Regarded as one of the Seven Wonders of the World, Taj Mahal was built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in Agra as a mausoleum and a memorial of love for his beautiful wife Mumtaz Mahal. It presents a remarkable example of the fusion of the finest features of the Indian, Persian and Islamic architectural styles.
Starting in 1632, its construction was completed in 21 years by thousands of craftsmen, artisans and masons in 1653. The focal point of attraction in the palatial building is the tomb of his wife. Erected on a square platform, the white marble tomb stands under an arched dome and can be reached through an arched gate.
Taj Mahal is embellished with 40-metres-high symmetrical minarets in the design of the common mosques, where the muezzin gives the call for prayer to the faithful Muslims. Each minaret has three parts and has two balconies.
There is an artistically landscaped 300 metre square charbagh or garden. It is inlaid with raised pathways that divide it into 16 flower beds.
Agra Fort, also sometimes called the Red Fort, is the forerunner of the iconic and emblematic Red Fort of Delhi in respect of architectural style, design and the red colour. Both the buildings are made of red sandstone. This explains why it reminds the tourists of Red Fort of Delhi as soon as they draw closer to it.
It is another World Heritage Site; second in Agra, the first one being the Taj Mahal. Agra Fort was built by Mughal emperor Akbar in 1565. Interestingly enough, there is a tablet at the gate of the Fort which mentions that the fort was originally built even before 1000 AD and it was only renovated by Emperor Akbar.
It was further improved by Shah Jahan who reworked it with marble and pietra dura inlay. The fort is built in the shape of crescent and is located in front of the river Yamuna. It features ramparts interspersed with projections or bastions.
Agra boasts of a host of Mughal architectural masterpieces besides the internationally famous Taj Mahal. One of these is the tomb of Akbar the Great. It sprawls over an area of 119 acres in a place called Sikandra, 10 kilometres from Agra. Its construction, started by Akbar in 1605, was completed by his son Jahangir in 1613 taking a total of 8 years.
The mausoleum is made of marble and red sandstone and is built in a blend of Muslim and Hindu architectural styles. The marble parts are inlaid with carvings and delicate ornaments.
The ground over which the tomb is built has an area of 105 square metres. Its alignment was measured by a compass for accuracy. The tomb stands amidst a classically designed garden and is surrounded by a high wall.
A unique feature of the mausoleum is its gate, called Buland Darwaza or lofty and magnificent gate. A wide pathway starts from the gate and leads to the tomb.
The gate is built on an arch and has four minarets made of marble. Incidentally, the gates attract more admiration from the visitors than the mausoleum.
Mughal emperor Jahangir, the son of Akbar the Great, conferred the title of Itimad-ud-Daulah on Mirza Ghiyas Beg, the father of his beloved wife Noor Jahan. But the tomb of Itmad-ud-Daulah along that of his wife Asmat Jahan was built by their daughter Noor Jahan from 1622 to 1628.
The grandeur and magnificence of the mausoleum is admired so much that it is considered a precursor or the draft of the Taj Mahal and therefore, called the Baby Taj or the Jewel Box.
The tomb, sprawling over an area of 23 square metres, is located on the east bank of river Yamuna, just two kilometres away from Ram Bagh Circle on NH-2.
It is built over a red stone plinth that stands amidst the famous Persian Gardens called Char -Bagh. The garden is criss-crossed with a host of shallow water streams built upon paved pathways interspersed with tanks and cascades. They divide the garden into four parts and lend it a unique charm.
Built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in 1648 as a tribute to his favorite daughter Jahanara Begum, Jama Masjid is also popular by the name of Jami Masjid or Friday Mosque.
It is built with red sandstone and decorated with white marble in simple design. The walls and ceilings of the shrine are covered with blue paint. It is one of the largest mosques in India and is situated in the centre of the city opposite to Agra Fort railway station.
The mosque stands upon a high platform and can be entered through five arched gates. It has three large domes made of red sandstone. The walls of the shrine are decorated with inlaid geometric figures in coloured tiles and calligraphic engravings.
The central courtyard of Jama Masjid is so large and capacious that it can accommodate 10,000 devotees for prayer at any time. It also hosts the tomb of the great Sufi saint Sheikh Salim Chisti in its premises.
