Agra is a city built on the banks of the Yamuna River. It is found in the state of Uttar Pradesh and has 166 million inhabitants. Uttar Pradesh means 'northern state' and it is made up of two regions. The largest part of the state covers the very rich alluvial plains from the River Ganga (The Ganges) and its tributaries. To the south are the Vindhya Hills and the plateau of peninsular India.
The city was founded by Badal Singh in 1475. Agra has a very long association with the Mughals. The Mughal love of architecture translated into beautiful monuments such as the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort (The Red Fort), Fatehpur Sikri and Sikandra. Agra reached its peak glory during the reign of Akbar, Jehangir and Shah Jahan (the ruler who commissioned the building of the Taj Mahal for his wife). Akbar made it the centre of art, culture, commerce and learning and Shah Jahan saw it in full bloom. In fact, it is said that it was Akbar who laid the foundation of the modern city in 1558 and it became known as Akbarabad. Most of the buildings belong to the period between mid-16th century and 17th century and were of high quality. The monuments were built in the contemporary Mughal style.
The old part of Agra, south east of Delhi, is like a medieval city with narrow lanes and colourful shops selling gold and silver thread embroidery and imitation Mughal inlay on marble.
The Red Fort (Agra Fort)
Akbar constructed the 2.4km wide surrounding walls of local red sandstone. It was said that 'from top to bottom the fire-red stones, linked by iron rings, are joined so closely that even a hair cannot find a way into their joints.'
It was here, in the Red Fort that Shah Jahan was imprisoned by his eldest son to prevent him from squandering more money on a second Taj Mahal. This is where he spent his remaining days. Here he was always able to see the Taj, but was never again able to visit her until he was layed there in his death.
The Mussaman Burj (Octagonal Tower) is said to be the place where Shah Jahan lay on this deathbed gazing out at the Taj Mahal where his beloved Mumtaz lay.
The Taj Mahal
Often described as the greatest love story of all time. This magnificent structure was built between 1631 and 1648. The Taj Mahal epitomises the height of Mughal architecture. This truly magnificent achitectural masterpiece was commissioned by the Emperor Shah Jahan as a mausoleum for his favourite wife Mumtaz Muhal. It is believed to be designed by the great Ustad Ahmad Lahori who had the white marble transported 300km from Markana in the state of Rajasthan.
This romantic story tells us that after the death of his beloved wife Mumtaz in childbirth, Shah Jahan overcome with grief commissioned the building of this building. It is said that he wanted the perfect building for the perfect woman. It is said that after Mumtaz was placed in the Taj, Shah Jahan visited her there every day. He later decided to build a black Taj Mahal for himself on the opposite banks of the Yamuna River. It is said that this was when his eldest son had him imprisoned in the Red Fort, where he was to spend his remaining years; always looking out at the Taj Mahal, but never setting foot in it again. After his death, he too was placed in the Taj Mahal, making his tomb the only object to make the place asymmetrical.
Perfectly symmetrically designed (even the gardens), expertly embossed with flowers, bands of clack marble, Arabic calligraphy and carved marble screens. The Queen's tomb (Mumtaz) is guarded by four minarets that lean slightly outwards so as not to fall on the Queen in the event of an earthquake.
The great beauty of this building cannot be understood by photos alone, you have to gaze upon it with your own eyes to truly experience the awe that this building creates.