Agra is famous as being home to one of the seven wonders of the world-the Taj Mahal. The architectural splendour of the mausoleums, the fort and the palaces is a vivid remainder of the mausoleums, the fort and the palaces is a vivid reminder of the capital in the 16th and early 17th centuries.
While its significance as a political centre ended with the transfer of the capital to Delhi in 1634 by Shah Jahan, its architectural wealth has secured its place on the international map.
A pleasant town with comparatively slow pace, Agra is known for its superb inlay work on marble and soastone by craftsman who are descendant of those who worked under the Mughals. The city is also famous for its carpets, gold thread embroidery and leather shoes.
Agra was once the capital of the Mughal empire and even today it seems to linger in the past . Not surprising , for the Mughal emperors with their passion for building, endowed the city with some of the finest structures in the world . It is very easy to slip away here through the centuries into the grandeur and intrigues of the Mughal court .
Agra is an old city and it is said that its name was derived from Agrabana, a forest that finds mention in the epic Mahabharata. In more recent times Agra came into prominence when Sikandar Lodi made it his capital city in 1501 . The Lodi rule was to end very soon and Agra passed into the possession of the Mughals .
It was during the time of the third emperor Akbar that Agra came into its own . He embarked on the construction of the massive Agra Fort in 1565. Though Akbar was diverted into building a new capital at Fatehpur sikri not far away. Agra continued to retain its importance and Shah Jehan, Akbar's garndson ornamented the city with that masterpiece of Mughal architecture - the Taj Mahal and built several other beautiful buildings within the Agra fort .
PLACES OF INTEREST
(KM FROM MALL)
Taj Mahal (3 Km): The inimitable poem in white marble is the finest expression of love of an emperor for his queen situated on the banks of the river Yamuna. It was built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan for his queen Mumtaz Mahal, in 1632.
Agra Fort: Built by the great Emperor Akbar in 1565 A.D., the fort is a masterpiece of design and construction. Within the fort are a number of exquisite buildings, including the Moti Masjid, Diwane-i-Am, Diwane-i-Khas and Musamman Burj, where the Emperor Shah Jahan died in imprisonment, besides Jahangir's Palace, Khaas Mahal and the Sheesh Mahal.
Itmad-Ud-Daulah's Tomb(6 Km): The tomb was built by Empress Noor Jahan, in memory of her father, Ghias-ud-Din Beg in 1622-25A.D. This ornate tomb is considered a precursor of the Taj Mahal, this small garden tomb reflects the taste and sophistication of the gifted queen. The warm yellow marble is highlighted with white and black marble inlay, and the lacey pierced marble screens and rich, jewel-inlaid mosaics have a delicate, feminine quality that is pure enchantment.
Sikandara(12 Km): The tomb of Akbar, begun by the Emperor himself and completed by his son, Jehangir. This richly decorated structure is a quaint mixture of styles. The emperor began to build his own garden mausoleum during his lifetime, a red sandstone monument in a chahar-bagh or 4 square-formal garden. A magnificent marble-inlaid gateway leads up to the open, airy, four-tiered structure which is topped by a white marble cenotaph and screen on the fifth storey. This was added by Shahjehan who completed the mausoleum after his father's death.
Radhaswamy Samadhi, Dayalbagh:This highly ornate memorial to the founder of the Radhaswamy sect has been in the making for several years and is still being worked upon. It is entirely in marble, upon which every manner of ornamentation has been applied.
Jama Masjid: Of specific importance due to its assimilation of Iranian architectural elements, it was built in 1648 A.D. by Emperor Shah Hahan's daughter, Jahanara Begum.
Mariyam's Tomb(13 Km): Built for Emperors Akbar's Goan Wife Mariyam in 1611 A.D., the tomb has exceptional carvings. Finished in red sandstone.
Chini-Ka-Roza(7 Km): The tomb of Allama Afzel Khal Mullah of Shiraz is a memorial to the poet-scholar, who later become the Prime Minister of Emperor Shah Jahan. The surface of the tomb is decorated with glazed tiles.
Ram Bagh(8 Km):The earliest example of a Mughal garden, was created by the founder of the dynasty, Emperor Babur.
Fatehpur Sikri( 37 Km): The founding of Fatehpur Sikri reads like a fairy tale. When all else had failed, Emperor Akbar came here in search of the renowned Sufi mystic, Sheikh Salim Chishti, to ask the blessing of a son. His prayer was heard, and soon a son was born. In honour of the saint, Akbar named the prince Salim and vowed to found a new city. And so Fatehpur Sikri, a magnificent new city rose on the craggy hills 40 Kms from Agra.
Today Fatehpur Sikri is a deserted, phantom city. But the inner citadel is immaculately preserved. Its walls, palaces, baths, royal mint, courts and gardens still stand in splendid homage to great visionary and builder.
Bhartpur Bird Sanctuary(60 Km):Also known as Keoladeo Ghana National Park, India's most renowned waterbird sanctuary lying in the neighbouring state of Rajasthan, is the winter home of the rare Siberian Crane. Approachable from Agra by road, a variety of accommodation is available, within and outside the National Park. (Season - October to February)
Sur Surover (Keeetham Lake)(23 Km): This 2.5 sq.km lake, surrounded by the Surdas Reserve Forest, harbours a variety of fish and waterbirds and is popular picnic spot. Bus services are available upto Runkata 3 Km away.
Firozabad(44 Km):An important handicrafts and industrial center renowned for glass ware, especially glass bangles.
Aligarh(83 Km):A famous university town and age-old centre of learning, specially for Islamic studies. Aligarh is also an important centre for handicrafts and metalware, especially locks.
Bateshwar(70 Km):A temple town, whose presiding deity is Lord Shiva. A huge cattle fair is organized from mid-October to mid-November. It is also a pilgrimage center for Jains.
Mathura-Vrindavan:Mathura, on the banks of the River Yamuna, is celebrated as the birth place of Krishna, and the groves and ghats of nearby Brindaban with its thousands of shrines and temples still echo with stories and songs that recount the exploits of this charming god.
REACHING AGRA:Kheria Airport is 8 Km from Agra. From the International Airport a Delhi, Agra is 220 Km. Flights connect Agra to Delhi, Khajuraho and Varanasi. Express trains also halt at Agra. A special air conditioned luxury train, the Taj Express, commutes between Delhi and Agra. It leaves Delhi in the morning to return at night. Breakfast and meals are served in the dining car on the Express. Agra is also linked to Delhi by Shatabadi Express (Journey time-2 Hrs) & Intercity Express (3 Hrs). The Shatabadi Express links Agra to Gwalior, Jhansi & Bhopal.
Connecting air conditioned, deluxe and ordinary coach tours are available from the Agra Cantt railway station. You can drive the 220 Km from Delhi to Agra in air conditioned cars which can be hired in Delhi. The ITDC Kosi Restaurant and Haryana Tourism's Dabchick Tourist Complex make convenient half-way stops.
There is an excellent bus service from Delhi to Agra and back each day. During the season, ITDC and UPSTDC operate package tours from Delhi. The best time to go to Agra is during winter when the weather is pleasantly sunny. Agra is well connected to following cities by Deluxe Buses, Taxies (AC Music Channels) for Jaipur, Mathura, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Chitorgarh and Alwar. Taxis are also available for Vrindawan Dham & Bharatpur famous for Bird Sanctuary.