Mehtab Bagh or the garden of the moon light was built between the years 1631 to 1635. The magnificent garden sprawling over an area of 25 acres is situated on the bank of river Yamuna. It is laid in symmetrical alignment with the Taj Mahal because its width is perfectly equal to that of the Taj Mahal.
There is a large octagonal pool in the middle of the garden. It reflects the image of the Taj Mahal so that the visitors can enjoy the site of the great mausoleum while they are in the garden. The water in the pool was brought by a stepped waterfall.
The garden unfortunately remained vulnerable to the floods in the river Yamuna since its inception in the Mughal era. The water has eroded its structure. It, therefore, lies in a ruined state.
Out of the four sandstone towers that stood on its corners, only one has survived the marauding impact of the floods. The foundations of the two structures in the North and South of the pool that probably were garden pavilions are still visible.
Musamman Burj, or tower, is also called Saman Burj or the Shah Burj. It is situated close to Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan’s Diwan-e-Khas in Agra Fort. The octagon shaped tower was built by Shah Jahan as a tribute to his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal in the seventeenth century.
From here, people could enjoy the spectacular views of the Taj Mahal. The multi-storeyed tower is decorated with several precious stones. The tower is inlaid with fine marble latticework and decorated niches from which the royal ladies could watch the activities outside in complete privacy. The roof of the hall is covered with a marble dome.
There is also a verandah around the hall and an exquisitely carved fountain in the center. Unfortunately, it became the abode of Shah Jahan and his daughter Jahanara Begum when they were imprisoned here by the emperor’s son Aurangzeb.
Moti Masjid was built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, the great monument builder of India and a connoisseur of architectural arts. Also called Pearl Mosque, the shrine justifies its name because it shines like a huge pearl. It was erected in the Agra Fort compound for the members of his royal court.
It is believed that those who have visited Saint Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow never fail to notice that several features in its architectural style closely resemble those of the Cathedral. The court yard of the mosque is flanked with arcades and arched recessions on its sides. The roof of the shrine has three white marble domes, built upon red sand stone walls that give it a sparkling appearance.
The structure itself is extensively built with white marble. Moti Masjid is built with exquisitely symmetrical design that lends it a magnificent facade. It is located on the bank of River Yamuna and is also close to the centre of the city of Agra.
Panch Mahal is a five-story pavilion, which was built as a summer palace especially for Akbar’s three wives and other royal ladies. The structure is situated close to the palace of Jodha Bai, wife of Mughal Emperor, Akbar. In fact, the mahal is connected to Jodha Bai’s palace and the royal chamber.
Panch Mahal was also known as badger or wind tower because it was designed in a special Persian architectural style that allowed unrestricted entry of air to ward off the scorching heat in the summer months of Agra. The striking feature of the palace is that each upper storey is smaller than the lower storey.
While the ground floor measures some 130 ft by 40 ft the fifth floor is 10 ft by 10 ft and has a magnificent square shaped chhatri with a cupola. Each floor of the tower stands upon artistically carved pillars and is open on all sides so as to allow maximum ventilation. The ground floor was meant for servants.
Mariam was the first Rajput wife of Emperor Akbar. She was the eldest princess of Kachwaha Rajput chieftain, Raja Bharmal of Amber now called Ajmer. Mariam gave birth to Akbar’s much awaited son Salim, who later came to be known as Nuruddin Salim Jahangir. Because of this, she was conferred with the title of Mariam uz Zamani meaning ‘Mary of the Age’.
Mariam uz-Zamani died in 1622, and a palace named after her was built by her son Jahangir. The palace is currently located on Tantpur Road in Jyoti Nagar, close to the Tomb of Akbar. The palace was primarily designed as a residence of the royal ladies who stayed in purdah.
It houses several apartments located around a common courtyard. There is also a garden on the northern side which is connected to the palace by a viaduct.
Located within the Agra Fort, Diwan-i-khas like Diwan-i-am was also built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in 1635. Unlike Diwan-i-am that was meant to grant audience to his subjects, the Diwan-i-khas was built to entertain the foreign dignitaries, ambassadors and kings and discuss the matters of state in extreme privacy. Diwan-i-khas was therefore the real hub of power during the Mughal reign.
