Same Day Agra Tour

Agra, the city of the Taj Mahal and once the capital of the Mughal empire, has several monuments which display the splendour of Mughal architecture. It was here that Babar, the founder of the dynasty, had the first formal Persian garden laid out on the banks of the river Yamuna. Akbar, his grandson, raised the towering ramparts of the great Red Fort, within whose walls Jahangir built rose-red palaces, courts and gardens, and which Shahajahan embellished with marble mosques, palaces and pavilions of gem-inlaid white marble. Agra is mentioned in the ancient epic Mahabharata as Agraban, the sister city of the more prominent Mathura. Agra was established in 1475 by Badal Singh and came into its own when Sikander Lodhi of the Lodhi dynasty chose it for his capital because of its proximity to the Yamuna. Babur defeated the Lodhis to capture not only Agra but also to lay the foundation of the Mughal empire. In the mid-16th and earlier 17th centuries, Agra witnessed a frenzied building activity and it was during this time that the symbol of love, the Taj Mahal, was built. The buildings made during this era were purely in the contemporary Mughal style and of very high quality. Besides the monuments, Agra is worth a visit for the masterpieces of craftsmen recreating the glory of the Mughal period and for the Mughlai cuisine, the aroma of which fills the narrow lanes of Agra. Banks of Yamuna On the banks of river Yamuna, rises the crescent-like Agra Fort. Designed and built by Emperor Akbar in 1565 A.D., the fort is surrounded by a 70 foot high wall. It houses the beautiful Pearl Mosque and numerous palaces including the Jahangiri Mahal, Khas Mahal, Diwan-i-Khas, Diwan-i-Am, Machihi Bhawan and Moti Masjid. The fort has four gates and is enclosed by a double battlemented wall of red sand stone.

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Place to Visit

Taj Mahal

Story of Taj Mahal
The story of Taj Mahal reflects the intensity of love. The fairy tale began when walking through the bazaar of Agra prince qhurram saw a girl. The girl was exceptionally beautiful. It was a love at first sight for both of them. After five years, on an auspicious day they were married and from that moment began the great epic of love. Shah Jahan, "The King Of The World" Prince qhurram was the fifth son of emperor Jahangir. He was the man of extraordinary brilliance, a great diplomat, a warrior and a lover of art. Once Jahangir wrote, "In art, in reason, in battle there is no comparison between him and my other children". In the honor of his numerous victories Jahangir entitled him as "Shah Jahan", "The King of the World". After Jahangir's death all his sons quarreled for the thrown, after fighting for years Shah Jahan killed all his brothers under suspicious circumstances and became the emperor, besides him stood his queen, comrade and confidante. Mumtaz Mahal "The chosen one of the palace" Shah Jahan titled her "Mumtaz Mahal", "The chosen one of the palace".

A rare found combination of beauty and brain. She was her husband's best friend and confidante. She would counsel him in the diplomatic matters. She too was a great lover of art. The End of the Fairy Tale In 1631 Shah Jahan set up to berahanpur with his troops to subdue a rebellion, accompanied by Mumtaz Mahal Unfortunately during childbirth she suffered some complications and died. According to legend before dieing she extracted a promise from Shah Jahan that he would build a mausoleum as a tribute to their love. The story of Taj Mahal begins Shah Jahan was obsessed to fulfill his wife's last wish.

He invited the architects and artisans all over the world and planned for the building with absolute perfection. Taj Mahal was structured in Persian style combined with carvings of artisans called from Afghanistan and the garden designers from Kashmir. It took 22years to complete the Taj Mahal, a memento of love with the perfection of art. The carvings of Taj Mahal were decorated with very precious gemstones. The story of Taj Mahal is unique in itself. It is an evidence that how the emotions and feelings are important to human life. The story of Taj Mahal is an example of devotion and faith. The story of Taj Mahal is a love story not found in papers but stands in the structural form. The story of Taj Mahal is rare.

