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Uttar Pradesh: Agra and Taj Mahal
Agra is the most popular destination of Uttar Pradesh, and possibly India. The revered Taj Mahal resides in Agra. Taj Mahal features in the top of the latest seven wonders of the world, which was arrived at, after a worldwide voting.
Agra sees extremes of both summers and winters. The summer temperatures ride up to 50 degrees Celsius, and hence it is highly advisable to keep off Agra in the summer months. The winter temperatures come close to zero degrees Celsius and heavy woolens are required.
The best time to visit the place is between November to February, both months inclusive.
Agra is frequently visited as a day trip from Delhi. You can visit the two major attractions of Agra, namely the Taj and the Agra fort quite easily from a day trip from Delhi, but will have to give the other attractions a miss.
If you are staying at Agra, and want to visit Agra destinations only, then hire a rickshaw or a tanga. If you are coupling Fatepur Sikri and/or Mathura – Vindraban, then hire Autos or cars.
Before you hire a vehicle, talk with the Government tourist office for rates, else you will be subject to higher rates and middleman’s (frequently your hotel) commission.
The Taj Mahal:
People also queue up to visit the Taj in a moonlit night. It is said the beauty of the Taj is mesmerizing on moonlit nights. A total of 400 tourists are permitted to see the Taj Mahal, on or around moonlit nights, on five specific nights in a month. These nights are the full moon night itself and the two nights before and after the full moon night. You can get tickets as soon as you get to Agra, with the help of your hotel reception desk.
Taj has a different beauty with different stages of the day. And each is more beautiful than the other. No other man made beauty comes up to a stature of anywhere close to Taj.
For example, if you are lucky to visit the Taj just before sunrise, then you will be subject to a mesmerizing beauty. The Taj will turn to Pink from snow white, and will gradually turn orangish, before turning brilliant white, in synchronization with the changing color of the sun.
On a moonlit night, the Taj appears to be floating on the waters on the Yamuna, like a giant mythical ship. The setting moon gives the impression that the Taj is moving away from you. It turns a golden hue with the setting sun. It literally feels like heaven. If you are there at sunrise, make sure you are in the eastern red sandstone gate to view the beauty, while if you are witnessing the sunset, then be at the mosque in the western side for the best view.
The entire beauty of the Taj magnifies in the monsoon, as the mausoleum is washed cleaned by the rain waters.
The Taj was built by the mughal emperor Shah Jahan. He was grief struck after his beloved wife passed away while giving birth to their 14th kid, at the age of 34. He also left his royal lifestyle and shifted to Agra. To keep the promise he had made to his dying wife, he started building the Taj one year after his wife's death. He had also planned a black Taj for his own burial on the other bank of Yamuna, but his Son Aurangzeb refrained from carrying out his wishes, and buried him beside his mother.
The Taj occupies an area of 580X300 Sq Meters, and it took 22 years to complete the Taj, employing 20,000 workers. Ustad Esha Afandi from Persia was the designer.
The gateway of Taj is built in red sandstone, and is about 30 meters high. Ayat from he holy Qur’an have been carved in Arabic at the gateways. It is octagonal, and has 22 minarets representing the 22 years it took to built it. On the western gate is the Fatepuri mosque. There are shops, emporiums inside the Taj area, where you can buy memorabilia and little keepsakes. Near the south eastern gate, there is the mausoleum of Queen Shirhiddi. In the South Eastern side, there is a mausoleum of Sati Unnisa Khanum. The southern gate has a mausoleum of a close aid of queen Mumtaz. The gates themselves are great examples of Mughal architecture.
A garden of Paradise, according to Islamic belief , had also been built. An artificial river of paradise had also been created, which was a sweet mixture of water, milk, wine and honey. Colorful decorative fishes used to swim happily in the mixture.
Today, the path to Taj is beside a broad and long water body, which reflects the Taj. The path is aligned with decorative trees. The spring beautifies the path more, with its offer of seasonal flowers.
The main dome of Taj is of 60 feet diameter and 80 feet high. Four equal domes surround the main dome. The original chandelier, that used to hang from the center of the dome, were looted by the Jaats. The present bronze one was hung by Lord Karzon in 1900. The platform is 6.7 meters high. The walls cover an area of 95 sq meters, and is built in black and white combination, much like a chess board. Amanat Khan Shirazi, a calligraphist, have got the entire Qur’an on its walls. 35 different types of colorful stones have been used to decorate the walls. The flowers on the walls have used 64 pieces of different colored stones. Thousands of elephants were employed to bring loads of marble from makrana, Rajasthan, Red sandstone from Fatepur Sikri, Jasper from Punjab, Jade and Crystal from China, and different other gem stones from neighboring countries. The technique used is known as the Pietradura art, and is so perfect, that it is difficult to locate a joint. The walls have marble grills, through which sunlight falls on the graves of the King and Queen. There used to be golden drapes there, which Aurangzeb replaced with the marble grills.
