AGRA TOURISM GUIDE
Location: 58-km From Mathura, Uttar Pradesh
Founded By: Sikandar Lodhi one of the rulers of Lodhi dynasty founded Agra 1504 and made it his capital
Established In: 1475
Main Attractions: Taj Mahal, Agra Fort
There are very few cities in the world that can match the history and heritage of Agra – the city of Taj Mahal. Located at a distance of 204 km south of Delhi, Agra is the single most famous tourist destination of India. Situated on the west bank of River Yamuna, Agra is a part of the great Norther Indian plains. The architectural splendor of the city is reflected in the glorious monuments of medieval India built by great Mughals who ruled India for more than 300 years. In the mid 16th century and earlier 17th century, Agra witnessed a frenzied building activity and it was during this time when the symbol of love Taj Mahal was built. The buildings made during this era were purely in the contemporary Mughal style and of very high quality which is still reflected in what ever monuments remain in Agra.
History of Agra
Agra, the city of Taj was established in 1475 by Badal Singh. Agra finds mention in the Mahabharata as Agraban. Agra city in those days was considered to be the sister city of Mathura which was more prominent than Agraban. Agra came into its own when the Lodhi Kings chose this place beside the Yamuna to be their capital city. Sikander Lodhi made Agra his capital but Babar defeated the Lodhis to capture not only Agra but also laid the foundation of the Mughal empire
The coming of Babar heralded a new era which was to see Agra at its zenith during the reign of Akbar, Jehangir and Shah Jahan. It was during Akbar’s period that Agra became the center of art, culture, and commerce and learning. This trend reached its height when Shah Jahan became the ruler.
In the mid 16th century and earlier 17th century Agra witnessed a frenzied building activity and it was during this time when the symbol of love Taj Mahal was built. The buildings made during this era were purely in the contemporary Mughal style and of very high quality which is still reflected in what ever monuments remain in Agra.The narrow lanes of Agra filled with the aroma of Mughlai cuisine, the craftsman who are busy in crating master pieces with their skill all remind of the Mughal royalty which this city had once experienced. Today whatever remains, has become a major tourist attraction which has taken Agra again to the heights of glory but this time as a major tourist destination of India.
The City of the Taj – Unesco World Heritage Centre
Agra – The city known for the famous monument of love – the Taj Mahal. Taj Mahal was constructed by the Mughal Emperor, Shah Jehan. It is said he built this monument in the memory of his beloved wife Mumtaj Mahal. The Taj Mahal is ethereal at any part of the day – blushing in the rosy glow of dawn or sunset, appearing like a pearly mirage in the moonlight or reflected in the pools of the garden. Perhaps the most moving view of the Taj is from an octagonal tower in the Agra Fort further along the river Yamuna.
Best Places to Visit in Agra
Must See Mughal-Era Monuments of Agra:
The Taj Mahal: Even as the world is caught in the skirmishes of War & peace, Nuclear and Non-Nuclear; Taj has stood as the epitome of love. This extravagant monument of love is one of the most visited and most photographed places in the world. Taj Mahal was built by Shah Jahan in the memory of his beautiful wife Mumtaz Mahal. Taj Mahal was the culmination point of Indo-Persian architecture. The Mughals Emperor was always fond of constructing monuments. Perhaps they knew that they would be gone but these structures will remind the world of their grandeur.
Agra Red Fort: Agra which lies on the west bank of river Jamuna became one of the principal cities of the Mughal Empire after the death of Ibrahim Lodi at Panipat in 1526. When Akbar chooses Agra as his capital he laid the foundation of the Fort of Agra. After Taj, this was one of the most important groups of buildings. The construction was started in 1565 and was completed in about eight years at a cost of thirty-five lakh of rupees under the superintendence of Qasim Khan Mir Barr-u-Bahr. This fort was just one of the many large fortified residences that the emperor wanted to have at various strategic points of his empire. According to contemporary chroniclers like Abul Fazal, the fort contained over five hundred buildings. But later on, Akbar’s descendants added new buildings, mainly in marble to the fort and demolished the old ones.
This tomb belongs to the father of Nur Jahan, Ghias-ud-Din Beg. He was the Wajir or the Chief Minister of Emperor Jehangir. This white marble tomb was built by Nur Jahan between 1622 and 1628. The tomb may not be as mammoth as the Taj but the inlay designs and carvings are no less than Taj if not more. The delicate marble latticework in the passages allows the light to enter the interiors. A similar tomb was built by Nur Jahan for Jehangir in Lahore. This tomb was the first complete marble Moghul structure.