History of Taj Mahal
The construction of this marble masterpiece is credited to the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan who erected this mausoleum in memory of his beloved wife, Arjumarid Bano Begum; popularly known as Mumtaz Mahal, who died in A.H. 1040 (A.D. 1630). Her last wish to her husband was "to build a tomb in her memory such as the world had never seen before". Thus emperor Shah Jahan set about building this fairy tale like marvel. The construction of Taj Mahal was started in A.D. 1632 and completed at the ended in 1648 A.D.

For seventeen years, twenty thousand workmen are said to have been employed on it daily, for their accommodation a small town, named after the deceased empress- 'Mumtazabad', now known as Taj Ganj, was built adjacent to it. Amanat Khan Shirazi was the calligrapher of Taj Mahal, his name occurs at the end of an inscription on one of the gates of the Taj. Poet Ghiyasuddin had designed the verses on the tombstone, while Ismail Khan Afridi of Turkey was the dome maker. Muhammad Hanif was the superintendent of Masons. The designer of Taj Mahal was Ustad Ahmad Lahauri.

The material was brought in from allover India and central Asia and it took a fleet of 1000 elephants to transport it to the site. The central dome is 187 ft. high at the centre. Red sandstone was brought from Fatehpur Sikri, Jasper from Punjab, Jade and Crystal from China, Turquoise from Tibet, Lapis Lazuli and Sapphire from Sri Lanka, Coal & Comelian from Arabia and Diamonds from Panna. In all 28 kind of rare, semi precious and precious stones were used (or inlay work in the Taj Mahal. The chief building material, the white marble was brought from the quarries of Makrana, in distt. Nagaur, Rajasthan.

Copies of orders (farmans) issued to Raja Jai Singh, for the purpose by Shah Jahan, can be seen in the Taj Museum. Taj Mahal's outer court, also known as Jilo Khana, was formerly used both as a bazar and a caravansarai (Rest house). On the south-east and south-west comers are the tombs of Sirhindi Begum and Satiunnisa Khanum. The Taj has a jewel-like quality. The shadow and light play demonstrates its many moods. Some feel the Taj is best seen on a full moon night, others find it ethereal at dawn while some insist that it is sensuous at sunset.


Agra Fort

Gateways :
The fort had originally four gates, two of which were later walled up. Delhi Gate in the west is fortified by massive octagonal towers and faces the bazar and leads to the Lama Masjid in the city. Its architectural plan was imperviously devised to put the defenders in an advantageous position. Delhi gate is now closed for visitors. The Amar Singh Gate lies to the South and is defended by a square bastion flanked by round towers. It had a crooked entrance with dangerous trap points and a steep rise. Its Naubat Khana Court with pillared pavilions is an impressive structure. Visitors are allowed entry through this gate only.

About the Fort
The construction of the Agra fort was started around 1565 when the initial structures were built by Akbar. Shah Jahan replaced most of these with his marble creations. Some however survived, among them are- Delhi Gate, Amar Singh Gate, Akbari Mahal and the Jahangiri Mahal. The fort is crescent-shaped, flattened on the east with a long, nearly straight wall facing the river. It has a total perimeter of 2.4 km, and is ringed by double castellated ramparts of red sandstone punctuated at regular intervals by bastions. A 9mt. wide and 10mt.deep moat surrounds the outer wall. An imposing 22mt. high inner wall imparts a feeling of invincible defensive construction. The route through the Amar Singh gate is dog-legged. The layout of the fort was determined by the course of the river, which in those days flowed alongside. The main axis is parallel to the river and the walls bridge out towards the city.

Buildings inside the Forts

Jahangiri Mahal :
This is the first notable building that the visitor sees on his right hand side at the end of a spacious lawn, as one enters through the Amar Singh Gate and emerges out of the passage. It was built by Akbar as women's quarters and is the only building that survives among his original palace buildings. It is built of stone & is simply decorated on the exterior. The most important feature of the edifice are its ornamental stone brackets which support the beams. In front is a large stone bowl which was probably used to contain fragrant rose water. Ornamental Persian verses have been carved along the outer rim, which record its construction by Jahangir in 1611 A.D. This elegant, double storeyed palace reflects a strong Hindu influence with protruding balconies and domed chhatries.

