|Other Beautiful Monument
Agra: Most tourists flock
to Agra to see that ever-beautiful monument to love, the Taj Mahal, but
the city is a treasure trove of many religious monuments as well.
Now the Agra Hotels and
Restaurants' Association has released a new tourist guide map, highlighting
centuries-old shrines in the city.
Muslims, Sikhs, Christians
and Hindus all have their places of worship here, most of which are ancient.
Few cities in India perhaps have such a diversity of shrines.
"The new information will
help tourists prolong their stay in Agra and soak in the local cultural
and religious flavour," Rakesh Chauhan, president of the Association, told
Agra is headquarters
of the Radha-Soami faith. The 500-year-old Akbar's Church and the Guru
Ka Taal Gurdwara are equally revered by the faithful.
just 50 km away, the entire area around Agra draws hundreds of thousands
of pilgrims and domestic tourists round the year. The Uttar Pradesh government
has started giving a religious orientation to tourism, which is expected
to start yielding results in the next few years.
Two new centres of faith
are also proving to be a big draw. The Tirupati Balaji temple in Sadar
Bazaar and the Sai Baba temple on the Raja Ki Mandi crossing are the latest
add-ons to the list of religious tourist sites here.
The Tirupati temple, which
resembles the original Balaji shrine in Tirumala, has been done up in true
southern Indian style. Priests from Andhra Pradesh look after three presiding
deities, decked in heavy jewellery and embellishments.
The main attraction, however,
is the prasadam, or holy offering, which includes anything from curd rice
to cooked lentils. The temple management has successfully maintained a
high standard of cleanliness. Visitors have to take off their shoes and
leather belts before entering the temple.
The Sai Baba temple that
has recently come up on the city's main traffic intersection attracts hundreds
On Thursdays, there is
a virtual traffic jam on the "main arterial crossing" as the faithful queue
up to pray and partake of the special "holy fare" - usually a combination
of fried Indian bread and curry, accompanied by sweets. The deity sits
on a raised pedestal with its feet up.
Another centre of faith
that continues to attract thousands of people is the temple of Hanuman
(monkey god) at the St John's College crossing. On Tuesdays and Saturdays,
the premises become a fair ground as thousands of devotees come to pray.
In the 1970s, it used
to be a small temple. "But now it is a full-fledged complex that supports
half a dozen sweetmeat sellers in the vicinity," recalls a devotee.
Attendance at the Sher
Jung and Abu Lala ka dargah has also registered a significant increase.
The Guru Ka Taal Gurdwara
on the national highway is a favourite with local residents and truckers,
who never forget to pray at the old Sikh shrine. Located inside the Sikandra
(Akbar's tomb) complex, it is said to have been visited by four of the
10 Sikh gurus. The gurdwara was built over the place where Guru Tegh Bahadur
offered his arrest to Mughal king Aurangzeb. The structure that stands
today was built in 1970.