Agra - City of Taj Mahal
350 years after being constructed, the most famous building in the world, described by poet and Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore as "a teardrop on the face of eternity", still remains unmatched with its beauty, symmetry, majestic scale and exquisite detail
Whether you look at the Taj from a distance or up close, in the relative quiet of early morning, shrouded in mist in winter or bathed in the orange glow of the afternoon sun, it never fails to mesmerize the viewer. Set against the Yamuna Rriver and blue sky, it is a photographers’ delight. The white marble contrasts dramatically with the red sandstone of the mosque and the hue of its marble changes during the day with the position of the sun.
Agra is probably the one city that best defines India. It is not only home to the crown jewel of Indian architecture, but also displays all the problems of traffic, crowds, pollution and infrastructural inadequacies of an urban sprawl. However at the same time it also has a charm of its own.
The major Mughal monuments including the Taj Mahal are on the banks of the Yamuna River, on the city's eastern side. The area around the Taj is known as the Taj Gunj. On the north-west of Taj Gunj lies the beautifully constructed, red sandstone structure of Agra Fort, the second most important monument in Agra and one of the best preserved forts in India.
The historic city of Agra, largely identified as the seat of the Mughal power has a glorious history of being the centre of the rise and fall of many ruling dynasties of Medieval India. The city was founded by Sikandar Lodi, the ruler of the Delhi Sultanate around the early years of the 16th century which was ultimately overrun by the first Mughal Emperor Babur in 1526 after defeating Sikandar Lodi’s son Ibrahim Lodi.
Agra fell out of the Mughal control for a short period during Humayun’s reign when the city was taken over by the forces of Hemu, a Hindu warrior of the Suri Dynasty. However, the city was laer recovered by Emperor Akbar after his decisive victory against Hemu in the Second Battle of Panipat in 1556. Henceforth, Agra remained the capital of the Mughals until Shah Jahan shifted his capital to Old Delhi (then known as Shahjahanabad) in 1639.
Agra got its most famous monument under Shah Jahan who built the beautiful Taj Mahal near the river Yamuna in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal. It is rightly said that the strong passion behind the idea of building the monument is appropriately reflected in its astounding architecture and artistic decoration.
Sights to visit:
Taj Mahal (UNESCO Heritage): Situated on the banks of the river Yamuna, the Taj Mahal is a mausoleum built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan and dedicated to his third wife Mumtaz Mahal. The Taj Mahal is famous throughout the world as one of the most beautiful and everlasting expressions of love and devotion. This magnificent structure is recognized as an absolute visual delight for its aesthetic appeal and perfect architecture. It was declared UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 and is also one of the wonders of the world.
The structure is spread over an area of 42 acres and the notable features of the structure are its onion shaped dome (35 meters high) and its symmetrical minarets (40 meters tall) of white marble. Passages from the Quran, abstract forms, calligraphy and vegetative motifs have been used as decorative elements throughout the exterior of the structure which adds immensely to its beauty.
Agra Fort (UNESCO Heritage) :Located within two kilometers from the Taj Mahal, the Agra Fort is another splendid historical monument of Agra. The fort served as the residence of the Mughal Emperors like Akbar, Jahangir, Shah Jahan and Aurangazeb. Emperor Akbar is said to have directed a formal renovation of the fort in 1565 which was built before 1000 AD. Originally built in red sandstone, the fort was architecturally refurbished many times under the later Emperors and converted into a palace during the reign of Shah Jahan. It served almost as an enclosed city during the Mughal times.
Aram Bagh : Situated on the bank of Yamuna, Ram Bagh is a Mughal garden built by the Emperor Babur in 1528. Initially named Aram Bagh or the Garden of Relaxation, it is the oldest Mughal garden. Babur is said to have relaxed and eased at this place. He died here and his body was kept here before being shifted to Kabul. The garden was scientifically designed and maintained to give it a serene and fresh ambience where one can experience absolute tranquillity.
Tomb of Itimad Ud Daulah ( Baby Taj) : Built to represent a silver jewel box in marble, this mausoleum houses the body of Mirza Ghiyas Beg, the father of the Mughal Empress Noor Jahan. Begum Nur Jahan was the 20th and favorite wife of Mughal Emperor Jahangir, and the most famous Empress of the Mughal Empire. She was the true "power behind the throne" of Jahangir. Her father, Mirza Ghiyas Beg was appointed the Lord Treasurer of the Empire or Itmad-ud-Daulah.
The Roman Catholic Cemetery : In the quarter known as Padritollah, near the Law courts, lies one of the most ancient Christian cemeteries in India. The ground was granted to the mission by the Emperor Akbar. There are a number of Portuguese and Armenian tombs dating back to the early 17th century.
Wildlife SOS Elephant center (35 Km from Agra)
Wildlife SOS has established India’s first ever Chain-Free Elephant Care Centre in Mathura in association with the Uttar Pradesh Forest . No chains, bull hooks (ankush) or other cruel tools or implements to train the elephants are used at the center. The mahouts have been trained to manage the elephants with kindness and compassion and to allow the elephants to enjoy their newfound freedom
Wildlife SOS Bear rescue center (25 Km from Agra)
Run by Wildlife SOS the Agra Bear Rescue Facility works towards rescuing dancing bears and has been so successful that all dancing bears in India have been rescued. It is now open for visitors. They have just completed a new Education Conservation Walkway, the first of its kind in India.
Nearby Destinations :
Nearest Airport :New Delhi International Airport (235 km / 4 hrs)
Best time to visit and Climate :
Best time to visit Agra is during the winter & spring months when the weather is glorious. May and june months are extremely hot with the temperature crossing 40 degree celcius.
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