This monument is not only a UNESCO World Heritage Site but also the most beautiful monument of the whole world. This was a mark of love and honour by Emperor Shah Jahan for his beloved and favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. It is said that Mumtaz Mahal died while giving birth to her 14th child and Shah Jahan was completely shattered. After this he built this beautiful mausoleum about which he himself said that even the sun and the moon would shed tears after seeing it. The main building was built in 8 years after the monument started being built in the year 1631 but the whole complex was completed in the year 1653. The monument is built right on the banks of the River Yamuna and is a symbol of purity and love. The white marble used here makes the place looks even more peaceful when the reflection of the monument falls on the waters of the Yamuna. The red sandstone mosque is also a part of the monument complex. Immediately after the building was completed, Shah Jahan was overpowered by his son Aurangzeb and was imprisoned inside the Agra Fort. He could only sit and look at the Taj Mahal till he died in the year 1666. The building has intricate work especially the beautiful lattice work and the Quran is inscribed on the walls of the monument in the form of beautiful calligraphy. The Persian Garden inside the monument complex is another attraction for the tourists. Every week thousands of people come to visit this place and to experience their dream come true. Some also have to leave disappointed at times but there is alsways a desire left to come back.
This is a beautiful monument which was built by Emperor Akbar in the year 1565. The Red Fort was initially built as an establishment for the army but was later extended and beautified to convert it into a magnificent palace complex. Agra Fort is also known as the Red Fort of Agra as it is completely made of a beautiful red colour sandstone and is also connected to Delhi by a number of networks. There are four prominent gates of this fort but the Amar Darwaza after the name of Maharaja Amar Singh is still used for entry to the fort. Many of the palaces which were earlier built are not found now but among those which still remain are the Jahangiri Mahal, Diwan-i-Aam, Diwan-i-Khas, Moti Masjid, Shaha Burj and Mausam Burj. The Jahangiri Mahal is the most attractive out of all palaces. This was a dedication of Akbar to his beloved wife Jodha Bai. It is a multi divisional palace and is still very attractive. This monument is one of the most visited tourist attractions of Uttar Pradesh.
Taj Mahal and Agra Red Fort
One of the most important monuments in the cultural as well as political scenario of India, the Red Fort is the pride of the capital city of Delhi. It was once the capital of Shahjanabad named after Emperor Shah Jahan. It was during his reign that this awesome monument took its form between 1638 and 1648. The whole structure was named Red Fort or Lal Qila due to the basic material of architecture which is sandstone. It served as the residence of the Mughal Kings for almost 200 years. Later when India became independent, the first Prime Minister of India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru hoisted the National Flag here and the ritual is still carried on. Every year the Independence Day celebrations are organized here.
Next stop was Sikandra - Tomb of Great Akbar!!! It's located just outside the main Agra city and is on the side of Mathura Road!! With blue sky above, the front gate looks beautiful. After entering the main house, the wall and ceiling details will mesmerise you. After this u must have your lunch as it will be 2 o'clock by now!!
This is a city as well as fort in the extending part of Lucknow. This has its mentions as 'Saik' even in the Mahabharata which makes it very clear that this city existed even during the pre- historic Era. The city was further beautified by the Mughal rulers and the Fatehpur Sikri along with Buland Darwaza is an incomparable monument gifted by Mughal Rulers, especially Emperor Akbar. The fort complex is spread over a huge area and consists of mosque, the Dargah of Salim Salim Chisti, the palaces and so many more. The red sandstone structures with a few made of white marble makes it an awesome composition. The lattice work, jharokhas, pillars and facades are intricately carved. Salim Chisti Dargah was a mark of honor by Emperor Akbar to the great Sufi Saint Sheikh Salim Chisti whom he followed whole heartedly.
Tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah
Itimad-ul-Daulah is among the list of places to visit in Agra. The attraction is a tomb of Mirza Ghiyas Beg, the grandfather of Mumtaz Mahal. It is also known as Baby Taj. Nur Jahan, the daughter of Mirza, who married Jehangir was the one who got the tomb constructed in the year 1622-1628. The finely carved jali on the marble is definitely something that will stay in your memory forever. This structure made by the Mughals is also a completely marble one. Also, it was the first tomb that was built on the river Jamuna banks. Islamic architecture is what the place speaks of. The fine craftsmanship is something that is not to be missed. The place is quite calm and peaceful and gives you a good quality time with yourself and your closed ones.
