This is an amazing place just 50 kms from Agra, 1 hr bus ride, and you will be surprised that the ruins are atop of a ridge and surrounded by an 11 km wall, but the amazing thing is that they don't seem to be ruins at ll as all buildings appear to be in perfect condition. The whole complex is made of red sandstone with mosques, tombs , temples and palaces inside. When we visited there we had the place more or less to ourselves, but well worth the short trip from Agra.
This is a live drama with some music and dance (Bollywood style, of course) that depicts the story of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal, and how the Taj Mahal became a reality. It is highly recommended: great costumes, visual effects, props and sets. Guests are provided headets for different languages. Photos and videos are prohibited.
Tickets can be bought on site just before show time so you need not purchase online beforehand; shows are not that full anyway.
A historic town on the Betwa River in central India. The town, surrounded by thick jungle that long made it impregnable, was founded in 1531 and served until 1783 as the capital of the former Orchha princely state. In the early 17th century it was systematically devastated by the forces of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan following the rebellion of the Bundela chief Jujhar Singh. An island in the Betwa, approached by a causeway, contains a large 17th-century fort and palace. Other buildings of historic interest are several temples and a palace of Jahangir, an excellent example of Muslim domestic architecture. There are also several cenotaphs of the Orchha rulers.
About 37 km west of Agra, this royal city was founded as his dream capital by the Mughal Emperor Akbar. There is a legend behind the construction of this splendid city. Akbar was without an heir for a long time. Therefore, he made a pilgrimage to the renowned Sufi saint Sheik Salim Chisti and sought his blessings for a successor. Finally, a son was born to him, who later came to be known as Jehangir. As a mark of his gratitude, Akbar named him after the saint and built the new capital to mark his birth. Work on the extensive project- featuring grand palaces, formal courtyards, pools, harems, tombs and a great mosque- began in 1571. A large number of skilled masons and craftsmen worked to their bones on an area that was over two miles long and a mile wide. The main material used for construction was red sandstone, which is available locally.
But destiny has its own way- just after fifteen years of the completion of work, the fabulous city had to be abandoned due to acute shortage of water.
This magnificent city, today, is recognized as a World Heritage site. Inside the complex there are number of mesmerizing sites. The Panch Mahal, or Palace of Five Storeys, and the Buland Darwaza, a massive gate which provides entrance to the complex, are adored for their unrivaled elegance. The massive chess board signifies the cultural politics inherent in the Mughal era. On this board, as it is believed, human figures were used as chess pieces and moved at the will of the emperor. The Jama Masjid (Imperial Mosque), Salim Chisti tomb, Diwani-Aam, and Jodh Bai's Palace feature among the most impressive structures of the city. The city is notable for its intricate blend of Muslim and Hindu motifs.
This was built by Akbar for his favorite son Jehangir to provide him with the comfort and luxury inside the fort. This palace displays an excellent combination of Hindu and Muslim architecture.
One of the pleasures of the Agra Fort is exploring its many hidden corridors and palaces. Here we have part of Jehangiri Mahal, the Palace of crown prince Jehangir, who became emperor after the passing of this father, Akbar. It's an interesting structure, largely for its heavy borrowing of Hindu elements in the architecture. It's no wonder, considering that Akbar, a central Asian Muslim, employed Hindus as his designers and chief builders.
Jehangir Mahal, was built as a monumental welcome present for the Mughal emperor Jehangir when he paid a state visit in the 17th century.
Entered through an ornate ceremonial gateway, the east-facing facade is encrusted with turquoise tiles. Two stone elephants flank the stairway, holding bells in their trunks to announce the arrival of the Raja. Three storeys of elegant hanging balconies, terraces, apartments and onion domes are piled around a central courtyard. This palace, however, is sort of more airy and lighted since it has countless windows and pierced stone screens looking out
over the skyline to the west, and a sea of treetops and ruined temples in the other direction.
The Yamuna is a major tributary river of the Ganges (Ganga) in northern India. With a total length of around 1,370 kilometers (851 mi), it is the largest tributary of the Ganges.
Its source is at Yamunotri, in the Uttarakhand Himalaya, which is north of Haridwar in the Himalayan Mountains. It flows through the states of Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, before merging with the Ganges at Allahabad. The cities of Delhi, Mathura and Agra lie on its banks. The major tributaries of this river are the Tons, Chambal, Betwa, and Ken; with the Tons being the largest.
A heavy freight canal, known as the SYL (Sutlej-Yamuna Link), is being built westwards from near its headwaters through the Punjab region near an ancient caravan route and highlands pass to the navigable parts of the Sutlej-Indus watershed. This will connect the entire Ganges, which flows to the east coast of the subcontinent, with points west (via Pakistan). When completed, the SLY will allow shipping from India's east coast to the west coast and the Arabian sea, drastically shortening shipping distances and creating important commercial links for north-central India's large population.
Taj Mahal Museum in Agra is one of the most famous museums in Agra, which is visited by hundreds of tourists who wish to delve deep into the history of Taj. The Taj Museum is located within the complex of Taj Mahal. It is located to the left of the platform near the chief gate of the Taj Mahal. The Taj Museum of Agra provides the opportunity to the tourists and visitors to take a close look at the original pieces of drawings of this magnificent marble monument. The study of the drawings indicates the level of accuracy and precision that had been initiated in planning the structure of the Taj Mahal. No wonder that the Taj still features among the Seven Wonders of the World.
