Agra

Sometime back a childhood friend called me up. And said. Hey where are you mountain man? I knew what he was hinting at, but acted I didn’t quite understand and queried. What do you mean? I am seeing you traveling all around in the hills, he replied. And then I quizzed him. Are you free this weekend? Yes, more or less. Why? Keep it free as I would be taking you to a destination away from the hills that is sure to breathe new love into your life 💕
He agreed and we decided to start our love journey. Come we are off to Agra 🕌

Taj Mahal, Agra, India
Taj Mahal, Pic – Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

Once you reach Delhi, it is a short trip to Agra and we decided to make it a short trip of just two nights. We took the Shatabdi Express which starts at six in the morning and takes you there by eight. Very comfortable journey, with your breakfast added in. As you come out, the station looks so nice. Agra Cantonment.

AGRA-agra_railway_station

You have other options too for visiting Agra. One of them which people frequently use is to hire a car for the to and fro journey. I am one who loves to save wherever I can without compromising on comfort and use it for some other activity or pleasure. Our hired cab was waiting for us and we were soon off towards our hotel.

Agra is a city on the banks of the river Yamuna in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, India. It is a major road and rail junction and a commercial and industrial centre known for its leather goods, cut stone, and handwoven carpets. Tourism is a major factor in the city’s economy. Agra is also a major tourist destination because of its many Mughal-era buildings, most notably the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri, the deserted Mughal city, all of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Agra is included on the Golden Triangle tourist circuit, along with Delhi and Jaipur and the Uttar Pradesh Heritage Arc tourist circuit of UP state, along with Lucknow and Varanasi, also known as Benares.

The region around the modern city was first mentioned in the epic Mahabharata, where it was called Agrevaṇa derived from Sanskrit meaning “the border of the forest”. Sultan Sikandar Lodi (1488–1517) was the first to move his capital from Delhi to Agra in 1506. He governed the country from here and Agra assumed the importance of the second capital. He died in 1517 and his son, Ibrahim Lodi, remained in power there for nine more years and built several palaces, wells and a mosque in the fort during his period. He was finally defeated at the Battle of Panipat in 1526. Between 1540 and 1556, Afghans beginning with Sher Shah Suri ruled the area. It was the capital of the Mughal Empire from 1556 to 1648.

The golden age of the city began with the Mughals. It was known then as Akbarabad and remained the capital of the Mughal Empire under Akbar, Jahangir and Shah Jahan. Akbar made it the eponymous seat of one of his original twelve imperial provinces, bordering (Old) Delhi, Awadh (Oudh), Allahabad, Malwa and Ajmer. Since Akbarabad was one of the most important cities in India under the Mughals, it witnessed a lot of building activity. Babar, the founder of the Mughal dynasty, laid out the first formal Persian garden on the banks of river Yamuna. The garden is called the Aram Bagh or the Garden of Relaxation. His grandson Akbar raised the towering ramparts of the Great Red Fort, besides making Agra a centre for learning, arts, commerce and religion. Akbar also built a new city on the outskirts of Akbarabad called Fatehpur Sikri. This city was built in the form of a Mughal military camp in stone. His son Jahangir had a love of flora and fauna and laid many gardens inside the Red Fort or Lal Qila.

Shah Jahan later shifted the capital to Delhi during his reign, but his son Aurangzeb moved the capital back to Akbarabad, usurping his father and imprisoning him in the Fort there. Akbarabad remained the capital of India during the rule of Aurangzeb until he shifted it to Aurangabadin in the Deccan region in 1653. After the decline of the Mughal Empire, the city came under the influence of Marathas and was called Agra, before falling into the hands of the British in 1803.

The history books and all memories of childhood during my first visit to this historic city along with my father, mother and three elder sisters, when I was just seven came rushing back. I realized we had reached our hotel.

