Agra was once a place of royalty. It was from here that the kings ruled. And everywhere you go, you see the relics of those grand old days. Situated on the banks of the river Yamuna, a visit to this town will take you back in time. To those days of yore and the monuments that last even to this day.
Before you cross the Yamuna to visit Taj Mahal, take some time to explore this ancient monument commissioned by Noor Jahan, the wife of Emperor Jahangir. The mausoleum is dedicated to Noor Jahan's father Mirza Ghiyas Beg. This mausoleum marks a shift in Mughal architecture, which was till then mainly used red sandstone with marble inlays to white marble. And there are people who will tell you that this building is called 'Baby Taj' and was the inspiration for building Taj Mahal.
The symbol of eternal love, the Taj Mahal needs no introduction. A trip to Taj, for many, is a celebration of that love story. Built out of white marble, the monument boasts of intricate carvings and inlaid precious stones. The white marble is translucent and that is what gives a viewing of Taj Mahal early in the morning or late in the evening an unforgettable experience. Ideally, visit Taj Early in the morning or late in the evening.
If you are awed by Taj Mahal, the Agra Fort will baffle you, leave you speechless. It is actually a fortified city – so vast, so huge and has seen different dynasties ruling over the land from here. Your guide will tell you that it was initially called Badalgarh and was a small brick fort – which was modified by Akbar, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb before the British set up their garrisons here. You will be surprised to know that only 25 percent of the Fort is open to the public – the rest, is still under the Indian Army.
When he started feeling old, the Mughal Emperor, Akbar, started designing his own final resting place. He chose a place just outside the city centre and started work on it in his typical architectural style, which was a perfect blend of Mughal, Hindu and Christian architecture. It was his son, Jahangir who completed the monument in which Akbar and other close family members rest now.
Fatehpur Sikri or the 'City of Victory', was a planned city built by the Mughals situated about 40kms away from Agra. Akbar, even shifted his capital to Fatehpur Sikri between 1571 and 1585. The Buland Darwaza, The Juma Masjid, the tomb of Sufi Saint Salim Chisti, Diwan-i-Aam, Diwan-i-khas, Ibadat Khana and Panch Mahal as some of the attractions at this planned city, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It will take you about 3 hours to travel to Agra from New Delhi by road. You can also try the train or the bus.
Plan your trip in such a way that you reach Agra in the evening. Check into one of the hotels at Agra. And try to visit Taj Mahal in the evening. ASI allows night-time viewing of Taj Mahal on some dates.
If you are not one of the lucky ones who can visit Taj Mahal in the night, try for an early morning viewing.
You will require a couple of hours to see the Agra Fort. If you are someone who loves history and ancient monuments the time you spend here will be more.
It is ideal to spare a day for Fatehpur Sikri.