. Located on the banks of Yamuna River, in the North of Uttar Pradesh, Agra is a wonderful place and a popular tourist stopover. General information on Agra reveals that the city was established by Badal Singh in the year 1475. Depicted as ???Agrraba???, in the Mahabharata, the city of Agra was once the capital of the Lodhis and the Mughals. In the sixteenth and the seventeenth century, Agra developed as a centre of art, culture, learning and commerce, especially with the help of the Mughal rulers like Akbar, Shah Jahan and Jehangir.Agra houses several historic prestigious places, monuments and buildings which upholds the tradition and culture of the city. Besides being home to UNESCO Heritage Sites like the famous Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and the Fatehpur Sikri Agar is also replete with other attractions like Itmad-Ud-Daulah's Tomb, Mariam's Tomb, Akbar's Tomb in Sikandra, Jama Masjid, Chini Ka Rauza etc.
The city of Agra with its laid-back style of living, treasured architecture, jewelry and handicrafts, is one of the remarkable cities in the world. Besides many celebration of different festivals, irrespective of caste distinction, takes place with all the zeal and excitement.The city of Agra can be conveniently accessed from all corners of the India. It has its own airport known as the Kheria Airport from where all the domestic airlines ply. A major rail station in Agra connects the city to important parts in India. Further, Agra is also connected through National Highways 2, 3 and 11. Private and state transport buses and other local means of transport are also available within the city.As the city experiences semi arid, tropical climate with very hot summers, therefore the best time to visit the city is in the months of October to March when the climate in Agra is pleasant and ideal for touring.
. The Taj Mahal of Agra is one of the Seven Wonders of the World, for reasons more than just looking magnificent. It's the history of Taj Mahal that adds a soul to its magnificence: a soul that is filled with love, loss, remorse, and love again. Because if it was not for love, the world would have been robbed of a fine example upon which people base their relationships. An example of how deeply a man loved his wife, that even after she remained but a memory, he made sure that this memory would never fade away. This man was the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, who was head-over-heels in love with Mumtaz Mahal, his dear wife. She was a Muslim Persian princess (her name Arjumand Banu Begum before marriage) and he was the son of the Mughal Emperor Jehangir and grandson of Akbar the Great. It was at the age of 14 that he met Mumtaz and fell in love with her. Five years later in the year 1612, they got married.
Mumtaz Mahal, an inseparable companion of Shah Jahan, died in 1631, while giving birth to their 14th child. It was in the memory of his beloved wife that Shah Jahan built a magnificent monument as a tribute to her, which we today know as the Taj Mahal. The construction of Taj Mahal started in the year 1631. Masons, stonecutters, inlayers, carvers, painters, calligraphers, dome-builders and other artisans were requisitioned from the whole of the empire and also from Central Asia and Iran, and it took approximately 22 years to build what we see today. An epitome of love, it made use of the services of 22,000 laborers and 1,000 elephants. The monument was built entirely out of white marble, which was brought in from all over India and central Asia. After an expenditure of approximately 32 million rupees (approx US $68000), Taj Mahal was finally completed in the year 1653.
It was soon after the completion of Taj Mahal that Shah Jahan was deposed by his own son Aurangzeb and was put under house arrest at nearby Agra Fort. Shah Jahan, himself also, lies entombed in this mausoleum along with his wife. Moving further down the history, it was at the end of the 19th century that British Viceroy Lord Curzon ordered a sweeping restoration project, which was completed in 1908, as a measure to restore what was lost during the Indian rebellion of 1857: Taj being blemished by British soldiers and government officials who also deprived the monument of its immaculate beauty by chiseling out precious stones and lapis lazuli from its walls. Also, the British style lawns that we see today adding on to the beauty of Taj were remodeled around the same time. Despite prevailing controversies, past and present threats from Indo-Pak war and environmental pollution, this epitome of love continuous to shine and attract people from all over the world.
