Agra, in the state of Uttar Pradesh, has a rich historical connection. Though Agra is mostly associated with the Mughals, there is evidence of its existence even before, mentioned in Mahabharata as Agrevana. The present-day Agra was founded by Sikandar Lodhi in the 16th century. After which, it was occupied by Babur.
When Akbar came to ascend the throne, he built Fatehpur Sikri, which was his capital for close to 15 years. The golden period of the city started around this time. It was known as Akbarabad. Later, Shah Jahan ascended the throne after Jahangir.
Agra really gained popularity during Shah Jahan's time when he built the crowning glory of Mughal architecture-the ethereal Taj Mahal. After the decline of the Mughals, Agra fell into the hands of the Marathas and finally the British.
Agra is situated on the banks of river Yamuna. The best time to visit Agra is from October to March. It is situated on the Indo-Gangetic plain and exhibits humid subtropical climate with sweltering summers. Agra is a part of the Golden Triangle circuit, along with Delhi and Jaipur.
Here is a carefully curated list of 10 must-visit places in Agra.
Chronicled by Rabindranath Tagore as ‘a tear on the face of eternity', Taj Mahal is a mausoleum erected by Shah Jahan in the memory of his dearest wife, Mumtaz Begum. He started the construction in 1632 AD and completed it in 1648 AD. It is believed that 20000 workers were employed daily to finish this construction in 17 years.
Built entirely of white marble, Taj Mahal is one of the UNESCO recognized heritage sites. Taj Mahal is considered the pinnacle of love. It is sheer poetry that is visited by people across the world.
Agra Fort is also known as Lal Qila/Fort Rouge/Red Fort of Agra. It was built by Akbar in 1654. It was a military outpost, but also served as his royal residence. Fort Agra was built entirely of red sandstone and was completed in 1573 AD.
This fort has some admirable and impeccable architectural wonders like Sheesh Mahal (built using glass on the walls), Anguri Bagh (the royal gardens), Nagina Masjid (a mosque for the women of the court), etc.
This is one of the largest mosques in India. Jama Masjid is located right opposite Agra Fort. This mosque was built by Shah Jahan in 1648 as a dedication to his favorite daughter Jahanara Begum, who took care of him when he was imprisoned by his son Aurangzeb.
This mosque is made of red sandstone and uses white marble for elaborate decorations. Situated slap bang in the middle of the city, Jama Masjid is surrounded by a bustling bazaar.
PC: Varun Shiv Kapur
Khas Mahal is located inside Agra Fort and is a monument that you must definitely not miss! It was built by Shah Jahan for his daughters Jahanara and Roshanara. It has gorgeous pavilions made of white marble and is located with the river on one side and Anguri Bagh on the other.
The ceiling of the palace is richly ornamented with mural paintings and carvings. The royal colours of gold and blue have been used to paint the palace.
Chini Ka Rauza
This was built by Maulana Shukrallah Shirazi, the prime minister in the court of Shah Jahan and a well-known poet under the pseudonym Allami. He was obsessed with building his own mausoleum and started work on Chini Ka Rauza in 1635.
Also known as China Tomb, the prime minister chose glazed tiles to build this masterpiece. The enamel from the tiles seems to have frayed with the weather. The architecture of this tomb is considered unconventional since it has an unproportioned dome.
PC: Rickard Törnblad
Panch Mahal is a five-storied pavilion that lies of the western end of the courtyard of Fatehpur Sikri. Essentially a pleasure palace meant for Akbar, this is the wind tower of the women in the palace.
There were purdahs installed for 176 pillars so that the queens and other women could enjoy the breeze and watch beautiful views. The whole building is built to be extremely airy, as a respite from hot Agra summers. Akbar is said to have played chequerboard in the courtyard, with dancing girls as pawns.
Sur Sarovar Bird Sanctuary
This sanctuary in Agra is tiny, but is one of the most prominent bird sanctuaries of Uttar Pradesh. It consists of Keetham Jheel-freshwater wetland.
Sur Sarovar is named after Surdas-a great Hindi poet who is believed to be born around this area-and was declared a sanctuary in 1991. There is also a sanctuary for sloth bears in the premises. Boating is available at the lake in the sanctuary.
PC: Martin Mecnarowski
Jahangir Palace is the largest part of Agra Fort. Akbar got this palace built for his son Jahangir. Noor Jahan, the wife of Jahangir lived here. This mahal is one of the brilliant illustrations of Mughal architecture. Built with red sandstone, Jahangir Mahal exhibits beautiful motifs of Hindu and Islamic styles.
Much of this fort was ruined by Shah Jahan, the son of Jahangir. One of the noteworthy pieces in this palace that still stands good is Hauz-i-Jahangiri, a stone container used to store rose water, which was carved from a single stone.
PC: Sanyam Bahga
Built by Shah Jahan in 1637, Anguri Bagh literally means garden of grapes. It is flanked by Khas Mahal and red sandstone arcades. Anguri Bagh was the main square of the living area of the queens.
This garden was famous for harvesting juicy and succulent grapes and flowers throughout the year. Adjacent to the garden is the place where hammams/bathhouses are located for the royal ladies. The water supply to this garden was from the many tanks near Jahangiri Mahal.
Literally meaning Pearl Masjid, the interiors of the mosque are built with white marble, while the exterior is built with red sandstone. There is a sundial located outside this mosque. The eastern side of the mosque is much larger and is the principal entrance.
Women have separate prayer chambers on either sides of the main prayer chamber, removed using a marble latticework. The main prayer chamber has three curved domes crowning it.