Taj Mahal located in Agra near Delhi. Taj Mahal is considered the finest example of Mughal architecture, a style that combines elements from Persian, Indian, and Islamic architectural styles. In 1983, the Taj Mahal became a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was cited as “the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage.” The Taj is an experience of its own kind, while on the one hand its magnanimity is so sublime, so on the other the exquisite inlay work and detailed craftsmanship together with the calligraphy is simply amazing. The combination simply leaves one absolutely mesmerized. Majestic and sensuous, glistening brightly in the afternoon sun, the bulbous dome and minarets with a slight inward tilt, have all been inscribed meticulously with the Holy Verses bringing forth the arabesque ornamentation. The white marble from Makrana in Rajasthan has added its own natural beauty to this mausoleum that attracts tourists from all over the world.
The tomb laid out in rectangular shape can be approached through an immense gateway with huge arch and alcoves strewn on either side that stands tall and erect, as though guarding something precious. Three other smaller gateways follow the red sandstone towers topped with domes in white marble together make a pretty picture. The tomb is at the northern end with an expanse of greenery and fountains between it and the gateways. The ceiling is adorned with floral patterns and the decor of floors with geometric designs. The inner of the main structure is in lakhauri, which have been carefully covered with marble, whereas the adjoining structures are covered with red sandstone.
As one goes around, the most breathtaking part remains the exquisite inlay work that looks up from every nook and corner of the facade. The blooms are worked out in immense detail and every dot and alphabet of the Holy Quran is neatly etched, cut and inlaid to perfection. The flowers, chiefly lilies mirror the Mughal love for gardens. One Particular flower on the tomb of Mumtaz Mahal is said to have been inlaid with 35 different precious stones. The central hall is surrounded by eight rooms that have a corridor running through them. The aura of serenity is all pervading, while translucent glass separates them to let-in the dim sunlight, making the interiors look solemn and intriguing. Indeed a masterpiece that none would ever be able to replicate including the original craftsmen, artisans and designers themselves.
However, it is the dome that leaves one gasping in awe. While the outer dome rises to 44.4 meters in height, the inner is 24.35 meters an architectural and technical feat. Ismail Afandi from Turkey, who also worked for the Ottomans is said to have been its designer. Marking an amalgam of Hindu and Islamic architecture are the typically Hindu Chhatris [An umbrella like structure] at the dome base from the corners. Shah Jahan has similarly left his individual imprint in several other aspects of the architecture as well.
The cenotaph over Shah Jahan’s tomb has an inkwell, while that of Mumtaz Mahal a slate over it, as it is said a man writes his desires on the woman’s heart. The epitaphs in addition to regular pronouncements about the individual have verses from the Holy Quran. The exquisite craftsmanship marks the marble lattice screens, which are elaborately worked out in oriental design enclose the cenotaphs. The tombs lie below the cenotaphs in a basement, undisturbed and in absolute quiet environs. What we do not see now are the bowls full of jewels on Mumtaz Mahal’s tomb, the Persian carpets on the floor and the silver doorways and overhanging chandeliers that once made up the inner decor.
Coming out of prevailing solemnity in the environs, one gets speechless with awe at the grandeur of the by gone era, enticing particularly the panels with lilies and tulips together with iris flowers that symbolize death. The Makrana marble will perhaps never again be handled; with so much grace and care and such elegance of balancing the ornamentation on it. The beauty and splendor of elegant craftsmanship that makes up the inlay work and calligraphy in fact, further accentuates the deathly calm of the mausoleum and in the quietude, it is the softly filtering rays of the sun through the lattice work on marble panels that strikes one as unusually ethereal in nature.
Outside one would have to crane one’s neck to look up at the apex of the dome, high and mighty against the skyline. Secluded and singular in majesty, the structure stands clearly apart from everything around it. The balance of all the elements, the garden, the fountain and water channel and in the end the gateway, all look exquisitely managed to provide maximum harmony in terms of visual appeal. The sheer beauty of the outside of a monument marks the serenity within.
The Taj Mahal, for which not only the course of river Yamuna is said to have been diverted but as per interpretation of the Archaeological Survey of India, the Yamuna was incorporated into the garden design for the belief that its one of the rivers of Paradise.
