The Taj Mahal - An Emperor's Lament
Agra is the city of the Taj Mahal. It is a sublime experience of the greatest love story ever told. Today India's most fascinating and beautiful masterpiece, this perfectly symmetrical edifice is set amidst landscaped gardens on the banks of the Yamuna river. The Taj was built by the Mughal Emperor Shahjahan as a memorial to his wife, Mumtaz Mahal. After her untimely death, Shah Jahan had her mortal remains buried in this mausoleum. And after his own demise he was placed to rest next to his beloved queen in the same mausoleum. Under the dome, below the ground level, in a dimly lit chamber, lie the mortal remains of Shahjahan and his beloved queen Mumtaz, reminding the world of their undying love.
Planning and construction for the Taj started in 1634 and continued for over two decades. The Taj has been constructed on a 313 square feet marble platform that stands above a sandstone one. The tomb is encased in pure white marble brought in from Makrana (in Rajasthan) and Persia (present day Iran). The walls are decorated with flawless sculptures and inlaid design of flowers and calligraphy cut from precious gems. The dome is made of white marble, but the tomb is set against the plain across the river and it is this background that works its magic of colors that, through their reflection, change the view of the Taj. The Taj is most alluring in the relative quiet of early morning, shrouded in mists and the color changes from soft yellow to pearly cream and dazzling white; it is well worth a visit at different times.
The Taj has been a visual delight for viewers over the ages. The monument looks its best on clear full moon nights. It looks its spectacular best in the full moon nights of October, when the skies are clear and the Taj is bathed in the off-white moonlight. However, it is a delight even in the radiance of dawn and the orange glow of sunset. The Taj in all its timeless beauty is still the inspiration of poets and painters, writers and photographers.
The Taj remains closed for visitors on Friday
Fatehpur Sikri - The City of Victory
37 kms from the city of Agra, stands Fatehpur Sikri, Akbar's capital. Full credit goes to the Archeological Survey of India for this perfectly preserved example of a Mughal city at the height of the empire's splendour. It is an attraction no visitor to Agra should miss. This sprawling structure is made of red sandstone and combines both Hindu and Mughal architecture.This walled city contains the mausoleum of the Sufi fakir, Saleem Chisti who is said to have granted Akbar and his Hindu queen Jodhabai their wish for a son. The main entrance to Fatehpur Sikri is through the 175 feet Buland Darwaza, the highest gateway in the world. It was built by Akbar to commemorate his victory over Khandesh in Gujarat.
The Panch Mahal ia a five-storeyed tower, the highest point in Fatehpur Sikri. This extremely airy tower is supposed to have been used by one of the emperor's many queens.
Open: Sunrise to Sunset.
Agra Fort - Architectural wonder in stone.
Within a radius of 3 kilometers, on the banks of the river Yamuna, rises the crescent like Agra Fort. Designed and built by Akbar in 1565 A.D., the fort is surrounded by a 70 feet high wall. It houses the beautiful Pearl Mosque and numerous palaces including the Jahangir Mahal, Diwan-i-Khas, Diwan-i-Am and Moti Masjid. Later it was used by his son Jehangir also as the seat of power. Shahjahan modeled his creation, the Red Fort at Delhi on this fort. The Agra fort happens to be on the same bank of the river Yamuna as the Taj Mahal which is visible in all its beauty from one side of the fort. So very ironically, Shahjahan, a prisoner of his son Aurangzeb in his old age was put in a cell from where he could gaze at the Taj Mahal at a distance, from his cell in the Agra Fort.
The fort has four gates and is enclosed by a double barricaded wall of red sand stone. Many buildings were constructed within the fort of which very few remain till date. One of the most significant ones is the multi storied Jahangir Mahal built by Akbar for his wife Jodha Bai.
The Mahal is reached through an impressive gateway and its inner courtyard consists of beautiful halls, profuse carvings on stone, exquisitely carved heavy brackets, piers and cross beams.
Open: 7 A.M. to 6 P.M.
Sikandra, 10 kms north west of Agra, is the final resting place of Emperor Akbar. The Tomb of Akbar shows an interesting fusion of Hindu and Mughal architecture reflecting the spirit of the Mughal Emperor Akbar. Akbar began the construction of his own garden mausoleum during his lifetime, a red sandstone structure in a char-bagh meaning 4-square formal garden.
This tomb was erected by Nur Jahan in sweet memory of her father Ghiasud-Din-Beg between 1622-1628 A.D. This white marble structure of the pre-Taj era though smaller is often considered equal if not better to the great one itself.