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Agra: City of Love

Home to one of the 7 wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal, Agra is a sneak peek into the architectural history with other UNESCO World Heritage Sites as Agra Fort, and Fatehpur Sikri. History, architecture, romance all together create the magic of Agra and hence makes for a must-visit for anyone living in or visiting India.

Located on the banks of river Yamuna, History fanatics, as well as architecture buffs, can have a ball here with the sheer expanse of the Mughal art and culture on display. Apart from its monuments, the city also has some exciting stuff for foodies – including the famous Agra ka Petha and amazing chaat and Lassi.

Taj Mahal

One knows that ‘The Taj’ is one amongst the World’s Wonders!
One knows that it is one amongst the UNESCO World Heritage Sites!!
One knows The Taj as a legend of eternal love of an Emperor for his favourite Queen!!!

Come, Walk along the pathway beside the reflecting pool with fountains upto the mausoleum crafted in soft & pure marble and jewelled with semi precious stones, where in the serenity of paradise rests the Queen in peace with her King. Come to unfold the pages from the past to churn the charm out of its mystique and enrich your imagination about this marvel of an epic in stone, The Taj!

The grace of perfection of proportions and grandeur of geometrical patterns of well appointed gardens enhancing the poise of the whole complex together add magnificence to the delicacy of this mance of love, dedication and purity, ‘The Taj’!

Come take a dip into the saga of ‘The Taj’, culled out from no fiction but facts and unfurl a saga, which is set out of nothing but pure love!

Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder! Probably for Taj Mahal, the axiom is just the other way round.The Taj is the beauty personified! The Taj displays its different moods through its varied shades. The Taj has as many shades as any kind of beauty can ever have! The Taj is pinkish in the morning, milky white in the evening, golden when the moon shines and the intermediary variants during different hours of the day and during different seasons in a year.

Picturesque descriptions by the historians contemporary to the period of its making, the facts revealed by the scholars & archaeologists of today and the panoramic montage of the reasons behind its making are sketched with every step you would walk towards the mausoleum the next time you visit The Taj!

A look this time at the Taj will keep you indulged with thoughts superimposing your sight and would make you feel the presence of Shah Jahan, the Maker and Mumtaz Mahal, the Reason, as though walking along with you.

Whence its breathtaking splendour makes you wonder breathlessly and you tend to pause for a while but to continue staring at ‘The Taj’, you would sense them standing beside you!

How to Reach ?

The nearest airports to reach Taj Mahal are in Agra and Delhi. The Taj Express and Shatabdi offer the best rail connections to Agra. You can also drive or travel by bus (243 km from Delhi). If you take the Taj Express Highway then the trip will take about 3 hours 50 minutes. Ask anyone about Taj Mahal in Agra, and you’ll be given prompt directions. The main parking area is near the Western Gate, from where you can find different modes of transport (including tongas, camels, and e-rickshaws) to ferry you to and fro from the complex. You can also choose to walk if the weather allows for it, considering the parking lot is about a 5 to 7-minute walk from the main Western Gate.

Fatehpur Sikri

The beautiful marble tomb of Sheikh Salim Chisti attracts thousands of tourists at places like Diwan-I-Aam, Diwan-I-Khas, Buland Darwaza, Panch Mahal, Jodha Bai’s Palace, Pachisi and Birbal Bhavan.

The desire for a son led Mughal Emperor Akbar to many holy men and finally to the renowned Sufi Saint Sheikh Salim Chishti who lived in an isolated cave near Sikri. The Saint blessed Akbar and soon a son was born to him in 1569.

The grateful Emperor named his son Salim after the Saint and built the grand Jama Masjid near the saint’s dwelling. To the west of this mosque lie two graves-one of the saint and the other of his infant son.In further memory of the Saint, Akbar vowed to build a great city.

Thus, emerged the splendid city of Fatehpur Sikri on a stony ridge. A splendid citadel of grand courts, palaces, Mosques and gardens that rivaled the splendors of Delhi and Agra.

The magnificent buildings in Fatehpur Sikri can be divided into two categories the religious and the secular. On one hand are the imposing Jama Masjid with the Buland Darwaza, the most stupendous Gateway of India standing 176ft. high. The Buland Darwaza was erected in the year 1602, to commemorate Akbar’s conquest over Deccan. The doorway is richly carved with verses from the Holy Quran cut in bold Arabic letters. The Dargah of Sheikh Salim Chishti, built of pure white marble, was completed in 1581.

