5 tips for Agra

Taj Mahal in Agra
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A visit to Agra is simply part of a trip to India. Seeing the famous Taj Mahal is an impressive experience. You will certainly not forget the sight so quickly – it is that beautiful. Akbar the Great (1556-1605) had once chosen the place at the river Yamuna for the seat of his capital of his Mughal Empire and had a magnificent city built here. The Red Fort, which was expanded by his successors into a palace, was also built during this heyday and displays typical features of Mughal architecture. The Taj Mahal, however, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was not built until the time of Emperor Sha-Jahan (1628-1658). Today, the city in the western part of the state of Uttar Pradesh has an estimated population of 1.6 million. Visiting Agra and the Taj Mahal is almost a “must” of every India round trip.

Tip 1: Taj Mahal

The UNESCO World Heritage Site Taj Mahal is the symbol of undying love and is considered one of the most beautiful structures in the world. It is one of the new seven wonders of the world and the landmark of India.

Agra with Taj Mahal
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The Taj Mahal was built by the fifth Great Mogul Shah Jahan in honor of his great love Mumtaz Mahal, who died dramatically in 1631 while giving birth to her 14th child. The Grand Mogul found it difficult to bear the painful loss of his wife, and so he fulfilled her last wish to build this tomb, which is unique in the world.

It is said to have taken twelve years to build the mausoleum from white, black and yellow marble with 28 different types of precious stones, which swallowed up vast sums of money.

In 1657 Shah Jahan was deposed by his son Muhammad Aurangzeb Alamgir. He had to spend the rest of his life in captivity in the Red Fort, always with a distant view of his wife’s tomb. He died in 1666.

Since 1983, the tourist magnet is included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and since 2007 is one of the seven new wonders of the world.

Tip 2: Agra Fort

Around 1090 a castle Badigarh was already mentioned at this place at the river Yamuna. On the foundations of this castle, Emperor Akbar had his new fortress built from 1565. The inner ring of walls is said to have been completed by about 1571. Under his successors, especially Jahangir to Shah Jahan, the fort was further expanded and strengthened. When an assassination attempt was made on the emperor Shah Jahan in Agra around c. 1635-38, the ruler no longer felt safe in Agra.

Agra Fort
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In 1648, the capital of the Mughal Empire, which was slowly in decline, was moved back to Delhi. With this, the Red Fort in Agra lost its strategic importance as an imperial protective fortress.

In 1803, the fort was captured by British troops and was once again at the center of heavy fighting during the Sepoy uprising of Indian auxiliaries against British rule in the mid-19th century. The fort was severely damaged during the fighting and partially restored in the 20th century. Large parts of the fort area were used under the British and are still used by the Indian Army today. Only part of the fort – the old palace grounds – is open to visitors. Agra Red Fort has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1983.

Tip 3: Tomb of I’timad-ud-Daulah

The tomb is located in the middle of a Persian-style garden complex divided into four parts by straight paths with water channels, about 3 km northeast of the old center of Agra, directly on the opposite side of the Yamuna River.

The Itimad-ud-Daula-Mausoleum was built in the years between 1622 and 1628 by Nur Jahan, the main wife of the Mogul ruler Jahangir, for her father Mirza Ghiyas Beg and designed with much love.   

Tomb of I'timad-ud-Daulah at Agra, India
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As a precursor of the Taj Mahal, the mausoleum of Itimad Ud-Daulah has a number of architectural and decorative features: the covering of the entire surface of the building with white marble, the corner towers in the shape of minarets, the abundance of semi-precious stone incrustations, and the preference for floral motifs. 

The closer you get to the building, the more precisely you can see the rich ornamentation that covers the walls. The entire surface of the outer walls is decorated with geometric and floral inlays made of precious colored stones.

The building consists of a central burial room with eight smaller side rooms. The main room houses the equally sized cenotaphs of both parents of Nur Jahan amidst a floor covered with geometric star motifs.

Besides the Taj Mahal, the tomb of Itimad ud Daulah is an absolute must-see of the sights in Agra. A pleasant resting place with few visitors in this hectic city. The beautiful site is also known as the mini Taj Mahal.

Tip 4: Akbar’s Tomb

Sikandra is a small village about 10 km north of Agra. Sikandra became widely known because of the mausoleum with the tomb of the Mughal Emperor Akbar (1556-1605).

The emperor is said to have determined and planned the tomb himself at this location during his lifetime. However, Akbar died before the completion of his tomb, which was finished by his son Jahangir in 1613.

Akbar’s Tomb at Agra
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The gate building in the south of the garden complex is a beautiful structure made of red sandstone with white marble and black slate inlays. On the four corners of the gateway are small minarets that may have served as models for the ornamental minarets at the Taj Mahal. The passage to the garden is decorated with a high, richly ornamented archway and smaller domed niches on either side. The actual tomb is located exactly in the center of a four-cornered, large garden, which, according to Persian-Muslim thought, embodied paradise on earth or the Garden of Eden. Emperor Akbar had a four-story mausoleum-dome built for himself. The tomb of his father Humayun in Delhi may have served as inspiration, but Akbar’s building surpasses the Humayun tomb in size and splendor.

The lower floors of the tomb are made of red sandstone. All around run arcades, niches, arches and domes. The top floor is made of marble with stone marble latticework. The emperor’s white marble sarcophagus is inside the domed structure. Inside, the walls are decorated with Arabic-Persian calligraphy and the names of Allah. The floor around the sarcophagus is made of marble with colored inlays.

Tip 5: Fatehpur Sikri

According to history, Babur is said to have given the name Sikra, derived from the Arabic “Shukria” (Thank God), which later became Sikari, to the small under-signifying village at whose gates he won a victory over the Rajput leader Rana Sanga in 1527.

Fatehpur Sikri near Agra
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Akbar was undisputed master of most of the subcontinent. Only over Kabul there was an endless family quarrel in the best Timurid tradition. There, still appointed by Humayun, sat his half-brother Hakim, who also felt himself master of India. He could not be helped with legal arguments, since Akbar still lacked what makes a man a man in the eyes of Muslims: a son.

Success came only to a Muslim saint (Sufi) Shaikh Salim Christi, who lived as a hermit on the hilltop in Sikari. He prophesied to the emperor that he would become the father of three sons, and when shortly thereafter the Hindu consort actually became pregnant.

The Emperor Akbar was deeply satisfied. He considered the place where such a thing had happened to be auspicious and founded a new residential city there.

He left the Red Fort in Agra and henceforth ruled from Sikari. In no time at all, Sikari grew into a large city, which was given the nickname Fatehpur, “Victory City,” after the victory over Gujrat. Akbar later moved his court back to Lahore (today Pakistan) and then to Agra for strategic reasons.

As a result, Fatehpur Sikri began to decay as quickly as it had been built. Final destruction was caused by the Jat warriors of Bharatpur in the 18th century. Only the sandstone could not be damaged.