Agra

Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal Tradition ascribes the foundation of the present city of Agra to Raja Badal Singh, around 1475 AD. However, the mention of Agraban in the Mahabharata suggests that it has been the sister of Mathura, an ancient city in the vicinity, from a very early period. Sikander Lodi made this place his capital, when the Lodis ruled North India. With the arrival of the Mughals in 1526, led by Babar, Agra entered a completely new epoch which has contributed to making it a much sought after destination in contemporary times. Agra reached its zenith between 1556 and 1658, under the Mughal emperors Akbar, Jehangir and Shah Jahan. Akbar made it a great center of learning, art , commerce and culture. His successors built on the foundation he laid. Most of the famed monuments, including the Taj Mahal, belong to this period, when Agra was a hive of building activity of exceptionally high standards.

It is not surprising, then, that modern Agra still reflects its Mughal heritage. A walk down the narrow, bustling streets of the city will introduce the visitor to the flavors of Mughlai food, the traditional craftsmen busy creating an endless variety of masterpieces, and much more. Alongside, a good range of hotels to suit all tourist budgets, good restaurants serving multicuisine, and a large range of specialty shops, all go to make Agra what it is - a major international tourist destination.

Sightseeing

Taj Mahal: The Taj Mahal needs little introduction to even a newcomer to Agra. The Taj Mahal stands serene and awesome, on a raised marble platform, by the banks of the Yamuna, testifying to the timelessness of art and love. Its pure white marble shimmers silver in the soft moonlight, exudes a shell - pink glow at dawn, and at the close of the day, takes on the tawny, fiery hue of the majestic sun. Shahjahan built the monument in memory of his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal, the 'lady of the Taj', who died giving birth to their 14th child. It has been called the most extravagant monument ever built for the sake of love. The construction of the Taj commenced in 1631, and was completed in 1653. Workers were gathered from all over the country and from Central Asia, and about 20,000 people were recruited to translate this wild dream into a reality. The main architect was Isa Khan, who was brought all the way from Shiraz in Iran. After he was deposed and brutally imprisoned in the Agra Fort, by his son Aurangzeb, Shahjahan spent the rest of his life looking wistfully at his wife's final resting place, just across the river. The Taj remains a symbol of eternal love where the heart - broken Shahjahan was subsequently buried, re-united finally with his beloved Mumtaz.

The Taj Mahal is a fine example of symmetry, balance of design and traditional inlay work. Two other noteworthy features of this mausoleum are the elegant domes and the fragile screens of marble. On full moon nights, the glory of the Taj is at its best in the soft and subdued moonlight. It is open daily from 9.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m., for a nominal fee. However, entry from 7.00 a.m. to 9.00 a.m. & 5.00 p.m. to 7.00 p.m. is also available at an extra fee.

Agra Fort: built by three of the greatest Mughal emperors. The construction of this massive structure began in 1565, under Akbar, and continued till the time of his grandson, Shahjahan. Armed with massive double walls, punctuated by four gateways, the fort houses palaces, courts, mosques, baths, gardens and gracious pavilions within its premises. Among the fascinating structures that are to be found within the fort is the red sandstone Jehangiri Mahal built by Akbar for his Hindu queen, Jodhabai, was one of the earliest constructions illustrating the fort's change from a military structure to a palace. The palace is also notable for its smooth blending of Hindu and central Asian architectural styles. The Diwan - i - Am, the Diwan - i - Khas, the Khas Mahal, the Palace of Mirrors, the Pearl mosque, the Nagina Masjid, the Garden of Grapes, and the Fish Pavilion are the other monuments in the fort complex.

Tomb of Itmad-ud-Daulah

Tomb of Itmad-ud-Daulah Itmad-ud Daulah's Tomb: Built between 1622-28 AD by Nur Jahan in memory of her father Ghiasud-Din-Beg, this white marble tomb is an impressive structure predating even the Taj. Though much smaller than the latter, the inlay work is often considered of an equal if not of a better standard.

Chini-ka-Roza: This is a memorial dedicated to the well-known poet and scholar of Jehangir's reign, Allama Afzel Khal Mullah Shukrullah of Shiraz.

Ram Bagh: Ram Bagh is one of the earliest gardens laid by the Mughals and dates back to the era of Babar in the early 16th Century.

Sikandra: The noteworthy monument here is the tomb of Akbar, which shows an interesting fusion of Hindu and Muslim art and architecture, reflecting the spirit of the Emperor himself.

Mariyam's Tomb: Situated at the Delhi-Agra Highway, this red sandstone tomb is dedicated to the Rajput wife of Akbar and is said to have been built around 1611 AD.

Jama Masjid: A Mosque dating to 1648 AD was built by Jahanara Begum. The absence of minarets and the shape of the dome give it a distinguished character.

Excursions

Keoladeo Ghana National Park, Bharatpur: The highlight of this important bird sanctuary in India is the annual visit of the Siberian cranes, which come here during the winter months. The sanctuary is also a haven to a great variety of resident species and has gained acclaim as an ornithologist's paradise. It is 57 km from Agra on the Agra-Jaipur highway.

Fatehpur Sikri: 37 km from Agra, Fatehpur Sikri, as we see it today, comprises the remains of the new capital that Akbar built. Predominantly red sandstone buildings sprawl over a huge area. The architectural style is very much in tune with the emperor's dreams and includes both Hindu and Muslim styles. The shortage of water at the site was one of the main reasons for it being deserted

Conducted tours

UP State Tourism Development Corporation conducts the following sightseeing tours:

1. Taj Mahal, Agra Fort, Fatehpur Sikri; daily 1015-1830 hrs.
2. Fatehpur Sikri; daily 1015-1400 hrs.
3. Sikandra, Fatehpur Sikri, Taj Mahal, Agra Fort; daily 0900-1900 hrs.

For bookings and reservations contact:

UPSTDC, Taj Khema. Tel: 360 140

UPSTDC Tourist Information Counter, Raja-ki-Mandi

UP State Road Transport Corporation also operated conducted tours.
For bookings contact UPSRTC, 96 Gwalior Road. Tel: 72206

Shopping

The main shopping areas of Agra are: Munro Road, Taj Mahal Complex, Kinari Bazaar and Sadar Bazaar. Agra is famous for its leather footwear, dhurries, zari and embroidery work, and marble inlay work.

Shopping Euphoria:

Gangotri, Taj Mahal Complex
Tel: 360172

UP Handlooms, Sanjay Place, Hari Parbat

UPICA, Sanjay Place, Hari Parbat

Rajasthali, Taj Mahal Complex
Tel: 360017

Black Partridge, Taj Mahal Complex
Tel: 360992

Access Accomodation

Uttar Pradesh