. Fatehpur Sikri is a city in Agra District, which was constructed by Mughal Emperor Akbar in the beginning of 1570. The city was constructed to honour Sufi saint, Sheikh Salim Chisti, who used to live in a cavern on the ridge at Sikri.This saint predicted the birth of another son of Akbar, after the death of his twins. When in 1569, a son was born to Akbar he named him Salim to honour the saint. Prince Salim later succeeded Akbar to the throne of the Mughal Empire, as Emperor Jahangir.
Akbar shifted his capital from Agra to Sikri in 1571 and named the city as Fatehabad. This city served as the capital of the Mughal Empire from 1571 till 1585 and was later called Fatehpur Sikri.Designed as per Mughal architecture, with a mixtures of Indian, Persian and Islamic architecture, this city has a rocky ridge. The entire city is built using locally quarried red sandstone, which is also known as 'Sikri sandstone'.
The city is bounded on three sides by a 6 km long wall, which is fortified by towers and has seven gates. Some of the important buildings in this city are Buland Darwaza, Jama Masjid and Tomb of Salim Chisti. Ibadat Khana, Naubat Khana, Mariam-uz-Zamani's Palace, Panch Mahal and Birbal's House are other notable monuments within the city.UNESCO declared this complex, along with royal palaces, courts and the Jama Masjid, a World Heritage Site in 1986.
. Buland Darwaza, located in Fatehpur Sikri, is also known as the 'Gate of Magnificence'. This grand gateway was built by the Mughal Emperor Akbar, when he defeated the king of Khandesh in 1573. Built in red sandstone, this gateway stands 40 metres high and can be seen from far. Reflecting typical elements of Mughal architecture, the decorations of the gateway are done in white marble. The gateway also features calligraphic inscriptions from the Quran on its front pillars and chattris.Situated on the hill where the Jama Masjid Mosque is located, this gateway can be approached by 42 steps. It also serves as the entrance to the Jama Masjid mosque in Fatehpur Sikri.
. Agra Red Fort is another UNESCO World Heritage site. Sprawling over an area of 380,000 sq m, the fortress is situated on the right bank of River Yamuna.This fort was built by Mughal Emperor Akbar, after he defeated the Afghans at Panipat in 1556. Originally, this fort was held by the Hindu Sikarwar and subsequently, by Ibrahim Lodi, Babur, Humayun and Sher Shah.
The fort was in bad shape when Akbar rebuilt it using red sandstone, which was brought from the Barauli area in Rajasthan. The renovation was completed in 1573, after eight years of hard work of 1,444,000 labours.The fort is often referred to as walled city, as seventy feet high walls surround it on all sides. Out of the four gates provided on its four sides, Delhi Gate and Lahore Gate are the most notable.
Delhi Gate, which lies on the western side of the fort, was the grandest entrance. It leads to the inner gateway, the Hathi Pol or Elephant Gate, which is guarded by two life-size stone elephants.Presently, Amar Singh Gate is the only gateway leading to the fort. There are numerous palaces within this fort, like the Khas Mahal, Shish Mahal and octagonal tower of Musamman Burj.
Tourists visiting the fort can see reception rooms like Diwan-i-Khas and Diwan-i-Am, which were built in 1637 and 1628, respectively. Moti Masjid or the Pearl Mosque and Nagina Masjid are also housed with the fort. Moti Masjid was constructed between 1646 and 1653 by Shah Jahan, while the Nagina Masjid was built during the reign of Aurangzeb. Emperor Shah Jahan was imprisoned by his own son Aurangzeb in this fort. It is believed that Shah Jahan took his last breath in Musamman Burj, which is a tower with a marble balcony, from where the Taj Mahal can be seen. The fort has been the site of the Indian rebellion of 1857, which led to the end of the British East India Company's rule in India.
Diwan i khas
. Diwan-i-Khas was built in 1635 by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan and was considered as a hall meant for entertaining foreign ambassadors and important dignitaries. This was the real power citadel during the Mughal rule. This elegant hall was located in the area enclosed by Agra Fort.