Devotees from all over the world throng in thousands to the heart of the citadel to view the white marble tomb set in the royal mosque. They sing his praise, tie a red thread in the latticed windows and above all pray to the Saint for the gift of a child. His death anniversary, known as his Urs is a major assembly of devotees from all over the world.

On the other side are the other important buildings like  the Diwan-I-Khas, Jodha Bai’s Palace, Mariam’s Palace, Birbal’s Palace, House of the Turkish Sultana and Panch Mahal, all depicting a variety of architectural styles. The Panch Mahal is a five story structure, each of which has a pillared hall smaller than the one below it. Based on 176 richly carved columns, the building served the purpose of a recreation room for the ladies of the royal harem.

Other monuments leading to the palace of Jodha Bai are Khwabgah (house of dreams), Anup Talao, Abdar Khana, Pachisi Court, Ankh Micholi (the place where Akbar used to play hide and seek with the ladies of the harem and which later became the imperial treasury), Astrologer’s Seat, Daftar Khana, Ibadat Khana and Haram Sara.

How to Reach ?

By Air

The easiest way of reaching Fatehpur Sikri is by air. The airport which can be said to be nearest to Fatehpur Sikri is located at Agra, which is situated at a distance of around 7 kms from the center of the city as well as 3 kms from the bus stand at Idgah.

Though a domestic airport, the Agra airport has an efficient network system as it is well connected to several Indian cities and also provides it’s commuters with special shuttle systems which travel between the cities of Agra, Khajuraho, Varanasi and back. The nearest International Airport to the city is at Delhi, which is located at a distance of around 40 minutes from Agra.

By Rail

Reaching Fatehpur Sikri by rail is also a good option for travelers traveling to this ancient land mark. The main railway station of the region is the one at the Agra Cantonment which is well connected to all the major railway stations of India including cities like Delhi, Varanasi as well as a number of the cities in Rajasthan. Besides these, the city is also connected to the neighboring cities by luxury trains like Palace on Wheels, Shatabdi, Rajdhani as well as the Taj Express.

Agra Fort

The city of Agra is world famous for the Taj Mahal, built by the Mughal emperor Shahjahan in memory of his beloved wife. However, it is also famous for the Agra Fort, which is a veritable treasure trove of the Mughal architectural tradition. The various buildings within this sprawling fort complex represent the assimilation of different cultures, which was the mark of the Mughal period. Jahangiri Mahal (Jahangir’s Palace)

Akbar was the third Mughal emperor and undoubtedly the greatest. He was crowned the Mughal ruler in 1556 at the tender age of 14, when his father Humayun died suddenly. After Akbar consolidated his rule, he began constructing the Agra Fort, which coincided with the building of Humayun’s tomb in Delhi. Akbar began the construction of this massive fort made of red sandstone on the banks of the Yamuna in 1565. The fort was ready by 1571, though additions were made up until the rule of Shahjahan, who was Akbar’s grandson. During the time of Akbar, the fort mainly served military purpose, while by the time of Shahjahan it also served as a palace and court.

The fort’s colossal double walls rise 20 m in height and measure 2.5 km in circumference. The fort is surrounded by a moat. The lofty battlements of the Agra fort cast its protective shadow over the far stretching mansions of nobles and princes built along the riverfront. The magnificent towers, bastions and ramparts and majestic gateways symbolized the confidence and power of the third Mughal emperor. The fort contains splendid palaces both in red sandstone and white marble built by two generations of prolific builders, Akbar and later on by Jahangir and Shahjahan. Of the nearly 500 Akbari buildings built in the Bengal and Gujarati traditions, only a few have survived, arrayed in a band on the riverfront.

How to Reach ?

By Air

Agra has its own airport which is directly connected with Delhi, Varanasi, and Khajuraho. Nearby places connected by national and international airports are Delhi, Jaipur, Lucknow, and Gwalior. Many national and international flights arrive to and depart from these airports.

By Train

Agra has three main railway stations which are Agra Cantt, Agra Fort, and Raja Ki Mandi which are connected to all the major cities of India. Idgah and Agra City are two other railway stations but very few trains stop here.