This is the garden you will find opposite the Taj Mahal which was made by Emperor Shah Jahan. He called this the moonlight garden or a place from where he could best admire the Taj. This was the same place where he wanted to get a twin of Taj Mahal built in black Marble to be a mausoleum for himself but could not put hs plan into action. From recent excavations another central garden along with the remains of as many as 25 fountains have been found here. This garden is almost always filled with people especially during the afternoons and the evnings who sit here and admire the beauty of the Taj Mahal while the cool breeze from the River Yamuna soothes them.
As I come out of the Taj, the dusk approached and checked-in to my backpacker hostel. Then I strolled on to the Sadar Bazaar. You can buy leather shoes and taste all kinds of savouries in a gully in Sadar Bazaar. And you must try the restaurant Mama's Franky House. I loved the Lucknowi Biriyani and Lacha Paratha over there.
Tomb of Akbar the Great
Eclipsed by the Taj, lies another monument of great historical importance which is highly overlooked by tourists coming to Agra. Akbar's Tomb is near the outskirts of the city and not as well maintained as it should be. The campus is peaceful ,with gardens and a single mausoleum building.
Kalakriti Cultural & Convention Center
With just 43 hours left in my hand, I decided to step on the pedal before losing more time and headed for the live cultural extravaganza ‘Mohabbat – The Taj’ at Kalakriti. Depicting the love saga of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz, the dance drama beautifully captured the grandeur of the Mughals and concluded with the largest replica of the Taj Mahal emerging slowly from beneath the stage by a hydraulic lift.Day 2Filling my stomach with as much food as I could, my second day started early as I headed to Fatehpur Sikri. Built by Emperor Akbar, Fatehpur Sikri is 51 kilometres from Agra and was the alternate capital of Mughals but the short-lived capital had to be abandoned soon after Akbar’s death due to water issues.The fortified town is the home of a stunning white mosque nestled between the red sandstone walls, the iconic Buland Darwaza and the palaces of each of Akbar’s three wives – one Hindu, one Muslim and one Christian.After bidding farewell to my wonderful Sherpa, my destination next was Sikandra, the sandstone tomb of Akbar. The resting abode of the greatest of Mughal emperors, Sikandra has three sandstone minarets with intricate geometric designs made from white marble and spotting a deer in the lush green lawns is not rare.Stepping from one mausoleum to another, I was soon standing at Itmad-ud-Daulah, commonly known as Baby Taj in Agra. Built by Nur Jahan, wife of Jehangir, for her father Mirza Ghiyas Beg, the mausoleum, though not as majestic as Taj, is a delicate structure with intricate marble lattice screens.As per history books, one could catch a glimpse of the Taj from the mausoleum but thanks to urbanisation, all you can see now is the drying Yamuna, multiple bridges, webs of wires and ugly urban structures.As the clock struck 4pm, visiting Taj seemed like a horrible idea but with almost 24 hours gone since I had stepped into Taj city, my desperation to catch a glimpse took me to Mehtab Garden. Even though not as picturesque as I imagined it to be, Mehtab Graden was a nice break from all the rut of the city and the stone structures. Giving a magnificent view of the Taj without all the rush, the garden also holds some remains pieces of black marble that had been laid by Shah Jahan for the construction of his mausoleum – A black Taj. As my stomach growled by now, I headed to Sheroes for a refill. If you want luxurious food, it might not be the best place to go but do go here for the commendable women who run the café and to support their cause. Run by acid attack survivors, Sheroes also comes with a unique concept of pay-as-you-want. Located at Taj Ganj, the pasta and cold coffee here is amazing.With refilled stomach and renewed energy, I was soon standing in front of the massive and imposing Agra Fort. The construction of one of the finest fort of India was started by Akbar, continued by Jehangir and finished by Shah Jahan. The fort has several stories hidden in it. While the parts constructed by Akbar and Jehangir are of red sandstone, construction by Shah Jahan is distinguishable in striking white. Completed by Shah Jahan, the fort was also the prison of the emperor for eight years.The places to see within the fort are Diwan-i-aam (Hall for public audience), Diwan-i-khaas (Hall for private audience), Angoori Bagh (Garden where grapes were cultivated to make wine), Moti masjid, Nagina masjid, now-closed Meena Bazaar (Ladies Market), Shish Mahal (Hall of mirrors) and Khas Mahal (the tower where Shah Jahan was imprisoned and from where he used to see the Taj).At last the light and sound show at Agra Fort keeps all gripped as the grief of Shah Jahan resounds in darkness through the voices of trained actors. The light variations beautifully depict the marching of armies and the tale of Kohinoor.Day 3Today was the day I was finally headed to see the Taj. Skipping breakfast to reach really early, I made my way to Taj Ganj. Despite the hype, Taj is what you imagine it to be and more. Glistening with the dewiness of early morning, the white structure that has been attracting millions stood true to its name. The perfection of the monument that immortalised Shah Jahan’s love for Mumtaz is evident in the sheer numbers that come to see this beautiful structure. As I stand there I also wonder the sight it must be to visit the Taj on a full moon list (on my bucket list for sure).It had been 46 hours since I had started and I was back in the comfort of my bed but the trip lingered on my mind. Though Agra had welcomed me with its dusty charm, it was not the same chaotic city I remembered from a few years back. With the opulent red-white structures, splendour of gardens and the transcendence and purity of Taj, Agra gets etched on your mind and heart to never fade away again.
