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Agra – The City of The Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal Tour Agra

Country: India
State:Uttar Pradesh
Location: Western part of Uttar Pradesh
Area: 188 km2
Altitude: 171 metres
Population: 1,686,975
Language: Hindi
Known for: Taj Mahal
Nearby Cities: Jaipur, Mathura, Delhi, Gwalior, Bharatpur

Located in the western part of the state Uttar Pradesh, Agra is a world-wide popular tourists’ point. The UNESCO heritage site and one of the wonders of the world Taj Mahal is the most significant attraction of the city. However, there are various other tourists’ attractions in the city that equally fascinate tourists of the world.

It is interesting to share that during the medieval period of time, Agra was the capital of Hindustan. It was the period when all infrastructure development had been taken place. The city is established on the banks of the Yamuna River in the state of Uttar Pradesh, India. The city is located at the distance of 363 kilometres west from the state capital city Lucknow, and only 200 kilometres south from the national capital territory New Delhi. Today, it has about 1,686,975 populations and considered as one of the most populous cities of Uttar Pradesh.

Surprisingly, Agra city is also mentioned in the epic of Mahabharata; at that time, it was known as ‘Agrevana’ that means ‘the border of the forest.’ However, it is believed that a Sikarwar Rajput King, Raja Badal Singh had founded the city; his fort namely Badalgarh located nearby the site of the present fort.

However, as per the historical evidences, Sultan Sikandar Lodi was the first ruler who moved his capital from Delhi to Agra in the year 1506. But soon after in the year 1517, he died and then his son, Ibrahim Lodi became the king who ruled for next nine years. But he was defeated by Babar at the first Battle of Panipat in the year 1526. Above all, from 1556 to 1658, it was ruled by Mughal Empire and evidenced wonderful and splendid structures including three UNESCO World Heritage Sites namely Taj Mahal, Fatehpur Sikri, and Agra Fort.

Agra Tourism

Characterized with semi-arid climate; the city Agra experiences mild to cold winter and hot and dry summers along with small monsoon season. The city is one of the most visited cities of North India. It has many reasons of having so many tourists’ attractions such as three UNESCO World Heritage Sites, many other structures constructed by Mughal Emperors and other rulers, geographical location etc.

Important Tourists’ Places in Agra

• Taj Mahal: The UNESCO World Heritage Site, Taj Mahal is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The beauty of its architecture is so fascinating that people from all over the world visit city Agra only to see the Taj Mahal. The structure has been built by the great Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. It was built in the memory of Mumtaz, the favourite wife of Shah Jahan.

Since, it was built for Mumtaz, therefore, it is also popular as Mumtaz Mahal. The wonderful monument has been built of beautiful white marble. Completed in the year 1653, the structure took 22 years to get completed. About 20,000 workers worked to complete the structure. The structure is adorned with various ornaments and a beautiful garden. Built along the bank of Yamuna River, Taj Mahal can also be looked from the Agra Fort. It is said that the Emperor Shah Jahan used to gaze it for his last eight years of life.

Taj Mahal has been architected by the Persian architect Ustad Isa. You can see here the entire verses of the Koran are inscribed and in addition, you can also acknowledge the 22 small domes at the top of the gate; it signifies that it took 22 years to complete the monument. Though, sandstones are used inside but the entire monuments are built of marble. The largest and stylish dome of the Taj Mahal is measured about 60 feet diameter and 80 feet high. You can see the Mumtaj Mahal directly under this dome. Besides, you can also see the tomb of Shah Jahan built of his son and great Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb.

• Agra Fort: Resembles to Red Fort of New Delhi, the Agra Fort was constructed by the great Mughal Emperor Akbar in the year 1565. Agra Fort is also enlisted as UNESCO World Heritage Site. During the ruling period of Shah Jahan, it had been used as the palace; and hence various reconstructions and beautification had been done. Largely marble and pietra dura inlay work had been done to make it more beautiful. Standing a stone table just nearby the gate of the Fort says that the structure had been constructed way before (about 1000 years ago) but later on, it was renovated by Akbar.

Interestingly, with the 2.4 Kilometres total perimeter, the forbidding exteriors of the Agra Fort concealed an inner paradise. It has given the crescent shaped, which is flattened on the east side with a long, almost straight wall facing the Yamuna River. It has ringed by double castellated ramparts of red sandstone, which is punctuated at regular intervals by bastions. A moat measuring 9 metres wide and 10 metres deep surrounds the outer wall. The important structures of the buildings in the forts are Pearl Mosque or Moti Masjid, the Diwan-e-'Am and Diwan-e-Khas (halls of public and private audience), Jahangir's Palace, Shish Mahal (mirrored palace), Khas Mahal, and the Musamman Burj.

Moreover, the fort is a distinctive example of Mughal architecture, fervently illustrating it that how the North Indian style of fort architecture is different from that of the South India. In the Southern part of India, more commonly the forts were constructed on the seabed as for example the one at Bekal in Kerala.

• Fatehpur Sikri: Another UNESCO World Heritage Site of Agra city, Fatehpur Sikri had been built by the Mughal Emperor Akbar. It is located at the distance of about 35 kms from the main city of Agra. Though, it is abandoned but you can see here the various historical structures.

Interestingly, the name of the place had been given after the Mughal Emperor Babar when he defeated Rana Sanga in a battle fought at a place known as Sikri (located about 40 km from main city of Agra). After the war, Akbar made the place Fatehpur Sikri as his head quarters and hence he built a magnificent fort. However, later one because of shortage of water, he compelled to move his headquarters to Agra Fort.

