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Agra, the antiquity of Mughals

Updated: Jul 10, 2023

Geographic Location: The historically important Agra is situated in the Ganges – Yamuna plains in western Uttar Pradesh, the Indian State. It is about 56 KM from Mathura, 233 KM South – East from Delhi, and 365 km North – West of Lucknow.

Access: This place is very well connected by road with Delhi (233 KM), Kanpur (77 KM), and Lucknow (330 KM), which is the capital of Uttar Pradesh. From Lucknow, you can reach by driving through Agra Lucknow Expressway, a 302 KM long 6-lane highway, via Kannauj and Etawah. From Delhi, this place can be accessed by traveling through NH19 via Palwal, Hodal, Kosi, Kalan, Mathura, and Farah. Driving through Yamuna Expressway via Noida and Greater Noida is another option.

Gwalior Airport of Madhya Pradesh is the nearest airport, and it is 120 KM far from Agra. Delhi Airport is the nearest international airport, which has connectivity with all other airports in India. Delhi Airport is about 229 KM from this place via Yamuna Expressway.

In and around Agra, there are several railway stations, such as Agra Cantonment, Tundla, Agra City, Agra Fort, Idgah Agra Junction, and Raja-ki-Mandi, which are controlled by the Agra Division, North Central Railways network. These stations have connectivity by railways with other major railheads like Howrah, Mumbai, New Delhi, etc.

Brief Facts: A major tourist destination in the middle part of India, Agra is a vibrant historical, religious, and mercantile center for the last 500 years. It is located in the rich alluvial plains between the great Ganges and Yamuna rivers. Mughals made it their home in the 15th century, and it was the capital of Mughal Emperors from 1556 to 1648. Since then, it has become a very prominent and significant part of Indian History. But as per archaeological evidence, its history goes back more than 1000 years, although the history of Agra before the Mughal conquerors is inexact. After the Mughal era, Agra signifies the Mughal's antiquity only. The historical place is all about their reign & legacy, their sculpture & architecture, their music & cuisine, and eventually, for all these aspects, Agra has become a coliseum where an entire range of human emotions have been playing out over the years.

It is also included in the Golden Triangle Heritage tourist circuit along with Jaipur and Delhi having a distance of about 240 KM and 231 KM, respectively.

Best Time to Visit: Throughout the calendar year, travellers visit here. But October to March is the best time. During the summer, it is scorching hot here, and the temperature reaches up to 42 – 46 °C. Winter is comparatively comfortable when the temperature fluctuates from 10 °C to 25 °C.

Nearest Attractions: There are several nearest attractions, particularly three UNESCO World Heritage Sites – the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort, and Fatehpur Sikri.

Taj Mahal – One of India's most enduring icons, the Taj Mahal was built by Mughal Emperor Shahjahan in the year 1631 and it was completely devoted to the emperor’s wife Mumtaz. Located on the right bank of the river Yamuna, it is considered one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the World’ and one of the finest architectures in the world. The traditions of Indo-Islamic, Persian, and Mughal architecture are consolidated in the entire building, mainly made up of Rajasthani white marble and red sandstone used for the main gateway. The top-quality white marble was brought from Markana of Rajasthan, and the red stone was brought from Dholpur of Rajasthan and Fatehpur Sikri. The other stones and materials used are Russian Malachite, Deep Blue Lapis Lazuli from Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Agate from Yemen, Chalcedony, Tibetan Turquoise, Sardonyx, Quartz, Coral, Crystal from Hyderabad, Diamond, Emerald, Egyptian Peridot, Arabian Sapphire, Jade from Punjab, Amethyst from Persia, Cornelian from Baghdad, Ruby from Gwalior, Malachite from Jaipur, Onyx from The Deccan, Pearls from Kumaun, Conch Shell from Oceans and Black Marble from Surat.

The main parts of the Taj Mahal are the Main Gateway, the four Taj Mahal minarets, the vaulted dome over the tombs of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz, the main marble dome, and smaller domes. There are three gates. The Southern Gate is the Mumtazabad (Modern Taj Ganj) facing and towards the south. The Eastern Gate is Fatehabad facing, and it is also known as "Sirhi Darwaza", named after Sirhindi Begum, another wife of Shahjahan. The Western Gate is the main entrance to the Taj Mahal and is Agra City facing. After entering the majestic main entrance gateway of red sandstone, there is the Taj Garden with fountains and running channels of water. The 73 meters high Taj mausoleum is perpendicular to the main gateway. The symmetrical tomb with a vaulted dome with an arch-shaped doorway and decorative finial on the top is the central focus of the entire Taj Mahal complex. The arch-shaped door has a rectangular frame with Islamic calligraphy on that. Four symmetrical minarets are encircling the tomb.

