Agra's Taj Mahal is one of the most famous buildings in the world. It is one of the New Seven Wonders of the world, and one of three World Heritage Sites in Agra.
Completed in 1653, the Taj Mahal was built by the Mughal king Shah Jahan as the final resting place for his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Finished in marble, this perfectly symmetrical monument took 22 years (1630–1652) of hard labour and 20,000 workers, masons and jewellers to build and is set amidst landscaped gardens. Built by the Persian architect, Ustad 'Isa, the Taj Mahal is on the bank of the Yamuna River. It can be observed from Agra Fort from where Emperor Shah Jahan gazed at it, for the last eight years of his life, a prisoner of his son Aurangzeb. The Taj Mahal was built on a marble platform that stands above a sandstone one. The most elegant dome of the Taj Mahal has a diameter of 60 feet (18 m), and rises to a height of 80 feet (24 m); directly under this dome is the tomb of Mumtaz Mahal. Shah Jahan's tomb was erected next to hers. The interiors are decorated by fine inlay work, incorporating semi-precious stones.
Agra Fort (sometimes called the Red Fort), was commissioned by the great Mughal Emperor Akbar in 1565, and is another of Agra's World Heritage Sites. The red sandstone fort was converted into a palace during Shah Jahan's time, and reworked extensively with marble and pietra dura inlay. Notable buildings in the fort include the Pearl Mosque, the Diwan-e-Am and Diwan-e-Khas (halls of public and private audience), Jahangir's Palace, Khas Mahal, Shish Mahal (mirrored palace), and the Musamman Burj.
The forbidding exteriors of this fort conceal an inner paradise. The fort is crescent shaped, flattened on the east with a long, nearly straight wall facing the river. It has a total perimeter of 2.4 kilometres (1.5 mi), and is ringed by double castellated ramparts of red sandstone punctuated at regular intervals by bastions. A 9 metres (30 ft) wide and 10 metres (33 ft) deep moat surrounds the outer wall.
The Mughal Emperor Akbar built Fatehpur Sikri about 35 km from Agra, and moved his capital there. Later abandoned due to shortage of water, the site displays a number of buildings of significant historical importance. A World Heritage Site, it is often visited by tourists.
Buland Darwaza or 'the lofty gateway' was built by Akbar in 1601 CE. at Fatehpur Sikri. Akbar built the Buland Darwaza to commemorate his victory over Gujarat. The Buland Darwaza is approached by 52 steps. It is 53.63 m high and 35 meters wide, made of red and buff sandstone, decorated by carving and black and white marble inlays.
The Empress Nur Jahan built I'timad-Ud-Daulah's Tomb, sometimes called the 'Baby Taj', for her father, Mirza Ghiyas Beg, the Chief Minister of the Emperor Jahangir. Located on the left bank of the Yamuna river, the mausoleum is set in a large cruciform garden criss-crossed by water courses and walkways. Small in comparison to many other Mughal-era tombs, it is sometimes described as a jewel box. Its garden layout and use of white marble, pietra dura, inlay designs and latticework presage many elements of the Taj Mahal.
The walls are white marble from Rajasthan encrusted with semi-precious stone decorations - cornelian, jasper, lapis lazuli, onyx, and topaz in images of cypress trees and wine bottles, or more elaborate decorations like cut fruit or vases containing bouquets. Light penetrates to the interior through delicate jali screens of intricately carved white marble.
Sikandra, the last resting place of the Mughal Emperor Akbar the Great, is on the Delhi-Agra Highway, only 13 kilometres from the Agra Fort. Akbar's tomb reflects the completeness of his personality. The vast, beautifully carved, red-ochre sandstone tomb with deers, rabbits and langurs is set amidst a lush garden. Akbar himself planned his own tomb and selected a suitable site for it. To construct a tomb in one's lifetime was a Turkic custom which the Mughals followed religiously. Akbar's son Jahangir completed construction of this pyramidal tomb in 1613.
Soami Bagh Samadhi
The Soami Bagh Samadhi is a monument of Huzur Swamiji Maharaj (Shri Shiv Dayal Singh Seth) in the Soamibagh section, on the road that goes from Bhagwan Talkies to Dayal Bagh, in the outskirts of the city. He was the founder of the Radhaswami Faith and the Samadhi is sacred to its followers. Construction began in February 1904 and still continues. It is often seen as the next Taj Mahal. The exquisite carvings in stone, using a combination or coloured marble, are life-like and not seen anywhere else in India.