ITC Mughal, Agra, India

Our money saved on a round trip hired cab option from Delhi was used to splurge in ITC, Mughal a place that I fell in love with when we had visited for a National Conference of our organization couple of years back. We got a good money saver deal with breakfast and dinner added in. And were promised a complimentary early check in, if rooms were available. Luckily rooms were. The rooms are great with vast options to choose from, food just awesome and the most that I had loved about this place was it’s vast expanse of green.

ITC Mughal Pavilion, Agra
ITC Mughal Pavilion

ITC Mughal, Agra

We settled in and after a big mug of a much needed strong black coffee, we were off to the first destination that most travelers visit Agra for. Taj Mahal.

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The Taj Mahal meaning “Crown of the Palaces” is an ivory-white marble mausoleum in the south bank of the Yamuna river in Agra. The Taj Mahal was commissioned by Shah Jahan in 1631, to be built in the memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal a Persian princess who died giving birth to their 14th child, Gauhara Begum. Construction started in 1632, and the mausoleum was completed in 1643, while the surrounding buildings and garden were finished five years later. The imperial court documenting Shah Jahan’s grief after the death of Mumtaz Mahal illustrates the love story held as the inspiration for the Taj Mahal. It also houses the tomb of Shah Jahan, the builder. The tomb is the centerpiece of a 17-hectare (42-acre) complex, which includes a mosque and a guest house, and is set in formal gardens bounded on three sides by a crenellated battle ready walls.

Construction of the mausoleum was essentially completed in 1643 but work continued on other phases of the project for another 10 years. The Taj Mahal complex is believed to have been completed in its entirety in 1653. The construction project employed some 20,000 artisans under the guidance of a board of architects led by the court architect to the emperor, Ustad Ahmad Lahauri.

The Taj Mahal, one of the seven wonders of the world was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 for being “the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage”. It is regarded by many as the best example of Mughal architecture and a symbol of India’s rich history. There are three gates to enter the Taj Mahal. We used the South Gate and once we were in, it was a visual paradise. Let’s go around.

Taj Mahal, Agra, India
The South Gate
Taj Mahal, Agra, India
Taj Mahal
Taj Mahal, Agra, India
The Mosque
Taj Mahal, Agra, India
Marble jali lattice work
Taj Mahal, Agra, India
The picture spot
Taj Mahal, Agra, India
Taj Mahal and it’s four minarets

The Taj Mahal incorporates and expands on design traditions of Persian and earlier Mughal architecture. Specific inspiration came from successful Mughal buildings including the Gur-e-Amir (the tomb of Timur, progenitor of the Mughal dynasty in Samarakhand, Humayun’s Tomb, Itmad-Ud-Daulah’s Tomb (also called the Baby Taj), and Shah Jahan’s own Jama Masjid in Delhi. While earlier Mughal buildings were primarily constructed of red sandstone, Shah Jahan promoted the use of white marble inlaid with semi-precious stones. Buildings under his patronage reached new levels of refinement.

The tomb is the central focus of the entire complex of the Taj Mahal. It is a large, white marble structure standing on a square plinth and consists of a symmetrical building with an iwan (arch-shaped doorway) topped by a large dome and finial. Like most Mughal tombs, the basic elements are Persian in origin.

Taj Mahal, Agra, India
Main marble dome, smaller domes, and decorative spires that extend from the edges of the base walls. Pic – Wikimedia

The base structure is a large multi-chambered cube with chamfered corners forming an unequal eight-sided structure that is approximately 55 metres (180 ft) on each of the four long sides. Each side of the iwan is framed with a huge pishtaq or vaulted archway with two similarly shaped arched balconies stacked on either side. This motif of stacked pishtaqs is replicated on the chamfered corner areas, making the design completely symmetrical on all sides of the building. Four minarets frame the tomb, one at each corner of the plinth facing the chamfered corners. The main chamber houses the false sarcophagi of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan; the actual graves are at a lower level.

