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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrThe historic city of Agra was once the capital of the Great Mughal Empire. It is where the famous Taj Mahal, one of the Seven Wonders of the World stands beside the other magnificent historical structure that draws attention of travelers from several destinations all over the world. Agra was once the epitome of art and culture in India, which can be easily felt with a visit to this city.
An infusion of traditional and modern culture, the Agra city maintains a candid balance of both forms, welcoming travelers in the most courteous manners, ensuring a happy holiday to all the visitors who comes to visit the historic marvels found in this land.
History & DemographicsAgra has a long historical heritage, even before the advent of the Great Mughal Empire. History indicates that Agra was founded by Sikandar Lodi of the Lodi dynasty until in 1526 AD, when during the famous Battle of Panipat, the Lodi dynasty was defeated by the Mughals, which marked the start of the Mughal reign in India under the reign of - Babur the Great. Later after Babur’s death, Agra went into the hands of his ancestors which includes Humayun, Akbar, Jahangir and Shah Jahan - all showing equal caliber to build a modern city beaming with art and culture of the Persian architecture, religion and philosophy. While Emperor Akbar devoted his career to develop a liberal empire based on art and religion, he also established various policies for the betterment of people living in his kingdom.
After Akbar, the latter kings of the Great Mughal dynasty also showed equal dexterity in demonstrating their abilities in propagating art and architecture in Agra, as well as their adroitness in performing administrative affairs judiciously for the warfare of their subjects in this land.
Under the Mughal rule, Agra became a land of innovative architectural works. From the lavish garden known as Aram Bagh, built by Emperor Babur by the bank of the Yamuna River, the monumental Agra Fort built by Akbar, to the enchanting Taj Mahal, built under the supervision of Shah Jahan, Agra holds an important historical chapter in building and rebuilding the history of India.
The historic city of Agra falls under the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Located by the banks of the River Yamuna. Agra also serves as an important administrative district within the state.
Urdu and Hindi language are common among the local people of Agra. English is also spoken among the young and the educated masses of the society.
Sightseeing in AgraIdeally, it takes at least 3 to 4 days to experience the wonders of Agra City. There are many places of historical interest in this town and some of them may also require repeated visits.
Nevertheless, following is a selection of locations that you must not miss while visiting the Agra city.
Taj MahalBuilt during 1631 - 1648 AD, under the leadership of the Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahan, this immensely beautiful mausoleum was a dedication to his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, after her untimely death.
Taj Mahal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is one the main tourist attraction in Agra City. The Taj Mahal remains open every day from 6:00 AM until 6:30 PM, except on Fridays. Tickets are available for both day and night trips and it costs ₨ 750 ($12) for a foreigner. The night-view of the Taj Mahal looks stunning and mysterious on a full-moon night.
Agra FortThis fort is a witness to many memories of the Mughal rule and holds the UNESCO World Heritage Site status because of its historic importance, since the birth of this city. Rebuilt under the supervision of Emperor Akbar during 1565-1571, Agra Fort truly evokes the grandeur that was prevalent during the Mughal reign. For a long time, this fort also acted as the key center for military and administrative activities of the Mughal rule. However, after Emperor Shah Jahan, (grandson of Great Akbar) ascended the throne, he converted the fort to look and function more like a palace by adding various new chambers and spectacular gardens inside this fortress. Inside the premise, be sure to visit Anguri Bagh, Musamman Burj, Diwan-i-am, Diwan-i-Khas, Jahangir Mahal and Khas Mahal which are famous tourist landmarks inside this fortress.
Agra Fort remains open from 6:00 AM till 6:00 PM. As a foreigner you need to pay ₨ 300 ($4.80) for entry into this fort.
Itmad-Ud-Daulah's TombBuilt by Nur Jahan in the memory of Ghias-ud-Din Beg (her father), this building is often referred as Baby Taj. The reason for its particular name is its similarity in architectural style and design with the world renowned Taj Mahal. Although smaller in size compared to other Mughal buildings in the city, but nevertheless it’s a place which is visited by all travelers who comes to Agra. The tomb is open for visitors from 6:00 AM till 6:00 PM and as a foreigner you need to pay ₨ 100 ($1.60) for entry into this building.
SikandraLocated around 10 kilometers from Agra city, Sikandra is the resting place of Emperor Akbar. This red sandstone and granite built mausoleum's main gate faces the south of this city. While the actual tomb lies inside the basement, the false tomb of Akbar that is visible above the ground resembles a four-story pyramid made out of marble. Sikandra remains open from 6 AM until 6 PM and the entry fee for a foreigner is ₨ 100 ($1.60) for exploring this site.
Chinni Ka RauzaThis monument is the burial site of Afzal Khan Mullah . He was a scholar par excellence and served as a minister in the court of the Emperor Shah Jahan. The burial of this great Islamic scholar and Mughal politician is exquisitely decorated with Indo-Persian architectural form and is also renowned as the first Indian edifice to have used glazed tiles for designing this building.
Mariam’s TombHere lies the remains of Emperor Akbar’s consort, Miriam Zamani. The building where the tomb rests was first constructed by Emperor Sikandar Lodi of the Lodi dynasty in 1495 AD. It was then used by the kings and other members of the royal Lodi family for pleasure and fun. Later, in 1623 AD the building was converted into a tomb by the Great Mughal Emperor for burying his loved ones. Entry to the tomb as a foreigner costs ₨ 100 ($1.60) and it remains from open from 6 AM till 6 PM every day.