The Taj Museum remains open from 10 o' clock in the morning to 5 o' clock in the afternoon. These drawings also show the layout of the graves. Drawings of the interiors show the position of the graves in such precision that the foot of the graves faces the spectator from any angle. Besides, there are many other bewitching collections that will catch the fancy of the tourists.
The Taj Mahal stands serene and awesome, on a raised marble platform, by the banks of the Yamuna, testifying to the timelessness of art and love. Its pure white marble shimmers silver in the soft moonlight, exudes a shell - pink glow at dawn, and at the close of the day, takes on the tawny, fiery hue of the majestic sun.
Shahjahan built the monument in memory of his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal, the 'lady of the Taj', who died giving birth to their 14th child. It has been called the most extravagant monument ever built for the sake of love. The construction of the Taj commenced in 1631, and was completed in 1653. Workers were gathered from all over the country and from Central Asia, and about 20,000 people were recruited to translate this wild dream into a reality.
The main architect was Isa Khan, who was brought all the way from Shiraz in Iran. After he was deposed and brutally imprisoned in the Agra Fort, by his son Aurangzeb, Shahjahan spent the rest of his life looking wistfully at his wife's final resting place, just across the river. The Taj remains a symbol of eternal love where the heart - broken Shahjahan was subsequently buried, re-united finally with his beloved Mumtaz.
For the First time, THE TAJ MAHAL MARATHON  will be run on 21st September in 2008, The Incredible marathon will take off from the sleepy Village of Niyamat Pur outside Agra and will Finsih at The Taj Mehtab Bagh (garden), with spectacular views of the Taj Mahal, a love story in Marble set in Paradise gardens. What better way to celebrate Taj Mahal being one of the new seven wonders in the world! The run will also put Agra in the adventure sports.
Agra Fort is a veritable treasure trove of the Mughal architectural tradition. The various buildings with a mixture of different architectural styles within this sprawling fort complex represent the assimilation of different cultures. This is the distinctive feature of the Mughal period. The construction of the fort was started by Abkar, the third Mughal Emperor, and was completed in 1571. The best beautiful view is the river view with the Taj in sight. Shah Jahan loved to see his dancers danced in the garden but he had to allocate a number to each of them as he could never remember their names. One of his favourite activities was to use an arrow to aim at his fishes in the garden pond. If his aim was accurate, he would demand his beloved queen, Mumtaz, to give him a kiss.
Musamman Burj (an octagonal tower) within the Agra fort is where Shahjahan spent his last few years. Aurangzeb (Shah Jahan’s son) accused Shah Jahan for spending too much of the public funds to build the Taj Mahal, imprisoned him there and ascended as the emperor.
as a captive held by Aurangzeb (Shahjahan’s son). Shah Jahan died as a captive but Taj Mahal where his beloved wife was buried was within his sight.
After building Taj Mahal, Shah Jahan wanted to build another similar one, "black Taj Mahal" for himself opposite the river so that he could be with his wife forever. However, it was never completed as he was overthrown by his son ,Aurangzeb. The "black Taj Mahal" is sometimes known the reflection of Taj Mahal in the river.
Peasock Throne which was used by Shahjahan was conceled in Diwan-I-Khas (hall of private audience). Diwan-I-Khas was the hall where he met officials and commoners and listened to the petitioners. The arches in the hall was designed to amplfy the sounds.
Look out for the two marbled throne in the lower terrace of the hall too.:)
The Mugha Emperor, promised his empress, Mumtaz Mahal, never to remarry after she died on June 17, 1631. He also promised to build the grandest mausoleum over her grave. Her body was buried in the Zainabadi Garden in Burhanpur temporary and was removed to a plot by the riverside in Agra after 6 months. The work on Taj was then began with many artisans and craftsmen. Slabs of marble, with decoration of gold and precious stones, Taj Mahal was completed in 1942. Taj Mahal is best viewed in the night as light will luminate through the marbled walls. The icing will be viewing with your beloved one under the moonlight. However, dont go on fridays.
Although Mathura is not a part of Agra nor Delhi, I have to include this in the Agra "Things to do" as it is a part/itinerary of our bus tour to Agra. This is our next stop after Taj on the way back to Delhi.
Mathura is billed as the Athens of India. There is a very famous school of sculpture here called Mathura School of Arts where they make very rare clay scuptures, experimental in designs. They have many places of historical and religious interest and many festivals year-round.
Mathura is said to be the birth place of the Lord Krishna.
The main sight is the Dwarkadheesh Temple and Jama Masjid, both inside the compound side-by-side.
Security was so strict at the temple/masjid compound that you have to even show the inside of your wallet and throw away lighters and matches at the gate securities before entering. Leave your cameras behind as it is not allowed inside. Security was even tighter because it was days before the nation's independence day.
It's a vast compound where you will have to remove and deposit your shoes at the counter. The huge muslims mosque (Jama Masjid) fascinating, though we were not able to get in the masjid.
Walk around and inside the temple and some labirynth-ian passages and the most enjoying part is in the main worship area of the temple where you could also sit with the devotees and wait for the curtain to unfold to reveal the image of Lord Krishna, but prior to that there is a very festive mood minutes away from the unfolding of the curtain, everyone's clapping their hands and getting faster and faster as the moment comes close and there was this guy who gracefully dances along the clapping in the middle of the sitted crowd.
Very interesting and a different kind of experience, specially if you are not familiar with the Hindu religion, like me.
There was a huge lake before the temple compound, not very clear at night but visible, may have been a very nice sight during the olden times.
Worth a visit!