• Buland Darwaza: Also popular as 'the lofty gateway' Buland Darwaza was also built by the great Mughal emperor, Akbar in the year 1601 at Fatehpur Sikri. The building of the Buland Darwaza by Akbar was the symbol of his victory over Gujarat.

Constructed of red and buff sandstone and adorned with carving and black and white a marble inlay, the Buland Darwaza is measured 53.63 m high and 35 meters wide. Furthermore, the inscription written over the central face of the Buland Darwaza illustrates Akbar's religious progressiveness. In fact it is a message from Jesus who is advising his followers not to consider this world as their everlasting home.

• I'timad-Ud-Daulah: Also popular as “Baby Taj”, I’timad-Ud-Daulah had been built by Empress Nur Jahan. She constructed it in the memory of her father Mirza Ghiyas Beg who was the Chief Minister of the Emperor Jahangir. Built in the eye-catching location along the Yamuna River, it is also adorned with a huge cruciform garden. Interestingly, the garden is criss-crossed by water courses and walkways. Further, the mausoleum’s each corner has hexagonal towers measuring about 13 metres high.

The walls are constructed of white marble, which is brought from Rajasthan. The design is given like semi-precious stone decorations – cornelian, jasper, onyx, lapis lazuli, and topaz in images of cypress trees and wine bottles. You can also see, it resembles like cut fruit or vases containing bouquets. White marble Jali screens are intricately carved in such a way that it allows light to go inside the structure. Above all, its garden layout and use of white marble, inlay designs, pietra dura, and latticework portend several elements of the Taj Mahal. So, small in comparison to various other Mughal-era tombs, it is also illustrated as a jewel box.

• Akbar's Tomb, Sikandra: Located merely at the distance of about 13 km from the Agra Fort, Akbar’s Tomb was the last resting place of the great Mughal Emperor Akbar. Also popular as Sikandra, it portrays the completeness of Akbars’ personality.

The enormous, brilliantly carved, red-ochre sandstone tomb with the animals like deers, rabbits and langurs are set amidst the lush garden. Interestingly, Akbar himself planned this tomb and selected the site of his choice. In fact, to construct a tomb in one's lifetime was the Turkic custom which the Mughals followed religiously. Further, his son Jahangir also completed construction of this pyramidal tomb in 1613. You can read here the 99 names of Allah that have been inscribed on the tomb.

• Swami Bagh Samadhi: Located on the outskirt of the main city Agra, the Swami Bagh Samadhi is a monument that holds the ashes of Huzur Swamiji Maharaj (Shri Shiv Dayal Singh Seth). He was the founder of the Radhaswami Faith and hence, the Samadhi is sacred to its followers. Though, the construction had been began in February 1904 but it is still continues. Many people believe that construction will never end at Swami Bagh. It is often seen as the next Taj Mahal. The colored marbles are used which is rare in the rest part of India. These stones are also carved with various texts.

Other significant tourists’ attractions in Agra

• Indrabhan Girls' Inter College: It is widespread considered as the birthplace of the great poet Mirza Ghalib.
• Mankameshwar Temple
• Jama Masjid
• Chini ka Rauza
• Guru ka Tal
• Ram Bagh
• Mariam's Tomb
• Mehtab Bagh
• Keetham Lake
• Mughal Heritage Walk

How to Reach??

By Road: The road infrastructure of the city is pretty developed and also well linked with various major cities and towns of India. The major Bus Stands of Agra are Taj Depot, Idgah Bus Stand, Ford depot and Inter State Bus Terminal (ISBT), from where you can get the bus services for the many parts of India. Further, it is the significant junction of highways including three National Highways and one Expressway that is originating from Agra itself.

NH2, a modern divided highway, connects the distance of 200 km from Delhi to Agra. It is the driving of about 4 hours. In Delhi region, the primary access of this highway is all along Mathura Road but, if you are coming from South Delhi or Delhi Airport then it is easier to take Aurobindo Marg or Mehrauli Road and then reach up to NH2 via Tughlakabad.

Yamuna Expressway: A newly inaugurated expressway; it is an access controlled highway that connects the distance of 200 km from Delhi to Agra in merely two hours. This highway passes through Aligarh and Mathura via State Highways.

National Highway 91: It connects the distance of 100 km from Aligarh to Agra. It is three hours driving.

National Highway 11: It is a four lane divided highway that connects Agra with Rajasthan’s capital city Jaipur through the bird sanctuary town of Bharatpur. The distance between these two cities is about 255 km, which takes about 3 to 4 hours.

NH 3 or Agra – Mumbai Highway: It connects with Gwalior. The distance between these two cities is about 120 km that takes about 1.5 hours.

NH 2: It connects with the cities Lucknow and Kanpur. The distance between Agra and Kanpur is about 285 km and it is about 5 hours drive.

By Rail: Agra is one of the major railway stations between the central train line i.e. Delhi and Mumbai and also between Delhi and Chennai. Dozens of trains everyday pass through Agra railway station. Some of the major trains are Bhopal Shatabdi, Bhopal Express, Garib Rath, Tamil Nadu Express, Chennai Rajdhni, Malwa Express, Gondwana Express and many more.

In addition, the luxury trains including the Palace on Wheels, and the Royal Rajasthan On Wheels also pass through Agra. City Agra is included in the eight days trip of these luxury trains. The Buddhist Special Train also visits Agra city.

By Air: Though, the city has local airport located at the distance of about 13 km from the main part of the city but it is not used for the public rather it is an Indian Air Force Airport. So, the nearest airport from the Agra city is the Indira Gandhi International Airport, which located at the distance of about 200 km in New Delhi.

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