Itimad-ud-daulah’s Tomb

Often referred to as the “Baby Taj Mahal”, the tomb of Itimad-ud-daulah is a Mughal mausoleum and often regarded as a copy of the Taj Mahal. This is the first tomb in India made entirely of marble. It is the tomb of Mir Gheyas Beg (later known as Itimad-ud-daulah), who was a minister in the court of Shah Jahan. Visiting Itimad-ud-daulah’s Tomb is like taking a step back in time into Agra’s history.

The tomb of Itimad-ud-daulah marks the transition from the first phase of the Mughal architecture to the second. This was the first structure to make use of pietra dura and the first to be built on the banks of the Yamuna River. It basically consists of Indo-Islamic architecture, with the use of arched entrances and octagonal shaped towers. If you take a bird’s eye of Itimad-ud-daulah Tomb, it looks like a jewel box set in a garden. This magnificent mausoleum, built on the banks of Yamuna, was to inspire the construction of one of the wonders of the world “Taj Mahal” in the later years.

Mirza Gheyas Beg, who later came to be known as Itimad-ud-daula, was a poor merchant and lived in Persia. He shifted to India in the hope of changing his fortune. While on the way, he was attacked by robbers and was left penniless. At the same time, his pregnant wife gave birth to a baby girl. They did not have enough money to feed her, so they thought of abandoning her, but on the way, they found a caravan. They joined it and reached the court of Mughal Emperor Akbar, where Gheyas became a courtier. The baby girl changed their fate, hence they named her Mehrunnisa, who later became the wife of Emperor Jahangir. The history remembers her by the name of Noor Jahan. She commissioned the construction of Itimad-ud-daulah’s Tomb, as a tribute to her father.

How to Reach ?

Itimad-ud-daulah Tomb is located 4 km from Agra Fort and 2 km from Ram Bagh. It is situated on the road going from Agra Fort to the Ram Bagh. The best way to reach the fort is by taking an auto rickshaw from the Auto stand near Agra Fort.

Tomb of Akbar

The final resting place of the great Mughal Emperor, Akbar, Tomb of Akbar is an important architectural masterpiece of the Mughal era. Located in Sikandra, a suburb of Agra, the tomb is believed to have been built between 1605 and 1618. Although the tomb is the place where one of the greatest emperors of India is buried, the Mughal gardens around it present a beautiful and cheerful facade. Built entirely out of sandstone and white marble, Emperor Akbar himself oversaw the construction of this tomb until his death. However, the construction of Akbar’s Tomb was completed by his son Salim. Unlike the other tombs of famous Muslim kings around the world, the Tomb of Akbar faces towards the rising sun instead of Masjid of Mecca

The tomb is situated in Sikandra, the outskirts of Agra and spreads over an area of 119 acres. The main tomb is surrounded by a beautiful garden that was designed by Akbar himself. His wife’s (Mariam-uz-Zamani Begam) tomb is also located in Sikandra about a kilometre away from Akbar’s Tomb. The main structure of the tomb is built out of sandstone and a portion is made from marble. Following Tartary traditions, that state that one must see-through the construction of one’s tomb themselves, Akbar lived through the construction of his tomb and built a beautiful garden around it. 

The site for the tomb was selected by Akbar, and most of the construction happened during his lifespan. After his death his son Salim, also known as Jahangir, decided to add another storey made of marble at the top of the structure, thereby seeing through the end of the construction for his father’s tomb.

During the rule of Akbar’s great-grandson Aurangzeb, the tomb suffered a lot of losses. Being an oppressive and strict ruler, Aurangzeb had offended a lot of Hindus but destroying their temples and belittling their religion. This resulted in a revolt headed by the Jats who attacked the Agra Fort. In order to offend Aurangzeb more, they looted Akbar’s tomb and walked away with precious silver jewellery, gold ornaments, diamonds, and carpets and damaged the property. They even burned the bones of Akbar and cremated them, which is unacceptable in Islam. All of these retaliations were carried out under Raja Ram Jat in order to avenge his father’s death.

How to Reach ?

The tomb of Akbar is located on the Mathura Road at NH-2 and lies around 8 km from the city centre. The easiest way to get to Akbar’s tomb is by hiring a cab or an auto rickshaw from any part of the city. 

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