Agra is globally renown as the city of the Taj Mahal. But this royal Mughal city has, in addition to the legendary Taj, many monuments that epitomise the high point of Mughal architecture. In the Mughal period, in the 16th and 17th centuries, Agra was the capital of India. It was here that the founder of the dynasty, Babar, laid out the first formal Persian garden on the banks of the river Yamuna. Here, Akbar, his grandson raised the towering ramparts of the great Red Fort. Within its walls, Jehangir built rose-red palaces, courts and gardens, and Shahajahan embellished it with marble mosques, palaces and pavilions of gem-inlaid white marble.The crowning glory of the city is obviously the Taj, a monument of love and imagination, that represents India to the world.
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.
Among the other monuments that Agra takes pride in is the Agra Fort, built by three of the greatest Mughal emperors. The construction of this massive structure began in 1565, under Akbar, and continued till the time of his grandson, Shahjahan. Armed with massive double walls, punctuated by four gateways, the fort houses palaces, courts, mosques, baths, gardens and gracious pavilions within its premises. Among the fascinating structures that are to be found within the fort is the red sandstone Jehangiri Mahal built by Akbar for his Hindu queen, Jodhabai, was one of the earliest constructions illustrating the fort’s change from a military structure to a palace. The palace is also notable for its smooth blending of Hindu and central Asian architectural styles. The Diwan – i – Am, the Diwan – i – Khas, the Khas Mahal, the Palace of Mirrors, the Pearl mosque, the Nagina Masjid, the Garden of Grapes, and the Fish Pavilion are the other monuments in the fort complex. (more on Taj Mahal)
Fatehpur Sikhri,Â Itmad-ul-Doulah Tomb, Bharatpur and also, 10 km north of Agra lies Akbar’s tomb, in Sikandra. Named after the Afghan ruler Sikander Lodi, Sikandra is the final resting place of Emperor Akbar. Akbar began the construction of his own garden mausoleum during his lifetime, a red sandstone structure in a chahar – bagh, or 4 – square formal garden. An impressive marble – inlaid gateway leads to the spacious four – tiered monument which is crowned by a white marble cenotaph and screen. This last was added by Jahangir, who completed the tomb after the demise of his father.Other places to visit include, Mathura and Brindavan. Mathura, on the banks of the river Yamuna, is the birthplace of Krishna, and Brindavan, the land of thousands of shrines and temples, which still echoes with stories and songs that recount the exploits of this charming God.