There are very few cities in the world that can match the history and heritage of Agra – the city of Taj Mahal. Located at a distance of 204 km south of Delhi, Agra is the single most famous tourist destination of India. There are several places to visit in Agra. Situated on the west bank of River Yamuna, Agra is a part of the great Norther Indian plains. The architectural splendour of the city is reflected in the glorious monuments of medieval India built by great Mughals who ruled India for more than 300 years.
In the mid 16th century and earlier 17th century, Agra witnessed a frenzied building activity and it was during this time when the symbol of love Taj Mahal was built. The buildings made during this era were purely in the contemporary Mughal style and of very high quality which is still reflected in whatever monuments remain in Agra.
HISTORY OF AGRA
Agra, the city of Taj was established in 1475 by Badal Singh. Agra finds mention in the Mahabharata as Agraban. Agra city in those days was considered to be the sister city of Mathura which was more prominent than Agraban. Agra came into its own when the Lodhi Kings chose this place beside the Yamuna to be their capital city. Sikander Lodhi made Agra his capital but Babar defeated the Lodhis to capture not only Agra but also laid the foundation of the Mughal empire.
The coming of Babar heralded a new era which was to see Agra at its zenith during the reign of Akbar, Jehangir and Shah Jahan. It was during Akbar’s period that Agra became the centre of art, culture and commerce and learning. This trend reached its height when Shah Jahan became the ruler.
In the mid 16th century and earlier 17th century, Agra witnessed a frenzied building activity and it was during this time when the symbol of love Taj Mahal was built. The buildings made during this era were purely in the contemporary Mughal style and of very high quality which is still reflected in whatever monuments remain in Agra. The narrow lanes of Agra filled with the aroma of Mughlai cuisine, the craftsman who are busy in creating master pieces with their skill all remind of the Mughal royalty which this city had once experienced. Today whatever remains, has become a major tourist attraction that has taken Agra again to the heights of glory but this time as a major tourist destination of India.
THE CITY OF THE TAJ
Agra – The city known for the famous monument of love – the Taj Mahal. Taj Mahal was constructed by the Mughal Emperor, Shah Jehan. It is said he built this monument in memory of his beloved wife Mumtaj Mahal. The Taj Mahal is ethereal at any part of the day – blushing in the rosy glow of dawn or sunset, appearing like a pearly mirage in the moonlight or reflected in the pools of the garden. Perhaps the most moving view of the Taj is from an octagonal tower in the Agra Fort further along the river Yamuna.
HOW TO REACH AGRA
Air: Agra is one of the hottest tourist destinations in India and all facilities have been provided for easy access to this place. It has its own airport which connects Agra with all the major places in India. The Agra airport or the Kheria airport has all the major domestic airlines having their services to this place of the Taj.
Rail: Agra is a major railway station with almost all the trains to south India, Mumbai and many trains to Calcutta stopping here. Agra city is visited by the “Palace on Wheels”.The Rajdhani and Shatabdi trains have also their stoppage in Agra. The city is well connected by trains to almost every corner of the nation.
Road: Agra has the National Highway Numbers 2, 3, 11 passing through it. So the premier tourist destination of India, Agra is also well linked by bus services to other places in the State as well as outside the state. The state transports have deluxe as well as ordinary bus services for the place. There are conducted tours which take tourists not only to Agra but the nearby tourist spots too.
PLACES TO STAY IN AGRA
Agra is one of the major tourist destinations, where international tourist inflow is also quite good. So the options of luxurious accommodations are plenty. If you are a budget traveller, there are numerous tourist lodges as well as mid-range hotels in Agra.
TOURIST INFORMATION CENTRES
The Government Of India Tourist Office – 191, The Mall, Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India.
UP State Tourism Development Corporation – Tourist Bungalow, Raja-ki- Mandi, Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India.
