Agra is just 203 km away and a 4 hour drive from Delhi and offers an excellent weekend getaway to all seeking a short trip from the busy city life. It was once the capital town of the Mughal Empire and still retains the beautiful world heritage and ancient sites that leave tourists from across the country and globe gaping in awe at their beauty and unique architecture surrounded by mysteries that can never be recreated or rebuilt.
The Taj Mahal is a once in a lifetime masterpiece built by Emperor ShahJahan in memory of Queen Mumtaaz Mahal where both were buried. It symbolises the love the Emperor had for his beloved wife and became one of the 'Seven Wonders of the World' and a protected UNICEF World Heritage site. Completed in 1653 after 22 years and constructed out of one white marble with intricate carvings, fine inlays and embedded with precious and semi-precious stones depicting excellent craftsmanship, skills and unique techniques of over 10,000 labourers and artisans, this structure is still marvelled by all and even today people admire the skilful architecture of the Taj, Its Dome and the four minarets constructed with impeccable symmetry and inscriptions of Verses from the 'Quran', the Holy Book of Muslims carved into it; all completed under the supervision of the Persian architect, Ustaad Isa. The Dome measures 80 feet high and 60 feet in diameter and embedded with semi-precious stones under which the Tombs of Queen Mumtaaz Mahal and Emperor ShahJahan lie peacefully.
Agra Fort is a crescent shaped fort with a total boundary measuring 2.4 km constructed in 1565 by Mughal Emperor Akbar, the most admired and the best administrator of that era. It is a protected World Heritage Site originally built in the year 1000 but was renovated by Emperor Akbar and later converted into a Palace by his son, Emperor ShahJahan who also refurbished the Diwan-E-Aam or Public Audience Hall and Diwan-E-Khaas or Private Audience Hall, Pearl Mosque, Khaas Mahal or Private Chamber, Sheesh Mahal or The Palace of Mirrors, Jahangir Palace and the Musamman Burj. Chatrapati Shivaji along with Mirza Raja Jai Singh visited Emperor Aurangzeb in this fort as an outcome of the Treaty of Purandar and was deliberately seated amongst the Men with lower ranks in the Diwan-E-Khaas. He stormed out as a result of this insulted and was confined to the quarters of Jai Singh on 12th May 1666. He later heroically escaped on 17th August 1666 as he feared prison and execution and his statue is seen erected outside this fort in his honour.
Fatehpur Sikri is situated 35 km from Agra and was also constructed as the capital of the Mughal Empire by Emperor Akbar. It was named after the battle of Sikri located 40 km from Agra won by Emperor Babar against Rana Sanga. The Buland Darwaza was constructed in 1601 after Akbar's victory over Gujarat. Later, due to lack of water, Akbar abandoned this city and shifted his capital back to Agra. This city is a protected World Heritage Site and largely visited by many tourists.
The Tomb of Itmad-Ud-Daulah or the 'Baby Taj' was built by Empress Noor Jahan for her father, Mirza Ghiyaas Beg who was the Chief Minister of Emperor Jahangir. It lies on a 50 mts high square base on the left banks of the Yamuna River and covering an area of 250 Sq. ft. and set amidst a Persian style garden with walking paths and criss-crossed waterways through which the water from the River flows. Built out of a white marble imported from Rajasthan as an imitation of the Taj Mahal, it is also embedded with semi precious stones and decorated with fine inlays and intricate carvings depicting the exquisite architecture and design of the Mughal Dynasty.
The Tomb of Emperor 'Akbar the Great' in Sikandra lies just 13 km from Agra chosen and constructed by the Emperor himself and completed by his son, Jahangir in 1613. This pyramid style Tomb is made out of red sandstone with names of 99 Gods of different religion inscribed onto it and set amidst a beautiful landscaped lush green garden which is also home to rabbits, deer, birds and monkeys.
Swami Bagh Samadhi is a monument which began its construction work back in 1904 and still incomplete. It is made in honour and to hold the ashes of Huzoor Swami Ji Maharaj or Shri Shiv Dayal Singh Seth who was the founder of the Radhaswami Faith and has many followers.
Mankameshwar Temple is located about 2.5 km from the Taj Mahal on the four corners of Agra near Jama Masjid and is also one of the four ancient Temples of Lord Shiva and surrounded by ancient markets that date back to the Mughal era.
