About Agra

Agra - the first impression is of a chaotic, overcrowded, polluted mess that can offer nothing of interest.But wait, hold your breath, for hiding behind the heat and the chaos is the stunning monument of cool white marble, the wonder that is called the Taj Mahal.
  
In Agra layers of history are peeled away to reveal an amazing tapestry of life - of wars waged, of great architectural magnificence and above all a testimony of the undying love of a king for his queen.

That Agra is unparalleled as a travel destination is an established fact. Even Bill Clinton testified to as much when he declared the world was divided into two: those who have seen the Taj and those who have not! Besides the Taj Mahal though, there are a lot of other important sights in and around Agra. The Agra Fort, Moti Masjid and innumerable other attractions make the city feature on every travellers must-do-sightseeing list.

Travel a little outside Agra and you'll come to Fatehpur Sikri, a site for monuments that are historically as important as the Taj Mahal. Every tour guide who does Agra ensures that Fatehpur Sikri is also visited. There development in architectural style from Akbar's Sikri to Shah Jahan's Agra is important, and only if you see the monuments at both will you have begun to explore Mughal architecture. Fatehpur Sikri's sights include monuments from the times of Akbar: the Buland Darwaza and the Dargah of Salim Chishti.

The first time you travel to Agra, the city can be a bit overwhelming with its noise and big crowds. There are government run and private tourist information centres galore and you should take advantage of them. Most of them offer tour guide services, which is useful if you're stuck in a chaotic Indian city, particularly if you're low on knowledge about its premier attraction.  There are also nearly as many touts as tourists! Beware of them and stay with registered guides. However, no matter how many times you've done Agra and the Taj Mahal, their attraction never fades. If you're an old Agra hand of course, you'll be quite at home in this crazy bustling town.


The Taj Mahal
Emperor Shah Jahan built this white marble mausoleum for his queen Arjumand Bano Begum or Mumtaz Mahal. The building aside, the Taj Mahal is one of the most glorious symbols of love. Great builder that he was, the Emperor commissioned a building that has lasted centuries  to remain a thing of rare breathtaking beauty. The building was commissioned in 1631 and decorated with the landmark technique of intricate marble inlay work.

Situated on the banks of the River Yamuna, the Taj Mahal stands at the northern end of formal gardens. The white marble came from Makrana in Rajasthan and the red sandstone from Fatehpur Sikri.    

Precious stones like jade, crystal, turquoise, lapis lazuli, sapphire, jade, coral and diamonds were brought from far-flung places in Tibet, China, Sri Lanka, Persia and Afghanistan. It is believed that a fleet of 1000 elephants was used to transport the material.


Gateway to the Taj Mahal    

The main entrance to the monument is of red sandstone, with domed pavilions in the Hindu style. The gateway is inscribed with verses from the Koran, the lettering of which appear the same size through an illusion created by the craftsmen who enlarged and lengthened the letters at different positions.

The gardens enclosed by high walls are divided into four parts or the charbagh, which symbolises the Gardens of Paradise in Islam. There are fountains and water channels flowing through the garden, representing the rivers of water, milk, wine and honey. The monument itself stands on a raised platform with four minarets in the corners. The minarets have a slightly outward incline, to prevent them from falling on the monument during an earthquake. You have to remove your shoes before getting on to the platform. Socks, or cloth shoes available at the base, should be kept on since the marble gets very hot during the day.

A huge dome, rising 44 feet high with a brass spire on top crowns the Taj Mahal. Inside is a central chamber with high ceilings that houses the cenotaphs of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan. A delicately carved trelliswork marble screen encloses them. The empress’ tomb, which is directly under the dome, has the 99 names of Allah inscribed on it. Shah Jahan’s cenotaph is higher and to the left. It has a pen box inscribed on it, which symbolises a male ruler. Just below these cenotaphs are the real graves, in a dark and humid crypt filled with incense. If you donate a few coins to the attendant, he will lay them as offerings on the graves.
Surrounding the central chamber are four octagonal rooms where the other members of the royal family were to have been laid to rest. The base is carved with floral motifs, of roses, tulips, and narcissi. Some of the designs have upto 60 pieces.    

On both sides of the Taj are two identical red sandstone mosques. The one to the left holds Friday prayers even today. The one to the right, the jawab (answer) was built only for symmetry and holds no prayers since it faces away from the Mecca.

