Agra, one of the oldest cities in India and a centre of remarkable architecture and culture. A city that was once the capital of the Mughal Empire, the home of various artists and craftsmen whose creations can be seen even today, cherished and preserved. A few hours away from Delhi, the capital of the country, Agra is well connected by train, buses and road. Once in the city, there is a lot to explore from the world renowned Taj Mahal to the Agra fort and lots more. Here’s highlighting some of the must visit places in Agra.
1. The Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal is a monument that needs no introduction. A symbol of eternal love and ethereal beauty, this marble structure has been a recognized by UNESCO as a world heritage site and has also made Agra famous as The City of the Taj.
Build in the 17th century by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial for his beloved wife Arjumand Bano Begum, popularly known as Mumtaz Mahal, the Taj comprises of a central dome structure with four pillars around it, all made of exquisite white marble. The central dome houses the tomb of both Mumtaz and Shah Jahan himself. Situated on the banks of the river Yamuna the tomb is the centrepiece of a 17-hectare (42-acre) complex, which includes a mosque and a guest house,
It is an example of exceptional symmetry in architectural, often regarded by many as the best example of Mughal architecture and a symbol of India’s rich history, designed with huge water fountains and sprawling gardens within its complex. It has multiple entry gates, each with massive arches with intricately carved writings inlaid in semi-precious stones. Make sure to have a guide with you to help you understand the many marvels that the Taj houses for the structure can look deceptively simple at first glance but if full of symmetry, optical illusions and many interesting tales in reality.
Visitors to the Taj have a lot to look forward to. From the beautiful sight of the Taj Mahal in sunset to relaxing in the complex gardens, visitors can enjoy a walk through in the beautiful Taj Nature Walk situated right outside the Taj or hop into one of the souvenir shops to pick from marble boxes and plates to miniature replicas of the Taj Mahal, intricately carved with stone inlays. There are several cafes and restaurants in the vicinity to grab a meal and enjoy a view of the Taj from the terrace if you happen to visit on a full moon night.
Opening hours: 6am- 7pm
2. Agra Fort
Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Agra Fort is a is situated on the right banks of the river Yamuns, close to the Taj Mahal. Built in the 16th century entirely of red sandstone, as was the fashion in earlier Mughal architecture, the fort was the home of the Mughal Emperor when Agra was the capital city of the Mughal empire.
Built by Emperor Akbar primarily as a military base with thick, high walls protecting the exterior of the complex, the fort was later modified by his son Shah Jahan to house some of the very important and beautifully made structures of the time. The Agra Fort, also known as the Red Fort, was home to the Diwan-e-aam (Hall of general audience), Diwan-e-khaas (Hall of private audiences) and Shish Mahal (Mirror Palace), a room studded with mirror mosaics.
Opening hours: 6am- 7pm
3. Itmad-ud-Daulah’s Tomb
Often describes as ‘baby Taj’ Itmad-ud-Daulah’s Tomb is considered the inspiration behind the architecture of The Taj Mahal. Built by Noor-e-Jahan, the wife of Emperor Jahangir, this tomb marked a shift the design aesthetics of the Mughals, moving away from their preference for red sandstone in favour of incorporating white marble and intricate stone inlays into the structures.
The tomb was commissioned by Noor-e-Jahan for her father Mirzā Ghiyās Beg who had been given the title of I’timād-ud-Daulah (pillar of the state). Mirzā Ghiyās Beg was also the grandfather of Mumtāz Mahāl, in whose memory the Taj Mahal was constructed. The structure comprises of the main tomb with several outhouses and gardens around it. It houses some of the most exquisite stone inlay work in floral designs, delicately twisting wines and intricate patterns in various hues.
4. Fatehpur Sikri
A walled city built primarily of red sandstone by the Mughal emperor Akbar, Fatehpur Sikri houses massive palaces and mosques within its compounds. Built to honour the prophecy of Sheikh Salim Chisti, whose prediction of the birth of a Mughal heir came true while Akbar was visiting the then city of Sikri, the monument houses several important structures.
The Buland Darwaza is a massive gate 55 meters tall (180ft in height) which gradually makes a transition to human scale on the inside of the monument. Overlooking the city, it was built in honour of a successful campaign in Gujarat. The main compound houses the Jama Masjid, one of the first structures to be built in the complex, along with the tomb of the Sufi saint Salim Chisti.
The Anup Talao is an ornamental pool within the monument with a central platform and four bridges leading up to it. Some of the important buildings of the royal enclave were built around it including Akbar’s residence Khwabgah (House of Dreams), Panch Mahal, a five-storey palace with levels of descending size, Diwan-i-Aam (Hall of Public Audience), Diwan-i-Khas (Hall of Private Audience) and Birbal’s House, one of Akbar’s most trusted ministers. The complex also houses three palaces for each of Akbar’s favourite wives, one a Hindu, one a Muslim and one a Christian, creating an Indo-Islamic influence on the design and architectural aesthetics.
This place is a must visit for a view of the lifestyle and working of the Mughal court and makes for a half day trip that is sure to leave a lasting impression on you.
5. Tomb of Akbar
Akbar was considered as one of the finest Mughal Emperor, his reign seen as a flouring time for artisans and craftsmen that saw the construction of some of the most splendid monuments that are considered a wonder till date. Built by his son Jahangir, The Tomb of Akbar is situated in Sikandra, Agra in a splendid structure of white marble and red sandstone, inlaid with floral stone work throughout. The tomb has four entrances, each with a tall archway and is surrounded with sprawling gardens. One can often spot deer and monkeys running round the garden, making this an ideal place to visit during the day.
Overall, Agra is one of the cities in India which has managed to move into the modern ear, with trendy cafes and fine dining restaurants, while preserving its culture and rich heritage in the form of its various monuments, a reminder of the India’s glorious past.