Located on the banks of Yamuna River, Agra is a place where beauty unifies with history, and to witness this great union, thousands of travelers have been coming to this city for several centuries now. Agra is situated 206 km away from Delhi in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. One of the seven wonders of the world Taj Mahal is the primary attraction of this historic town. Though Taj steals the limelight, Agra has so much more to offer than just the Taj.
Let’s make a quick visit to Taj Mahal and 5 other beautiful places in Agra.
Taj Mahal: A perfect mixture of Indian, Persian, and Islamic styles, the Taj Mahal is one of the iconic pieces of Mughal architecture. The intricate motifs on marble will make you wonder at them. Every year millions of tourists make their footprints here. The Taj Mahal was established by Mughal emperor Shah Jahān (ruled 1628–58), as a tomb for her beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal “chosen one of the palace.” She died due to childbirth in 1631. She has been a constant companion of the king since their marriage in 1612. It was built as a mausoleum complex that holds the tombs of queen Mumtaz Mahal and her husband Shah Jahan. The making of the Taj Mahal started around 1632. The building of the mausoleum itself was finished around the year 1638-1639, but it took another 5 years to complete the adjacent buildings. The entire construction of the 42-acre complex took approximately 22 years. Taj Mahal is made of the precious Makrana marble which shines marvelously in the moonlight. It was given the UNESCO Heritage Site status in 1983.
Mehtab Bagh: Mehtab Bagh, the last of the Mughal Gardens, is stretched along the Yamuna River. The Garden offers a spectacular view of the Taj Mahal which makes it a hotspot for photographers. It is famous for its unique style and serene beauty. The garden was established much before the Taj Mahal itself in the 16th century by Mughal Emperor Babur.
This garden was originally planned to be a Char bagh complex of Persian architecture. This original design had reflected ponds, pavilions, fountains of water, and much more. However, in the early 20th century, a huge pile of sand ruined the garden due to the floods of River Yamuna and transformed it into nothing. Then, during the end of the century, when people almost forgot the existence of the garden, the archeological department rediscovered it while searching for the rumored “The Black Taj Mahal“. They did find the Charbagh complex buried under the sand and now, the ASI is endeavoring to recreate and bring the garden to its old glory. In the area, you will find citrus trees, guava trees, hibiscus, and other trees local to the Mughal reign.
Fatehpur Sikri: This grandly fortified city that is located 40 km away from Agra takes you to the golden days of the Mughal era. It used to be the capital of the Mughal empire from 1572 to 1585. The tale begins when Akbar had previously come barefoot to Sikri Village to meet the noble Sufi saint Shaikh Salim Chisti who foretold the birth of an heir in the empire. Akbar decided to build his new capital here when this prophecy became reality and Jahangir was born. The Fatehpur Sikri complex holds stunning testimonials of Akbar’s reign including a magnificient mosque, Buland Darwaza (Door of Victory), Anup Talao (a pond in the middle of which Tansen used to sing), three palaces for his three most favorite wives who belonged to three different religions, and many more significant places.
Tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah: This tomb is dedicated to Mirza Ghiyas Beg and his wife Asmat Begum. He belonged to Iran and worked during the reign of Akbar. He was the father of empress Nur-Jehan and grandfather of Mumtaz-Mahal. He was given the dignified position of Vazir (Prime Minister) in King’s court after the marriage of Nur Jehan and Jehangir in 1611. He was also offered the mansab of 7000/7000 and the honorary title: “I’timad-Ud-Daulah” (The Lord treasurer). He took his last breath at Agra in 1622, after a few months of his wife’s death. Then, this tomb was established by Nur Jehan for her parents between 1622 and 1628.
It is the most beautiful example of the dome-less category of Mughal tombs. It is the first monument that was made in white marble and officially signifies the transitional period from Redstone to white marble in Mughal architecture. It is beautifully ornamented with fine Iranian and Persian motifs. The tomb is also called the “Baby Taj” or draft of the Taj Mahal.
Agra Fort: Located on the right bank of the river Yamuna, Agra Fort is one of the most significant and strongly built structures by the Mughals. The fort complex contains magnificent palaces and gardens of Mughal architecture. The present-day site of Agra Fort was built by the most successful Mughal emperor Akbar on the relics of a primeval site known as Badalgarh. The first Sultan who shifted his capital from Delhi to Agra was Sikandar Lodhi. After Sikandar Lodi’s demise in 1517, his son Ibrahim Lodi ruled from the fort for the next 9 years. The rule of the Lodhi dynasty ended when Ibrahim Lodhi was defeated and murdered in the battle of Panipat in 1526. During the reign of the Lodhi kings, many palaces, wells, and a mosque were constructed inside the fort complex.
When Humayun was sent to Agra by his father Babur, he took hold of the fort and confiscated a large chunk of treasure including the elusive ‘Koh-i-Noor’ diamond. Inside the fort, a baoli (step-wall) was built by Babur. The coronation of Humayun took place here in 1530. In 1540, Sher Shah of the Sur dynasty captured Agra fort after defeating Humayan in Bilgram. When Akbar reached Agra in 1558, he ordered to rebuild the fort with red sandstone. It took 8 years to renovate the fort with 4000 craftsmen working daily.
The fort is built over an area of about 94 acres of land. Presently, there are more than two dozen monuments inside the Fort complex. According to the accounts of Abul Faizal, a court historian of Akbar 5000 buildings were constructed here spectacularly in Bengali and Gujarati style. Most of these buildings no longer exist anymore. Shah Jahan himself destroyed some of these buildings to give way to white marble palaces. Later, the British ruined most of the buildings for building barracks. Only 30 Mughal buildings have managed to survive on the southeastern side. Among these, the Delhi-Gate, Akbari-Gate and ‘Bengali-Mahal’, are the testimonials of Akbar’s rule.
Though Jahangir spent most of his years in Lahore and Kashmir, he used to make regular visits to Agra and also lived in the fort. Shah Jahan, a great patron of art and architecture, built white marble palaces here and also founded three white marble mosques in the fort complex: Moti-Masjid, Nagina-Masjid, and Mina-Masjid.
Shah Jahan was captivated by his son in the fort for 8 years until his death in 1666 and was buried in the Taj Mahal beside his wife Mumtaz. The barbicans were constructed by Aurangzeb around the two gates and river for a stronger defense of the fort.
Though the Mughal capital was officially moved to Delhi in 1638, Shah Jahan continued to reside here and the glory of Agra was lost after his death. Though Aurangzeb got involved in the regional wars and conflicts Yet, he resided here for a long time and organized the durbar. Shivaji visited Agra in 1666 and had a meeting with Aurangzeb in the Diwan-i-Khas. After Aurangzeb died in 1707, Agra Fort went through a series of sieges and plunder by Jats, Marathas, and other powerful forces. The British finally snatched it away from the Marathas in 1803.
Sikandra: Tomb of Akbar – Mughal Emperor Akbar lies in the vast greeneries of Sikandra. It is said that Akbar himself chose his burial place during his lifetime. He also designed the style of the tomb and the gardens surrounding it. Sikandra is located 8 km away on the outskirts of Agra on the Mathura National Highway. The original construction of the entire tomb took place during Akbar’s lifespan. His son, emperor Jehangir famously known as Prince Salim built a marble floor over the structure and completed the structure. The building is decorated with designs, calligraphy, floral motifs, and geometrical patterns. The garden is divided into four parts with water canals according to the Charbagh system of the garden. During the reign of Aurangzeb, the tomb was invaded by the Jats, but it was again restored in 1905.
Agra must be in the bucket list of every history lover and you simply can’t miss it!