In front of the main entrance is a platform, which is popular for use as a spot for taking photographs. You will find many couples sitting on it with the Taj Mahal as the backdrop to pose for the most precious memento of their visit. On the western wall of the compound is the museum there is a good collection of Mughal miniature paintings - portraits of the Mughal rulers, ancient coins and porcelain. The museum also has a gallery with the original drawings of the Taj Mahal on display. They show how meticulously the building was planned, including an accurate estimate of the time to be taken for its construction.

Open: Tuesday to Sunday.


Agra Fort


Akbar, the greatest empire-builder of the Mughals, commissioned the Agra Fort in 1565. Shah Jahan made alterations by pulling down many of the original buildings and replacing them with marble ones.

His son Aurangzeb, who was in constant conflict with local chieftains and neighbouring principalities, added the outer ramparts.The tourist entry is through the Amar Singh Gate, which was used by General Lake and his army to capture the fort. The main entrance, the Delhi Gate, is now closed. Much of the fort is occupied by the army and is out of bounds for visitors. However, the buildings open to the public have some superb architectural sights.

The Diwan-I-Am or the Hall of audience is a pillared hall whose centrepiece is the throne alcove. This marble structure was inlaid with precious stones in floral motifs, and was built to house the Peacock Throne. The exquisitely crafted throne was taken to Delhi by Shah Jahan and was looted by Nadir Shah and carried away to Persia.
The Diwan-I-Khas, where the emperor held audience with visiting dignitaries, was built in 1635. It had two thrones on the terrace, one in white marble and one in black slate. Emperor Shah Jahan is believed to have used the marble throne for repose, and the slate throne to watch elephant fights in the courtyard.    

Khas Mahal    

The Khas Mahal, where the emperor slept, had cavities in its flat roof to insulate it from the hot winds of summer. The Macchi Bhawan, or fish chamber, had fountains, tanks and water channels stocked with fish. The emperor and his courtiers amused themselves by angling here.

The Nagina Masjid was built in marble by Shah Jahan to be used exclusively by the women of the zenana or harem. Below it is the Zenana Meena Bazaar where the ladies could look at goods without being seen. The Sheesh Mahal or Palace of Mirrors, whose mirrored walls reflected and enhanced the lamplights, was used by the women for bathing. A two-storied octagonal tower, the Musamman Burj, is said to be the place from where Shah Jahan last saw the Taj Mahal before dying.

Open : Sunrise to sunset.

Itmad-ud-daulah

Popularly known as ‘baby Taj’, this is the tomb of Mirza Ghiyath Begh, who was wazir or Chief Minister in Emperor Jahangir’s court.
He became a very powerful person, more so when the Emperor Jahangir married his daughter Noor Jahan. The tomb was designed by Noor Jahan and was the first Mughal building using marble inlay work.    

The Jama Masjid was built by Shah Jahan and dedicated to his favourite daughter Jahanara Begum. It is surrounded by the crowded bazaar, which is interesting to wander through on foot. A kilometre away from Itmad-ud-daulah is Chini ka rauza, the mausoleum of Afzal Khan, and the son of Mirza Ghiyath Begh. The tomb derives its name from the glazed tiles (chini) on its fa├žade. The Ram Bagh, laid out by Babur in 1528 is said to have been the resting-place of his body before it was taken away for a final burial in Kabul.
Sikandra, Akbar's mausoleum     Akbar’s mausoleum at Sikandra, 10 kms from Agra, can be visited by hiring an autorickshaw for the day. The construction of the mausoleum was begun by Akbar himself, and completed in 1613 by his son Jahangir. In a way, it is a synthesis of the bold masculine red sandstone structures built by Akbar and the delicately crafted white marble buildings of Jahangir and Shah Jahan. The entrance is through a huge gateway that blocks view of the tomb from outside.

The tomb is in the centre of the char bagh, gardens laid out in four quadrants. The mausoleum is four storeyed, the first three in red sandstone, and the one on the top in white marble. Inside, the original ceilings had frescoes in blue and gold. Some of it has recently been restored. Around the tomb you will find some interesting wildlife in the form of monkeys, deer and black buck.

Open: Sunrise to sunset

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Nice information, Thanks..

Nishitha KM said...

hi friends..well written post.keep blogging.planning a trip to br hills resort and also near by place bandipur resorts..its really an awesome place.their sevices and Wildlife Safari really really awesome....do visit once in your life tome..

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