Muslim tradition forbids elaborate decoration of graves. Hence, the bodies of Mumtaz and Shah Jahan were put in a relatively plain crypt beneath the inner chamber with their faces turned right, towards Mecca. Mumtaz Mahal’s cenotaph is placed at the precise centre of the inner chamber on a rectangular marble base of 1.5 by 2.5 metres (4 ft 11 in by 8 ft 2 in). Both the base and casket are elaborately inlaid with precious and semiprecious gems. Calligraphic inscriptions on the casket identify and praise Mumtaz. On the lid of the casket is a raised rectangular lozenge meant to suggest a writing tablet. The pen box and writing tablet are traditional Mughal funerary icons decorating the caskets of men and women respectively. The Ninety Nine Names of God are calligraphic inscriptions on the sides of the actual tomb of Mumtaz Mahal.

Taj Mahal, Agra, India
The false sarcophagi of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan in the main chamber. Pic – Wikimedia
Taj Mahal, Agra, India
The actual tombs of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan in the lower level. Pic – Wikimedia

It was a trip back to history and then it was time to spend some time relaxing in the green green gardens.

The complex is set around a large 300-metre (980 ft) square Charbagh or Mughal garden. The garden uses raised pathways that divide each of the four quarters of the garden into 16 sunken flowerbeds. Halfway between the tomb and gateway in the centre of the garden is a raised marble water tank with a reflecting pool positioned on a north-south axis to reflect the image of the mausoleum. The elevated marble water tank is called al Hawd al-Kawthar in reference to the “Tank of Abundance” promised to Muhammad.

Elsewhere, the garden is laid out with avenues of trees labeled according to common and scientific names and fountains. The garden has a design inspired by Persian gardens, was introduced to India by Babur, the first Mughal emperor. It symbolises the four flowing rivers of Jannah (Paradise) and reflects the Paradise garden derived from the Persian paridaeza, meaning ‘walled garden.’ In mystic Islamic texts of the Mughal period, Paradise is described as an ideal garden of abundance with four rivers flowing from a central spring or mountain, separating the garden into north, west, south and east.

Most Mughal charbaghs are rectangular with a tomb or pavilion in the centre. The Taj Mahal garden is unusual in that the main element, the tomb, is located at the end of the garden. With the discovery of Mahtab Bagh or “Moonlight Garden” on the other side of the Yamuna, the interpretation of the Archaeological Survey of India is that the Yamuna river itself was incorporated into the garden’s design and was meant to be seen as one of the rivers of Paradise.

Taj mahal, Agra, India
Charbagh

After spending some wonderful time lazing around, it was time for some quick lunch. We chosen a decent restaurant as suggested by our driver where the Mughlai food turned out to be royally Mughal.

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The next stop, Agra Fort. Come let’s go in and see some more beautiful creations. The Agra Fort, also known as the “Lal –Qila”, “Fort Rouge” or “Qila-i-Akbari”, is the highlight of the city of Agra, then capital of the Mughal Sultanate. Few forts in the world have a more fascinating story to tell than the Great Fort of Agra. Originally planned as an impregnable military structure by Akbar, the Agra Fort, over a period of time, acquired all the elegance, lavishness and majesty of an imperial palace. Situated 1 km upstream of the Taj Mahal, on the right bank of the Yamuna, the Agra fort was built under the direction of Akbar, by Mohammed Quasim Khan, his commander-in-Chief and Governor of Kabul. It took eight years to complete and entailed an expenditure of three and a half million rupees.

Agra Fort, Agra, India
Agra Fort
Agra Fort, Agra, India
Amar Singh Gate, Agra Fort (Red Fort)
Agra Fort, Agra, India
Jahangīr’s Palace (Jahangiri Mahal) inside Agra Fort. This huge red-sandstone palace inside Agra Fort, a combination of Indian and Central Asian architectural styles, was built by the Mughal ruler Akbar for his son Jahangir

The day was so relaxing. The best part about Agra is that the places we visited were all in close vicinity including our hotel which is on Taj Road, almost next door to Taj.