Chini-Ka-Rauza Agra: A tomb of glazed tiles is a memorial dedicated to poet-scholar and later the Prime Minister of Shah Jahan, Allama Afzel Khal Mullah Shukrullah of Shiraz.
Jama Masjid Or Jami Masjid Agra: Built by Shah Jahan in 1648, the main gate of this mosque has an inscription written on it that it was built by Jahanara Begum. She was the favorite daughter of Shah Jahan and was imprisoned with him. The absence of minarets and the shape of the dome give sit a distinguished character.
This was built by Akbar for his favorite son Jehangir to provide him with the comfort and luxury inside the fort. This palace displays an excellent combination of Hindu and Muslim architecture
Ram Bagh in Agra: Bagh-i-Gul Afshan or Ram Bagh is one of the earliest gardens of Mughal empire. Originally this garden was set up by Babur but it was later on renovated and renamed by Jehangir as Bagh-i-Nur Afshan. This garden is situated on the southern side of the riverine Sarai of Nur Jehan. Babur introduced in this garden three terraces. The water, which was drawn from the river, descended from one terrace to another after flowing through a network of canals, tanks, and water chutes. Each water chutes had stairs on both sides and ends in a red sandstone pond. To add to the beauty of the garden apart from the various water device platforms, pathways, Chhatris and a variety of plants were provided at regular intervals. During Jehangir’s reign, two beautiful suites on the two sides of the main terrace were built. In the center, a Mah-tab or island platform was built which was connected with the main water system. This gorgeous garden set on the riverbank is a typical example of Mughal pleasure garden.
Octagonal Tower Agra The Musamman Burj, or Octagonal Tower, stands close to the Diwan-I-Khas and the small, private Mina Masjid. Also known as the Saman Burj, this tower was built by Shah Jahan for Mumtaz Mahal and is another of his finely designed buildings. It was here, with its views along the Yamuna to the Taj, that Shah Jahan died in 1666, after seven years’ imprisonment. Unfortunately, the tower has been much damaged over the years.
Dayal Bagh Temple in Agra: In Dayal Bagh, 10 km north of Agra. The white marble Samadhi of the Radha Soami religion is currently under construction. It was started in 1904 and is nor expected to be completed until sometime next century. You can see Pietra Dura inlaid marblework actually being worked on. Dayal Bagh is 2km north of Agra and can be reached by bus or cycle.
Excursions From Agra / Places Around Agra
Fatehpur Sikri: 37 km from Agra, is built a city predominantly in Red Sandstone called Fatehpur Sikri. This town was built by the Mughal Emperor Akbar. He had planned this city as his capital but a shortage of water compelled him to abandon the city and within 20 years the capital of Mughals was shifted to Lahore. Fatehpur Sikri was built during 1571 and 1585. The city is a fine example of the culmination of Mughal and Hindu architecture. Any visitor to Agra must have a go at Fatehpur Sikri. Fatehpur Sikri mosque was said to be built in lines of the holy mosque in Mecca. Entrance to the mosque is through the Buland Darwaza that is 54m high.
Sikandra: Sikandara, the place where the remains of Akbar the Great are interred, is situated some six miles to the north-west of Agra on the Delhi and Lahore road. It was founded by Sikandar Lodi in 1504 when he shifted his capital from Delhi to the vicinity of Agra in order to be nearer to the eastern provinces of his kingdom. It was at Sikandara that Akbar decided to have his mausoleum and hence it was renamed “Bihishtabad” or the “Heavenly Abode”. Akbar wanted his mausoleum to be in the center of a large garden. Like his administration, it was to be of solid construction and like his empire, it was to be of vast proportions
This structure has a perfect blending of Hindu, Christian, Islamic, Buddhist, Jain motifs. The blending is much like the religion, Deen Ilahi, which Akbar started. But Akbar died before his mausoleum could be completed and his son Jehangir completed it.
Mathura: which is one of the major Pilgrimage for the Hindus is 58 Kms from Agra. It comes before Agra if traveling from Delhi. Today the small town of Lord Krishna has grown and the place has a population of almost 3 lakh people.
Vrindavan: Vrindavan, around 15 km from Mathura, is a major place of pilgrimage, on the banks of Yamuna . Attracting about 5 lakhs pilgrims every year, it is noted for its numerous temples- both old and modern. Vrindavan is synonymous with the innocent mirth and child like the playfulness of Shri Krishna. Vrindavan, the dusty little town known for the temples, big and small, famous and remote strewn all over the place.
