Agra General information
- Area 120.57 sq km
- Altitude 169 m above sea level
- Population (1991) 891,790
- Languages Hindi and Urdu
- Best time to visit October to March
- STD Code 0562
Agra -An Eternal Journey to Taj Mahal
Taj Mahal Located about 204 km south of Delhi in the Indian State of Uttar Pradesh, Agra has long been renowned as the city of the Taj Mahal. Agra’s crowning glory remains the Taj Mahal, a monument to love built by Shah Jehan in memory of his beloved queen, Mumtaz Mahal.
Magnificent Architecture of AGRA
This has often overshadowed the fact that this royal Mughal has, in addition to the legendary Taj, many magnificent monuments that epitomize the high point of the Mughal architectural achievement. Not even Delhi the seat of kings and emperors for over a thousand years can boast such a heritage of architectural and cultural splendor from the golden age of the Great Mughals. Agra was the chosen city of the Mughal emperors during the early years. It was here that the founder of the dynasty, Babar, laid out the first formal Persian garden on the banks of the River Yamuna. Here, Akbar, his grandson, raised the towering ramparts of the great Red Fort. Within its walls, Jehangir built rose-red palaces, courts and gardens. Shah Jehan embellished it with marbled mosques, palaces and pavilions of gem-inlaid white marble. Across the river, Jehangir’s gifted queen, Noor Jehan, designed an exquisite marble-inlaid tomb for her parents.
Taj Mahal Monument – A Symbol of Love
The Taj Mahal stands serene and perfect in its garden of cypresses and reflecting pools on the banks of the River Yamuna. So perfect are the proportions of the Taj, so exquisite its workmanship, that it has been described as having been designed by giants and finished by jewellers. Its pure white marble shines silver in the moonlight, glows softly pink at dawn, and at close of day reflects the tints of the setting sun. The Taj in all its timeless beauty is still the inspiration of many like, poets and painters, writers and photographers. And lovers still meet here in the moonlight in the shadow of the world’s most famous monument to love.Shah Jehan built the Taj in memory of Mumtaz Mahal who died giving birth to their 14th child. No cost was spared to make it the most beautiful monument the world had ever seen. White marble and red sandstone, silver and gold, camelian and jasper, moonstone and jade, lapiz lazuli and coral were fashioned by 20,000 skilled workers to make the emperor’s dream a reality. It took 22 years to complete – a symbol of eternal love where Shah Jehan too lies buried, re-united at last with his beloved Mumtaz. Set at the north end of a formal Persian garden with water courses, paved walkways and rows of dark cypresses, the Taj rises on a high red sandstone base topped by a huge white marble terrace, its flawless double dome flanked by four tapering minarets. Within lies the jewel-inlaid cenotaph of the queen, and a little to one side – the only asymmetrical feature in the Taj – the richly decorated casket of the emperor. Both are enclosed by an octagonal screen of finely pierced marble.
Few forts in the world have a more fascinating story to tell than the Great Fort of Agra. Originally planned as an impregnable military structure by Akbar, the Agra Fort, over a period of time, acquired all the elegance, lavishness and majesty of an imperial palace.Situated 3 km upstream of the Taj Mahal on the right bank of the Yamuna, it was built under the direction of Akbar, by Mohammed Quasim Khan, his Commander-in-Chief and Governor of Kabul. It took eight years to complete and entailed an expenditure of three and a half million rupees.
Thirty-nine kilometres from Agra stands Fatehpur Sikri, the red sandstone city of yesteryears. City was built by the Mughal Emperor Akbar in AD 1564 in honour of the Muslim saint Sheikh Salim Chisthi. Fatehpur Sikri was intended to be the capital city but the shortage of water and unrest in the north-west made Akbar abandon it. One of the major attractions of this city is the marble tomb of Sheikh Salim Chisthi. Places of interest include Diwan-i-Aam, Diwan-i-Khas, Buland Darwaza, Panch Mahal and Jodha Bai’s Palace
About 4 km north of the Taj, on the left bank of the Yamuna, is the perfectly proportioned marble mausoleum of ltmad-ud-Daulah. Noor Jehan constructed this splendid marble monument in her father’s memory. This double-storied marble tomb is replete with mosaic, inlaid with semi-precious stones. To the north of the fort, on the opposite bank of the Yamuna lies Itmad-ud-daulah, the tomb of Mirza Ghiyas Beg, Jehingir’s wazir. Also known as the ‘baby Taj’, it was the first Mughal structure totally built from marble and first to make extensive use of pietra dura. The place is the least visited of Agra’s three great monuments
Sikandra is 8 km north-east on the Agra-Delhi road. It is on the same side of the river Yamuna as the Taj. Sikandra was built in 1492 by Sikander Lodhi, a ruler of one of the last dynasties of the Delhi Sultanate. Akbar, in his time, ordered the construction of Sikandra again, this time as a site for his mausoleum, but he died before it could be completed. The work was completed by his son Jehangir in 1613. The tomb is a combination of Muslim and Hindu architectural styles. The building of red sandstone is four storeys tall, approximately 31 metres in height. The first three storeys are of red sandstone, while the fourth is entirely of marble.
DayalBagh (Soami Bagh)
This is the headquarter of the Radhasoami religious sect, founded in 1861 by Shri Shiv Dayal Singh, also known as Swamiji Maharaj. Being built to commemorate the Supreme Creator, this tall, unfinished facade of marble, lined with exquisitely carved pillars and panels, was estimated to cost about five million rupees when it was conceived. Today, the cost of work finished and work still to be done will run into ten million.
Jodha Bai’s Palace (Jodha Bai was Akbar’s Rajput queen) :-has the most distinctively Gujarati and Rajasthani architectural features.
Jami Masjid (mosque):- sacred center of Sikri, symbolizes the city’s spiritual prominence. It stands at the southwestern end of Fatehpur Sikri. A high wall with gateways on three sides opens into a huge courtyard, 111 by 139 meters, making it the largest to be found in the Mughal period.
Buland Darwaza ( triumphal gateway): Built in 1575 to celebrate Akbar’s successful Gujarat campaign, is the most stupendous architectural work of the Mughals. The gateway is approached by a steep flight of steps, which add height and majesty to the entire structure.
Located about 47 km from Agra, Mathura is famous as the birthplace of Lord Krishna. Besides being an important pilgrim place of the Hindus, it is one of the seven most sacred cities in India. Mathura is also an important crafts centre. Visiting Mathura gives one a chance to trace the early years of the life of Lord Krishna. Among the foundations of the Kesava Deo Temple, one comes across a small room designed as a prison cell. In the cell is a stone slab on which, it is believed, Lord Krishna was born some 3,500 years ago. Adjacent to the temple stands the mosque built by Aurangzeb. The place, referred to as Sri Krishna Janambhoomi, has been a subject of dispute between the Hindus and Muslims.
Ten kilometres from Mathura lies the town of Vrindavan. The place is associated with the childhood exploits of Lord Krishna. Vrindavan has scores of temples, shrines, and memorial stones and hermitages of the saints and Krishna’s followers. One of the most impressive buildings that greets the visitor in Vrindavan is the Govind Dev Temple. This red sandstone structure is supposed to be architecturally one of the most advanced Hindu temples in northern India. One can also have a look at the 150-year-old Ranganathan Temple, popularly known as the Rangaji Temple, which is located in a beautiful complex. Around 4000 other temples are said to exist in Virndavan. The town is also the seat of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) which has built a magnificent temple here.