Fathepur SikriThis city is located around 39 kilometers from Agra and was found by Emperor Akbar in 1569 AD. The city also served as the capital city of the Mughals from 1571 until 1585. Here also lies the famous construction, a project once taken by Emperor Akbar to develop a planned walled city which was completed after his death. Inside this old Mughal city lies the Buland Darwaza, Jama Masjid, Saint Salim Chisti’s Tomb, Diwan-i-am, Diwan-i-Khas, Panch Mahal, Naubat Khana, Ibadat Khana, Pachisi Court, Ahujra-i-Anup-talao, Palace of Mariam Zamani, Anup Talao and several other places of historic relevance. All the compounds in this building are made of red sandstone, showcasing some stunning architectural works of the Mughal era.
Gardens in Agra CityThe Mughals also patronized gardening and horticulture during their rule, which is much evident from two famous gardens in Agra City: Ram Bagh and Mehtab Bagh.
Ram BaghLocated in proximity of Chini Ka Rauza, this garden was the first garden which was built during Mughal rule, by Emperor Akbar the Great.
Mehtab BaghSituated by the bank of the Yamuna River, this botanical garden is located around 30 minutes by car from the center of Agra city. The riverside around this location is stunningly beautiful with the view of the Taj Mahal at a distance. During the monsoon seasons, when the Yamuna River fills up, the water reflects the image of the Taj Mahal on the waterfront - which is a magical scene to behold on any full moon night.
Besides the Mughal buildings, Agra is also popular for some important Hindu temples, such as Mankameshwar Temple, Rajeshwar Temple, Balkeshwar Temple, Rawli Maharaj Temple, Shyam Ji Maharaj Temple, Prithvinath Temple and famous Kailash Temple, all of which are located in and around this town.
Other Nearby PlacesIf you have come to visit Agra, you may also try to cover the nearby Hindu religious locations like Mathura, Vrindavan and Nandgaon. Mathura is considered to be the birth place of Lord Shree Krishna. Also you can plan to reach Bharatpur, to enjoy the Bharatpur National Park which is also known as Keoladeo National Park and is one of the most popular bird sanctuaries in India.
Festivals in AgraOne of the most talked-about festivals in Agra is the Taj Mahotsav.
Held every year during the month of February, this festival is organized to highlight the art and culture of the once glorious Mughal era. From music, poem recitation, dance, number of stalls selling souvenirs and local dishes of Agra, this festival draws a large number of both domestic and international tourists for its grandeur to this city.
The festival is held in Shilpigram, which is located very near the Taj Mahal.
AccommodationAgra has a numerous options of budget and mid-range accommodations available in this town. For mid-range hotels the recommended ones are Aman Homestay, Laurie's Hotel, Hotel Priya, Hotel Taj Resorts, Rajmahal hotel, Hotel Priya, N.Home Stay and others.
For a budget friendly place to stay in Agra, you can check-in at India Inn, Saniya Palace, Col Lamba Indian Home Stay, Shanti lodge, Hotel Kamal, Friends Paying Guest House, Dayal Lodge, Hotel Amba Inn and several other hotels located in this city.
For a luxurious stay in Agra the recommended places to stay are ITC Mughal and Hotel Howard Plaza, both of which are well acclaimed for their impeccable hospitality and grandeur.
Where to EatWhile you are in Agra, be sure to enjoy the local Mughal delicacies as they are various dishes available in many restaurants and street-side stalls all over the city. Agra is famous for ‘Chaat ’ and you will find it everywhere while travelling through this city. Besides, Agra is equally renowned for its sweetmeat dishes.
Of late, Agra also has fostered a number of Korean restaurants in this city. Some recommended places to eat in Agra are Bob Marley Restaurant, Gulshan Highest, Kamat Hotel, the Silk Route Restaurant, Joney's place, Shankara Vegis and others.
Moving Around AgraThe best way to travel in Agra is by taxi, auto rickshaw, tanga (Horse-driven carriage) and paddle-rickshaws. However, before you hire, be sure to bargain as they often charge extra, especially for any non-localities and foreigners.
Another option is to hire an AC taxi while visiting this city. If you are looking forward to hire an auto rickshaw or taxi, check out Auto-Rickshaw Shoketali. The drivers of this travel group are courteous, safe and honest. They also speak English and do not use any tricks to fool the visitors to this ever splendid city.
How to Reach
FlightThe Kheria Airport of Agra has frequent flight connections to Delhi and Mumbai. Passengers traveling internationally or from other domestic cities may need to connect with any of these two cities to reach Agra.
TrainAgra is well-connected with all other major cities of India via railway.
RoadThere are also frequent bus services that plies from Delhi to Agra and it takes around 4 to 5 hours to reach this charming destination.
Best Time to VisitAs summers are extremely hot in this desert region of sand dunes and camels - the best time to visit Agra is from October till the end of March.
Shopping in AgraThere are a number of souvenir stores in the Agra city which sells exquisite products made out of stone. You will also find replicas of the Taj Mahal and other local handicraft work while moving around in this city.
While you shop, be sure to stay away from the touts as they will take you only to those stores where they get paid commission from the shop-owner, which will be levied to you as a hidden price on your bills.
Agra is also famous for designer shoes and leather goods.
Tips for the travelers
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Author: SubhasishMitra. Last updated: Jan 02, 2015