The City of Love – Agra – The Taj City
Modern day Agra city is situated on the banks of the Yamuna river in Uttar Pradesh, India. But, the Agra itself had been a very old settlement of human civilization dated back to Mahabharata Period i.e. somewhere in between 3102 BCE to 950 BCE or prior to that but the accurate period is not known to us, so far. However, at that time, it was known as the Agravana i.e.‘front of the forest’. During the time of Lord Krishna of Shurasena dynasty, it was maintained as an outpost at Agravana. In 2ndcentury AD, the Greek geographer ‘Ptolemy’referred to Agra by its modern name in his famous book the Geographia and placed it in his world map.
Agra has been a favorite tourist destination among Indian tourists and also for our guests from abroad. Besides, Mathura– the birth place of Lord Krishna and Vrindavan, some World Heritage Sites declared by UNESCO like the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri attracts so many tourists to this region.
The Agra, Delhi and Jaipur have been considered as Golden Triangle tourist circuit. While the Agra along with Lucknow and Varanasi has been included in the Uttar Pradesh Heritage Arc.
The Agra is also covered in the Braj cultural region along with the Mathura and Vrindavan.
Best Time to visit Agra:
From November to Mid-March:
This is the best time to visit the entire area. The temperature ranges between 8°C and 14°C. Sometimes it drops down to 1-2°C when the chilly wave continues to blow in the entire Gangetic plain of Northern India.
From Mid-March to June:
The day temperature hovers between 25°C and 45°C during the season. One can visit the city to explore nearby areas but the temperature became the main villain in the entire plan so be careful while choosing the best time to visit.
From July to November:
The Golden Triangle area receives less rainfall as compared to its surrounding regions due to its location in the semi-arid region during July to September. The temperature started decreasing from the October onwards when days are warm but dawn and dusks become more comfortable for sightseeing.
How To Reach to Agra
Air India and its subsidiary, Alliance Air, fly to Agra airport. Zoom Air also commences its flight operations from Agra Airport to Jaisalmer and Delhi. Indigo Airways has also planned to start its flights from Bangalore, Bhopal, Lucknow and Varanasi to Agra Airport.
Agra has 6 Railway Stations viz. Agra Cantonment Railway Station, Agra Fort Railway Station, Agra City Railway Station, Raja Ki Mandi Railway Station, Idgah Railway Station and Yamuna Bridge Railway Station. So, Agra is well connected with major cities of India through Rail network. Besides Express and Superfast trains, Agra is also connected with Gatimaan Express (Semi-high speed train) and Shatabdi Train.
Agra has 4 Bus Depot viz. Inter-State Bus Terminal (I.S.B.T.), Idgah Bus Stand, Taj Depot and Fort Depot which connects it to most of the bigger cities in northern India.
From Delhi, Ghaziabad, NOIDA it is connected with Yamuna Expressway and through National Highways. While, it connected with Lucknow through Agra-Lucknow Expressway.
What to see in Agra & Near By:
Taj Mahal, Taj Nature Walk, Agra Fort, Mehtab Bagh, Tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah & Kinari Bazar, Fatehpur Sikri, Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, Lohagarh Fort etc.
Day 1: From Delhi to Agra & Visit –
Taj Mahal, Taj Nature Walk, Agra Fort, Mehtab Bagh, Tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah & Kinari Bazar
The Taj Mahal, an icon of love, built by ShahJahan in the memory of his beloved wife Arjumand Banu or Mumtaz Mahal. It is personified as a symbol of undying love. English poet Sir Edwin Arnold describes it as “Not a piece of architecture, as other buildings are, but the proud passion of an emperor’s love wrought in living stones.” It is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, and one of the three World Heritage Sites in Agra. Agra is commonly identified as the “City of Taj”.
Completed after 22 years of construction, in 1653, the Taj Mahal is one of the India’s many beautiful monuments and is set amidst landscaped gardens. Ustad Isa was its Persian architect. It was built on a marble platform that stands above a sandstone one. The most elegant dome of the Taj Mahal has a diameter of 60 feet (18 m) and rises to a height of 80 feet (24 m); directly under this dome is the tomb of Mumtaz Mahal. Shah Jahan’s tomb was erected next to hers by his son Aurangzeb. The interiors are decorated with fine inlay work, incorporating semi-precious stones.
Viewing of the Taj Mahal is usually from sunrise to sunset (6 a.m.–7 p.m.) except Fridays. Night viewing of the Taj Mahal is only allowed on five nights of the month: the night of the full moon and two days before and after.
Taj Nature Walk
The Taj Nature walk or Mughal Heritage Walk is located just 500 meters away from the eastern gate of Taj Mahal. It is a one-kilometre loop where you can walk around and view of the Taj from various angles, especially four main points from where you can see the Taj in the background. It connects the agricultural fields with the Rajasthani culture, river bank connected with the ancient village of Kuchhpura etc. It opens from 6 a.m.to 7 p.m.
The Agra Fort or Red Fort stands on an ancient site which was traditionally known as Badalgarh. It was captured by Ghaznavi for some time but in the 15th century, the Chauhan Rajputs occupied it. The Sikandar Lodi (1487–1517) shifted his capital from Delhi and constructed a few buildings in the pre-existing Fort at Agra. Mughals captured the fort after the first battle of Panipat (1526). In 1530, Humayun was crowned in it. The Akbar renovated the Fort and commissioned it in 1565. It is a UNESCO’s World Heritage Site.
