Agra's rich cultural past along with strong Mughal influence in terms of literature, art, music and architecture gave rise to some of the most amazing Mughal monuments, which stand strong even till date boasting of its great legacy that is history never to be forgotten. Some of the most striking of these structures are a must watch sites in the city and should not be given a miss.
The Taj Mahal History:
The Taj may be popularly known as one of the Seven Wonders of the World as listed under the UNESCO, but it's not just the name. There is more to this stunning creation of man that will leave you in awe. The first site of the Taj that is most striking is the sheer beauty of the monument. It truly does leave you speechless. It is advisable that you take time out from the interpretation you will get regarding the monument from your local guide or escort about its history and architecture, just to admire the work and effort put behind by the most talented of artists of the time. The Taj Mahal constructed during the reign of Shah Jahan took seventeen long years starting from the year 1631 to the year 1648 when it was finally completed. What you see of the Taj today is the effort of more than 20,000 workers employed from all over the north western frontiers and Central Asia, from stone cutters to artisans, along with the involvement of ordinary labourers and hundreds of elephants. But the beauty of the structure is added by the other constituents that make it special than it otherwise would be. It all starts from the gates, a walk through the gardens and finally reaching to the Mausoleum. The most noticeable thing about the Taj complex that needs attention is its five main constituents. The first of it are the three Darwazas or gateways, the second being the bageecha or beautiful garden surrounding the monument, the masjid or mosque where Friday prayers are held till today, the rest house or Naqqar Khana, and the Rauza which is the main mausoleum. The Taj mahal itself is built entirely of pure white marble most of which are believed to have been imported from Rajasthan. Inside the Taj are the tombs of the two lovers, Shah Jahan and his beloved wife, Mumtaz. The structure of the monument is a combination of Persian, Islamic and Indian style of architecture. The structure also consists of four minarets at four corners with the main structure n the middle. This magnificent Mughal monument with its complex featuring the beautiful garden covers a area of approximately 42 acres of land. With three gateways leading to the Taj, and on one side of it is the Yamuna running by. At sunset or sunrise, the river adds charm to the evergreen beauty of the Taj. But the best view of it is under moonlit nights when the stunning peace of this white marble structure comes to its own. One must book at least 24hours in advance for shows of the Taj under full moon nights. Many say that if you have visited India, but not seen the Taj, you really haven't seen anything. You can't miss the Taj no matter where you're travelling or how long you may be there in Agra.
Agra Taj Mahal Timings:
The Taj Mahal of Agra is opened on all days from sunrise to sunset except for Fridays due to prayers that take place in the mosque inside the Taj complex. Once you enter; you can spend time till 7:00 PM in the evening but please note that entry closes by 06:00 PM. The Taj can also be viewed on Full Moon nights between 08:30PM and 00:30AM and two nights before and after of the full moonlight.
Entry Fees for Taj Mahal:
For Indians: Rupees.20/-
For Foreigners: Rupees.750/-
Night Shows: Rs.500/- for Indians and Rs.750/- for foreigners
Please note that during the holy month of Ramzan, there are no night shows inside the Taj at the time.
Visit to Agra Fort of Agra:
The Taj may take time to simply get a good over all view of the beauty it possesses, but the Fort in Agra is a marvelous structure which will take time to explore so many elements that make up for the greatness of this monument. The Agra fort is probably the most highlighted or must see site in Agra after the Taj, and is listed under the UNESCO's world heritage site. The Fort has a longer history than the Taj, since it goes back to the time even before the Mughals. It was not as huge a structure under the Lodis and only gradually developed during the period of Akbar's reign who transformed this mud walled fort into a splendid red sand stone structure. His son and grandson, Jahangir and Shah Jahan added more halls to this fort during their reign. The Fort does have a striking resemblance to the Red Fort in Delhi. There are numerous buildings inside the fort such as the Diwan-i-Am or the hall for public gathering, the Diwan-i-Khas or the hall for meeting of the ministers with the empire, or to receive kings and special ambassadors which are probably two most popular and known of all the rest. Moti Masjid, the Nagina Masjid, Hammam-i-shahi, and Macchi bhawan are just some of the many important sites that are inside the fort, making it such a splendid thing to see. The fort experienced steady development from the time of Akbar to Shah Jahan, his grandson. The Agra Fort symbolises power and authority which the Mughals had across many parts of India other than Agra for a long time. It was from the time of Aurangzeb when The Agra Fort lost its glory when he shifted his entire capital from Shah Jahanabad in Old Delhi to Aurangabad. Shah Jahan spent his last days as a prisoner to his son at Agra Fort's Musamman burj, where he eventually died. The Agra Fort lies on the North-Western side to the Taj and offers a great view of the Taj from a distance with the river Yamuna running behind it and the best time to experience this would probably be during sunset or under cloud cover, a true photographer's delight. The fort covers a huge area and has a straightened structured wall of red sand stone facing the river. This huge fort who's foundation which was laid by Akbar in 1565 and gradually developed with Mughal domination in the decades that followed, makes it a must see not just for its History or popularity in terms of World Heritage Sites, but simply for the well planned and efficient structure that it used to serve for the Mughal dynasty at the time. This Fort is definitely a must visit. It would be advisable to take time out to visit the fort, so as to have a detailed look into the monument if possible.