The tomb of the mystery lady in the Mughal history, the tomb of Bollywood director Ashutosh Gowarikar’s Akbar’s love interest, the tomb of the mother of the 4th Mughal king – yes this is the tomb of the mother of Jahangir, the tomb of the so called Christian wife ( a popular myth), . Surprised??? Yes, mother of Jahangir was a Rajput princess from the royal family of Amer (Jaipur). Wasn’t she the most loved consort of Akbar? So how come she has a tomb, why was she buried and not cremated as per Hindu/Rajput rites? And who is this Mariam (sounds like Hindi version of Mary – mother of Jesus Christ)?Visit this beautiful but little known tomb and get your answers.The tomb is located around a kilometre away from the main Sikandara complex. It’s located on the other side of the road and not immediately visible from the main road, one has to take a left turn onto a small lane. It’s a ticketed monument but tourist activity is negligible. Visit to this place would clear all your misconceptions and also would fill your heart with sadness for the one who is buried here.Intrigued, want to know more, read in details about the Tomb of Mariam-uz-Zamani hereGuru Ka Tal
Located just 1.7km from the homestay, this is the place where you get to witness the impeccable craftsmanship of the locals. Witness firsthand the art of Pietra Dura, the technique of turning inlaid pictures of stone into marble at Subhash Emporium, opposite the BSNL Grounds on Gwalior Road.
Panchi Petha Store
The city is dotted with several Petha stores claiming to be the original Panchi Petha. Nevertheless, most of the sweets are delectable and are good to carry home for friends. I stopped at a Petha store near the Sadar Market and was satisfied with my choice. There are far too many flavours of Petha available: chocolate, elaichi, mango.
This is a specialized market in the Chandni Chowk area. This is a place to be visited for festival or any other preparation for an occasion or function. Be it a puja, marriage or a festival, you get everything out here. Starting from wedding attires for the whole family to garlands, sehras, jewelry and accessories you name it and you get it in this place. They also have shops where you get designer costumes for rent. This market was set up during the Mughal Era and since then specializes in the same field. There are also a number of restaurants here to put off the fire in your belly after a shopping spree.
Guru ka Tal
Guru ka Taal/tal (The pond of the Guru) shares a deep bond with Sikhism. It is said that 4 out of 10 gurus of Sikhs had visited this place.This place earlier was a reservoir (taal) built in 1610 AD to collect and conserve rainwater during the reign of the 4th Mughal king Jahangir. The reservoir had beautiful stone carvings. Today this place has a Gurudwara (constructed in the 1970’s). The Gurudwara is called the Gurudwara Guru Ka Taal. It is located close to Sikandara complex. If you are coming from the main city (MG Road), the Guru Ka Taal Flyover would bring you right in front of the Gurudwara.Guru ka Taal is the place where the 9th Sikh Guru, Guru Teg Bahadur ji voluntarily got arrested. It is said that he did this act to protect the Kashmiri Hindus who had been captured and were tortured by the 6th Mughal king Aurangzeb and also for the sake of freedom to practice one’s own faith. Guru Teg Bahadur ji was kept here for 9 days and then later moved to Delhi where he was killed by Aurangzeb (his head was cut, two of his close aides were tortured and killed). The place where he was killed is now Gurudwara Sisganj.To the east of the Gurudwara there is a well. It is said underground water in this area was salty (it still is in most of the areas in Agra), but because of Guru’s miracle the water in this well and nearby wells became sweet (or without the salty taste).The Gurudwara is frequented by the followers of Sikhism. It has a place to stay also along with Langar facility. (free accommodation and free food – the terms are used only for the purpose of explaining, Langar and Dharamshala have a deeper meaning and go much beyond just the literal translation ).Read more about the GurudwaraThis is just the tip. There are many more such sites dotting Agra, just wait and watch this space. Coming soonThis post was originally published on Amanjul.