The upper chamber of the Taj contains mock graves, and basement chamber contain the real graves. Access to basement have been stopped now.
The Agra Fort:
About two kilometers and half from the Taj, on the other side of Yamuna, is the Agra fort, the original refuge of the Mughal emperors. It was built by Akbar over the destroyed forts of the Rajputs and the Suris. It is a very secured fort with 10metes deep moat surrounding the fort. The boundary wall is 20 meters high. The fort is built in red sandstone. In its hay days, the Dilli gate was the prime gate, but now only the Amar Singh gate in the south in operational. In 1688, Maharaja Amar Singh of Jodhpur died beside the gate, and hence the christening of the gate. There is statue of him too, there.
The Jahangir palace in the fort has been built in a conglomerate of Hindu and middle East architecture style. It was built by Akbar for his son Jahangir and is the biggest palace of the fort. Beside is his mother, Jodhabai's palace. On its northern side in the Shah Jahan Mahal.
In the middle is the Dewan E Aam, the royal court for commoners. It was entirely renovated by Shah Jahan. Open on three sides, its floor and ceiling is of red sandstone. There are a total of 40 pillars in the all. The British met the mughals for the first time in this hall. Later this hall was also renovated by the British.
To meet his special guests, the emperor used the Dewan E Khaas. The famous Peacock Throne was also here. It had accompanied Shah Jahan to Delhi red fort, from where it was looted by Nadir Shah.
There is intricate carving work in Dewan E Khaas.
Check out the underground cool chambers, which served as the King's refuge in the hot summer months.
You can also visit the grapes gardens. Sish Mahal deserves a special mention. Its walls and ceilings are fitted with mirrors so beautifully, that just 1 candle is sufficient to light up the entire place.
Also check out the Musamman Burj, or octagonal tower, built by Shah Jahan for his wife Mumtaz. Its also called prisoners tower as Shah Jahan was kept in captivity by his son Aurangzeb for 8 years here.
The pachisi board, a board game where dancers acted as the pawns, is right at the front. On the right is the Khaas Mahal, where the emperor rested.
Others attractions are the Nagina mosque Machhi Bhawan, Meena Bazar and Moti Mazjid. You can get up on the terrace to check out the fort.
Jami Mosque: Opposite of Fort station, it is close to the fort. It was possibly built by Jahanara, who was Jahangir's daughter.
Idmat Ud Daula Tomb: It is the first mausoleum in marble by the Mughals. It was built by Noor Jahan, Jahangir's wife, in memory of her parents. It is also of Pietradura architecture and is double storied. It is much smaller in size, but its intricate works commands respect. There are four octagonal pillars at the four corners, and one can climb up the stairs too. The arches and the marble grills are unrivaled. There are touches of Persian architecture too, in this Indo Islamic work. It beats Taj in some respects. Shah Jahan got the inspiration to built Taj from this tomb. Noor Jehan also built its replica for Jahangir's tomb in Lahore. Idmat Ud Daula is lovingly called 'Baby Taj' by many.
Ram Bagh: Also known as Bag – e – Gul Afsan (garden and orchard), it was buit by Jahanara in 3 levels. This garden was the inspiration for Mughal gardens in Srinagar. It also has the tomb of Shah Jahan's Hindu mother. There is also a 32 pillar monument built in red sandstone. But gross neglect has killed most of the beauty of the place, and hence it is not frequented by very many tourists.
Jami Masjid: Also built by Jahanara, It is close to the fort on the way to Kinari Bazar.
Dayal Bagh: 8 kilometers north of Taj is the Swami Bag Temple, or Garden of the Supreme Lord. It is still on construction, though construction had started in 1908. The Pietradura styled carvings of plants and flowers are being appreciated by tourists.
Sikandra: 10 kilometers from Taj and 14 kilometers from the fort is the tomb the the greatest Mughal emperor, Akbar. Sikandra is built of red sandstone, and have four entrances. One gateway is Muslim, one Hindu, One Christian, and one representing global, designed by Akbar. There is a intricate and Huge Buland Darwaza which is the main entrance in the South. The Tomb is a four storied building, three storied being of Red Sandstone, and the top floor being off white marble. The height is 22.5 meters. 4 Minarets surround it. Taj reflects this architecture. His two daughters, Nisha Begam and Arambanu's tombs are also here. It was started by Akbar himself and was completed by Jahangir.
How to Reach: Agra can be easily reached from Delhi.
Where to Stay: There are hotels of every kind in Agra. But it is a very congested and dirty city. Middleman’s commission is also high and generally all cab drivers, auto drivers, rickshaw and tanga pullers are agents. It is advised that you book your hotel before you go there. Refer to our hotel booking links below for rates to compare, facilities, pictures, and online booking at best rates.