They may best be known for having the majestic Taj Mahal in their land but there certainly is much more to historic Agra than meets the eye.
The seat of the former Mughal Dynasty, the city has been endowed with several beautiful buildings and structures like the Agra Fort, which is filled with grand halls and graceful palaces. There is also the tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah, a less impressive but equally beautiful tomb next to the Taj Mahal.
Located in the heart of North India, Agra also makes for an ideal base for tourists wishing to take in a tour of other surrounding northern Indian destinations.
The city of Sikandra near Agra is the location of the tomb of Akbar. Other possible day trips include the deserted Mughal city of Fatehpur Sikri and the holy city of Mathura. Local markets where beautiful earthenware pots, fine marble, and other hand crafted items like carpets, brassware, leather, and colorful saris abound.
Who could ever visit Agra without stopping by its most famous monument?
Once poetically described as a “A teardrop of love, frozen in marble on the cheek of Eternity,” this marvelous structure built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan to house the remains of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal in 1631 remains one of the world’s most beautiful and aesthetically perfect monuments. For most romantics, the Taj symbolizes eternal love.
Set like a jewel near the banks of the River Yamuna, the monument rests serenely amidst beautiful green lawns and serene waterways. Elegant pietra dura of inlaid designs on the marble walls surmounted by a large dome and surrounded by symmetrical minarets represent the pinnacle of Islamic architecture in India.
Each day brings tourists who come flocking with cameras ready to get that perfect shot of the Taj with the sun’s rays turning the minarets rosy with its glow. Some say that seeing the Taj on a moonlit night is seeing one of the most beautiful and romantic sights in the world.
Built by Akbar and further fortified by Shah Jahan, this imposing fortress is a gold mine of perfect examples of Mughal architectural tradition. Numerous buildings typifying the assimilation of the Hindu and Muslim cultures, which resulted into the Indo-Saracenic school of architecture, one of the greatest legacies of the Mughal period fill the fort’s grounds. The fort contains halls of public and private audience and formal parks and gardens.
Considered to be the precursor of the Taj Mahal, Itmad-ud-Daulah’s tomb, built for him by Noor Jahan hosts an excellent display of pietra dura (Italian technique of inlaying furniture with semi-precious stones, such as agate or quartz, in a variety of colors, to create pictures or patterns.) and elaborate carvings.
Displaying a marked departure from the earlier styles in which Mughal tombs were built, this particular tomb follows the central Asian design of a domed edifice, set in a formal garden surrounded by waterways and paths arranged in a geometric pattern. This similar design was later used in the construction of the Taj Mahal.
Once the imperial city of the Mughal Dynasty between 1571 and 1584, the red sand stone city of Fatehpur Sikri was initially built by the Mughal emperor Akbar but was later abandoned due to lack of water supply for the city’s population.
Today, the city remains to be one of the finest examples of Mughal architectural splendor at its height. Though the city is in ruins, it is a place to visit if one comes to Agra.But in real terms Fatehpur Sikri is a place where one should spend some time. The sunset over the ruins is a sight to cherish.
Home to Akbar’s tomb, the city of Sikandra is an excellent example of the assimilation and combination of different architectural styles and represents a significant departure from the earlier Mughal buildings.
The tomb is adorned with airy, tiered pavilions such as those that may be found in Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri. Serenity best describes the surroundings of Akbar’s tomb with gardens on all sides with occasional sightings of grazing deer.