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Agra City Information

Agra City Info

City : Agra

Fact File

Area : 120.57 sq. km
Altitude : 169 metres above sea level
Population (2011) : 1,746,467
Languages : Hindi and Urdu
Best time to visit : Winters
STD Code : 0562

Introduction

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. The city, situated on the west bank of river the Yamuna, is known world over as home to a wonder of the world, Taj Mahal.

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.

Excursions

The places around Agra also form interesting tourist spots. The Mathura-Vrindavan region forms an important pilgrimage place for Hindus as it is closely associated with the birth and childhood of Lord Krishna, an important deity in the Hindu religious pantheon. Fatehpur Sikri presents another marvel of the Mughal architecture and splendour. A trip to Agra remains incomplete if one doesn’t visit these places of interest surrounding it.

Agra Sightseeing

Taj Mahal

To India’s first Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore, the Taj was a “teardrop on the face of humanity,” an edifice that echoes the cry, “I have not forgotten, I have not forgotten, O beloved.” Situated on the banks of the river Yamuna, the Taj Mahal is an epitome of love, a poem in marble by the Mughal Emperor Shahjahan. The Taj today is source of attraction for millions of tourists from all over the world.

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.

The Taj at Sunrise and Sunset

To witness the beauty of this architectural marvel, one needs to view the Taj at different times of the day and year. The white marble building appears to change its hue according to variations in the daylight. During winter months, the view of the Taj at sunrise is magnificent. Early in the morning, as the mist clears over the river Yamuna, the golden rays of the rising sun flood the magnificent Taj. The white marble illuminates in the radiance of the morning light and the building appears to change its hue according to variations in the daylight. The early morning view is simply breathtaking. You need to spend some time there to experience beauty of the sight, the structure and the environment.

Again, as the sun sets behind this magnificent monument, a visitor is treated to a sight that leaves him mesmerised. The white marble of the structure sparkles in the orange glow of sunset, heightening the splendour of this most beautiful monument of India. The aura of romance that sets in tends to give you the feeling of the love the Emperor had for his beloved, love that compelled the great Mughal to make this marble structure.

During moon light, especially on a full-moon night, the marble appears extraordinarily luminescent. The spectacle it unfolds on a starlit night is nothing short of a fairyland boat floating on the Yamuna. A large number of tourists throng the Taj on the Kojagari Purnima (autumnal/October full-moon night) night from all corners of the globe.

Although one has to pay a higher amount for viewing the Taj at sunset and sunrise (almost ten times the normal entry fee), the experience is worth it. The ideal view points for observing the Taj at sunrise and sunset are the red sandstone pavilion in the east and the mosque in the west.

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, Jehangir’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 Sikandra, 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 kilometres 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.

Agra Excursions

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

Aligarh

Situated at a distance of 38 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.

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