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Agra

Located about 204 km south of Delhi in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, Agra is one of the most famous tourist spots of the country. It is one of the partner cities known as the Golden Triangle of India, other two being Delhi & Jaipur. The city situated on the west bank of river the Yamuna, home to one of the wonder of the world, The Taj Mahal. The magical allure of the Taj Mahal draws tourists to Agra like moths to a wondrous flame. And despite the hype, it’s every bit as good as you’ve heard. A part of the great northern Indian plains, Agra has a tropical climate. Summers are extremely hot and the maximum temperature can be as high as 45 degree Celsius, while winters are cold and foggy. The monsoon season is marked by heavy rains and high humidity.

Sightseeing:

For most of the time Agra alternated with Delhi as the capital of the Mughal Empire. As such one finds many marvels of the Mughal architecture in and around the city, the most famous of them being the Taj Mahal. Besides the Taj, the Agra Fort (also called the Red Fort) makes an interesting sight. Other major attractions include the tomb of Mirza Ghiyas Beg, Jama Masjid, Akbar’s tomb at Sikandra, Rambagh, the Mughal Garden and Dayal Bagh Temple. Besides the historical monuments, one can also explore Agra’s rich heritage of handicrafts in its markets.

Taj Mahal:

On the banks of the river Yamuna stands the Taj Mahal, the epitome of love. Built by the Mughal Emperor Shahjahan in the 17th century, the Taj today is source of attraction for millions of tourists from all over the world. To witness the beauty of this architectural marvel, one needs to view Taj at different times of the day and year.

The white marble building appears to change its hue according to variations in the daylight. In moonlight, especially on the full moon night, the marble appears extraordinarily luminescent. During winter months, the view of Taj at sunrise is magnificent.

The Taj Mahal is entirely made of white marble and its walls are decorated with exquisite pietra dura (stone inlay) work. It is said that different types of precious and semi-precious stones were used in the intricate inlay work done on the interiors. This magnificent monument is set around a Charbagh or ’four garden’ plan, which is split by watercourses-a reflection of the Persian style.

On a trip to Taj, it is always better not to rush into seeing things around. Sit around in the garden, admire the scenic beauty, and immerse yourself in the serene atmosphere to make your visit memorable.

Agra Fort:

Built by Emperor Akbar on the west bank of the river Yamuna and beautified with palaces and gardens by Jehangir, Agra Fort today dominates the centre of the city. The crescent-shaped fort with its 20-metre high, 2.4 km outer walls contains a maze of buildings that form a small city within a city. One can enter the fort only through the Amar Singh Gate. The public access is limited to the southern part of the fort which includes nearly all the buildings of tourist interest. The Diwan-i-Aam (hall of public audience) and Diwan-i-Khas (hall of private audience) were built by Shahjahan for receiving audiences. Jehangir’s palace built by Akbar was the largest private residence in the fort. Close to Diwan-i-Khas, stands an octagonal tower known as Musamman Burj. It was here that Shahjahan breathed his last after seven years of imprisonment. Other places to see within the fort include the Khas Mahal, Sheesh Mahal (the mirror palace) and the Anguri Bagh (the Grape Garden).

Itmad-Ud-Daulah:

To the north of the fort, on the opposite bank of the Yamuna lies Itmad-ud-daulah, the tomb of Mirza Ghiyas Beg, Jehingir’s wazir. Also known as the ’baby Taj’, it was the first Mughal structure totally built from marble and first to make extensive use of pietra dura.
The place is the least visited of Agra’s three great monuments.

Jama Masjid:

Built in 1648 AD, in memory of Sheikh Salim Chisthi and his grandson Islam Khan by Jehanara Begum, Shahjahan’s daughter, the masjid has a wonderful assimilation of Iranian architecture. The building with its rectangular open forecourt, has no minarets but its sandstone domes have a striking marble patterning.

Sikandra:

In the centre of a peaceful garden at Sikandara, 4 km north-west of Agra, lies the sandstone and marble tomb of Akbar. The mausoleum represents Akbar’s philosophy and secular outlook blending Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist, Jain and Christian motifs and styles.

Rambagh:

Three kilometers upstream from Itmad-ud-daulah lies Ram Bagh, one of the earliest Mughal Gardens in the country. The garden was laid out by Emperor Babar, and it is believed that he was buried here temporarily before being permanently interred at Kabul in Afghanistan.