Jodha Bai's Palace
To the right of Jahangiri Mahal is Akbar's favourite queen Jodha Bai`s Palace. In contrast to other palaces in the fort, it is rather simple. Through the slits in the wall one can see the Taj. A better place to take photographs is further on.

Anguri Bagh
These formal, 85m square, geometric gardens lie to the left of the fort. During Shah Jahan's time the beauty of the gardens was considerably enhanced by decorative flower beds.

Golden Pavilions
The curved chala roofs of the small pavilions by the Khaas Mahal are based on the roof shape of Bengali village huts constructed out of curved bamboo, designed to keep off heavy rain. The shape was first expressed in stone by the Sultans of Bengal. Originally gilded, these were probably ladies' bedrooms, with hiding places for jewellery in the walls. These pavilions are traditionally associated with Shah Jahan's daughters-Roshanara and Jahanara Begum.

Khaas Mahal
Situated in between the golden pavilions is the Khaas Mahal. Built entirely of marble by Shah Jahan, the palace demonstrates distinctive Islamic-Persian features. These are well blended with a striking range of Hindu features such as chhatries. It is considered to be emperor's sleeping room or' Aramgah', The Khaas Mahal provides the most successful example of painting on a white marble surface.

Musammanburj
On the left of the Khaas Mahal is the Musamman Burj built by Shah Jahan. It is a beautiful octagonal tower with an open pavilion. With its openness, elevation and the benefit of cool evening breezes blowing in off the Yamuna river, this could well have been used also as the emperor's bedroom. This is where Shah Jahan lay on his death bed, gazing at the Taj. Access to this tower is through a magnificently decorated and intimate appartment with a scalloped fountain in the centre. The inlay work here is exquisite, especially above the pillars. In front of the fountain is a sunken courtyard which could be flooded and in the Sheesh Mahal opposite are further examples of decorative water engineering in the hammams.

Sheesh Mahal

Opposite to the Mussaman Burj and just below the Diwan-e-Khaas hall is the Sheesh Mahal or the Glass Palace. It is believed to have been the harem dressing room and its walls are inlaid with tiny mirrors which are the best specimens of glass-mosaic decoration in India. The Sheesh Mahal is composed of two large halls of equal size, each measuring 11.15m x 6.40 m. Both are connected in the centre by a broad arched opening and on the sides by two narrow passages.

Diwan - e - Khas
To the right of Sheesh Mahal is Diwan-e-Khaas, the Hall of Private Audience. Presently entry is not allowed inside Diwan-e-Khaas but the fine proportions of the building can easily be appreciated. The marble pillars are inlaid with semi-precious stones in delightful floral patterns.

Hammam - I - Shah
To the right of Diwan-e-khaas is the Hammam-e-Shahi or the Shah Burj. Foreign travellers who visited Agra during the reigns of Jahangir and Shah Jahan have described these apartments as the Ghusal Khana (bathroom). It was not the Turkish bathroom as is generally but erroneously supposed. It was really an "air-conditioned" apartment, attached to the residential quarters and was used as a summer retreat. Business of very confidential nature was conducted here.

Macchhibhwan
Opposite to the Diwan-i-Khaas is the Macchhi Bhawan, the Fish Enclosure. The emperor sat on the white marble platform facing this enclosure. It once contained pools and marble fountains which were carried off by Jat Raja Surajmal to his palace at Deeg. Around the Macchi Bhawan were the imperial offices.


ITMAD - UD - DAULA


The mughals brought with them a love for gardens, fountains and water. The first mature example of Mughal architecture in India, Humayun's Tomb was built by the emperor's grieving widow, Haji Begum, in 1565 AD. Constructed with red sandstone and ornamented marks the beginning of a new tradition of ornate style which culminated in the Taj Mahal of Agra.