Agra Fort Visiting Times:
The Fort is opened on all days from 6:00 AM to 5:30 PM.
Entry Fees of Agra Forts:
For Indians: Rs.20/- per person
For Foreigners: Rs.250/- per person
Must to Visit Fatehpur Sikri near Agra:
In 1571 A.D. Akbar founded a city in gratitude to the great Sufi saint, Salim Chishti who lived in a cavern at Sikri which at the time was a small village hamlet. When Akbar built Fatehbad near Sikri, together they came to be known as Fatehpur Sikri. Akbar set up this place as his temporary capital between the years 1572 to 1585. He built a series of palaces, mosques and public buildings and to add to that, courts of servants and army who were at the service of the king. All of this today has been preserved as a part of UNESCO's world heritage site. To add to this, there is also the Buland Darwaza or gate of Victory which stands high and tall and clearly visible from the modern day market place at Fatehpur. The Buland Darwaza was built to mark the conquest of Gujarat during the time of Akbar's reign in the year 1601 A.D. and is also known as the 'Gate of Magnificence'. As one enters through this lofty gateway, you step into a courtyard in the middle of which is a white marbled shrine of the holy Sufi saint Salim Chisti's Dargah. Inside the shrine is his tomb which is today a holy shrine for Muslims and Non-Muslims alike. It s believed that Akbar had great reverence for the Saint Salim Chishti( a descendent of the great Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti of Ajmer ). He is believed to have fore told the birth of Akbar's first son Jahangir, whom he named Salim with respect to the saint. Fatehpur Sikri remains a must visit for all going to Agra must to visit the Taj Mahal India. The inscriptions on the Buland Darwaza taken from the Bible highlights the liberalism that existed at the court of Akbar, the holy place of the Salim Chishti, along with magnificent halls and palaces of typical Persian architecture blendid with Indian style will amaze any visitor of the magnificence of Mughal glory at Fatehpur Sikri. This capital of Akbar was finally abandoned in 1585 due to shortage of water, a problem that is faced by people even till today. Fatehpur Sikri is divided into the township of Fatehpur and the village of Sikri which remains dry most of the time. While the inside Halls and palaces of Akbar's Establishment faces the Sikri village, on the other side is the Buland Darwaza facing the much more busy and crowded part of Fatehpur. Fatehpur Sikri not only holds significance in terms of History, but the experience of visiting the place makes it all the more worth while. A visit to Agra is incomplete without a visit to Sikri, which is just a day's excursion from Agra. On your visit, notice carefully the contrast between Sikri, overlooking the Agra-Jaipur Highway from the farmlands and Fatehpur, a colourful and bustling township.
Fatehpur Sikri Timings:
Opened between sunrise and sunset.
Entry Fees for Fatehpur Sikri Monuments:
For Indians: Rs.20/-
For Foreigners: Rs.250/-
Places to See in Sikandra:
Almost 14 km's from Agra City, on the Delhi-Agra Highway is the town of Sikandra on the outskirts of the city which has the tomb of one of the greatest emperor India has ever had. It is here in Sikandra, where the tomb of Akbar is preserved. The Tomb is inside a classic mughal structure of red sandstone, and the complex covers a huge area in which are protected Black Bucks and Langurs in a lush green compound. It is believed that Akbar himself had selected and planned his own tomb and the site of it which was a tradition the Mughals followed, originally a Turkic custom. The walls on the outside are arch shaped. The tomb building is surrounded by a high walled enclosure. Though Akbar died in the year 1605 A.D. and laid to rest in Sikandra as was his wish, the completion of the structure was done after his death during the time of his son Jahangir in 1613 A.D. There are basically three gateways or darwazas leading to the main structure of red sandstone inside which is the tomb of the emperor. The South gate is the largest of them all and the minarets on the four sides are of white marble and worth noticing. It is also the main entrance to get to the main mausoleum. Akbar’s tomb also has features of Rajasthani architecture in the form of chhatris on three levels. The pyramidal tomb consists of inscriptions of the 99 names of Allah the Great. Over all, it is a magnificent structure that deserves attention while you are in Agra, and is sure not to disappoint you. The best place to visit would probably be during the evenings when the grazing Black Buck on the lush green fields adds to the beauty of the Mausoleum. The calmness of the complex is worth an experience that one would remember for a long time to come.