The moods of the Taj vary from dawn to dusk. It looks milky white in the soft light that characterizes early morning, while the afternoon sun makes it glisten bright and dazzling in the overhead sunlight, almost looking like a jewel against the opaque blue of the skyline and then comes a moonlit Taj breaking into the night sky, majestic and simply beautiful in a sense that cannot be put into words. The sensuous appeal can never be more heightened as on a full moon night when it shines like a pearl making the visitor stand agape at the spectacle. The romanticism and sheer majesty of the structure is unbelievably true! No wonder if millions of people chose it among the World’s top wonders.
Visiting Hours : one can visit Taj Mahal between 6:00AM to 6:00PM.
Near the gardens of Taj Mahal stands the important 16th-century Mughal monument known as the Red Fort of Agra. This powerful fortress of red sandstone encompasses within its 2.5-km-long enclosure walls, the imperial city of the Mughal rulers. The forbidding exteriors of this fort hides an inner paradise. There are several exquisite buildings like Moti Masjid – a white marble mosque akin to a perfect pearl; Diwan-E-Am, Diwan-E-Khaas, Musamman Burj – where Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan died in 1666 A.D., Jahangir’s Palace, Khaas Mahal and Sheesh Mahal. Agra Fort, an excellent example of Mughal architecture, is one of the few UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India.
The construction of the Agra fort was started around 1565, when the initial structures were built by the Mughal Emperor Akbar, and subsequently taken over by his grandson Shah Jahan, who added most of the marble creations to the fort. The fort is crescent shaped, flattened on the east with a long, nearly straight wall facing the river. It is ringed by double castellated ramparts of red sandstone, punctuated at regular intervals by bastions. A 9m wide and 10m deep moat surrounds the outer wall. An imposing 22m high inner wall imparts a feeling of invincible defensive construction. The layout of the fort was determined by the course of the river, which in those days flowed alongside. The main axis is parallel to the river and the walls bridge out towards the city.
The fort had originally four gates, two of which were later walled up. Today, visitors are allowed entry only through the Amar Singh gate. Jehangir Mahal is the first notable building that the visitor sees as he enters through Amar Singh gate. Jehangir was Akbar’s son and the heir to the Mughal throne. Jehangir Mahal was built by Akbar as the women’s quarters. It is built of stone and is simply decorated on the exterior. Ornamental Persian verses have been carved on a large stone bowl, which were probably used to contain fragrant rose water. Akbar built a palace, adjacent to Jehangir Mahal, for her favorite queen Jodha Bai.
Built by Shah Jahan, entirely of marble, the Khaas Mahal demonstrates distinctive Islamic-Persian features. These are well blended with a striking range of Hindu features such as chhatris. It is considered to be emperor’s sleeping room or ‘Aramgah’. Khaas Mahal provides the most successful example of painting on a white marble surface. On the left of the Khaas Mahal, is the Musamman Burj, built by Shah Jahan. It is a beautiful octagonal tower with an open pavillion. It boasts of its openness, elevation and cool evening breezes. This is where Shah Jahan lay on his deathbed, gazing at the Taj.
Sheesh Mahal or the Glass Palace is the finest example of decorative water engineering in the hammams. It is believed to have been the harem or the dressing room, and its walls are inlaid with tiny mirrors which are the best specimens of the glass-mosaic decoration in India. To the right of Sheesh Mahal is Diwan-I-Khaas, the hall of Private Audience. The marble pillars are inlaid with semi-precious stones in delightful floral patterns. Adjacent to this, is the Mammam-E-Shahi or the Shah Burj, used as the summer retreat.
The Diwan-E-Am used to house the famous Peacock Throne, which was taken to the Red Fort when Shah Jahan moved his capital to Delhi. The throne alcove is of richly decorated white marble. Nagina Masjid, built by Shah Jahan, was the private mosque of the ladies of the court. Moti Masjid or the Pearl Mosque is the prettiest structure at Agra Fort. The building is presently closed for visitors. Near Moti Masjid is Mina Masjid, which seems to have been constructed by Shah Jahan strictly for his private use.
