Agra

Agra


Agra is the place where the world-famous Taj Mahal is located and it is for that reason thousands of tourists visit the city every year. There are several other interesting monuments in Agra, but otherwise it's like any other northern Indian city, with a large cantonment, busy bazaars and unbelievable traffic chaos.

The Taj Mahal was built by Emperor Shah Jahan to serve as a mausoleum for his second wife Mumtaz Mahal. She died in 1631 when in labor and it is said the emperor was so heartbroken that his hair turned gray overnight. Construction of the Taj started not long after Mumtaz' death, but it was not completed until 1653, despite the fact that some 20,000 people worked on the building. The main architect is thought to have been Isa Khan from Iran. The Taj Mahal was built from white marble and decorated with precious stones and beautiful carvings, which become even more astonishing when you look at them from close distance. A process known as pietra dura was used to make the patterns in the marble. It stands on a marble platform on the southern bank of the Yamuna River, several kilometers east of Agra's city center. Two red sandstone buildings stand on each side of the Taj. The one on the western side is a mosque; the one on the eastern side cannot be used as such, because it faces the wrong direction. It is only there for symmetry purposes. The Taj is regarded the most beautiful building in the world by many and it can be visited every day of the week, except for Mondays. It has four tall decorative white marble minarets on each corner. The central structure consists of a large dome, surrounded by four smaller ones. The tombs of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan are in a basement, while false tombs stand in a chamber above that. False tombs were always constructed in mausoleums like the Taj Mahal.

Apart from the Taj, there is another good reason to come to Agra and that is Agra Fort. Just like the Taj, the impressive red sandstone fort sits on the banks of the Yamuna River. Its walls measure some 2.5 km (1.5 miles) in circumference and are up to 20 m (65 feet) high. Emperor Akbar began its construction in 1565, but it was enlarged several times up to the rule of his grandson Shah Jahan. There is a fetid moat around the fort and within its walls are numerous halls, chambers, gardens and mosques, including the Pearl Mosque. This mosque is made completely out of white marble and considered by many as India's most beautiful mosque. Many of the buildings inside the fort are open to the public.

The Itimad-ud-daulah is another interesting monument in Agra and in the town of Sikandra, 10 km (6 miles) to the northwest is Akbar's Mausoleum. The mausoleum is decorated with a mixture of Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist, Jain and Christian motifs.

There are numerous hotels and restaurants in Agra. Daytrips to the Taj Mahal are available in Delhi. Agra is 170 km south of Delhi and has bus, train and plane connections with many places throughout India.


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