Agra Fort

Built by Mughal emperor Akbar in 1565 AD, Agra Fort is a majestic sandstone built as an ode to the magnificence of the Mughal empire. Encompassing within its 2.5-km-long enclosure walls a stunning imperial city, the fortress is shaped like a crescent, its eastern wall flanked by River Yamuna. It is said that the construction of the fort was originally begun by emperor Akbar, but completed by his grandson Shah Jahan, who added most of the marble monuments here. There were originally four gates for entrance, two of which were walled up and only one is open today – the Amar Singh gate. The first thing that captures one's attention as they enter is Jehangir (Jahangir) Mahal, a palace said to have been built by Akbar as the women’s quarters and named after his son, Jehangir (Jahangir). Simple and elegant, it is home to a large stone bowl upon which are carved Persian verses. Local lore holds that this bowl once contained rose water. Adjacent to Jehangir (Jahangir) Mahal lies the palace built for Jodha Bai, said to be Akbar’s favourite queen. 

Agra Fort is widely considered to be a masterpiece of planning, design and construction. Some of its other internal structures include the stunning Moti Masjid, Diwan-i-Khas (hall of private audience) and Diwan-i-Aam (hall of public audience), once home to the legendary Peacock Throne that was eventually taken to Red Fort in Delhi when Shah Jahan shifted his capital there. There are two prominent mosques inside the fort - Nagina Masjid was built by Shah Jahan as a private mosque for the ladies of the court and Mina Masjid is believed to have been built by him solely for his own use.

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Agra Fort

Taj Mahal

Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, the creator of the Taj Mahal, said that the beauty of the monument made “the sun and the moon shed tears from their eyes”. It has also been described as a “teardrop on the cheek of eternity” by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore. Every year, thousands of tourists from around the world make a beeline for this breathtakingly ethereal marble monument, considerd by many as the most beautiful building constructed by man. The monument was built as a memorial by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan for his deceased wife, Mumtaz Mahal. It is one of the seven wonders of the world and is a monument of pride for not just Agra but also India.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is featured in almost all literature about India and is one of the most enduring images of the country. Its name is believed to have been drawn from the Persian language: ‘taj’ means crown and ‘mahal’ means palace, thus making this the palace of the crown. Interestingly, the queen it was built in memory of, originally named Arjumand Begum, held the name Mumtaz Mahal, which meant the crown of the palace. Although it is best known as a symbol of love, a grieving emperor’s ode to his deceased queen, another legend sees the Taj Mahal as an embodiment of Shah Jahan’s vision of kingship. The story goes that he sought to build something akin to heaven on earth, a spectacular, unbelievably beautiful monument that reinforced the power as well as the perceived divinity of the monarch as next only to the Almighty.

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Taj Mahal

Sikandra

The mausoleum of Mughal emperor Akbar, Sikandra is a red sandstone and marble tomb built by the emperor himself, and finished by his son, Jehangir, in 1613. Akbar is believed to have selected the site of the tomb during his lifetime and planned the structure himself.

It is a symbol of the Mughal ruler’s philosophy and secular worldview, bringing together the finest in Hindu and Islamic architectures. It is also one of the most well-preserved monuments in the region, retaining most of its original glory. The tomb lies within a charbagh, which is a beautiful addition to the complex.

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Sikandra

Mehtab Bagh

This beautiful garden is located on the western banks of River Yamuna and stands in perfect alignment with the gardens of the Taj Mahal located across the river. Spread across 300 sq m, Mehtab Bagh has been the site of several intriguing excavations. Local lore holds that it was the last in a series of 11 pleasure gardens built by Mughal emperor Babur by the riverbank. Today, it stands as a delightful vantage point from where to view and photograph the marble wonder that is Taj. The view from the entrance gate is particularly beautiful and should not be missed.

Legend goes that while emperor Babur built it, Shah Jahan identified it as the perfect spot from where to behold the Taj Mahal and gave it its name, intending for it to be a moonlit pleasure garden. Walkways, fountains, pavilions and pools were created to embellish it, and fruit trees were planted aplenty. The design is then believed to have been approached almost as though Mehtab Bagh were meant to be a part of the Taj Mahal complex, like a riverfront terrace. The myth around Shah Jahan’s plan to build a ‘black Taj Mahal’ also starts in this expanse. Mehtab Bagh is believed to be the site where he had planned to build a black marble mausoleum for himself, a veritable twin to the Taj Mahal – in exact alignment to his wife’s fabled mausoleum – until his ambitions were thwarted by his son, Aurangzeb, who imprisoned him till his death. The several excavations that have taken place here over the years have unearthed various structures such as a large octagonal tank with 25 fountains, a pond and a charbagh. Mumtaz Mahal’s tomb is, in fact, said to have been found halfway between the main entrance of the Taj Mahal complex and the end of Mehtab Bagh. The renovation of the park was meticulously carried out by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

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Mehtab Bagh