We got up early the next morning and went walking all around the property. And walked bare foot on the green lawns with a little bit of overnight dew. Freshened up, had our breakfast and were soon all set to make the best of the day. Our first stop, Salim Chisti Dargah inside the Jama Masjid (Mosque) complex.

Jama Masjid, Agra, India
Jama Masjid

The Tomb of Salim Chishti is famed as one of the finest examples of Mughal architecture in India, built during the years 1580 and 1581, along with the imperial complex at Fatehpur Sikri and facing south towards Buland Darwaza, within the quadrangle of the Jama Masjid which measures 350 ft. by 440 ft. It enshrines the burial place of the Sufi saint, Salim Chisti (1478 – 1572), a descendant of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti of Ajmer, and who lived in a cavern on the ridge at Sikri. The mausoleum, constructed by Akbar as a mark of his respect for the Sufi saint, who foretold the birth of Akbar’s son, who was named Prince Salim after the Sufi Saint and later succeeded Akbar to the throne of the Mughal empire, as Jahangir.

The door to the main chamber is intricately carved with arabesque patterns and bears inscriptions from the Quran. Brown marble borders the interior bays while the relief panels – with the quran verses – have a blue background. The carved and painted tomb chamber has a white marble floor, which is inlaid with multicolored stones. Devotees ask for the blessings of the saint and seek fulfillment of their wishes. It is believed that tying a thread on the marble screens of the main tomb building serves as a constant reminder to the saint of their wishes. This tomb is known for Child Birth Blessing.

Jama Masjid, Agra, India

Salim Chisthi Darga

Jama Masjid, Agra, India
Jama Masjid complex
Jama Masjid, Agra, India
Jama Masjid entrance
Jama Masjid, Agra, India
Jama Masjid complex
Salim Chisthi Darga, Agra, India
Salim Chishti Tomb Wooden canopy over the inner tomb, with an inlay mosaic of mother of pearl
Salim Chishti Dargah, Agra, India
Salim Chishti Tomb. Intricate Jali, stone latticework window, looking into the quadrangle of the Jama Masjid

Our next place of visit was around 40 kilometers away as we drove on towards Fatehpur Sikri. This fort cum palace is built by the side of an artificial lake about 3 kilometer long and 1.6 kilometer wide.This complex of palaces, mosques, gardens, and pavilions is a rich legacy of the Mughal era. Still perfectly preserved, you can stroll through the Emperor’s bedroom, climb to the top of the Panch Mahal, the five tiered palace and look down on the Pachisi courtyard. Then move to the Anup Talau, the sandstone platform on a pond, where Mian Tansen once sang. I hope you once again enjoy this visual treat going around with us.

Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, India
Fatehpur Sikri

Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, India

Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, India

Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, India

Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, India

Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, India

Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, India

Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, India

Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, India

Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, India

Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, India
The beautiful flowers all around

Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, India

Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, India
The masterpiece walls with intricate designs

Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, India

Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, India

Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, India

Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, India
The views from the palace

Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, India

Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, India
The views of the Taj from the palace, which Shah Jahan used to enjoy while he was imprisoned here in the fort by his son Aurangzeb

Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, India

We now moved to the other must visit places while in Agra. And first, Itmad-Ud-Daulla a perfectly proportioned marble mausoleum on the left bank of the Yamuna which is another historical landmark. Noor Jehan constructed this splendid marble monument in her father’s memory. This double storied marble tomb is replete with mosaic, inlaid with semi-precious stone.

Tomb of Itmad Ul-Daullah, Agra, India
Tomb of Itmad-Ul-Daullah

Tomb of Itmad-Ul-Daullah, Agra, India

Our last stop for the day was to watch the sunset on the other side of River Yamuna, behind the Taj Mahal. Come let’s enjoy some quite moments with a last view of the Taj from Mehtab Bagh.