Designed by the Persian architect, Mirza Ghyas, Humayun's Tomb shows a marked shift from the Persian tradition of using coloured tiles for ornamentation. Located in the midst of a large square garden, screened by high walls, with gateways to the south and west, the tomb is a square tower surmounted by a magnificent marble dome. The dome stands 140 feet from the base of the terrace and is topped with a copper pinnacle.


CHINI KA RAUZA

At first sight, the Jantar Mantar appears like a gallery of modern art. It is, however, an observatory. Sawai Jia Singh II of Jaipur (1699-1743), a keen astronomer and a noble in the Mughal court, was dissatisfied by the errors of brass and metal astronomical instruments.

Under patronage from the emperor, he set on himself the task of correcting the existing astronomical tables and updating the almanac with more reliable instruments. Delhi's Jantar Mantar is the first of the five observatories that he built with large masonary instruments.


SIKANDRA FORT

Welcome to Sikandra, a supurb of Agra, only 13 km. from the Agra Fort, the last resting place of the Mughal emperor Akbar. Akbar was the greatest of the Mughal emperors and one of the most secular minded royalties of his time. He was the heir to a long tradition of oriental refinement, a great patron of the arts, literature, philosophy and science. A visit to Akbar's monument opens before one, the completeness of Akbar's personality as completely as the Taj Mahal does of Mumtaz Mahal's. Akbar's vast, beautifully carved, red-ochre sandstone tomb is set amidst a lush garden. Akbar himself planned his own tomb and selected a suitable site for it. To construct a tomb in one's lifetime was a Tartary custom which the Mughals followed religiously. Akbar's son Jahangir completed the construction of this pyramidal tomb in 1613.

APPROACH
One can approach the monument from the Southern gate only. Ticket counter is located to the left of this gate.

The Garden
The tomb stands in the center of a vast garden, which is enclosed by high walls on all sides. In the middles of each enclosing wall is a monumental gateway. The whole garden is divided into four equal quarters on the conventional charbhag plan. Each quarter is separated by a high terrace or raised path with a narrow shallow water channel running at the center. Each terrace has in the center, a tank with fountains.

Gateway
Although there is only one entrance in use today there exist four red sandstone gates which lead to the mausoleum complex. The decoration on the gateways is strikingly bold, with large mosaic patterns set into it. The gateway's four minarets rising from the corners are particularly striking. Built of red sandstone, the minarets are inlaid with white marble polygonal patterns; the pleasing Proportions & Profuse surface ornamentation makes the gateways very impressive. These gateways reflect a curious hybrid of different styles of architecture-Hindu, Muslim Christian and a patent mixture of Akbar's typical style.

Mausoleum
A broad paved causeway lead to the tomb, which has five storeys and is in the shape of a truncated pyramid. The main tomb has a unique square design which is unparalleled by all other Mughal buildings.

Ground Floor
The ground floor has spacious cloisters on all four sides except in the middle of the southern side. The cloisters are divided into numerous bays by massive piers & arches. Each bay measures 22 feet square. The centre of the southern side is occupied by a vestibule, which has been ornamented very profusely with exquisite carvings, artistic paintings & inlay work in geometric and floral designs. An inclined and descending passage leads from this vestibule to the mortuary chamber. The tombstone of Akbar is placed in the centre of this room. Geometrical designs achieved by the mosaics of glazed tiles or of colored stones, predominate the tomb. The mosaic work is generally in the tass eleated style, that is, square or rectangular pieces of colored stones were assembled and arranged together to form patterns. Semi-precious stones were inlaid into a hollowed depression in the white marble slab by Emperor Jahangir later on . Akbar's daughters Shakrul Nisha Begum and Aram Bano are also entombed on this floor.

Second Storey
The second storey has an arcaded verandah on each side which is composed of 23 bays. The use of an ornamental arch and square pillar has brought about unique composition.

