Agra is globally renown as the city of the Taj Mahal. But this royal Mughal city has, in addition to the legendary Taj, many monuments that epitomise the high point of Mughal architecture. In the Mughal period, in the 16th and 17th centuries, Agra was the capital of India. It was here that the founder of the dynasty, Babar, laid out the first formal Persian garden on the banks of the river Yamuna. Here, Akbar, his grandson raised the towering ramparts of the great Red Fort. Within its walls, Jehangir built rose-red palaces, courts and gardens, and Shahajahan embellished it with marble mosques, palaces and pavilions of gem-inlaid white marble.
The crowning glory of the city is obviously the Taj, a monument of love and imagination, that represents India to the world.
What to See
Taj Mahal stands serene and awesome, on a raised marble platform,
by the banks of the Yamuna, testifying to the timelessness of art and
love. Its pure white marble shimmers silver in the soft moonlight, exudes
a shell - pink glow at dawn, and at the close of the day, takes on the
tawny, fiery hue of the majestic sun.
Among the other monuments that Agra takes pride in is the Agra Fort, built by three of the greatest Mughal emperors. The construction of this massive structure began in 1565, under Akbar, and continued till the time of his grandson, Shahjahan. Armed with massive double walls, punctuated by four gateways, the fort houses palaces, courts, mosques, baths, gardens and gracious pavilions within its premises. Among the fascinating structures that are to be found within the fort is the red sandstone Jehangiri Mahal built by Akbar for his Hindu queen, Jodhabai, was one of the earliest constructions illustrating the fort's change from a military structure to a palace. The palace is also notable for its smooth blending of Hindu and central Asian architectural styles. The Diwan - i - Am, the Diwan - i - Khas, the Khas Mahal, the Palace of Mirrors, the Pearl mosque, the Nagina Masjid, the Garden of Grapes, and the Fish Pavilion are the other monuments in the fort complex. (more on Taj Mahal)
10 km north of Agra lies Akbar's tomb, in Sikandra. Named after the Afghan ruler Sikander Lodi, Sikandra is the final resting place of Emperor Akbar. Akbar began the construction of his own garden mausoleum during his lifetime, a red sandstone structure in a chahar - bagh, or 4 - square formal garden. An impressive marble - inlaid gateway leads to the spacious four - tiered monument which is crowned by a white marble cenotaph and screen. This last was added by Jahangir, who completed the tomb after the demise of his father.
Other places to visit include, Mathura and Brindavan. Mathura, on the banks of the river Yamuna, is the birthplace of Krishna, and Brindavan, the land of thousands of shrines and temples, which still echoes with stories and songs that recount the exploits of this charming God.
How to Get to Agra
By air: Agra is on the popular regular tourist route Delhi/Agra/Khajuraho/Varanasi and return. Flights connect Agra to Delhi, Khajuraho and Varanasi.
By rail: Agra lies on the Delhi to Mumbai broad - gauge railway line. Express trains from Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta, and Chennai halt at Agra.
By road: Agra is connected to Delhi, Rajasthan and other cities of Uttar Pradesh by an excellent bus service.
Where to Stay
The Mughal Sheraton Hotel (Tel : +91 - 562 - 361701, Fax: 361730) boasts of an elegant fort - like architecture and is a good place to stay. Other good hotels include Clarks Shiraz Hotel (Tel : 361421, Fax: 361428), Agra Hotel (Tel : 361223, Fax: 361620) and Taj View Hotel (Tel : 361171-78, Fax: 361179).
Government of India Tourist Office
191, The Mall, Agra 282001
Tel: 363377, 363959