Agra is a city on the banks of the Yamuna River in the state of Uttar Pradesh, north India. The King Sultan Sikandar Lodi was the first to move his capital from Delhi to Agra in the year 1506. It achieved fame as the capital of the Mughal emperors from 1526 to 1658.
Agra is the one of the prominent destinations of the World Tourism map with three UNESCO World Heritage Sites Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri. It is a vibrant centre of Culture, Art and Religious philosophies that have enriched mankind and shaped human thought over centuries.
Agra is a shopper’s paradise for those who love to buy specialties of the place as souvenirs and keepsakes or as gifts for their loved ones, Agra offers mini Taj replicas in various sizes for the tourists. This white-marble Taj is often used as decorative items in the homes and are considered to bring good luck for the lovers. Leather items at Agra are famous for their quality. These include leather sandals, purses, bags and decorative items. There are lots of handicraft emporiums that offer a variety of sandalwood and rose wood items along with brass decorative pieces and stone carved images. The fine work done by the local artisans in the city is notable and the markets of Agra are the best place to explore exquisite piece of fine Zari embroidery work, stone inlay work, durries and carpets.
The epitome of love, the elegy in marble, Taj Mahal is one of the most graceful and extravagant monuments in India. The seventh wonder of the world, it attracts thousands of tourists every year. A symbol of endless love and devotion of Emperor Shah Jehan to his beloved queen Mumtaz Mahal, the Taj is a befitting tribute to so romantic-a-love story and so divine an emotion that binds two souls forever. On her deathbed (Queen- Mumtaz Mahal), she made the emperor to promise to make a lovely monument unlike any other in the world as the tribute to their loving moments that were a treasure for her. The emperor kept the promise faithfully and thus, Taj was conceived.
The pure white marble structure, Completed in 1653 A.D., The Taj Mahal was built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as the final resting place for his favourite Queen, Mumtaz.Taj acquires different shades at different times of the day and with changing seasons. The soft pink color of the dawn and fiery shade that it acquires at dusk are all bewitching. Though, the light that presents it in the best possible manner is perhaps that of full moon, when it shines with pristine white and silver glory.
A visit to Taj Mahal, the mausoleum of Mumtaz, is a rare experience. It has become signature monument of Indian architecture and someone has rightly said that Taj has been designed like a palace and finished like a jewel.
Visiting hours of the Taj Mahal are 6 AM to 7 PM & it remains closed on Friday. There are night viewing sessions every month on the nights of a full moon and the two days before and after
The Great Mughal Emperor Akbar choose this city Agra, on the bank of River Yamuna as his capital and proceeded to build a strong citadel for the purpose. It is said that he destroyed the damaged old fort of Agra for the purpose and raised this grand group of monuments instead in red sandstone. Started in 1565, it took eight years and thirty-five lakh rupees to complete its construction and is second only to Taj in Agra.
The fort is crescent shaped, flattened on the east with a long, nearly straight wall facing the Yamuna river. It has a total perimeter of 2.4 kms., and is ringed by double castellated ramparts of red sandstone punctuated at regular intervals by bastions. A 9 mt. wide and 10 mt. deep moats surround the outer wall. There are number of exquisite building like the Moti Masjid-a white marvel mosque akin to a perfect pearl, Diwan-e-Am, Diwan-e-Khaas, Jehangir’s Palace, Khaas Mahal, Shish Mahal and Musamman or Samman Burj-where Emperor Shahjahan was held captive in 1666 A.D. by his own son Shahjahan.
Fatehpur Sikri is about 39 K.M. from Agra and falls between the road from Agra to Jaipur. Fatehpur Sikri is an epic in red sandstone. It was planned as a great town by The Mughal Emperor Akbar with great care and planning in the honor of Sheikh Salim Chisti but had to be abandoned only after fifteen years due to scarcity of water in the town. Sheikh Salim Chishti was a Sufi saint who blessed the Akbar with his first son and heir, who was named Salim after him and later came to be known as Jehangir. The beautiful marvel tomb of Sheikh Salim Chishti still attracts thousands who seek blessings of the revered saint.
The mausoleum of the Emperor Akbar represents his philosophy and secular outlook, combining the best of Hindu and Muslim architectures in a superlative region. Completed in 1613 AD by his son Jahangir, it is one of the well-preserved monuments. This is the last resting place of the Mughal Emperor Akbar.
The Keoladeo Ghana National Park formerly known as the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary in Rajasthan, North India, is 54 kms from Agra and 215 kms from Delhi. The park was a hunting ground for the maharajas (kings) of Bharatpur, a tradition dating back to 1850, and duck shoots were organized yearly in honor of the British viceroys. In one shoot alone in 1938, over 4,273 birds such as mallards and teals were killed by Lord Linlithgow, the then Governor-General of India. After India’s independence, the rulers of the princely states were allowed shooting rights until 1972. It was declared a protected sanctuary in 1972. It is also a declared World Heritage Site.
The main Wildlife in Bharatpur National Park, for which the park is famous all around the world- is birds. Also known as the ‘ Ornithologist’s Paradise’ the park is home to over 400 species of birds. The most prominent birds in the Bharatpur National Park are the migratory Siberian Cranes, Pelicans, Cranes, Ibis, Spoonbills, Egrets, Darters, Cormorants, Grey Herons, Stork, Ducks, Eagles, Hawks, Pipits, Warblers, Wheatears, Wagtails, Flycatchers, Buntings, Larks, Shanks, and Stints to name a few. The wildlife in Bharatpur National Park comprises of a number of mammalian species, birds and reptiles. The mammalian species found in the park include Nilgai, Chinkara, Sambhar, Chital, Black bucks, Fishing cat, Otter, Mongoose, Leopard Cat, Jungle Cat, Fishing Cats, Foxes, Wild Boar and many others.
Bharatpur has not that much of rich heritage sites, architecturally or even, commercially like the other cities of Rajasthan. But it is the home of more than 380 species of beautiful feathered birds, and this is the reason why visitors want to visit this place time and again.
Like most cities of North India, the weather and climate of Agra is extreme and tropical. In Agra and surrounding areas, summers are extremely hot and the maximum temperature goes as high as 45º Celsius, while the weather during winter remains cold and foggy at times. During the Monsoon season, Agra city receives rains (July, August) and the weather becomes hot and humid at the monsoon time.
You can visit the Agra city during any part of the year but it is recommended that one must avoid the extreme hot summers (April-June / July) Thus, the most suitable time to visit Agra, the city of the Taj Mahal, is during winters(October to March).
By Road: Agra is excellently connected to all parts of the country. By road Agra is 204 kms from Delhi, 232 kms from Jaipur (Rajasthan), 54 km from Bharatpur (Bird sanctuary).
By Train: Agra is well connected to rail route to all the major parts of the country. Two of the best trains –“Shatabdi Express” (between Delhi and Bhopal) and “Taj Express” (Between Delhi and Gwalior) are available to access Agra. Shatabdi Express train is with air condition chair car and meals are served on it.
By Air:Indian airlines and Kingfisher airways connect Agra to Delhi, Khajuraho and Varanasi. Kheria Airport is about 9 km. from the city center.