In the morning I headed to Itmad-ud-Daula (also called the baby taj). The tomb built by Nur Jahan, the wife of Jahangir in the memory of her father during 1600's. It was made of red stand stone and white marbles. It is a quite less crowded monument. You can spend half-an-hour or around to visit the whole mausoleum.
We reached Agra cannt. on time . There are many ways to reach Tajmahal from station like private taxi, local auto, battery operated rickshaw. This is where we felt little uncomfortable where all drivers for all mode of further transport poured upon us even after neglecting and rejecting them politely. Although I will advise foreign visitors to book pvt cab from booths as they are economic and comfortable. Since we know how these things work in India, we took auto rickshaw for 70 INR. Tajmahal is approx. 10 kms from Agra cantt station. We were dropped on west gate where there is facility of cloak room. I was carrying a shoulder bag alongwith my camera bag. After asking around I got to know no bags are allowed inside (ladies purse and hand bags are allowed). No eateries, power banks, charger, earphones or any electronic equipment except cameras, small tripod, transparent water bottle. Another thing to keep in mind is to keep an ID ready while collecting tickets (Not PAN card) and on entry gates to tajmahal. Tickets for Indians was of 40 INR while foreigners 1000 INR & Citizens of SAARC and BIMSTEC Countries 530 INR.We deposited our bags in cloak room for Rs. 20 and bought Rs. 10 shoe cover i.e required to wear over shoes while entering main mosque (Shoe cover is available for free inside). We entered beautiful Taj mahal and was really astonishing and magnificent. It is advisable to hire a registered guide while taking this trip. Since we learned a lot on internet and from our history books we didn't hire guide :D . Also only Agra fort was on out list apart from taj mahal to visit so we roamed around comfortably and with patience for 4 hours inside taj mahal. We went there on Saturday so it was very crowded.
R e d Fort Road
Post lunch we shopped for some items in UP Handloom stalls, grabbed some Agra Ka Petha and quickly reached  Red Fort around 4 pm..We quickly went around, learned the history,  clicked pics and left for Agra Cantt Railway Station @5.20 pm ...We got into the same train in the same platform it dropped us in the morning..And we were back to Delhi by 7.30 pm...It was a nice experience...We were clear what we wanted to see from the very beginning...Since we were coming back the same day, we restricted our travel to local...Next time would love to visit Fatehpur Sikri.
G. C. Complex
Sikandara was named after Sikandar Lodi (Lodi dynasty) and one can find many heritage sites of Lodi era along with Mughal era heritage sites scattered in this area.Sikandara complex is located on the outskirts of main Agra city. If one is travelling from Delhi to Agra via NH19/NH 44 (via Mathura), it will fall on the left a little before the Guru Ka Taal Flyover.There are two main sites in the main Sikandara complex – the tomb (mausoleum) of the 3rd Mughal king Akbar and the Kaanch Mahal (Glass palace) which served two purpose during the reign of 4th Mughal king Jahangir – a harem quarter of resort for ladies and hunting lodge (royal shikargah).The Kanch Mahal is a beautiful two storied red sandstone structure which has exterior embellishments with mosaic of blue, orange and yellow glazed tiles.From the Kaanch Mahal walk left to reach the tomb complex of Akbar. Akbar had started building his own mausoleum but died before its completion; the tomb was completed by his son Jahangir and was completed in 1613.In the entire complex one can see hybrid of different style of architecture – Hindu, Islamic, Christian, Jain and Buddhists – a patent style of Akbar as a result of his religious inclinations.The complex is a peaceful haven. It is a ticketed monument maintained and restored by ASI.The tomb of Mariam-uz-Zamani