Diwan-i-Khas had the terrace with two thrones, one is meant for the emperor made out of White marble and the other is meant for the visitor made out of black slate. The hall is adorned with precious stones, silver and solid gold marvelously. This is really an eye catching, praise worthy monument in Agra.
Diwan i Am
. Diwan-i-Am, famed to be a hall located in the middle of Agra Fort, is built in 1628 by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. This hall is meant for the public audience who assemble in Agra Fort. The architectural style of this pavilion is a perfect mix of Persian and Indian architectural styles.
The hall is supported by well constructed forty carved pillars. This is the place where the emperor listened to the complaints of the citizens. Diwan-i-Am is constructed using the red sandstones. This is a piece of marvelous architectural beauty in Agra. A renowned Masjid known as Nagina Masjid is placed nearby.
Chini ka Rauza
. Chini ka Rauza, a funerary monument built in 1635, contains the tomb of Allama Afzal Khan Mullah of Shiraz.This monument is located Situated on the eastern bank of River Yamuna. He was a scholar and a poet, who served as the Prime Minister of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. This monument reflects the Indo-Persian architecture, which is decorated by glazed tile works.
This monument was the first building in India that was decorated by the glazed tile works. The monument owes its name to the colourful tiles called ???chini'. Rectangular in shape, this monument is constructed mainly using brown stones that are adorned with inscriptions.The highlight of this monument is the Afghan-style rounded dome, which is decorated with inscriptions from Islamic texts.
. A big five storied pavilion placed in the Fatehpur Sikri fort complex, Panch Mahal was believed to be the pleasure and relaxation place for Mughal emperor Akbar. The pavilion is made up of beautiful red sandstone and is at the highest point in Fatehpur Sikri. This is a monument depicting the architectural marvel of Persian style of construction.
Panch Mahal was the residential pavilion for his queens and the pavilion has stone screens prohibiting the view from outside. Presently the screens were removed and the columns are visible from outside. There was a marvelous and imposing dome supported by four columns.
The pavilion steeps in a progressive style and each floor is connected to the next floor through well crafted stairs. The first floor has 84 pillars, second floor has 56 pillars, third floor has 20 pillars and the fourth floor has 12 pillars. All the pillars are carved with beautiful images and are very attractive.
. Jahangir Mahal, also known as the Jahangir Palace, is one of the most notable buildings inside the Agra Fort. Originally, this mahal was a zenana palace, which was built for women belonging to the royal household. The palace was mainly used by the Rajput wife of Akbar.
This mahal features a gateway, which leads to an interior courtyard. The courtyard is surrounded by grand halls, which are adorned with carvings on stone, brackets, piers, and crossbeams. This mahal has a veranda on the east front that has columns with courtyard halls. The courtyard halls are decorated in the Gujarat-Malwa-Rajasthan style.
. Birbal Bhavan, one of the main attractions in Fatehpur Sikri in Agra, is a small historical palace assumed to be built for Birbal. Raja Birbal was Great Emperor Akbar's favorite courtier. It is believed that the palace was either built by Akbar for Birbal or Birbal himself built this palace for him.
It is an elegant structure depicting the great Mughal architectural style blended with Persian style of constructions. This compact palace is one of the eye catching monuments in Agra dating back to centuries. The palace is placed in a plain enclosing beautiful gardens and greenish lawns.
. Kanch Mahal is a beautiful Mughal monument, which is situated near Akbar's Tomb at Sikandra. Originally, the monument was used as Mahal or royal ladies' resort. During the reign of Jahangir, the monument served as the royal shikargah (Hunting Lodge). Built between 1605 and 1619, the monument is now in ruins and is currently managed by the Department of Archaeology.
The monument is a two storeyed mansion, which has a central square hall that is roofed by a vaulted soffit. Each corner of the mansion has four square rooms with two openings for ventilation. The main hall of the monument features octagonal double pillars, which is on a raised plinth on two sides of the hall.
