guided tour includes visit to the lesser known monuments of the city and gives you the chance to look beyond the over hyped Taj Mahal.
Agra Beyond Taj Mahal
The three sites covered are : Red Taj Mahal – which is a tribute from HER to HIM , Akbar’s Church – the only church in the world made by a muslim ruler and Abdul Karim’s tomb – an ordinary clerk who later became the platonic secret lover of Queen Victoria in 1887-1901. The famous movie Victoria & Abdul by HBO confirms the story.
- Duration: 4-5 hours
- Last Minute Bookings – Instant confirmation
- Pickup & Drop Included to anywhere in Agra
- Visit the only church made by a Muslim Emperor ever – Akbar’s Church.
- Look beyond white Taj Mahal and visit the Red Taj Mahal built by a wife in loving memory of her husband.
- Understand the concept of Unity in Diversity by seeing the peaceful co-existence of different religions.
- Go beyond the story of Queen Victoria’s secret lover Abdul Karim
What To Expect
Red Taj Mahal :
Built in red sandstone by the wife of the British Colonel John Hessing as his final resting place, the tomb is a red replica of the Taj Mahal of Agra, although miniature in size. This is also a symbol of love from HER to HIM – John Hessing was a Dutch traveler who joined the Maratha troops in Agra as a Colonel.
Just like Shah Jahan, who built the Taj Mahal as a symbol of his love for wife Mumtaz, this red sandstone Taj Mahal was built by John’s wife Anne after his death to express her love for John. He died as Commandant of Agra, in his 63rd year, 21 July 1803, just before Britishers siege of Agra and surroundings.
This unique Red Taj Mahal is situated in Agra’s Roman Catholic Cemetery, which is maintained by the archaeological survey of India. This cemetery can overwhelm you as you can spot a number of headstones from Armenian and Portuguese traders to Italian jewelers who were employed by the Mughals, to even catholic nuns, which are laid to rest.
Stone steps allow access to the upper deck where an ornamental grave may be seen under the dome. However, this is merely for show, just like in Taj Mahal; with the actual grave being on the lower level. The ground level is surrounded by stone screens on all sides and has doors to the basement.
Beside others, Walter Reinhardt Sombre has also his burial here. The ruler of Sardhana Jagir, he died in Agra, while serving here as the Civil and MIlitary Governor of the Agra province on 4th May 1778. He laid buried here by his widow, Begum Samru. Walter Sombre also helped in rebuilding the Akbar’s church after demolition and also has his name mentioned in the church interiors.
We got lucky to host Walter Reinhardt’s grand-daughter last year in our bed & breakfast homestay – The Hideout Agra. She came to search the grave of his grand father & we were fortunate enough to share times with her.
Akbar’s Chruch :
The story of Akbar’s church dates back to February 18, 1580, on which date a delegation of three Jesuit priests reached Agra for an audience with Emperor Akbar. Portuguese Fathers Rodolfe Aquauiua, Antoine de Monserrate and Francois Henriques had made the long and difficult journey from Goa to Agra.
Basis historical accounts, Akbar’s curiosity about different religions had caused him to invite priests from Goa. The enthusiasm of the holy fathers was high as they felt Akbar himself would convert, which would open the entire country to conversion. While the priests were received with respect by the emperor, he never converted.
The festival of Christmas would see the Emperor and his nobles come to the church in the morning, followed by ladies of the harem and young princes in the evening. It is in this period of religious experimentation that the first Nativity plays in India were staged, with Europeans playing a part within, often with the Emperor as the audience.
The practices begun in Akbar’s reign continued in that of Jahangir. Gradually the play grew in scale and became better organized, with rehearsals taking place in an area called Phulatti. The acme was reached in 1610, when three of Jahangir’s nephews were baptized in the church.
The story about the church is that it was demolished in 1635 and was rebuilt by the same person (Emperor Shah Jahan) in 1636. After the Portuguese become too ambitious in West Bengal province, Shah Jahan destroyed the church to punish the Christians but rebuild it after the Portuguese made peace with him. So finally on September 8, 1636 the church held its first holy mass.
Abdul Karim’s Tomb:
This tomb situated in the heart of the city belonged to an ordinary clerk, who graduated to becoming a Royal servant and Urdu teacher to Queen Victoria. Abdul Karim better known as Munshi was an attendant of Queen Victoria back in the day from 1887 – 1901. Karim was born in 1863 in Lalitpur near Jhansi. He was once just a clerk whose fortune turned around and become one of the two Indians to be selected as a servant to Queen Victoria.
Victoria took a great liking to Karim and gave him the title of ‘Munshi’. Karim had a close platonic relationship with the queen made and this made him quite powerful during her regime. He was so thankful to her that Karim ended up donating land to build the Queen Victoria Girls College in Agra. Not just that, he even helped to arrange finance for building a statue of Queen Victoria in the Victoria Garden near the Taj Mahal in Agra.
However the relationship between Queen Victoria and her handsome, young Indian attendant Abdul Karim was deemed so controversial and scandalous by her family members that, upon the monarch’s death in 1901, they scrubbed his existence from royal history. According to The Telegraph, Victoria’s son Edward immediately demanded that any letters between the two found on the royal premises be burned. The family evicted Karim from the home the queen had given him, and deported him back to India.
Victoria’s daughter Beatrice erased all reference to Karim in the Queen’s journals—a painstaking endeavor given Victoria’s decade-plus relationship with Karim, whom she considered her closest confidante. The royal family’s eradication of Karim was so thorough that a full 100 years would pass before an eagle-eyed journalist noticed a strange clue left in Victoria’s summer home—and her consequential investigation led to the discovery of Victoria’s relationship with Karim.
“In letters to him over the years between his arrival in the U.K. and her death in 1901, the queen signed letters to him as ‘your loving mother’ and ‘your closest friend,’” Basu told the BBC in 2011. “On some occasions, she even signed off her letters with a flurry of kisses—a highly unusual thing to do at that time. It was unquestionably a passionate relationship—a relationship which I think operated on many different layers in addition to the mother-and-son ties between a young Indian man and a woman who at the time was over 60 years old.”
- PRIVATE TOUR – This is a private tour/activity. Only your family/friends will participate.
- AVAILABILITY – This Agra beyond Taj Mahal tour is available every day, last-minute bookings also accepted.
- CANCELLATION – Free cancellation up to 24 hours before the activity starts
- The duration of Agra Beyond Taj Mahal tour is approximate; the exact duration will depend on the time of day and traffic conditions.
|Up to 3 people||Up to 6 people|
|Tour in English||
US$ 40 / INR 3000
US$ 60 / INR 4500
No hidden fees or surcharges. You can pay tour charges once we meet in cash either in US$ or equivalent Indian Rupees / Euros.
- Pick-Up and Drop-Off Service.
- Private Air Conditioned Car with Driver.
- Mineral Water Bottles.
- All Applicable taxes, parking.
- Tips / Gratuities to driver & graveyard maintenance staff
- Donations in the church