The terrace in the hall had two grand thrones. The one where the Emperor sat was made with white marble, the other meant for the visiting foreign dignitaries was made of black slate. The magnificent hall, naturally, was decorated with precious stones, gold and silver ornaments that never failed to catch the attention of the visitors.
The ceiling of the hall was made of flat wooden planks which were covered with sheets of gold and silver to give an impression of the brightness of the sun. It could be accessed through gates built with double columns. The interior of the hall had a Persian inscription that compared the hall with the highest heaven and the Emperor as the Sun.
Keetham Lake is situated on Agra-Delhi NH2 highway about 12 km away from Sikandra and 20 k from Agra. The picturesque water body stands in the midst of serene surroundings and is an ideal picnic destination for recreation and relaxation from the hectic work schedule in city life.
Formed by the water collected in the catchment area of about 7.13 sq km, the pentagon shaped Keetham Lake hosts a wide array of water birds and fish that further add to its charm and beauty. Sur Sarovar Bird Sanctuary Located close to Keetham Lake, the scenic Sur Sarovar Bird Sanctuary is home to approximately 100 species of native and migratory birds, twelve species of mammals and 18 species of reptiles.
Some of the major bird species found here include Siberian cranes, Brahminy ducks, Spoonbills, Saurus cranes, shovellers, gadwalls and bar-headed geese. It can also be accessed from Keethan Railway Station. The UP Forest Department designated the whole area as a National Bird Sanctuary on 27 March 1991.
Taj Museum is one of the most visited tourist destinations in Agra, especially by scholars and researchers of Taj Mahal. Built in 1982, the museum is housed in Jal Mahal within the Taj Mahal complex on the left side of the main gate. It comprises two floors and three galleries along the main hall.
The museum hosts 120 exhibits including manuscripts, miniature paintings, royal decrees, arms, utensils, decorative pieces and imitations of the coins minted in Agra in those times. It also contains the original drawings indicating how the position of the graves was designed so that their foot could be seen by visitors from any angle.
On display are also the manuscripts and other important documents related to the conception and flawless construction that resulted in making the Taj Mahal one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
Among the most important exhibits are the portraits of Shah Jahan and his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal, set in an ornate wooden frame. The museum remains open to public from 10 am to 5 pm against a nominal entry fee.
Chini Ka Rauza or mausoleum is so called because it is made primarily of colourful tiles of chini. It was an outcome of the fancy of Mullah Shukrullah Shirazi, who was not only a great scholar and a poet but also the prime minister of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan.
Situated on the bank of river Yamuna one kilometer away from the tomb of Itmad-ud-Daulah, it was built in 1635. It was the first building of its kind in India that was embellished extensively with tiles of glazed glass and is, therefore, aptly regarded as a landmark in Indo-Persian style of architecture in India.
The tomb is built in rectangular shape and made up primarily of brown stone. Its walls are embellished with coloured tiles and bear scholarly inscriptions from Islamic scriptures. The central part of the mausoleum has an octagonal shape with eight curved alcoves.
The most striking feature of the mausoleum is the Afghan style round tomb which is engraved with holy Islamic texts. The tomb, unfortunately in ruins, still testifies to its original magnificence.
Diwan-i-am or Hall of the Public Audience was built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan between 1631-40, for addressing his nobility as well as the general public. It was also used for hearing public grievances.
It is situated in the centre of the Agra Fort close to Nagina Masjid. Built upon 49 carved pillars, the red stone hall is an exquisite example of the Persian and Indian architectural styles perfectly blended into each other.
The hall measuring 201 ft by 67 ft is covered with a flat roof. It is divided into three aisles and has two gateways facing north and east. The outer area of the hall has an arcade with nine big arches. Although built with red stone, it is covered with white shell plaster so that it looks like white marble.
The rectangle shaped ‘jharokha’ type chamber where the emperor sat has three openings and was extensively inlaid with decorative ornaments. It was called 'Takht-i-Murassa' (The Throne Room). The dais where the ministers sat was made of marble and was called Baithak.