Out of the two identical facades to the north and south of the building, only the northern facade has survived. The building was constructed using brick masonry, in which the building was plastered and the interiors were painted, while finely carved red sandstone was used for exterior decoration.
Itmad ud Daulah Tomb
. Itmad-ud-Daula's Tomb, is a Mughal mausoleum in the city of Agra. Often described as 'jewel box', sometimes called the 'Baby Taj', the tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah is often regarded as a draft of the Taj Mahal. Along with the main building, the structure consists of numerous outbuildings and gardens. The tomb, built between 1622 and 1628 represents a transition between the first phase of monumental Mughal architecture - primarily built from red sandstone with marble decorations, as in Humayun's Tomb in Delhi and Akbar's tomb in Sikandra - to its second phase, based on white marble and pietra dura inlay, most elegantly realized in the Taj Mahal.
The Tomb of Akbar the Great
. The Tomb of Akbar the Great is an important Mughal architectural masterpiece, built 1605-1613, set in 119 acres of grounds in Sikandra, a suburb of Agra. The grounds are a precise 690 m square, aligned with the points of the compass, surrounded by walls, and laid out as a classic charbagh garden style. A gatehouse stands at the center of each wall, and broad paved avenues, laid out in Mughal style with central running water channels representing the four rivers of Paradise, lead from these to the tomb at the center of the square.
On entering the gate, tourists can see a formal garden, which is built in the charbagh style. In the heart of this garden stands the tomb of Akbar, which is made of red sandstone. This tomb has three-storeyed red sandstone minarets on the four corners of the building, which display inlay work.The pyramid shaped tomb has an open terrace, which is covered with carved latticework screens. Akbar's grave lies in the basement and is decorated with paintings in golden, green and blue hues.
. Mariam's Tomb houses the mausoleum of Mariam-uz-Zamani, the wife of Mughal Emperor Akbar and mother of Jahangir. It is located 1 km away from the tomb of Akbar the Great.This tomb was built by Jahangir after the death of his mother in 1623. Originally, the structure was a barahdari, which was transformed into a tomb by reconstructing the four facades of the building in the Mughal architectural style.
The mortuary chamber of the queen lies in the crypt below the central compartment, which can be accessed using the red stone stairs. Just above the real mortuary chamber, a cenotaph was placed in the central chamber.The cenotaph was protected by red stone jalied balustrade on all sides. The ground floor of the tomb comprises forty chambers that were built by Sikandar Lodi. These chambers bear faint traces of paintings on plastered walls.
. The Aram Bagh is the oldest Mughal Garden in India, originally built by the Mughal Emperor Babur in 1528 A.D. located about five kilometers north east of the Taj Mahal in Agra. The garden is a Paradise garden or Charbagh, where pathways and canals divide the garden to represent the Islamic ideal of paradise, an abundant garden through which rivers flow. The Aram Bagh provides an example of a variant of the charbagh in which water cascades down three terraces in a sequence of cascades. Two viewing pavilions face the Jumna river and incorporates a subterranean 'tahkhana' which was used during the hot summers to provide relief for visitors. The garden has numerous water courses and fountains.
. Mehtab Bagh, which means Moonlight Garden, is basically a charbagh, which is located towards the north of the Taj Mahal complex. The width of this garden is identical to that of the rest of the gardens. The corners of the garden are marked by four sandstone towers. According to the garden historian Elizabeth Moynihan, the large octagonal pool in the centre of the garden reflects the image of the mausoleum.
Soor Sarovar Bird Sanctuary
. Sur Sarovar Bird Sanctuary, also known as Keetham Lake, was established in 1991 by the Uttar Pradesh Forest Department.The area around the lake has been transformed and developed into wetlands by the Uttar Pradesh Forest Department. Owing to this, the lake became a heaven for birds, including migratory birds and residential birds. The area around the lake provides shelter to more than 165 species of birds.