The ‘Mehtab Bagh’ or ‘Moonlit Garden’ is on the opposite bank of river Yamuna from Taj Mahal. The site is also associated with myth of black Taj. It was originally designed as charbagh complex – a Persian-style layout with four parts – divided by beautiful white walkways, large water fountains with reflecting pools, and airy pavilions filled with colorful fruit trees.
The garden complex, square in shape is perfectly aligned with the Taj Mahal on the opposite bank. Emperor Shah Jahan identified it as an ideal site to admire the mausoleum and is ultimate viewing place to watch Taj Mahal especially at sunset and click stunning photos of Taj from every corner of the Garden.
Also known as Soor Sarovar, Keetham Lake is situated about 23 kilometres from Agra, within the Surdas Reserved Forest. Declared as National Bird Sanctuary in 1991 the lake has an impressive variety of aquatic life and water birds. Spread in about 8 sq km, more than 106 species of migratory and resident birds are known to have their resting habitats at Sur Sarovar. There are many man-made islands that add to the beauty of this quaint getaway. The surrounding forest is the home of wild animals, including deer, pythons and other animals. The sanctuary also houses Wildlife SOS rescue center for the Indian Sloth Bears.
Wildlife Sos Bear/ Elephant Rescue Center
Situated inside Soor Sarovar Bird Sanctuary, Wildlife SOS Agra is largest Sloth Bear Rescue Facility in the world for bears rescued from the brutal practice of bear dancing. it currently houses over 170 sloth bears as well as many other species of wildlife in large forested enclosures with ponds and shady trees. Wildlife SOS also runs India's only Elephant Hospital at the Elephant Conservation & Care Center, home to over 20 rescued elephants, a 15 min drive from the bear sanctuary. To plan a visit contact Wildlife SOS at email@example.com for more details
Taj museum is located inside the Taj complex. The museum has a draft design of the Taj Mahal complex and showcases the different semi-precious stones which were used in creating the Taj, 17th-century miniature paintings and calligraphy. No separate ticket is required to visit this place.
Places to visit around Agra
Just an hour’s drive from Agra, on the banks of the river Yamuna, is situated the birthplace of Lord Krishna. The entire land is dotted with magnificent temples, dedicated to various aspects of his life. The twin cities of Mathura and Vrindavan, where he was born and where he grew up, still resound to the sound of his laughter, antics and his magical flute.
Gokul, Barsana and Goverdhan are the other township associated with the legend of Lord Krishna. Gokul is the hideout where Lord Krishna was secretly brought up- away from the eyes of his maternal uncle Kansa. His consort Radha belonged to Barsana, where the unique Holi festival Latthamar Holi is celebrated with great gusto. At Goverdhan, Krishna raised a mighty mountain on his little finger to protect the locals from the wrath of rain-god Indra. Some of the famous temples are:
Mathura: Dwarikadhish Temple, Shri Krishna Janmbhoomi Temple, Gita Temple( Birla Mandir) Vrindavan: Bankey Bihari Temple, Sri Krishna-Balram (ISKCON) Temple, Prem Mandir, Govind Dev Temple, Sri Rangji Temple, Priyakant ji Temple, Shahji Temple
Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary
Keoladeo National Park or Keoladeo Ghana National Park formerly known as the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary just 55 km west of Agra in Bharatpur, Rajasthan is a famous avifauna sanctuary that hosts thousands of birds, especially during the winter season. Over 230 species of birds are known to be resident here. It was declared a protected sanctuary in 1971. It is also a World Heritage Site.
Keoladeo Ghana National Park is a man-made and man-managed wetland and one of the national parks of India. The sanctuary is one of the richest bird areas in the world and is known for nesting of resident birds and visiting migratory birds including water birds. The rare Siberian cranes used to visit this park in winters but this central population is now extinct. According to founder of the World Wildlife Fund Peter Scott, Keoladeo National Park is one of the world’s best bird areas.
Firozabad, a city 37 km from Agra is the center of India's glassmaking industry and is known for the quality of the bangles and other glass wares produced there. Firozabad with the changing time has entered into new era of Glass Manufacturing, it has become a major hub of manufacturing different Glass based items and has registered its global presence.
All sorts of glass articles, including jars, candle stands, glasses, flower vases, and electric wares such as decorative lights, bulbs and all other sort of glass articles are prepared in this city. These articles are painted with vivid colors and innovative patterns. Etching is also done on some products to enhance their beauty.
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