Agra, a city on the banks of the river Yamuna in Uttar Pradesh, is a major tourist hotspot because of the extraordinary buildings from the Mughal period. Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri are some of the important and famous buildings in Agra, known for their splendid architecture.
Though Agra's history is mainly associated with the Mughal Empire, it was established much before and has associations since the period of the Mahabharatha. Mythology aside, it is acknowledged widely that Sikandar Lodhi of the Delhi Sultanate was the founder of Agra.
Varanasi, most commonly known as Benares, Banaras or Kashi is a city on the banks of the river Ganga in Uttar Pradesh. It is an important religious centre for Hindus, and is the holiest of the seven sacred cities. Varanasi is believed to have been founded by Lord Shiva himself. Mark Twain, the famous author, once said about Varanasi, "Benares is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together."
Best Time To Visit Varanasi
A humid subtropical climate is prevalent in Varanasi. There is a huge variation in summer and winter temperatures. Summer starts in April and lasts till June. The temperature varies from 22 to 46 degrees Celsius in summers. Monsoon is in full force from July to October.
Winters have extremely cold nights and warm days. The temperature dips till 5 degrees Celsius in winters because of the cold waves from the Himalayas. All things considered,October to March is the best period to visit Varanasi. There are some cultural and religious festivals during this period too.
Ways To Reach Varanasi From Agra
By Air: There's a flight from Agra to Varanasi, with a layover at Khajuraho Group of Monuments. From there, you can take another flight to reach Varanasi in 45 min. However, this flight is seasonal and not available at all times.
By Train: There is a direct train from Agra to Varanasi. Take the Superfast Express 22969 from Agra Fort Railway Station and alight at Varanasi Junction. Varanasi is 11 h by train from Agra.
Route 1: Agra- Etawah-Kanpur-Fatehpur-Varanasi via NH 19. This is a 9 h 12 min journey and traverses a distance of 600 km.
Route 2: Agra-Karhal-Mohanlalganj-Raebareli-Kunda-Kandi-Uprauth-Varanasi via Agra-Lucknow Expressway. This takes 9 h 19 min to reach and the total distance is 643 km.
In this article, we shall be discussing Route 1. Agra is a lovely city known for its gorgeous buildings from the Mughal era. Spare a day to visit Taj Mahal alone. Reach Taj Mahal at sunrise, before the crowd starts to seep in to truly enjoy this splendid tomb.
Taj Mahal is a very famous and a favourite heritage site for tourists from India as well as abroad. It attracts 7-8 million tourists per year. It was built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favourite wife Mumtaz Mahal. It was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.
It employs Persian and Mughal style of architecture. The Taj is made from white marble, which is a deviation and exclusive idea from the previous style of using red sandstone to construct the Mughal buildings. It is believed that 28 types of precious and semi-precious stones were laid into the white marble.
Fatehpur Sikri is one of the best preserved pieces of Mughal architecture in the country. This city was built by Akbar who shifted his residence from Agra to Sikri and lived in Sikri for 13 years. It was here that he found the famous Navaratna (9 gems) ministers.
Fatehpur Sikri was erected in an area which was prone to water shortage and droughts; therefore, it was neglected and abandoned after the death of Akbar. Fort Agra, also known as Lal Qila was the residence of Akbar. It was also his strategic military base.
It is said that Aurangzeb captured and imprisoned his father Shah Jahan in Agra Fort. The fort houses beautiful palaces in both sandstone and marble. The Sheesh Mahal (Glass Palace) is a thing of beauty. The same has been replicated in many Indian movies and songs.
Mussamman Burj in this fort is a large tower which faces the Taj Mahal. It is believed that Shah Jahan died looking at this view of the Taj.
After visiting these three important monuments, we move towards Etawah, at a distance of 122 km from Agra. It is about 1h 45 mins away from Agra. Here, Tixi temple dedicated to Lord Shiva is very famous. After offering prayers, you can start towards Kanpur.
It is about 160 km from Etawah. You will reach in about 2.5 h. You can start your sightseeing in Kanpur by visiting Allen Forest Zoo. It is created in the natural forest habitat. Some of the mammals at the zoo are white tigers, cheetah, zebra, baboons, langur, monkeys, etc.
Kanpur Memorial Church
The zoo also has a botanical garden, aviary and an aquarium. Moti Jheel is a reservoir cum lake for drinking water. There is a garden and a play park adjoining the lake. There is also the Jain Glass Temple, Kanpur Memorial Church, Nana Rao Park, Buddha Park, Kamla Retreat, Jajmau and Sri Radhakrishna Temple to visit in Kanpur.
Proceed towards Fatehpur which is 102 km from Kanpur. It will take 2 h to reach. From here, take a break and drive towards Varanasi which is 4 h and 244 km from Fatehpur. Here are the places that you can visit in Varanasi.
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The Ganges/river Ganga
This holy river flows 2700 km from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal. This river is not only sacred to the Hindus, but also to Jains & Buddhists. It is a famous place to spread the ashes of the dead upon the sacred river.
Kashi Vishwanath Temple
This temple is one of the most famous and holiest temples dedicated to Lord Shiva. Currently managed by the Government of Uttar Pradesh, this temple has been reconstructed many times. In 1669, Aurangzeb destroyed this temple and built a mosque in its place.
However, the later rulers demolished the mosque and reconstructed this temple. The Linga of the main deity is 60 cm tall and 90 cm in circumference. There are other small shrines for Kalabhairav, Dhandapani, Vishnu, Vinayaka, Sanishwara and a few other Gods in the temple complex.
This is the main ghat in Varanasi on the river Ganga. It is believed that Lord Brahma created this ghat to welcome Lord Shiva. This ghat witnesses spectacular aarti sessions on Tuesdays and on festivals.
Currently in a dilapidated state, Ramnagar Fort is occupied by the Maharaja of Varanasi. It is on the right bank of the Ganges, opposite to the Varanasi Ghats. The fort houses a temple, a museum and the King's residential complex.
This is a huge Stupa located at Sarnath, which is a mere 13 km away from Varanasi. Dhamek Stupa is the location where Buddha delivered his first sermon about Eight Fold Path to his disciples after attaining enlightenment.
Sarnath Museum is the oldest ASI site that houses 6832 sculptures and artefacts. It has many images pertaining to Buddha and Bodhisattva. The super famous Lion Capital of Ashoka is pegged in this museum.
Jantar Mantar Observatory
This observatory was built by Maharajah Jai Singh II, who was deeply interested in astronomy. The main focus of building this observatory was to measure time and altitude and to determine position of planets and calculate eclipses.
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