From 1556 to 1658, Agra was the capital of the Mughal Empire. Today it is best known for the Taj Mahal, one of the world’s most famous monuments and now a kind of emblem of India. With no fewer than 10,000 visits per day, the Taj Mahal seems to enjoy a prestige like no other place in India, probably because of the romantic legend of its origins.
The city of Agra was founded in 1501-1504 by Sikandar Lodi, Sultan of Delhi, who made it his capital. In 1526 Babur, the first Mughal emperor, defeated the Delhi sultanate and seized Agra. His grandson restored the town to its status as capital in 1556.
The city’s heyday ran from the mid-16th century to the mid-17th, under the successive reigns of Akbar, Jahangir and Shah Jahan. It was Shah Jahan who had the Taj Mahal built in 1631, before he transferred the capital of the empire to Delhi.
As well as the famous Taj Mahal, the Mughal emperors left Agra a rich architectural heritage that attracts millions of tourists every year.
Festivals not to miss
- Taj Mahotsav: Taj Mahotsav is celebrated at Shilpgram near the Eastern gate of “Taj Mahal”. This 10 days long carnival is actually a vibrant platform that gives you information of India where you can find India’s rich arts, crafts, cultures, cuisine, dance and music.Taj Mahotsav is organized by UP Tourism and it is a source to increase Indian Tourism.
- Kailash Fair: Organized at Kailash temple in Agra, (12km from Agra) in the honor of Lord Shiva, Kailash fair is celebrated to memorialize the appearance of Lord Shiva in the form of a stone lingam here in the monsoon months of August and September.The followers of this god of the Hindu pantheon memorize his visit, offer prayers to him and contribute in all the fun and amusement of the fair.
The Taj Mahal (the name is Iranian for “palace of the crown”) stands beside the river Yamuna.
It is a white marble mausoleum built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory, it is said, of his favourite wife Arjumand Banu Begam, also known as Mumtaz Mahal. She died in 1631; the building of the mausoleum began the same year and was completed, for the most part, in 1643. Shah Jahan died in 1666 and his tomb stands alongside his wife’s.
The Taj Mahal is a World Heritage site and is considered a supreme example of Mughal architecture, which combines Iranian, Ottoman Turkish and Indian elements.
On either side of the mausoleum stands a sandstone building with three white marble domes.
The building on the left is a mosque, built to sanctify the place and provide pilgrims with a place of worship. The one on the right, called the Jawab (“reply”), is an exact symmetrical replica of the mosque; it was built for the sake of symmetry and not used as a mosque since it is not oriented towards Mecca.
The romantic tale of the Taj Mahal’s origin has been dismantled more than once.
According to some, it was built to demonstrate the emperor’s power rather than to house his favourite wife’s tomb. This is argued mainly from the character of Shah Jahan, who was by no means a sentimental type.
It took him 22 years and 22,000 workmen, treated as slaves, to build the Taj Mahal. Over the course of his life Shah Jahan is said to have kept no fewer than 2000 wives effectively imprisoned in his harem, and Arjumand Banu Begam, the favourite buried in the Taj Mahal, died from bearing too many children (14 of them). He certainly doesn’t sound like a romantic.
Another theory, put forward by Purushottam Nagesh Oak, is that the site was a palace and Vedic temple to Shiva, called the Tejomahalay, before it was transformed into a mausoleum. This theory has not found favour with the scientific community.
The first was the Ram Bagh, reportly built by the emperor Babur in 1530. Originally it was an extension to the Taj Mahal garden on the other side of the river. It was planted with scented flowers and used in the cool of evening to gaze at the reflection of the Taj Mahal in the river and in the octagonal pool built for that purpose.
The Mehtab Bagh was later lost under an accumulation of mud from successive floods; it was restored in the 1990s.
This powerful red sandstone fortress encloses the imperial city of the Mughal rulers in a 2.5km rampart wall. It includes numerous palaces such as Jahangir Palace and the Khas Mahal, built by Shah Jahan, as well as audience halls such as the Diwan-i-Khas and two very fine mosques.
The earliest mention of a fort here dates from 1080, when it was a simple brick fortress belonging to the Sikarwars, a Rajput clan from Rajasthan.
It was a military stronghold until Akbar transformed it into a place of residence and had a number of palaces built there. The architectural style was Hindu at first, the Mughal style superseding it later, under the reign of Shah Jahan.
Built by the emperor Shah Jahan in 1648, it is one of the largest and most respected mosques in India. It reflects the elegance of Iranian architecture.
It is often described as a jewel-box or a “mini-Taj”. Its interior decor is indeed thought to have inspired that of the Taj Mahal.
The complex includes numerous outbuildings and gardens. The mausoleum was built between 1622 and 1628 on the orders of Nur Jahan, wife of Jahangir, for her father Mirza Ghiyas Beg who had been granted the title of I’timad-ud-Daula (“pillar of the state”).
It was built in 1635. It stands just 1km north of the I’timad-ud-Daulah mausoleum, on the east bank of the river Yamuna.
The Afghan style monument is renowned for its beautiful glazed tile mosaic work, called kashi or chini, after which it is named.
Akbar the Great (1555-1605), the third Mughal emperor, started building his mausoleum during his lifetime, in 1600. It was completed in 1613, after his death, by his son Jahangir. Akbar was one of the greatest emperors in the history of India.
It is built mainly of red sandstone and decorated with superb inlaid panels.
It is the tomb of Mariam Zamani (Heer Kunwar), wife of the Mughal emperor Akbar the Great and daughter of King Bharmal Kachwaha of Amber. She died in Agra in 1623.
He was the founder of the Radhasoami faith, a spiritual movement based on ethics and a fusion of the principles of Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity and Sikhism.
Especially notable is the huge Jama Masjid mosque. Apparently it was once as holy as the one in Mecca… READ MORE +
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