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Agra Overview

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Summarise the city :

Treasure trove of Mughal Architecture

Best time to visit (High & peak months) :
October to December and mid January to mid March

Experiences : 
 History and architecture

City calling code :

Recommended no. of days for a tourist :
1-2 days

Best buys :
Marble table tops; leather items; petha and gazak (sweets) and a salty snack dalmoth; a mini replica of Taj Mahal is the most popular souvenir item.

Essentials to be carried along :
Sun Block, Sun Glasses, Comfortable Cotton wear, woolens for winters (mid November- mid February).

All about the city :
A city with 3 world heritage sites to flaunt definitely deserves a visit, especially if one is a history buff. The modern city of Agra is situated right in the heartland of northern India at the bank of river Yamuna. It served as the cradle of administration, trade & commerce, pluralistic culture and architectural splendors during the golden era of imperial Mughals.

The city owes its genesis to three different historical personalities:
Sikandar lodhi was the founder of this great city in the year 1503 AD; Akbar the great catapulted it to a world renowned capital city; Shahjehan with his dream in white stone (Taj Mahal) has made it an eternal city.

The fabric of this city is an agglomeration of some of the most beautiful architectural splendors. The monuments are well maintained and preserved to delight the ever increasing influx of both inbound and domestic tourists. They all depict synthesis of Indo-Persian styles of architecture and the design ranges from simplistic pattern at Sikandra to highly carved and decorated masterpieces at Taj Mahal making Agra a perfect city to study the development of the Mughal architecture over the three generations of the Mughal rulers.

Unfortunately, with the passage of time, the city has lost most of its sheen but it still retains some of its old world charm within the vicinity of the old walled city and markets. The most conspicuous remnants of the bygone era are the old markets with names like Raja ki Mandi, Hing ki Mandi, Loha Mandi, Rui ki Mandi etc. The chaos, buzz and sounds reverberating in the cramped lanes provide nostalgic connection to the golden times of medieval era.

Being the city of Taj, Agra has emerged as the face of India’s tourism industry to the world. Along with Delhi and Jaipur it forms the famous golden triangle of India attracting more than half of the inbound tourist arrivals per annum.
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Agra Tourist attractions

Name (suggested time required to see the place)DescriptionEntrance charges (if any) for Foreigner Close Day (if any) Open / Close time
Taj Mahal

Emperor Shahjahan may not have done anything concrete for his subject to live years after he is gone but he did raise a marble mausoleum (Taj Mahal) for his favorite consort Arzumand Banu Begum aka Mumtaz Mahal that has made him one of the most talked about kings of medieval India.

The enviously popular ‘New Wonders of the World’, the Taj Mahal, literally meaning crown of palaces, is an epitome of architectural and aesthetic perfection. Shahjahan called for expert artisans and the precious stones from throughout the world. The marble used was quarried from Makrana, Rajasthan. Unlike the traditional Islamic sepulchral buildings where in the mausoleum stands in centre of the charbagh (usual Mughal gardens are divided geometrically by water channels, fountains and pathways), the Taj is located at the end of a kempt garden.  The main building that houses the cenotaphs of the queen and the king is an enormous building with a huge onion shaped dome, a typical feature of the Russian orthodox churches, which is almost of the same size as the base of building. The actual graves are in a crept below. The original screen of jeweled gold that surrounded the cenotaphs was replaced by intricate marble screens as seen today. 

The most notable features of Taj Mahal are its perfect symmetry, the lavish use of fine quality marble and its ornamentation. Since on one side of it is a mosque so as a jawab (answer) to it and on the opposite side is built a guest house so that the symmetry is maintained. It is very ironical that the only thing that disturbs the symmetry of the tomb is the cenotaph of the emperor himself. This is probably because the emperor had planned to build a separate mausoleum in black stone for himself just opposite the Taj Mahal. But his plan did not materialize and his son buried him next to his wife.

Pietra dura (stone inlay) work from Persia, stucco work and carvings are mainly used for the purpose of ornamentation. Care has been taken not to use human figures for decoration as it is strictly prohibited in Islam. So verses from Quran, geometric and floral patterns are chiefly employed.

Not easily discernible to the unaware eyes, the 4 kiosks crowned minarets are oriented slightly outwards so that even in the case of a calamity they do not topple over the mausoleum. 

The marble used was of such a quality that it appeared to change color with the change in the intensity of the sunlight. It’s sad but due to an increase in the level of pollution, the effect is not so apparent now.

Taj Mahal is open for visitors on the full moon night plus two nights before and after it every month. The visitors of the night viewing of Taj Mahal have to report at Shilpgram complex half an hour in advance of the viewing time. The entry is allowed from the Eastern Gate of the Taj Mahal only after security check near the Eastern gate.

Some quick facts about Taj Mahal

Construction period: 1631 - 1648

Estimated cost of construction: about 32 million Rupees

Principal Architect: Ustad Isa Khan from Persia

Number of workers employed: 20, 000 (It is said that besides there was a team of 37 creative heads who were specialist inlayers, stonecutters, calligraphers etc)

Number of visitors per year: 2 to 4 million

INR 750

{Rs. 250/- per head (ASI);
Rs. 500/- per head as Toll Tax (Agra Development Authority)}

Rs. 500/- ticket of ADA is valid for the monuments of Agra Fort, Itimadi-ud-daula, Akbar’s Tomb, Sikandara and Fatehpur Sikri
(children up to 15 years free)

The night viewing tickets of Taj Mahal can be purchased from the Booking Counter located in the office of Archaeological Survey of India, Agra Circle, 22 The Mall, Agra, Uttar Pradesh in between 10:00 am to 6:00 pm one day in advance of the date of night viewing. The night viewing ticket can be cancelled at the same place on the same date of viewing up to 1:00 pm with cancellation charge of 25% of the ticket.

Rate of Night Viewing Ticket: Indian (Adult)- INR 510 ; Foreigner (Adult)- INR 750 and Children ( 3Yrs to 15 Years age)- INR 500

 Friday closed; open for offering prayer in the mosque between 12 Noon to 2 P.M.

Night viewing on Full Moon Day and two days before and after it, excluding Fridays and in the month of Ramzan
The night viewing of Taj Mahal is opened from 8:30 p.m. to 12:30 am in eight batches of 50 persons for half an hour duration

Sunrise to Sunset
Red Fort

Originally a brick fort of 11th century Rajputs, it changed several hands but remained the seat of power for the next few centuries. Sikandar Lodi was the first Sultan of Delhi who shifted to Agra and lived in it. The buildings inside it reveal the evolution of Mughal architecture from the robust style which characterized the reign of Akbar to the fine elegance associated with Shah Jahan. