Agra - The City of Eternal Love
An artistic impression Emperor Shahjahan & his wife Mumtaz Mahal
Perhaps no other historical monument has evoked as much awareness and admiration from tourists and travellers alike, as the magnificent Taj Mahal - fondly called by people as the ultimate requiem of love, from a great Mughal Emperor to his beloved.
So overwhelming is the exquisite beauty and presence of this marble mausoleum that centuries later today, even the very land where it has been located - Agra - has been immortalised as the City of the Taj. Yet, it doesn't take much for the roving eye to discover that there's more to Agra than just the fabled Taj Mahal. The city is a virtual gateway to a world of discovery... a freeze-frame from a resplendant era that's long since gone by. In the great epic 'Mahabharat' the region of Agra is described as 'Agraban' (an integral part of the Brij Bhumi or the land of Lord Krishna). The latter part of Indian history outlines the origins of Agra to 1475 A.D., when the reign of Raja Badal Singh.
However, Agra came into limelight during the rule of Afghan King Sikandar Lodhi - who had made it the capital of his empire.Later in 1526 A.D., the Mughal Emperor Babar took upon himself the task for rendering Agra, a unique character and beauty of its own. The visionary that he was and a great patron of the arts, Emperor Babar brought in a change in the culture and life-style among the people of Agra, which then brought forth some of the finest craftsmen, artists, statesmen, warriors and nobility, this part of India had ever withnessed. The golden age of Agra's history, thus began to set in.
The next few hundred years of Agra witnessed the rise of the pomp and pageantry of three great Mughal monarchs - Emperor Akbar, Jehangir and ShahJahan - all of whom lavished on this fabled city, their love and riches immeasurable to transform the land into one of the great centers of art, culture, learning and commerce.
Much of the city's impressive past lives in evidence even today, in the hunting presence inside the monuments, the majesty of the buildings, the exquisite arts and crafts and not to forget, the lure of an exceptional cuisine... all, cherished as priceless legacies of a nostalgic past. The older city of Agra has impressively retained much of its resplendent history... captivating every visitor with fond memories to take back home. Today, luxury and modern convenience also exist adjacent to tradition - luxury hotels, shopping malls and plazas, wide avenues and a superb choice of venues for recreation, business, sports, pleasure, education and the arts.
Prime Attractions of Agra are
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. Shahjahan spent the rest of his life looking wistfully at his wife`s final resting place, just across the river, after he was deposed and brutally imprisoned in the Agra Fort, by his son Aurangzeb. The Taj remains a symbol of eternal love where the heart-broken Shahjahan was subsequently buried and 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, 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.
ABOUT THE CITY
* Population :15,57,345 (Urban, as per 2001 Census)
* Altitude: 169 Metres above sea level
* Area: 82 sq. km.
* Language: Hindi, Urdu, English
* Temperature Summer:- 21.90 C - 45.00 C
* Winter : 4.20 C 31.70 C
* Rainfall: 66 cm. Average yearly
* Clothes Summer:- Cotton
* Winter : Light Woollens
* STD Code 0562
PLACES OF INTEREST
Taj Mahal ? The White Legend of Love
?Not a piece of architecture, as other buildings are, but the proud passions of an emperor?s love wrought in living stones?
-- Sir Edwin Arnold
Emperor Shah Jahan himself described the Taj in these words:
Should guilty seek asylum here,
Like one pardoned, he becomes free from sin.
Should a sinner make his way to this mansion,
All his past sins are to be washed away.
The sight of this mansion creates sorrowing sighs;
And the sun and the moon shed tears from their eyes.
In this world this edifice has been made;
To display thereby the creator's glory.
Applauded as the zenith of medieval architectures, the Taj Mahal nestling on the shifting sands of the shimmering Yamuna, is most alluring in the relative quietness of early morning, shrouded mists as the colour changes from soft yellow to pearly cream and then the most dazzling white. The Taj Mahal is generally considered as the finest example of Mughal architecture, a style that combines elements of Persian, Indian and Islamic craftsmenship. Built by emperor Shah Jahan for his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal, the Taj Mahal has become a epitome of love because of the romance of its inspiration. This enduring icon of India, which even today captures the imagination of billions across the world, is indeed a fascination to experience on your next visit to India.
The Creation of the 7th Wonders
Sheer poetry in marble. Majesty and magnificence, unrivalled. The Taj Mahal, the one and only one of its kind across the world. The monumental labour of love of a great ruler for his beloved queen. The ultimate realisation of Emperor Shahjahan's dream. One of the wonders of the world. From 1631 A.D., it took 22 years in the making. An estimated 20,000 people worked to complete the enchanting mausoleum, on the banks of the Yamuna. For a breathtaking beautiful view of the Taj Mahal, see it by moonlight.
Many eminent writers including nobel laurate Rabindranath Tagore to say the mausoleum 'a teardrop on the cheek of time'. Taj Mahal means 'Crown Palace' and is in fact the most well preserved and architecturally beautiful tomb in the world. Walk amidst the lush green manicured gardens and see the marble magic standing stately as a symbol of eternal love; affording an ambrosial green and white matrix of colours. The tomb is set against the shimmering sands of river Yamuna and it is believed that it is this background that works for its magic of colours that, through their reflection, change the view of the Taj.The colours change at different hours of the day and during different seasons; portraying different moods of a woman. The Taj is pinkish in the morning, milky white in the evening and golden when the moon shines before its marble head.
Walk on the marble floor that caress a fascinating calligraphy and mosaicwork adorned with precious stones. Once inside, you will be overwhelmed to see elaborate marble designs embossed cheek-by-jowl with semi-precious stones such as jade, crystal, turquoise and coral. Ask your guide and he might help you to see exquisite magical charms of the mausoleum; optical effects that eventually create an illusion. Walk on the sun-kissed marble ramparts and chuck a gaze at Yamuna, the emerald waters flowing silently in the shadow of history. Stay some more time until dusk breaks. Believe us, seeing the sheer white magic by moonlight is a lifetime experience.
The exterior decorations of the Taj Mahal are among the finest to be found in Mughal architecture. As the surface area changes, a large pishtaq has more area than a smaller one, and the decorations are refined proportionally. The decorative elements were created by applying paint or stucco, or by stone inlays or carvings. In line with the Islamic prohibition against the use of anthropomorphic forms, the decorative elements can be grouped into either calligraphy, abstract forms or vegetative motifs.
The calligraphy found in Taj Mahal are of florid thuluth script, created by Persian calligrapher Amanat Khan, who signed several of the panels. The calligraphy is made by jasper inlaid in white marble panels, and the work found on the marble cenotaphs in the tomb is extremely detailed and delicate. Higher panels are written slightly larger to reduce the skewing effect when viewing from below. Throughout the complex, passages from the Qur'an are used as decorative elements. Recent scholarship suggests that Amanat Khan chose the passages as well.
As one enters through Taj Mahal Gate, the calligraphy reads "O Soul, thou art at rest. Return to the Lord at peace with Him, and He at peace with you."
Abstract forms are used especially in the plinth, minarets, gateway, mosque, jawab, and to a lesser extent, on the surfaces of the tomb. The domes and vaults of sandstone buildings are worked with tracery of incised painting to create elaborate geometric forms. On most joining areas, herringbone inlays define the space between adjoining elements. White inlays are used in sandstone buildings and dark or black inlays on the white marbles. Mortared areas of marble buildings have been stained or painted dark and thus creating a geometric patterns of considerable complexity. Floors and walkways use contrasting tiles or blocks in tessellation patterns.
Vegetative motifs are found at the lower walls of the tomb. They are white marble dados that have been sculpted with realistic bas relief depictions of flowers and vines. The marble has been polished to emphasise the exquisite detailing of these carvings. The dado frames and archway spandrels have been decorated with pietra dura inlays of highly stylised, almost geometric vines, flowers and fruits. The inlay stones are yellow marble, jasper and jade, leveled and polished to the surface of the walls.
The interior chamber of the Taj Mahal steps far beyond traditional decorative elements. Here the inlay work is not pietra dura, but lapidary of precious and semiprecious gemstones. The inner chamber is an octagon with the design allowing for entry from each face, though only the south garden-facing door is used. The interior walls are about 25 metres high and topped by a "false" interior dome decorated with a sun motif. Eight pishtaq arches define the space at ground level. As with the exterior, each lower pishtaq is crowned by a second pishtaq about midway up the wall. The four central upper arches form balconies or viewing areas and each balcony's exterior window has an intricate screen or jali cut from marble. In addition to the light from the balcony screens, light enters through roof openings covered by chattris at the corners. Each chamber wall has been highly decorated with dado bas relief, intricate lapidary inlay and refined calligraphy panels, reflecting in miniature detail the design elements seen throughout the exterior of the complex. The octagonal marble screen or jali which borders the cenotaphs is made from eight marble panels. Each panel has been carved through with intricate pierce work. The remaining surfaces have been inlaid with semiprecious stones in extremely delicate detail, forming twining vines, fruits and flowers.
Muslim tradition forbids elaborate decoration of graves and hence Mumtaz and Shah Jahan are laid in a relatively plain crypt beneath the inner chamber with their faces turned right and towards Mecca. Mumtaz Mahal's cenotaph is placed at the precise center of the inner chamber with a rectangular marble base of 1.5 meters by 2.5 meters. Both the base and casket are elaborately inlaid with precious and semiprecious gems. Calligraphic inscriptions on the casket identify and praise Mumtaz. On the lid of the casket is a raised rectangular lozenge meant to suggest a writing tablet. Shah Jahan's cenotaph is beside Mumtaz's to the western side. It is the only visible asymmetric element in the entire complex. His cenotaph is bigger than his wife's, but reflects the same elements: a larger casket on slightly taller base, again decorated with astonishing precision with lapidary and calligraphy that identifies Shah Jahan. On the lid of this casket is a traditional sculpture of a small pen box. The pen box and writing tablet were traditional Mughal funerary icons decorating men's and women's caskets respectively. Ninety Nine Names of God are to be found as calligraphic inscriptions on the sides of the actual tomb of Mumtaz Mahal, in the crypt including "O Noble, O Magnificent, O Majestic, O Unique, O Eternal, O Glorious... ". The tomb of Shah Jahan bears a calligraphic inscription that reads; "He traveled from this world to the banquet-hall of Eternity on the night of the twenty-sixth of the month of Rajab, in the year 1076 Hijri."
The complex is set around a large 300-meter square charbagh, a Mughal garden. The garden uses raised pathways that divide each of the four quarters of the garden into 16 sunken parterres or flowerbeds. A raised marble water tank at the center of the garden, halfway between the tomb and gateway, with a reflecting pool on North-South axis reflects the image of the Taj Mahal. Elsewhere, the garden is laid out with avenues of trees and fountains.
The charbagh garden, a design inspired by Persian gardens, was introduced to India by the first Mughal emperor Babur. It symbolizes four flowing rivers of Paradise and reflects the gardens of Paradise derived from the Persian paridaeza, meaning 'walled garden'. In mystic Islamic texts of Mughal period, paradise is described as an ideal garden of abundance with four rivers flowing from a central spring or mountain, separating the garden into north, west, south and east.
Most Mughal charbaghs are rectangular with a tomb or pavilion in the center. The Taj Mahal garden is unusual in that the main element, the tomb, instead is located at the end of the garden. With the discovery of Mahtab Bagh or "Moonlight Garden" on the other side of the Yamuna, Archaeological Survey of India interprets that the Yamuna itself was incorporated into the garden's design and was meant to be seen as one of the rivers of Paradise. The similarity in layout of the garden and its architectural features such as fountains, brick and marble walkways, and geometric brick-lined flowerbeds with Shalimar's suggest that the garden may have been designed by the same engineer, Ali Mardan. Early accounts of the garden describe its profusion of vegetation, including roses, daffodils, and fruit trees in abundance. As the Mughal Empire declined, the tending of the garden declined as well. When the British took over the management of Taj Mahal, they changed the landscaping to resemble that of lawns of London.
Agra Fort - Gigantic Red Sandstone Enjoining a Curve in the River Yamuna
Agra Fort is located (270 10? 47??N & 780 1? 22?? E) on the right bank of the river Yamuna in the city of Agra in Uttar Pradesh. It is one of the most important and robustly built stronghold of the Mughals, embellished with number of richly decorated buildings encompassing the imposing Mughal style of art and architecture. It was constructed by the third Mughal emperor Akbar on the remains of an ancient site known as Badalgarh. Sikandar Lodi (1487-1517) was the first Sultan of Delhi to shift his capital from Delhi to Agra. After Sikandar Lodi who died in 1517, his son Ibrahim Lodi held the fort for 9 years until he was defeated and killed in the battle of Panipat in 1526. Several palaces, wells and a mosque were built in the fort during the Lodi period.
When Babur sent his son Humayun to Agra, he captured the fort and seized a vast treasure, which included the world famous ?Koh-i-noor? diamond as well. Babur built a baoli (step-wall) here. Humayun was coronated here in 1530. Nazam, a water-carrier (saqqa), who had saved Humayun from drowning, was crowned here as an emperor for half-a-day. After Humayun?s defeat at Bilgram in 1540, Sher Shah of the Sur dynasty occupied Agra fort and garrisoned it.
Akbar arrived in Agra in 1558. He ordered to renovate the fort with red sandstone. Some 4000 builders daily worked on it and it was completed in 8 years (1565-1573).
The fort, semi-circular on plan, is surrounded by a 21.4 m high fortification wall. Double ramparts have been provided here with broad massive circular bastions at regular intervals. There are four gates on its four sides, one of the gates was called ?khizri-gate? (the water gate) which opens to the river front, where ghats (quays) were provided .The fort has survived through the onslaught of time, nature and men. The fort spreads over an area of about 94 acres of land. At present, there exist more than two dozens of monuments in the Fort.
Abul Fazl, a court historian of Akbar, records that 5000 buildings were built here beautifully in Bengali and Gujarati style. Most of these buildings have now disappeared. Shah Jahan himself demolished some of these in order to make room for his white marble palaces. Later, the British destroyed most of the buildings for raising barracks. Hardly 30 Mughal buildings have survived on the southeastern side. Of these, the Delhi-Gate, Akbari-Gate and ?Bengali-Mahal?, are representative of buildings raised during the reign of Akbar.
Jahangir mostly resided at Lahore and in Kashmir, though he visited Agra regularly and lived in the fort. Shah Jahan, a great builder, raised white marble palaces here. He also built three white marble mosques in it: Moti-Masjid, Nagina-Masjid and Mina-Masjid.
Aurangzeb imprisoned Shah Jahan, his own father, in the fort for 8 years until he died in 1666 and was buried in the Taj Mahal. The barbicans around the two gates and on the riverside were built by Aurangzeb to strengthen its defences.
Though Shah Jahan had formally transferred his capital to Delhi, in 1638, he continued to live here. But after his death, Agra lost its grandeur. Aurangzeb remained busy in the regional conflicts and wars. Yet, time and again, he lived here and held the durbar. Shivaji came to Agra in 1666 and met Aurangzeb in the Diwan-i-Khas. Aurangzeb died in 1707 and 18th century history of Agra Fort is a saga of sieges and plunder during which it was held by the Jats and the Marathas and finally the British captured it from the latter in 1803.
The forbidding exteriors of this fort hide an inner paradise. There are a number of exquisite buildings like Moti Masjid - a white marble mosque akin to a perfect pearl; Diwan-Am, Diwan-E-Khaas, Musamman Burj - where Shahjahan died in 1666 A.D. Jahangir's Palace; Khaas Mahal and Shish Mahal.
The Fort, though appearing impregnable from outside and as fulfilling its military purpose, was more like a city on the inside, with many buildings, streets and shops. Its colossal double walls rise 69 ft in height and measure 2.5 km in circumference, encircled by a moat and contain an intrinsic matrix of buildings, splendid mosques and ambrosial palaces. Walk through the pultritudinous gateways that marks the history to reach the sprawling Hathi Pol (Elephant Gate). Walk straight to reach the Jehangiri Mahal, situated north of the gate at the end of a spacious lawn. Built by Akbar as a residence for his son Jehangir, the palace is the largest private residence in the fort, a su[perb blend of Hindu and Central Asian architectural styles. Don't miss the profuse carvings on stone, heavy brackets exquisitely carved with animal and floral motifs, piers and cross beams with remnants of the rich gilded decorations that adorn the walls. Wander around the Nagina Mahal, built as a harem for the royal ladies, the Zeena Meena Bazaar where the queens shopped and the elegant Diwan-i-Khas, where the emperor dealt with his dignitaries. Don't miss the exquisite Persian inscription carved out of a single block of sandstone, that records Jehangir's marriage to Mehrunissa (Nur Jahan).
Below is a picture of Jahangiri Mahal, Agra Fort
Walk through the Anguri Bagh to reach the famous Diwan-i-Khass, the Hall of Private Audience where secret 'Darbars' (meetings) with the close kinsmen were held. Walk to the right of Diwan-i-khas and you will be at the Hammam-i-Shahi or the Shah Burj. It is an airy apartment, attached to the residential quarters which was used as a summer retreat. To see an exquisite lattice work, enter the most famed Diwan-i-Am or 'The Hall of Public Audiences'. Once the royal women could watch the court without being seen by others from the pavilion through jali (lattice) screens. Today, you can only see the erstwhile glory floating on its ramparts.