The Taj Mahal City
Agra, the Mughal capital in the 16th and early 17th century, is full of architectural splendor of forts, mausoleums, and palaces. It is famous as being home to the Taj Mahal, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Though its political significance ended in 1634 with the transfer of the capital to Delhi by Shah Jahan, its architectural wealth has made it an international tourist spot. The Mughals with their passion for buildings constructed some of the finest specimen of Mughal architecture in the city. The city is known for its superb inlay work on marble by craftsmen supposedly with a lineage dating back to the Mughals. Agra’s handicrafts also include carpets, gold thread embroidery and leather shoes. Agra to have got its name from Agrabana, a forest mentioned in the epic Mahabharata. It came into prominence in 1501 when Sikandar Lodhi made it the capital city of his empire. It was during the time of Akbar, the great Mughal ruler that Agra came into its own. He commissioned the construction of the massive Agra Fort in 1565. Though Akbar built a new capital at Fatehpur Sikri not far away, much of the Agra's impressive past lingered on and is evident even today in the majesty of the buildings, the haunting presence inside the monuments, the exquisite arts handicraft and not to forget, the lure of exceptional cuisine… all, cherishing priceless legacies of a nostalgic past. The city has impressively retained much of its splendid history… captivating every tourist with fond memories to take back home.
Agra's Taj Mahal is one of the most famous buildings in the world, the mausoleum of Shah Jahan's favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. It is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, and one of three World Heritage Sites in Agra.
Completed in 1653, the Taj Mahal was built by the Mughal king Shah Jahān as the final resting place for his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Finished in marble, it is perhaps India's most fascinating and beautiful monument. This perfectly symmetrical monument took 22 years (1630–1652) of hard labour and 20,000 workers, masons and jewelers to build and is set amidst landscaped gardens. Built by the Persian architect, Ustād 'Īsā, the Taj Mahal is on the bank of the Yamuna River. It can be observed from Agra Fort from where Emperor Shah Jahān gazed at it, for the last eight years of his life, a prisoner of his son Aurangzeb. It is an acknowledged masterpiece of symmetry. Verses of the Koran are inscribed on it and at the top of the gate are twenty-two small domes, signifying the number of years the monument took to build.
The Taj Mahal was built on a marble platform that stands above a sandstone one. The most elegant dome of the Taj Mahal has a diameter of 60 feet (18 m), and rises to a height of 80 feet (24 m); directly under this dome is the tomb of Mumtaz Mahal. Shah Jahan’s tomb was erected next to hers by his son Aurangzeb. The interiors are decorated by fine inlay work, incorporating semi-precious stones.
The city built by Emperor Akbar and beautified with palaces and gardens by Jehangir is dominated by Agra Fort. The crescent-shaped fort is enclosed by its 20-metre high, 2.4 km long outer walls. The fort contains a maze of buildings forming a small city within a city. One enters the fort through the Amar Singh Gate, into the southern part of the fort which includes nearly all the buildings of tourist interest. Jehangir’s palace commissioned by Akbar was the largest private residence in the fort.The Diwan-i-Aam (hall of public audience) and Diwan-i-Khas (hall of private audience) were built by Shahjahan for receiving audiences. Musamman Burj, an octagonal tower, stands close to Diwan-i-Khas.
It was here that Shahjahan was imprisoned for his last after seven years by Aurangzeb. Other tourist attractions within the fort include the Sheesh Mahal (the mirror palace), Khas Mahal, and the Anguri Bagh (the Grape Garden).
To the north of Agra fort, on the opposite bank of the Yamuna, is the tomb of Mirza Ghiyas Beg, Jehingir’s wazir, also known as Itmad-ud-daulah. The tomb is also referred to as the ’baby Taj’, as it was the very first Mughal structure to be totally built from marble and make extensive use of pietra dura.
The sandstone and marble tomb of Akbar lies in the centre of a serene garden at Sikandara, 4 km north-west of Agra. The mausoleum blends Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist, Jain and Christian motifs and styles to represents Akbar’s philosophy and secular outlook.
Ram Bagh, one of the earliest Mughal Gardens, laid out by the fisrt mughal emperor Babar lies 3 kilometers upstream from Itmad-ud-daulah. It is held that Babar was initially buried here before being permanently interred at his homeland in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Dayal Bagh, the headquarters of Radhaswami sect, has a beautiful white marble temple coming up. On a trip to the temple, having been under construction for almost 100 years now, one can witness the pietra dura marble inlay work in process.
The Mughal Emperor Akbar built Fatehpur Sikrī about 35 km from Agra, and moved his capital there. Later abandoned, the site displays a number of buildings of significant historical importance. A World Heritage Site, it is often visited by tourists. The name of the place came about after the Mughal Emperor Bābar defeated Rāṇā Sāngā in a battle at a place called Sikrī (about 40 km from Agra). Then the Mughal Emperor Akbar wanted to make Fatehpur Sikrī his head quarters, so he built a majestic fort; due to shortage of water, however, he had to ultimately move his headquarters to Agra Fort.