During the summer season, the entire lake area is covered by macrophytic vegetation of water hyacinth and Potamogeton species. On the other hand, during winter season, the water quality of the lake supports wide range of avifauna. Some of the aquatic birds that can be spotted are little gerbs, purple heron, paddy bird, cormorants, darter and grey heron.
Visitors can also catch a glimpse of cattle egrets, large egrets, smaller egrets ad little egrets. Other bird species like night heron, bar headed goose, spoonbill, greying goose, pintail and comb duck can also be seen here. Sur Sarovar has one of the biggest Bear Rescue centres.
. Jama Masjid, popularly known as Jami Masjid or Friday Mosque, is one of the larger mosques in India. Situated opposite the Agra Fort, this mosque overlooks the Agra Fort Railway Station. The mosque was built by Shah Jahan in 1648, for his favourite daughter, Jahanara Begum.The mosque is set on a high podium which can be approached by stairs. There are five arched entrances to the courtyard of this mosque. The highlight of this mosque is the three large sandstone domes that crown the mosque. Pillared dalan, chhajja and chhatri on the roof are the prominent architectural elements of this mosque.
Tourists visiting Jama Masjid can also see the tomb of the celebrated Sufi Saint Sheikh Salim Chisti within the complex. Zenana Rauza and Jammat Khana hall are located on either side of Jama Masjid. The mosque is decorated in inlaid geometric designs, coloured tiles and calligraphic inscriptions. Prayers are offered in the central courtyard of the mosque.
. Moti Masjid, also known as Pearl Mosque, was built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. Situated in the premises of the Agra Fort, this mosque is made of marble. The ground on which the mosque is constructed slopes from east to west, in the north of Diwan-i-Am complex.
The courtyard of the mosque features side arcades and arched recessions. The main sanctuary facade is roofed with three domes that are built of light white marble and stand on the red sandstone base. The mosque comprises seven bays that are divided into numerous aisles, which are supported by piers and lobed arches.
. Humanyun Mosque is situated in the village of Kachhpura in Agra on the left bank of River Yamuna. Though this mosque has not been mention in texts related to Mughal period, it one of the earliest monuments of Mughal period corresponding to the beginning phase of Mughal architecture in India. According to the Persian inscriptions on this monument, this mosque was constructed in 1530, when Humayun ascended the throne. Mughal Emperor Babur is buried here.
The mosque is a handsome Panchmukhi (five-arched) structure with and a high iwan which conceals the dome on top of the central nave, which is supported on kite-shaped pendentives and net squinches. There are double-aisled wings on either side of the central nave. The brick and mortar building had been plastered originally and one can still see that its facade was once adorned with glazed tiles.
Guru ka Tal
. Guru ka Tal is a historical Sikh pilgrimage place dedicated to the memory of ninth Guru Sri Guru Tegh Bahudar Ji. Guru ka Tal is near Sikandra in Agra. The Gurudwara was built over the place where the Guru Tegh Bahadur laid down his arms to offer arrest to Aurangazeb, the Mughal Emperor. Several devotees gather every year to pay homage to the great Sikh guru in this Gurudwara.
There were twelve towers in the Tal, but only eight towers have survived the test of time and have now been retrieved. This red stone structure bears similarity to many other magnificent structures of the Mughals like the Agra Fort, Fatehpur Sikri etc.
. Bageshwarnath temple is one of the most holy places in Agra, located at Ramratan Road in the North. It is the place of Baba Bageshwar. A temple of Lord Siva and a very old place of worship, it still remains unrecognized in comparison with other temples in Agra. During the festival period, however, it takes on the festival spirit and is covered in lights. Apart from being a holy place, it serves as a landmark for the area. It sees a huge crowd of devotees, all lined up throughout the year to get the blessings of Lord Siva. Easily accessible and connected tosolid well laid roads, it is one spot that just cannot be missed. The temple is located at a distance of only two kilometers from the heart of the city. It is a place worth spending time on.