Visiting Hours : one can visit Agra Fort between 6:00AM to 6:00PM.
Fatehpur Sikri is a town in the Agra District of Uttar Pradesh. Built during the second half of the 16th century by the Emperor Akbar, Fatehpur Sikri (the City of Victory) was the capital of the Mughal Empire for only some 10 years. The complex of monuments and temples, all in a uniform architectural style, includes one of the largest mosques in India, the Jama Masjid.
The beautiful marble tomb of Sheikh Salim Chisti attracts thousands of tourists at places like Diwan-I-Aam, Diwan-I-Khas, Buland Darwaza, Panch Mahal, Jodha Bai’s Palace, Pachisi and Birbal Bhavan.
The grateful Emperor named his son Salim after the Saint and built the grand Jama Masjid near the saint’s dwelling. To the west of this mosque lie two graves-one of the saint and the other of his infant son.In further memory of the Saint, Akbar vowed to build a great city.Thus, emerged the splendid city of Fatehpur Sikri on a stony ridge. A splendid citadel of grand courts, palaces, Mosques and gardens that rivaled the splendors of Delhi and Agra.
Akbar was very anxious about its construction and himself looked after it. Persian and Indian architecture were used in the construction of the city. The buildings in the city were built using red sandstone. The pavilions of the imperial palace are geometrically arranged and this design was adopted from Arabian architecture.
Today even after a passage of hundreds of years, the magnificence of this royal city has not faded. Its courtyards, pavilions and audience halls lie immaculately preserved in tribute to a visionary and builder extra ordinaire. One finds minor monuments like the Rang Mahal, Kabutar Khana, Hathi Pole, Sangin Burj, Hiran Minar and the Karawan Sarai.
The magnificent buildings in Fatehpur Sikri can be divided into two categories the religious and the secular. On one hand are the imposing Jama Masjid with the Buland Darwaza, the most stupendous Gateway of India standing 176ft. high. The Buland Darwaza was erected in the year 1602, to commemorate Akbar’s conquest over Deccan. The doorway is richly carved with verses from the Holy Quran cut in bold Arabic letters. The Dargah of Sheikh Salim Chishti, built of pure white marble, was completed in 1581.
Devotees from all over the world throng in thousands to the heart of the citadel to view the white marble tomb set in the royal mosque. They sing his praise, tie a red thread in the latticed windows and above all pray to the Saint for the gift of a child. His death anniversary, known as his Urs is a major assembly of devotees from all over the world.
On the other side are the other important buildings like the Diwan-I-Khas, Jodha Bai’s Palace, Mariam’s Palace, Birbal’s Palace, House of the Turkish Sultana and Panch Mahal, all depicting a variety of architectural styles. The Panch Mahal is a five story structure, each of which has a pillared hall smaller than the one below it. Based on 176 richly carved columns, the building served the purpose of a recreation room for the ladies of the royal harem.
Other monuments leading to the palace of Jodha Bai are Khwabgah ,Anup Talao, Abdar Khana, Pachisi Court, Ankh Micholi (the place where Akbar used to play hide and seek with the ladies of the harem and which later became the imperial treasury), Astrologer’s Seat, Daftar Khana, Ibadat Khana and Haram Sara.
Visiting Hours : one can visit Fatehpur sikri Fort between 6:00AM to 7:30PM.
This beautiful Mehtab Bagh is located on the western banks of River Yamuna and stands in perfect alignment with the gardens of the Taj Mahal located across the river. Spread across 300 sq m, Mehtab Bagh has been the site of several intriguing excavations. Today, it stands as a delightful vantage point from where to view and photograph the marble wonder that is Taj. The view from the entrance gate is particularly beautiful and should not be missed. Local lore holds that it was the last in a series of 11 pleasure gardens built by Mughal emperor Babur by the riverbank. Spread across 300 sq m, Mehtab Bagh has been the site of several intriguing excavations.
When it was originally designed, the Charbagh complex – a Persian-style layout with four parts was divided by beautiful white walkways, large water fountains with reflecting pools, and airy pavilions filled with colorful fruit trees. Unfortunately, in the early 1900s, frequent flooding and misuse of the facilities destroyed the charming features and soon it turned into nothing but an enormous mound of sand.