Dayal Bagh:

At Dayal Bagh, the headquarters of Radhaswami sect, there is a beautiful white marble temple coming up. The temple has been under construction for almost 100 years now. On a trip to the temple, you can view the pietra dura marble inlay work in process.

Excursions From Agra:

Aligarh:
Situated at a distance of 91 km from Agra, Aligarh is famous for being the home to the Aligarh Muslim University. The university was founded by Sir Syad Ahmad Khan in the 19th century. The city is also known for its locks.

Bhandirvan:
Thirty-one kilometres from Mathura lies Bhandirvan where, it is believed, Radha and Krishna were married under a banyan tree (Bhandirvat) while Brahma presided as an officiating priest. The ceremony was supposed to have been attended by other gods also.

Fatehpur Sikri:
Thirty-nine kilometres from Agra stands Fatehpur Sikri, the red sandstone city of yesteryears. The city was built by the Mughal Emperor Akbar in AD 1564 in honour of the Muslim saint Sheikh Salim Chisthi. Fatehpur Sikri was intended to be the capital city but the shortage of water and unrest in the north-west made Akbar abandon it. One of the major attractions of this city is the marble tomb of Sheikh Salim Chisthi. Other places of interest include Diwan-i-Aam, Diwan-i-Khas, Buland Darwaza, Panch Mahal, Jodha Bai’s Palace and Birbal Bhavan.

Ferozabad:
For those interested in glass products, a visit to Ferozabad becomes necessary. Situated about 44 km away from Agra, this industrial city is famous for its glassware. You can buy products such as glass bangles and chandeliers in abundance here.

Gokul:
It is in Gokul that Lord Krishna was supposed to be secretly raised. The town is about 16 km south of Mathura. One of the most notable structures here is the Chaurasi Khamba (84 pillars), also known as Nand Maharaja’s house. Most of the the temples and structures here are built around the legends. The mud temples on the side of the hill mark the places where Krishna is supposed to have killed the demons Putana, Trinavarta, and Shakatasura. A little distance away is Utkhal where Yashoda is believed to have tied Krishna to a grinding mortar as a punishment for breaking her pitcher and stealing butter. At Brahmand Ghat, she is supposed to have witnessed the entire universe in Krishna’s mouth while chastising him for having eaten mud.

Govardhan Hill:
Legend has it that Krishna lifted this hill in order to protect the villagers from the torrential downpour caused by the wrath of God Indra. It is believed that for seven days, he held the hill on his little finger while his disc generated enough heat to evaporate the excess rainwater. Govardhan is situated 25 km west of Mathura on the road to Deeg.

Keetham Lake:
Also known as Sur Sarovar, the Keetham Lake is situated at about 23 kilometres from Agra within the Surdas Reserved Forest. One can witness a wide variety of fish and water birds in the lake. The tranquil surroundings present an ideal relaxing place.

Mathura:
Located about 47 km from Agra, Mathura is famous as the birthplace of Lord Krishna. Besides being an important pilgrim place of the Hindus, it is one of the seven most sacred cities in India. Mathura is also an important crafts centre. Visiting Mathura gives one a chance to trace the early years of the life of Lord Krishna. Among the foundations of the Kesava Deo Temple, one comes across a small room designed as a prison cell. In the cell is a stone slab on which, it is believed, Lord Krishna was born some 3,500 years ago. Adjacent to the temple stands the mosque built by Aurangzeb. The place, referred to as Sri Krishna Janambhoomi, has been a subject of dispute between the Hindus and Muslims.

Vrindavan:
Ten kilometres from Mathura lies the town of Vrindavan. The place is associated with the childhood exploits of Lord Krishna. Vrindavan has scores of temples, shrines, and memorial stones and hermitages of the saints and Krishna’s followers. One of the most impressive buildings that greets the visitor in Vrindavan is the Govind Dev Temple. This red sandstone structure is supposed to be architecturally one of the most advanced Hindu temples in northern India. One can also have a look at the 150-year-old Ranganathan Temple, popularly known as the Rangaji Temple, which is located in a beautiful complex. Around 4000 other temples are said to exist in Virndavan. The town is also the seat of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) which has built a magnificent temple here.

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