Akbar ka Maqbara( Akbar Tomb ) Timings:
It is opened on all days from sunrise to sunset.
Entry Fees Akbar ka Tomb in Sikandra:
For Indians: Rs.10/-
For Foreigners: Rs.100/-
Trip to Itmad-ud Daulah Tomb:
The Tomb of Itamd-ud-Daulah holds a great importance in Mughal Architectural History, which is often overshadowed by the attention taken away by the Taj Mahal. It was built between the years 1622 to 1628 A.D. and took almost seven years to be completed. The structure was built earliest to the Taj as the dates suggest. What is notable in this monument is based on white marble along with pietra dura inlay. This similarity is realized in the Taj as well. Hence, in terms of much praised Mughal Architecture, this monument, as many believes marks a period of transition from the red sandstone structures to a more use of White Marble adding to the glory and beauty of Mughal monuments. It is located towards the northern side of the Agra Fort across the Yamuna River. The beautiful monument is a memorial that was built by the Mughal Queen and Jahangir's wife Nur Jahan who is often known as 'the lady with an iron fist', to her father Mirza Ghiyas Beg. Inside the Mausoleum, are the tombs of her Nur Jahan's parents, a close similarity to the later built Taj Mahal. Itmad-ud Daula was the title given to Nur Jahan's father, meaning pillar of the state, and that is how the name of the monument originates. An honor of being called pillar of state signifies that Mirza Ghiyas Beg was a highly revered by the people of his time during the reign of his son in law, Jahangir. The white marbled walls of the mausoleum were made from various semi precious stones that were imported from Rajasthan and built on a square one meter high. On each four side of the raised square on which the mausoleum stands are minaret like towers reaching almost thirteen meters in height. The gardens or Bagh as one may call it in the local language surrounding the complexes of the tomb are pictorial site. While inside the mausoleum, notice closely how well the jalis have been carved out of the white marbled wall of the mausoleum allowing minimal light to enter inside where the tombs that lies preserved. The Itamd-ud Daulah reveals not just the transformation in Mughal architecture. It also throws light on the importance of Nur Jahan and her father in Jahangir's life and his reign as history speaks. To build for Mirza Ghiyas Beg the honor of a white mausoleum with some of the finest and fresh inventions in architecture explains that the man was not just influential but spoken highly of by the emperor Jahangir.
Itmad-ud Daulah Tomb Timings:
Opened on all days between sunrise and sunset.
Itmad-ud Daulah Tomb Entry Fees:
For Indians: Rs.10/-
For Foreigners: Rs.100/-
Must to Visit Chini Ka Rauza of Agra:
The Chini ka Rauza was built as a memorial to Allama Afzal Khan Mullah Shukrullah Shirazi, a scholar and poet who went on to become the Prime Minister under Shah Jahan. He was one of the most revered at the emperor's court. The monument is roughly a kilometer away from Itmad-ud Daulah and falls under Etmadpur area in the eastern Agra region. The poet, scholar and minister to Shah Jahan, Mullah Shukrullah chose to construct his own mausoleum around the year 1639. It is worth a visit to this unique monument because of the uniqueness in its architecture that separates it from the rest. After having visited all of the above mentioned grandeur structures of the Mughal times, you may expect a red sand stone or white marbled monument of Indo-Persian style, which is very classic and typical of mughal architectures. But that is where the Chini Ka Rauza, a low profile memorial of the mughal architecture, will take you by complete surprise. The mausoleum has been built of glazed tiles which were imported from China. The monument gets its name 'Chini ka Rauza', from the bright colored tiles. The tomb is covered by a dome and appears to be a double structured building. Previously, there were two gates, one on the northern and the other on the southern side. Surrounding the gateways were high walls along with a couple of three storied octagonal towers. 300/-
Chini Ka Rauza Timings:
One can usually visit the tomb between sunrise and sunset.
Agra Chini Ka Rauza Travel Suggestions:
The above mentioned structures are masterpieces of art that existed during the Mughal Times. While travelling to these places, a few things should be kept in mind. Although the monuments are opened on 15th of August and 26th of January, which are national holidays in India, it is best to avoid visiting the Taj, Agra Fort or Fatehpur Sikri on these days as they can get uncomfortably crowded. Also, while travelling to Fatehpur Sikri, please try and return by evening since transportation from Fatehpur to Agra after sunset can be hard to find unless you have an accommodation booked at Sikri itself. There is a nominal amount of Tax that the ADA i.e. Agra Development Authority charges at every monument from visitors. Hence, the total entry fee may be slightly higher than what has been mentioned above. Also note that the above mentioned entry fees for every monument that has been mentioned may change in future as and when the Archaeological Survey of India or ASI, or the ADA may decide.
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