Visit Agra


History

Agra has a rich historical background, which is amply evident from the numerous historical monuments in and around the city. The earliest reference for Agra comes from the epical age, when Mahabharata refer Agra as Agravana. In the sources prior to this, Agra has been referred as Arya Griha or the abode of the Aryans. The first person who referred Agra by its modern name was Ptolemy.
Though the heritage of Agra city is linked with the Mughal dynasty, numerous other rulers also contributed to the rich past of this city. Modern Agra was founded by Sikandar Lodhi (Lodhi dynasty; Delhi Sultanate) in the 16th century. Babar (founder of the Mughal dynasty) also stayed for sometime in Agra and introduced the concept of square Persian-styled gardens here. Emperor Akbar built the Agra fort and Fatehpur Sikri near Agra. Fatehpur Sikri remained his capital for around fifteen years after which the city was left isolated in mysterious circumstances. Jahangir beautified Agra with palaces and gardens despite spending most of his time in Kashmir with which he was passionately attached.
Agra came to its own when Shahjahan ascended to the throne of Mughal Empire. He marked the zenith of Mughal architecture, when he built the Taj in memory of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal. In his later years, Shahjahan shifted his capital to the new city of Shahjahanabad in Delhi and ruled from there. Shahjahan was dethroned in 1658 by his son, Aurangzeb who imprisoned him in the Agra Fort. Aurangzeb shifted the capital back to Agra till his death. After the death of Aurangzeb, Mughal Empire could not touch its peak and many regional kingdoms emerged. The post-Mughal era of Agra saw the rule of the Jats, Marathas and finally the British taking over the city.

Origin and Development

Agra is the city of the inimitable Taj Mahal. The story of Agra beigns much earlier then the Taj, However it finds mention in the epic Mahabharata when it was called Agrabana are Paradise. Ptolemy, the famous second century A.D. geographer, marked it on his map of the world as Agra. Tradition and legend ascribe the present city of Raja Badal Singh (around 1475 A.D.) whose Fort, Badalgarh, Stood on or near the site of the present Fort. However, the 12th century A.D. persian poet Salman, too, Speaks of a desperate assault on the forrtress of Agra, then held by one King Jaipal, by sultan Mahmud of Ghazni. It was Mughals who finally nurtured Agra with the finest monuments architects could design : The Taj Mahal of Shah Jhan, Agra Fort of Akbar, Itmad-Ud-Daulah and neighbouring Sikandra are but few of the many that spangle the city, each of which stands in mute testimony to the city's grandur over the ages.





Visit Places in Agra


1. Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal looms fairytale-like from the banks of the Yamuna River. It's India’s most recognized monument and is also one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It has a rich history dating back to 1630 AD and is actually a tomb that contains the body of Mumtaz Mahal -- the wife of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. He had it built as an ode to his love for her. It's made out of marble and took 22 years and 20 000 workers to complete. Words cannot do the Taj Mahal justice, its incredible detail simply has to be seen to be appreciated.


2. Agra Fort

Agra Fort, while undoubtedly overshadowed by the Taj Mahal, is one of the finest Mughal forts in India. It was originally a brick fort that was held by a clan of Rajputs. However, it was subsequently captured by the Mughals and rebuilt by Emperor Akbar, who decided to shift his capital there in 1558. The red sandstone construction was completed in 1573.
Akbar's grandson, Shah Jahan, transformed the Fort into a palace during his subsequent rein. He was later imprisoned there, after his son seized power in 1658. The Fort was also the site of a battle during the Indian Rebellion of 1857, which threatened the rule of the British East India Company.
A masterpiece of Emperor Akbar's time, the Fort's Delhi Gate, is particularly grand and has been embellished with inlay work in white marble. Unfortunately, due to the Indian military's ongoing use of the northern part of the Fort, it isn't open to the public though. Instead, tourists must enter via Amar Singh Gate, to the south.
There are many buildings to see inside the Fort, including mosques, public and private audience halls, palaces, towers, and courtyards. Another attraction is the evening sound and light show that recreates the Fort's history.


3. Memtabh Bagh

If you don’t want to pay the costly admission fee or battle the crowds to visit the Taj (or just would like an alternative perspective of it), you can see it from across the river bank. One such place there is Mehtab Bagh, "The Moonlight Garden". This 25 acre Mughal garden complex is situated directly opposite the monument and was actually built before the Taj, by Emperor Babur (the founder of the Mughal Empire). It fell into ruin but has been beautifully reconstructed. The entry cost is 100 rupees for foreigners, and it's open until sunset.


4. Old City

Want to experience the heart of Agra? In the Old City behind Jama Masjid (mosque), you'll find a tangle of narrow lanes housing a startling variety of wares including spices, clothes, sarees, jewelry, shoes, and snack stalls. It's a place where traditional arts and crafts, such as marble work, are alive. This area, known as Kinari Bazaar, can be quite overwhelming if you don't know your way around. If you'd prefer to explore it on a guided tour, Agra Magic runs a Bazaar Walk in the Old City.



5. Mughal Heritage Walk/Kachhpura Village

The Mughal Heritage Walk is a community based tourism initiative of CURE (Center for Urban and Regional Excellence) and the Uttar Pradesh government, to help villagers make an income from tourism and improve their living conditions. This one kilometer walk takes place on the riverside opposite the Taj Mahal and goes through Kachhpura village. You'll get to visit a number of lesser-known monuments of the Mughal Era in a rural setting, interact with the village communities, and enjoy a fabulous view of the Taj Mahal as well. The walking tour costs 1,250 ruppes for adults and 750 rupees for children under 12 years old.


6. Wildlife SOS/Agra Bear Rescue Facility

If you're an animal lover, don't miss out on visiting the Agra Bear Rescue Center, set by Wildlife SOS on 160 acres of land allotted by the Uttar Pradesh government. It houses hundreds of sloth bears that have been rescued and rehabilitated after being held captive and forced to dance. The Facility is open every day from sunrise to sunset and is located on the Delhi-Agra Road, 16 kilometers before Agra inside Sur Sarovar Bird Sanctuary. The entry cost, set by the government, is 50 rupees for Indians and 500 rupees for foreigners. (Wildlife SOS doesn't receive this money).


7. Korai Village

A relatively new rural tourism initiative, Korai Village can be visited on the way to Fatehpur Sikri near Agra. It's located just off the highway, less than 10 kilometers before this heritage site. Korai is a tribal village, whose inhabitants were the keepers of dancing sloth bears. They've been struggling to earn an income and survive since the bears were taken away, as they were not provided with compensation. You'll be able to learn about and experience daily village life, and even meet the village magician, Mohammad.




8. Fatehpur Sikri

A city that was once the proud capital of the Mughal Empire in the 16th century, Fatehpur Sikri now stands deserted as a well preserved ghost town. It was abandoned by its occupants after only 15 years due to insufficient water supply.
Fatehpur Sikri was established by Emperor Akbar from the twin villages of Fatehpur and Sikri as tribute to famous Sufi saint, Sheikh Salim Chishti. The saint accurately predicted the birth of Emperor Akbar's much longed for son.

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