Mehtab Bagh, Agra, India
Mehtab Bagh

Taj Mahal, Agra, India

Taj Mahal, Agra, India

Taj Mahal, Agra, India

As we walked back towards our car, how could we leave without some Chai(Tea) in a roadside shop. The proud owner made us feel comfortable and as he was preparing the special tea for us, he told my wife in Hindi. The chair you are sitting on is very special. And so you too are very special. I asked him why. And he said. Sahab (Sir) Katrina Kaif was sitting on this chair after a hectic shooting session in Mehtab Garden few years back 😁. For my readers outside India, Katrina is a famed Indian actress. Felt so good seeing him so happy and pointing to a framed photograph.

Agra. The land of historical monuments. The land of Taj.

Come to Agra. Enjoy creativity. Enjoy India Beautiful 🇮🇳

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58 Comments Add yours

  1. Chandrima Roy says:

    Very intersting information. The guides do go on spouting a lot of names but this authentic. Thank you travelwiser !

  2. Snehal says:

    Wow, this post brought back so many beautiful memories from my childhood on my visit to Agra and the Taj Mahal. 😍

  3. Eileen Layno says:

    The Taj Mahal is such a majestic monument dedicated to one’s great love. I have always dreamed of seeing this in person! Someday I will make that dream happen!

  4. Kristine Nicole Alessandra says:

    Agra is definitely a place to visit in India! The buildings are so unique in design and structure. Oh and yes, the Taj Mahal is a must visit place too! It is stunningly beautiful!

  5. Ben Butler says:

    I love all the history you include with the photos. It’s awesome to learn the history of a place and how it relates to what we can experience there today.

  6. Your travel log is simply amazing! Full of useful information and tips! Thanks so much! The Taj Mahal is a must see for me!

  7. Amy Desrosiers says:

    Wow, the traditions, culture and architecture here is simply stunning! You capture some amazing memories with your camera!

  8. terristeffes says:

    My brother has been to the Taj Mahal, but I haven’t. I don’t understand about the picture spot. The whole thing is so beautiful. The trip sounded easy and fun!

    1. travelwisesr says:

      The picture spot is where people queue up to take a couple picture. Just a tradition which has been built up over the years 😊

  9. Elizabeth Nunes says:

    Wow, i have never been but i need to! Looks like you had a great time

  10. artch33 says:

    Agra looks amazing. There are a lot of places, buildings, and structures to check out. :0)

  11. thena reading says:

    Looks like a beautiful trip! Loved seeing it through your eyes.

  12. Lisa Favre says:

    Now this is definitely worth putting on my travel list! Everything looks so captivating and beautiful!

  13. What beautiful pictures of the world wonder. I definitely want to visit one day.

  14. fourcolu says:

    The beautiful city of love. The iconic Taj Mahal and Agra. An amazing, detailed writeup of a beautiful city. The Taj Mahal is like no other and your pictures captured it in beautiful sunlight. thanks for a wonderful job

  15. I open your site each week and wonder where we will be going to next, and this week once again did not let me down. Agra is gorgeous. To see the Taj Mahal must be amazing! It is so beautiful and I imagine witnessing it in person must be inspiring. Great pictures as usual. Thank you for the visit to Agra!

  16. Helen G says:

    Fascinating post – would give anyone the urge to travel. Great photos!

  17. Kiwi says:

    All of the details! Wow Agra is just so full of beauty per usual thanks for sharing!

  18. Agra is gorgeous! We will look into visiting for our summer vacation!

  19. Despite Pain says:

    The Taj Mahal is one of the most spectacular buildings in the world. To see it in person must have been amazing. All of the tombs and buildings in your pictures are gorgeous. The designs are so beautiful and intricate. Love the lattice work. Thank you for sharing.

  20. India is on my list of places to travel. Your photos make me so jealous as I would love to see all that India has to offer!

  21. For some reason, it never occurred to me where exactly in India the Taj Mahal is located! Great travel post as always.

  22. Jennifer McCormick says:

    Your insights into India are spectacular! It is a place I have never traveled but seeing your travel logs makes me want to visit. I have heard the Taj Mahal at sunrise is simply spectacular.

