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An Insight :

Agra, a small city in Uttar Pradesh, built on the western bank of the Yamuna river, about 200 kms from Delhi, is one of the most important historical and ancient cities of India. Agra has become popular worldwide as it nestles the monument of love and one of the Seven Wonders of the World, Taj Mahal. The city was established in the year 1475 by Raja Badal Singh. Agra became an important city only after the Lodhi king Sikander Lodhi set up his capital in this ancient city. Later the Mughal ruler Babar took over the Agra city and set base for the establishment of the Mughal rule. It was during the Mughal rule, especially under Babar, Akbar, Jehangir and Shah Jahan that Agra developed as a great center of architecture, art and Mughal culture. A number of forts, buildings and tombs were constructed during the 16th century, which was the peak period of Mughal glory in Agra, India.

The massive monuments, majestic buildings and still flourishing arts and crafts including leather work and Pietra dura marble-inlay work along with delicious Mughal cuisine have now become an inseparable part or more, the identity of the city. Agra, is a must visit city on any tour of India.

Lets Explore the City of Agra – sightseeing in Agra :
Taj Mahal - Reflecting the passions of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, the Taj Mahal in Agra was built in the mid-1600s as a tomb for his wife Mumtaz Mahal. Later he was buried beside her. The beauty, balance and peace of this symmetrical, marble masterpiece, from the detail of colored stone inlay arranged into intricate patterns of flowers and Arabic prayer to the perfect symmetry on every tower, make it a stunning and unforgettable monument. Flanking the Taj are two red sandstone mosques, which are also beautifully decorated. Only the western one functions as a mosque - the other faces the wrong way and is there purely for symmetry.

The crowning glory of the Agra is obviously the Taj, (Taj Mahal) a monument of love and imagination, that represents India to the world. Visit at sunrise and sunset and watch the colors and the mood change. The pool that so famously mirrors the image of the Taj Mahal is a favorite for Indian family photographers.

The Taj Mahal looks astounding from across the river (where the exquisite "Baby Taj" is), from Agra rooftops and from every angle. Up close the details continue to amaze - marble screens, minarets... the list goes on. In the middle of his dream lies the Emperor himself, next to the woman who inspired his masterpiece.

Agra Fort - The 16th century old magnificent Mughal monument... the Red Fort of Agra is a powerful fortress of red sandstone encompasses, within its 1.5 mile-long (2.5km) enclosure walls, the imperial city of the Mughal rulers. It comprises many fairytale palaces such as the Jahangir Palace and the Khas Mahal, built by Shah Jahan; audience halls such as the Diwan-i-Khas; and Sheesh Mahal (The Glass Palace), which, inlaid with thousands of mirrors was once the harem dressing room. There are also two beautiful mosques including Shah Jahans Pearl Mosque (sadly currently out-of-bounds).

The Octagonal Tower is an exquisitely carved tower where Shah Jahan spent the last seven years of his life. The tower was considered to provide one of the best views of the Taj but today the pollution has reduced the visibility. The tower, and much of the Agra Fort, is in bad shape but blank spaces and the empty inlay works give an idea of how this building must have looked in its prime.

Fatehpur Sikri - The deserted city Fatehpur Sikri was the capital of the Mughal Empire between 1570 and 1585. It was built under the personal supervision of the Emperor Akbar; he was childless and, having tried all sorts of solutions to his plight, visited a Sufi saint, Sheikh Salim Chishti, for help. Soon a son was born and, impressed and overjoyed, he started building on the site where he had met the saint. However due to a severe shortage of water the city was abandoned after only fifteen years and the capital was relocated back to Agra. As a result Fatehpur Sikri stands untouched and perfectly preserved; a complete medieval fortress of red sandstone, with vast central squares, exquisitely carved multi-tiered pavilions, cool terraces and formal gardens. Fatehpur Sikri is a 25 miles (40km) west of Agra, on the way to Jaipur.

Itmad-ud-daulah – This striking monument is the tomb of Ghias-ud-Din Beg, the father of Nur Jahan, built between 1622 and 1628. This white marble tomb, though not as large and as well known as the Taj Mahal, is no less strking, and has wonderful inlay designs and carvings.

Sikandra – The mausoleum of Emperor Akbar, built by his son Jehangir in 1613 AD, located just outside Agra, reflects a fusion of Hindu and Muslim architecture.

Events in Agra -
Taj Mahotsav - Held during March each year in Agra, this festival is a wonderful cultural mosaic that brings together the cream of Indian arts, crafts and culture. The mahostav was organized by UP Tourism and held as an annual event in and around Shilpgram (next door to the Taj Mahal), this is a fitting tribute to the legendary skills of master craftsmen and other exponents of art, music and cuisine. It kicks off with a spectacular procession inspired by Mughal splendor - caparisoned elephants, camels and drum beaters included.

Shopping in Agra :
Shopping - Agra is not only a famous tourist destination but is a shoppers paradise too. There are plenty of shopping areas and shopping malls where one can buy the specialties of the place . Agra’s speciality is the marble inlay work, and there are various Emporiums displaying handcrafted marble inlay work. Agra is also famous for its leather goods industry . Handmade leather from Agra is exported the world over. Agra is also famous for the Zari and embroidery work, Stone inlay work and durries.

The main shopping areas include Fatehbad road near the Taj Mahal complex, Kinari Bazaar, Raja Mandi, Sadar Bazaar, the Gangotri at Taj Mahal Complex and the U.P Handlooms, UPICA at the Sanjay place are two UP Government emporiums.

Where is Agra?
By Air – While Agra does have an airport, making it an only 30 minutes flight from Delhi, currently there are no flights operating to Agra.

By Train - Agra has excellent train services from New Delhi. Shatabdi Express, Taj Express and Inter-city Express from Delhi take 2-3 hours to reach Agra and are good options. Agra is also connected to other major tourist destinations by train.

By Road - Many National Highways connect Agra to all major Indian cities and express and air-conditioned bus services are available to and from Delhi, Jaipur, Lucknow, Gwalior and Jhansi.

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(A Division of Trans India Holidays)
Mr. Rajesh Kaushik
No. 42, Community Center, Kailash Colony Extn,
Zamrudpur, New Delhi-110 048, (India)
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