Tourist Information Center – UP tourist office, 64 Taj Road, Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India
Tourist Information Counter – Agra Cantonment Railway Station, Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India
Places to visit in Agra
Even as the world is caught in the skirmishes of War & peace, Nuclear and Non-Nuclear; Taj has stood as the epitome of love.
This extravagant monument of love is one of the most visited and most photographed places in the world. Taj Mahal was built by Shah Jahan in memory of his beautiful wife Mumtaz Mahal. Taj Mahal was the culmination point of Indo-Persian architecture. The Mughals Emperor were always fond of constructing monuments. Perhaps they knew that they would be gone but these structures will remind the world of their grandeur.
Agra Red Fort
Agra which lies on the west bank of river Jamuna became one of the principal cities of the Mughal Empire after the death of Ibrahim Lodi at Panipat in 1526. When Akbar choose Agra as his capital he laid the foundation of the Fort of Agra. After Taj, this was one of the most important groups of buildings. The construction was started in 1565 and was completed in about eight years at a cost of thirty-five lakh of rupees under the superintendence of Qasim Khan Mir Barr-u-Bahr. This fort was just one of the many large fortified residences that the emperor wanted to have at various strategic points of his empire. According to contemporary chroniclers like Abul Fazal, the fort contained over five hundred buildings. But later on, Akbar’s descendants added new buildings, mainly in marble to the fort and demolished the old ones.
This tomb belongs to the father of Nur Jahan, Ghias-ud-Din Beg. He was the Wajir or the Chief Minister of Emperor Jehangir. This white marble tomb was built by Nur Jahan between 1622 and 1628. The tomb may not be as mammoth as the Taj but the inlay designs and carvings are no less than Taj if not more. The delicate marble latticework in the passages allows the light to enter the interiors. A similar tomb was built by Nur Jahan for Jehangir in Lahore. This tomb was the first complete marble Moghul structure.
A tomb of glazed tiles is a memorial dedicated to the poet-scholar and later the Prime Minister of Shah Jahan, Allama Afzel Khal Mullah Shukrullah of Shiraz.
Built by Shah Jahan in 1648, the main gate of this mosque has an inscription written on it that it was built by Jahanara Begum. She was the favourite daughter of Shah Jahan and was imprisoned with him. The absence of minarets and the shape of the dome give sit a distinguished character.
This was built by Akbar for his favourite son Jehangir to provide him with the comfort and luxury inside the fort. This palace displays an excellent combination of Hindu and Muslim architecture
Bagh-i-Gul Afshan or Ram Bagh is one of the earliest gardens of the Mughal empire. Originally this garden was set up by Babur but it was later on renovated and renamed by Jehangir as Bagh-i-Nur Afshan. This garden is situated on the southern side of the riverine Sarai of Nur Jehan. Babur introduced in this garden three terraces. The water, which was drawn from the river, descended from one terrace to another after flowing through a network of canals, tanks and water chutes. Each water chute had stairs on both sides and ends in a red sandstone pond. To add to the beauty of the garden apart from the various water device platforms, pathways, Chhatris and a variety of plants were provided at regular intervals. During Jehangir’s reign, two beautiful suites on the two sides of the main terrace were built. In the centre, a Mah-tab or island platform was built which was connected with the main water system. This gorgeous garden set on the riverbank is a typical example of a Mughal pleasure garden.
The Musamman Burj, or Octagonal Tower, stands close to the Diwan-I-Khas and the small, private Mina Masjid. Also known as the Saman Burj, this tower was built by Shah Jahan for Mumtaz Mahal and is another of his finely designed buildings. It was here, with its views along the Yamuna to the Taj, that Shah Jahan died in 1666, after seven years’ imprisonment. Unfortunately, the tower has been much damaged over the years.
Dayal Bagh Temple
In Dayal Bagh, 10 km north of Agra. The white marble Samadhi of the Radha Soami religion is currently under construction. It was started in 1904 and is not expected to be completed until sometime next century. You can see Pietra Dura inlaid marble work actually being worked on. Dayal Bagh is 2km north of Agra and can be reached by bus or cycle
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