ShahJahan again demolished some parts and converted this part into a palace and reworked extensively with marble and pietradura inlay. This red sandstone and marble architecture exude power and grandiosity.
Notable buildings in the fort include the Pearl Mosque or Moti Masjid, the Diwan-e-Am and Diwan-e-Khas (halls of public and private audience), Jahangir’s Khas Mahal and Shish Mahal (mirrored palace).
The forbidding exteriors of this fort conceal an inner paradise. The fort is crescent-shaped, flattened on the east with a long, nearly straight wall facing the river. It has a total perimeter of 2.4 kilometres (1.5 mi), and is ringed by double castellated ramparts of red sandstone punctuated at regular intervals by bastions. A moat 9 metres (30 ft) wide and 10 metres (33 ft) deep surround the outer wall.
The Amar Singh gate or Lahore Gate, which was originally built to confuse attackers with its dogleg design, is now the sole point of entry into the fort. It is open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Mehtab bagh is a char-bagh (four gardens) complex, constructed just opposite to the Taj Mahal. It is considered as ultimate viewing point of the magnificent marble mausoleum. The garden is open from sunrise to sunset and is considered a photographer’s heaven because it is the point from which you can take some unique photographs of the Taj with a gorgeous backdrop.
Tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah
The Empress Nur Jahan built it for her father Mirza Ghiyas Beg, the Chief Minister of the Emperor Jahangir. It is sometimes called the “Baby Taj”. The mausoleum is set in a large cruciform garden, criss-crossed by water courses and walkways.
Because of its small appearance, it is sometimes described as a jewel box. Its garden layout and use of white marble, pietradura (cut-out stone work) inlay designs and latticework, are considered as model or a draft of the Taj Mahal.
Kinari Bazar is located in the narrow streets behind Jama Masjid, where multitudes of colorful little shops spill over, women bargain and cars dodge one another. This is the place where some of the finest jewelry in Agra, as well as fabric, clothing, shoes, authentic snack stalls, and Agra’s famous marble-work can be found. It opens from 11:00 a.m. to 6 p.m.
It is a cultural festival that was started in the year 1992. A large number of Indian and foreign tourists coming to Agra join this Mahotsav in the month of February (18 to 27). One of the objectives of this craft fair is to provide encouragement to the artisans. The works of art and craft are available at reasonable prices.
Day 2: Fatehpur Sikri, Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, Lohagarh Fort & Return to Delhi.
The Fatehpur Sikri was built by the Akbar at a distance of 35 km (22 mi) from Agra and moved his capital there. This place was later abandoned but the site displays a number of buildings of significant historical importance. It is a World Heritage Site and often visited by tourists.
In 1601, the Mughal Emperor Akbar built a Buland Darwaza or ‘the lofty gateway’ at Fatehpur Sikri to commemorate his victory over Gujarat. It is approached by 52 steps. It is 53.63 metres (175.95 feet) high and 35 metres (115 feet) wide. It is made of red and buff sandstone, decorated by carving and black and white marble inlays. An inscription on the central face of the Buland Darwaza demonstrates a message from the Jesus advising his followers not to consider this world as their permanent home.
Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary
The Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary is knowned as Keoladeo National Park or Keoladeo Ghana National Park situated in Bharatpur, Rajasthan, India. This avifauna sanctuary hosts thousands of birds. Over 230 species of birds are known to be resident. During the winter season, many migratory birds visited this Sanctuary every year which attracts many tourists and ornithologists. It is also a World Heritage Site.
Keoladeo Ghana National Park is a man-made and man-managed wetland. The 29 square kilometer (11 sq mi) reserve is locally known as Ghana. It is a mosaic of dry grasslands, woodlands, woodland swamps and wetlands. These diverse habitats are home to 366 bird species, 379 floral species, 50 species of fish, 13 species of snakes, 5 species of lizards, 7 amphibian species, 7 turtle species and a variety of other invertebrates.
Every year thousands of migratory waterfowl visit the park for breeding. The sanctuary is one of the richest bird areas in the world and is known for nesting of resident birds and visiting migratory birds including water birds. The rare Siberian cranes used to spend their winter in this park but this central population is now extinct. According to founder of the World Wildlife Fund Peter Scott, Keoladeo National Park is one of the world’s best bird areas.
Lohagarh Fort (or Iron Fort)
Lohagarh Fort or Iron Fort is situated at Bharatpur, Rajasthan, India. It was constructed by the Maharaja Suraj Mal. It is one of the strongest forts ever built in Indian history.
Of the two gates in the fort, the one in the north is known as Ashtdhaatu (eight metalled) gate while the one facing the south is called Chowburja (four-pillared) gate. The inaccessible Lohagarh fort could withstand repeated attacks of British forces led by Lord Lake in 1805 when they laid siege for over six weeks.
The fort has some monuments like Kishori Mahal, Mahal Khas and Kothi Khas. Moti Mahal and towers like Jawahar Burj and Fateh Burj were erected to commemorate the victory over the Mughals and the British army.
Return to Delhi.