National Chambal Wildlife Sanctuary: The National Chambal Sanctuary, located in Etawah, near Agra is spread over an area of 635 sq. km. Established in 1979, the park has a rare collection of exotic rarely found species. The unusual Gangetic dolphin is the main attraction of the National Chambal sanctuary. The sanctuary is presently a part of a large area co-administered by Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.
Ram Bagh: When Babur came to India he laid the first Mughal gardens 500 m North of the Chini Ka Rauza. These well-laid gardens are not even a fraction of what they used to be. It will need lots of imagination to picture how these gardens must have looked in 1558.
Fairs and Festivals in Agra
The Taj Mahotsav : One of the most awaited cultural festivals in India is the Taj Mahotsav. The festival is organized during February. This ten day extravaganza is held in the Shilpgram close to the Taj. Taj Mahotsav brings the extensive arts, crafts and culture of India on display. This festival has the classical dance and classical song performances by some of the well known artists in India. Mushairas and ghazal programmes add to the colour of the festival. Camel and elephant rides accompanied by games and delicacies attract children and elders in equal numbers.
Bateshwar Fair: Situated at a distance of 70 km. from Agra on the banks of river Yamuna, Bateshwar is an important spiritual and cultural centre and also the birthplace of the Prime Minister of India, Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Rambarat: The marriage procession of Sri Ram called as ‘Rambarat’ is held every year, during Ramlila celebrations at Agra.
Kailash Fair: The Kailash fair is held at Kailash, 12 kms from Agra during the months of August-September. more…
GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT AGRA
Best Places for Shopping in Agra
Agra is not only a famous tourist destination but is a shoppers paradise too. There are plenty of shopping areas and shopping malls where one can buy the specialties of the place. Agra is famous for the Taj Mahal made out of Marble, the markets are bound to have a replica of the Taj in marble being sold as decorative, gift item or as souvenirs. But all that looks is not marble. There is one stone called Talk. This stone is cheap and looks like marble only difference being that marble is opaque and talk is not. So, while purchasing any marble item make sure that you are buying the original thing.
Agra is also famous for the leather items. Agra is the hub of hand made leather items. Particularly the Agra jail inmates make these items which are sold to give them decent earning. The local artisans are also good at making leather chappals (sandals), purses, bags, decorative items and much more such leather product which instantaneously attracts your attention. In the handicraft craft emporiums and shops, there are sandals and rose wood items even though there are no rose or sandal wood forests nearby. The shops also have brass decorative pieces and stone carved images. Agra is also famous for the Zari and embroidery work, Stone inlay work and durries.
The main shopping areas in Agra include the Taj Mahal complex, Kinari Bazaar, Raja Mandi, Sadar Bazaar. the Gangotri at Taj Mahal Complex and the Up Handlooms, UPICA at the Sanjay place are two UP Government emporiums.
Best Hotels in Agra
Agra is one of the major tourist destination, where international tourist inflow is also quite good. So the options of luxurious accommodations are plenty. If you are a budget travellers, there are numerous tourist lodges as well mid-range hotels in Agra.
Tourist Information Centres
- The government Of India Tourist Office – 191, the Mall, Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India.
- UP State Tourism Development Corporation – Tourist Bungalow, Raja-ki- Mandi, Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India.
- UP State Tourism Development Corporation – Tourist Bungalow, Raja-ki- Mandi, Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India.
- Tourist Information Center – UP tourist office, 64 Taj Road, Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India
- Tourist Information Counter – Agra Cantonment Railway Station, Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India
How to Reach Agra By Air, Rail & Road?
Air: Agra is one of the hottest tourist destinations in India and all facilities have been provided for the easy access to this place. It has its own airport which connects Agra with all the major places in India. The Agra airport or the Kheria airport has all the major domestic airlines having their services to this place of the Taj.
Rail: Agra is a major railway station with almost all the trains to south India, Mumbai and many trains to Calcutta stopping here. Agra city is visited by the “Palace on Wheels” .The Rajdhani and Shatabdi trains have also their stoppage in Agra. The city is well connected by trains to almost every corner of the nation.
Road: Agra has the National Highway Numbers 2, 3, 11 passing through it. So the premier tourist destination of India, Agra is also well linked by bus services to other places in the State as well as outside the state. The state transports have deluxe as well as ordinary bus services for the place. There are conducted tours which take tourist not only to Agra, but the near by tourist spots too.