In the entire Taj complex, the creation of stone inlays, carvings of flowers in marble, archways, decorative arts of colored stones, incised paintings on the ceiling & walls, intricate piercing works on stone, and interior decoration are very picturesque and hold the complete attention of viewers.

Agra Fort – The largest fortress in India, surrounded by a 2.5-kilometer-long fortress wall, was built between 1565 and 1573 by the great Mughal emperor Akbar. It was the primary residence of the Mughal Emperors until 1638. Agra Fort’s towers, battlements, gateways, and enclosures are attributes of an extremely well-designed fortress. The main attractions in the fort complex are noted below.

  • Nagina Masjid: Built by Emperor Aurangzeb in 1668 A.D., the prayer hall for women

  • Moti Masjid: At the north of the Diwan - i - Aam, the White mosque built by Emperor Shah Jahan

  • Jahangiri Mahal: The principal palace for women belonging to the royal household

  • Diwan – i – Khass: The hall of private and dignified audience

  • Diwan - e - Aam: The hall of public

  • Khas Mahal: Reserved place for women of the Royal Family

  • Sheesh Mahal: The dressing room of empresses

  • Hauz – i – Jahangiri: the single piece of stone-carved huge container used for fragrant rose water.

  • Musamman Burj: Octagonal Tower built by Emperor Jahangir for his Empress Noor Jahan

Other notable places are Zenana Meena Bazar, Shahjahani Mahal, Akbari Mahal, Ghaznin Gate, Tahkhana, Darshani Darwaza.

Fatehpur Sikri – Fatehpur Sikri (Place of Victory) is about 39 KM from Agra city, and it was built by Emperor Akbar in the year 1572 after returning from Gujrat victory. The place was named by Akbar himself, and here he built the commemorative doorway of ‘Buland Darwaza’ (Door of Victory) in 1601 at the Jama Masjid. Mainly made of red and buff sandstone and decorated with black & white marble, the Buland Darwaja is mighty high than the mosque. It was famous for being the dwelling place of the Sufi Saint 'Sheikh Saleem Chistie'. There is also a white marble encased tomb within the Jama Masjid’s courtyard, which was built over Saint Salim Chishti’s burial vault. Fatehpur Sikri was the capital of Mughal Empire for few years also.

Other notable parts of the complex are Ibadat Khana (House of Worship), Diwan-i-Aam (Hall of Public Audience), Diwan-i-Khas (Hall of Private Audience), Khwabgah (House of Dreams) Akbar's residence, Panch Mahal (a five-story palace), Naubat Khana (a drum house, where musician used to play drums to announce the arrival of the King).

Mehtab Bagh – The famous garden complex is situated on the banks of the Yamuna River, and it lies north of the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort. Since the place is situated on the opposite bank of the river with a straight alignment, the place offers a wide-angle view of the Taj Mahal. This garden is now maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India.

Itmad – Ud – Daulah – This beautiful historic building was built by Empress Noor Jahan, in the memory of her father Mirza Ghiyas Beg. Noor Jahan was the wife Emperor Shah Jahan. It was built between 1622 A.D. and 1629 A.D. This place is about 2 KM away from the Agra City. This place is also maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India.

Things to Do: Every year, a large number of travelers come here to explore the history of the Mughal Emperors. The Agra Fort, Taj Mahal, and Fatehpur Sikri elaborate on the story of the Mughal Emperors. But merely visiting monuments is not enough. The best time to get the best photos of the Taj Mahal is during the break of the day because of the golden light. The symmetry of the architecture, the unique design of the doors, the reflections of the building in the canal, and the inlay work of stones are visually so attractive, that will keep visitors busy with filming. Mehtab Bagh offers a wide-angle panoramic view of the Taj Mahal along with the Yamuna River. Agra Fort also offers a distant but different view of the Taj Mahal from its balcony.

Coming on to shopping, from here, one can buy handicrafts, handcrafted pieces of jewelry, stone-carved utensils, stone-carved mementos, and historical novelties.

Agra is very famous for Mughal foods. The city offers a wide range of eating–out experiences, from star-category restaurants to street foods. A few popular restaurants are Clarks Shiraz, Mughal Sheraton, Panch Petha, Kedarnath Phool Chand Pethawala, and Dasaprakash.

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