Guru ka Tal was earlier a rainwater reservoir in Agra built in 1610 during the reign of Jahangir and located near I'tibaar Khan Khwajasara's Tomb. Later, a Gurudwara was established here sometime in the 1970s as a sacred place of worship for Sikhs and in honour of four of their ten Gurus who had once visited this place and hence, it is also considered as a place of historical and religious importance. It also attracts numerous tourists who admire its architecture and intricate carvings.
Jama Masjid is an ancient Mosque in Agra constructed by Princess Jahanara Begum in 1648 and is famous for its unusual Dome design and absence of Pillars or Minarets which is very odd as per the Mughal and Persian Design. Inscriptions on this Mosque states that it took 5 lakhs for its construction which is termed to be highly expensive in that era and afforded only by Kings and Royalties.
Chini Ka Rauza is located on the eastern banks of the Yamuna River and about a km from Itmad-Ud-Daulah's Tomb. Mulla Shukrullah Shiraz who was a renowned poet and also the Prime minister of Emperor ShahJahan wanted an elaborate and well decorated mausoleum constructed in his honour and as his burial place. This Tomb was constructed in 1635 and the Persian and Afghan influenced Dome was inlayed with Blue Glazed tiles from where it derived its name and marked the uniqueness of this Tomb and the outer portions are adorned with lovely bright colours. This Tomb has become a memorable site and attracts many visitors and tourists even today.
Ram Bagh is located approximately 2.5 km from Agra and was designed in the Persian Style and excellent architecture with Pavilions that automatically directs the cool breeze from the Yamuna River to the gardens in summers. Built in 1528 by Emperor Babar, it is known to be the oldest Mughal Garden named as 'Aaraam Bagh' meaning 'Garden for relaxing' where the Emperor would spend leisure time amidst lush greenery and beauty. During his last days he would spend all his time here till he died.
The Tomb of Mariam was built by Emperor Akbar for his wife Empress Mariam-Uz-Zamani Begum Sahiba also named as 'Jodhaa Bai ki Chhatri'. It is located 1 km from the Tomb of Akbar and lies within the grounds of the Christian Missionary Society in Agra. Empress Mariam's maiden name was Rajkumari Hira Kunwari Sahiba born on 1st October 1542 who was a Rajput Princess and the eldest daughter of Raja Bhar Mal of Amer, Jaipur. She was married to Emperor Akbar on 20th January 1562 and became the Mughal Empress and his third wife who gave him an heir to his Throne named Nur-Ud-Din Salim Jahangir. She is referred to as 'Jodhaa Bai' by many in modern times though she was never known by this name throughout her lifetime. The Empress died in 1622 and was buried as per the Islamic custom. Her son, Jahangir constructed the 'Maryam Zamani Begum Mosque' in her honour which is today located in Lahore, Pakistan.
Mehtab Bagh which means the 'Moonlight Garden' was built on the northern side of the Taj Mahal Complex and lies across the Yamuna River. It is also known as 'Chaar Bagh' which literally means 'Four squared Garden' with four sandstone towers that marked the corners of this garden; however, today only the south east one exists and this garden is partially ruined due to the floods from the River. It is currently under renovation and is a protected site.
Keetham Lake is a beautiful Lake that lies just 20 km from Agra and is also known as 'Sur Sarovar' that is pentagonal in shape and covers about 7.13 Sq. Km. of area. It has abundant aquatic life that feeds more than 106 species of resident and migratory birds that forms an integral part of the Sarovar Bird Sanctuary habitat. The government has also built artificial shelters and islands to enable these birds to breed.
The Mughal Heritage Walk is a rural development project initiated by the Agra Municipal along with an NGO and USAID to provide a normal livelihood to communities that fall under poverty line through integration of agricultural fields along the banks of the Yamuna River with infrastructure support and services.
The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception is the oldest Church and seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese in Agra and other monuments of importance are the Nageena Masjid or 'Gem Mosque', the Hammam-e-Shahi or 'Royal Bath' and the Zenana Meena Bazaar where the Ladies from the Royalties and Courts would purchase Silk Clothing, Brocades and Jewellery.