Third and Fourth Storeys
These storeys are smaller in size than the one below it. They have an identical arrangement of arches supported on pilllars and chhatris attached on the exterior to each façade.

Fifth Storey
The fifth storey is entirely in white marble as against the lower storeys which are finished in red sandstone.

Itmad - Ud - Daula
Itmad-ud-Daula is the tomb of Mirza Ghiyas Beg, a Persian who had obtained service in Akbar's court. The tomb set a starting precedent as the first Mughal building to be face with white inlaid marble and contrasting stones. Unlike the Taj it is small, intimate and, since it is less frequented, has a gentle serenity.

About Mirza Ghiyas Beg Yas Beg
Mirza Ghiyas Beg was the son of Khawaja Muhammad Sharif who was the wazir (Prime Minister) of Khurasan and then of Yazd under the Safawid Emperors of Persia. After the death of his father, Mirza Ghiyas came to India and was introduced to Akbar who enrolled him in the imperial service. Mirza was an able man and rose high by the sheer dint of his merit. On Jahangir's succession in 1605 he became Wazir and received the title of Itmad-ud-Daula (Pillar of Government). Jahangir fell in love with his daughter Mehrunnissa, better known as Nurjahan, and married her in 1611. It was Nur Jahan who built the tomb for her father in 1628 AD, 6 years after his death.

Entrance
A sandstone pathway leads to the main tomb which stands on a low platform (4m high and 45m square). The tomb is in the centre of a Charbagh, the four-quartered garden, measuring 540 ft and enclosed on all sides by high walls.

The Garden Setting
False gateways, which may be appropriately called water-pavilions, have been constructed in the centre of the north and south sides. The west side has in its middles a multi- storeyed and multi-roomed pavilion. It overhangs the river impressively and is so open and abundantly airy that it could have served the purpose of a pleasure-pavilion during the lifetime of Itmad-ud-Daula . These subsidiary structures magnificently flank the central edifice on all sides. The shallow water-channels, which originally took water from two overhead tanks situated on the riverside, run on all sides of the garden and around the mausoleum. Sunk in the middles of the raised, stone-paved pathways and associated with regularly set lotus ponds and cascades, the channels divide the charbagh into four equal quarters, stretching from the middle of each side to the centre of the plinth of the main mausoleum.

The Main Tomb
The main gateway, and also the side pavilions, are constructed of red sandstone, with inlaid designs in white marble. The main tomb is of white marble but it stands on a plinth of red sandstone, having in the centre, of each side opposite the central arch, a tank with a fountain. The tomb is square in plan, with octagonal towers attached to the corners. The towers attain a circular form above the terrace and are surmounted by circular chhatris. Each façade of the tomb is composed of three arches, the central one providing the entrance, the other two on the sides being closed with beautiful trellis screens. Each side is protected above by a chhjja and a perforated balustrade. The jalies have been carved very delicately and appear more to be made of ivory rather than of white marble. The tomb has inscriptional designs in abundance. More than seventy six Quranic verses in the Hiuluth script have been artistically carved on white marble panels which are distributed all over the building.

The Interior of the Tomb
The interior is composed of a central mortuary hall housing the cenotaphs of Nur Jahan's mother Asmat Begum and father Itmad-ud-Daula, four oblong rooms on the sides and four square chambers on the corners-all interconnected through common doorways. The corner rooms contain tombstones of some near relations of Nur Jahan including that of her daughter Ladli Begum from her first husband Sher Afghan. Marble screens of geometric lattice work permit soft lightning of the inner chamber. Engraved on the walls of the chamber is the recurring theme of a wine flask with snakes as handles. The main chamber which contains the tomb of Itmad-ud-Daula and his wife, is richly decorated with mosaics and semi-precious stones inlaid in white marble.


RADHASWAMY SATSANG , DAYALBAGH

This highly ornate memorial to the founder of the Radhaswamy satsang has been in the making for several years and is still being worked upon. It is entirely in marble, upon which every manner of ornamentation has been applied.


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