  23. With these pictures and detailed explanation; do I still need to visit Agra???? Hmmnnn…Lemme think about it.

    My answer is Yes! Yes!! Yes!!!

  24. Lyosha Varezhkina says:

    looks very beautiful! I hope I visit Agra one day and witness it my my own eyes one day

  25. Your photos are amazing, and I love the way you’ve given everything into detail.

  26. Star says:

    Wonderful photos. I most enjoyed your account of your time there.

  27. Johnny Quid says:

    I am so jealous! The TAJ MAHAL! It’s absolutely gorgeous. I’m glad I wasn’t tested on where EXACTLY it’s located…I woulda just said “Uhh…in India?” lolol Now I know it’s in Agra, and I won’t forget! Lovely pictures, you always take great shots! Keep it up!

  28. Lene says:

    I love looking through your posts. The stories you tell with your photos are so evocative. Makes me feel as if I was there.

  29. Thanks for bringing us to beautiful Agra through your blog! 💕

  30. blair villanueva says:

    The Taj Mahal is one of the Agra’s wonder that I wish to visit with my beloved. This architecture is an ultimate proof the true love does exist.

  31. Trish says:

    I really enjoyed reading about the history of Agra. such a fascinating place, and your writing and photos help bring it to life.

  32. Rachael Marini says:

    Beautiful pictures! Thank you for sharing the history of the city in this post! I enjoyed learning a little of the historical facts!

  33. Kippi O'Hern says:

    Amazing and breath-taking photos of your trip. I cannot even image someone building this to honor their spouse. It is a true love story and a beautiful one too. Thank you for sharing Mountain Man!
    Happy Spring, Kippi #kippiathome

    1. travelwisesr says:

      Thank you Kippi from the Mountain Man 😁

  34. Ayanda says:

    Your pictures are beautiful. I’ve always wanted to see the Taj Mahal. And after reading this post I know for certain that I need to take a trip there.

    1. travelwisesr says:

      Thanks Ayanda. Just sound me off for any help to plan & I am always there to help as a friend.

  35. Nina says:

    I would love to see Taj Mahal in person! Its amazing architecture has always amazed me.

  36. tcleland88 says:

    This is definitely on my bucket list! There is so much detail. Love your photos.

  37. Wow so jealous I’ve always wanted to see the Taj Mahal! These travel pictures make me want to book a flight right away

  38. Swagata says:

    Such an amazing write up and documentation of Agra! Fascinating for any body passionate about hostory!

    1. travelwisesr says:

      Thanks Swagata 😊

  39. aword84 says:

    Agra looks amazingly wonderful!! I only heard about it, but never knew more than a few basic facts about it; Thank you for this great article!

  40. Wow I would love to visit! Looks so beautiful!

  41. 007basu says:

    Loved reading your blog.

    1. travelwisesr says:

      Thank you 😊

  42. Blair villanueva says:

    India’s diversity on colors, culture and tradition makes this place more beautiful. I wish to explore Agra soon!

  43. Komal says:

    Agra and Rajhastan are my most favorite places to go in India. So much history.

  44. Wow, I would love to visit Taj Mahal one day… sounds like you really had a great time and you went to so many cool places in that part of India!

  45. Michael David Oyco says:

    Hopefully someday I’ll get there too! It would be a blessing to see it in person.

  46. MELANIE EDJOURIAN says:

    The Taj Mahal truly is a stunning place to see. So much detail has gone into its design. I would love to go see it.

  47. Elena Toma says:

    Such a beautiful place and very lovely photos of you there. I hope I will visit that place too because is so amazing !

  48. I visited Agra years back. And this tale reminded me of those days. From Delhi t Agra is close still visitig Agra and Tajmahal is wonderful.

  49. toastycritic says:

    It really does look like an amazing journey out there. If I do make it out to India, this will definitely be the first place on my list. I love the story behind the Taj Majal as well. I had no clue about the history. It’s great to know.

  50. Garf says:

    Wow. I like that building with a bunch of green scenery on. So cool.

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