It is believed that Babur built the Mehtab Bagh, Shah Jahan identified it as the perfect spot from where to behold the Taj Mahal and gave it its name, intending for it to be a moonlit pleasure garden. Walkways, fountains, pavilions and pools were created to embellish it, and fruit trees were planted. The design is then believed to have been approached almost as though Mehtab Bagh were meant to be a part of the Taj Mahal complex, like a riverfront terrace. The myth around Shah Jahan’s plan to build a ‘black Taj Mahal’ also starts in this expanse. Mehtab Bagh is believed to be the site where he had planned to build a black marble mausoleum for himself, a veritable twin to the Taj Mahal – in exact alignment to his wife’s fabled mausoleum – until his ambitions were thwarted by his son, Aurangzeb, who imprisoned him till his death. The several excavations that have taken place here over the years have unearthed various structures such as a large octagonal tank with 25 fountains, a pond and a charbagh. Mumtaz Mahal’s tomb is, in fact, said to have been found halfway between the main entrance of the Taj Mahal complex and the end of Mehtab Bagh. Landscape artists from ASI worked out the replanting of trees, herbs and plants to match the original garden, replicating riverside gardens such as Shalimar Bagh in Kashmir. Around 80 plants identified with Mughal horticulture were planted such as guava, hibiscus, neem, jamun and Ashoka. Today, Mehtab Bagh stands pristine in its grandeur, restored to its rightful glory.
Visiting Hours : One can visit Garden between 6:00AM to 6:00PM.
Tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah also known Baby Taj, this exquisite marble tomb was made by Emperor Jahangir’s queen, Nur Jahan, in the memory of her father Mirza Ghias Beg during 1622-1628 A.D. Built entirely in white marble and inlaid with semi-precious stones, this mausoleum on the bank of the Yamuna exhibits a strong Persian influence. The pure white and elaborately carved tomb of Itmad-ud-Daulah conforms to the Islamic style of architecture. The use of arched entrances, octagonal shaped towers or minarets, use of exquisitely carved floral patterns, intricate marble-screen work and inlay work are all representative of the Islamic style. Use of chatris instead of dome reflects the local influence
Visiting Hours : Tourist can visit between 6:00AM to 5:30PM.
Akbar tomb located on western part of the Agra city. As per history tomb work started by Akbar in his life time & later work completed by his son Jahangir. Its interior is covered with exquisite calligraphy that reflects the tenets of Din-e-Ilahi, a religious movement started by Emperor Akbar based on the fusion of primarily Hinduism and Islam including other religions as well. Sikandra is the resting place of the Mughal emperor Akbar and his grave lies here in a dark chamber. The outlying garden which is laid out in the Char Bagh style is yet another attraction of the place. Tomb complex consists of the mausoleum and the giant gateway known as the Buland Darwaza, with an huge arc-way and four marble minarets, the gateway is grand and impressive. The main tomb is crafted out of red sandstone and marble, beautifully carved and designed. It is pyramidal and has five storeys. Towards the south east side of the Akbar’s Tomb is the Sheesh Mahal or the Palace of Mirrors.
Visiting Hours : Tourist can visit between 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM.
Kinari Bazar is the perfect place to visit in Agra. Located near Jama Masjid, where multitudes of colorful little shops spill over, women bargain, and cars dodge one another. You’ll find clothing, shoes, fabrics, jewellery, spices, marblework, snack stalls. Even if you’re not buying anything, just walking the streets is an experience in itself.
SOS is a great place to visit to spend some time with the animals as well as educate yourself regarding the current situation regarding animal cruelty in India. Although Wildlife SOS initially started to rescue the “dancing bears” of India, it also runs active projects to provide shelter and help to leopards, elephants, reptiles, and other animals. wildlife SOS offers a documentary to explain the history of the dancing bears, and activities to interact with the bears, such as feeding them fruit or porridge. It is currently one of the largest Wildlife Organizations in South Asia.
Visiting Hours : Tourist can visit between 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM.
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