Agra, a name synonymous with the Taj Mahal, is the city that holds one of the most splendid monuments ever built. A golden dot on the map of Uttar Pradesh, Agra completes the face of India. It is a city with a rustic charm, a center of art, culture, and learning. Majestic buildings of historical importance, flourishing arts and crafts and the delicious Mughal cuisine make Agra a top-notch tourist attraction in India. About 200 kilometers south to New Delhi, the national capital, it is a place that can give you a hundred overwhelming memories.
The history of Agra largely reflects the Mughal monarchy. It is a lively and bounty civilization in itself, with the cultural and religious influence inherited from time. Much is said about Agra’s roots but it is generally accepted that Agra was founded by Sultan Sikandar Lodi in the year 1504. He was ably succeeded by his son Ibrahim Lodi until he finally fell to Babar in the Battle of Panipat in 1526. It was the beginning of the Mughal supremacy and golden time in the history of Agra. It remained the capital of the Mughal Empire under the Emperors- Akbar, Jehangir, and Shahjahan. Babar was the one to lay the foundation of a formal Persian garden on the banks of river Yamuna. Architectural marvels were added by Akbar, his grandson, in the form of the Red Fort and a religious city Fatehpur Sikri in the outskirts of Agra, which was then called as Akbarabad. But it was Shahjahan, Akbar’s grandson who gave Agra the Taj Mahal, a mausoleum that built in the loving memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal. It is this monument that can enchant you just in a glance.
The Taj Mahal is known as the epitome of love and a monument that represents the glory of Mughal architecture beyond limits. It is called the Jewel of the Muslim art in India. The construction of the Taj Mahal began in the year 1632 and in a period of 22 years it was completed. Thousands of craftsmen and artisans were employed who worked under the supervision of regal architects. The entire monument is built in detailed symmetry and eternal design.
The marble tomb is the centre of attraction of the Taj and is topped by a large dome and a finial. The tomb is surrounded by minarets that incline outwards to protect the main tomb from damage in case of a collapse. Inside this tomb, the sarcophagus of Mumtaz Mahal rests in peace beside that of Shahjahan. Ismail Afandi was the architect of the main tomb. He was a Turkish designer of the Ottoman Empire. The exterior of the Taj has been decorated with quotes from the Quran inscribed calligraphically. This trend has been used throughout the complex as decoration. The interior of the Taj was decorated with gems and semi precious stones. The glistening white marble was transported from Makrana, Rajasthan, the jade and crystals from China while the jasper from Punjab. Precious stones were imported from Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Tibet and Arabia. There are other mausoleums of Shahjahan’s other wives and Mughal mosques in the premise. They are mostly made of red stone and are built in the typical Mughal style. The Mughal gardens surrounding the complex add up to the beauty. The Taj is open to the public from 6 A.M to 7 P.M but remains closed on Fridays.
The Agra Fort is another magnificent building in Agra. Spanning an area of 94 acres, the fort is surrounded by seventy feet tall walls. The construction of the fort was undertaken by Akbar. The fort had been laid out in a proportionate, semi circular plan. There is a moat about the fort. To reach the mainland a wooden drawbridge was used. Four gates were constructed on the four sides of the fort and they lead into its premise. The Delhi gate is the grandest of the four. The inlay work has been done exclusively in white marble and is yet another proof of royal Mughal architecture. However, it is not open to the public due to security reasons. This masterpiece was built during the time of Akbar and kept the fort secured. Aurangzeb, Shahjahans son, imprisoned him in this fort until Shahjahans death. Aurangzeb had Shahjahan buried beside his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal in the Taj Mahal.
The fort has many spots that attract a tourists attention. The Diwan-i-Khas and the Diwan-i-Aam, the Anguri Bagh (grape garden), the Jehangir Mahal, the Rang Mahal, the Khas Mahal and the Sheesh Mahal are some of the main attractions. The interesting mix of the Hindu and Muslim architecture makes it a unique example of culture influences.
Agra also offers other worth visiting tourist destinations like Sikandra, Itmad-ud-Dauha’s tomb, the Jama Masjid, and the Mehtab Bagh. Emperor Akbar’s tomb is situated at Sikandra. The construction of the tomb was started by Akbar but completed by his son Jehangir. The Itmad-ud-Dauha tomb was constructed by Jehangir’s wife, Nur Jahan, in the memory of her father. It is also called as the baby Taj. Jama Masjid is a gigantic mosque which is famous due to its unusual dome and the absence of minarets. Mehtab Bagh is a botanical garden that offers a spectacular views of the Taj, away from the ruckus of the city. But it is wise to stay alert because touts can create a problem for newcomers.
If you plan a visit to Agra in February, you are likely to have a good experience as the Taj Mahotsav (festival) is hosted every year in mid of February. It is a ten-day festival which is held near the Taj and is an engaging event. When in Agra, do not forget to taste the Chaat (spicy snack of different types), Agras famous Petha (sweet), and Dal Moth (a spicy mix of lentils). The Petha and Dal Moth are the most popular souvenirs. Leather goods, stone products, and jewelry are other specialties of Agra. Bargain hard and buy smartly! It is amusing to shop in Agra as you can buy a lot of things at reasonable prices if you are good at bargaining.
Agra is a pleasing destination, a complete parcel of fun, excitement, and most of all, beauty!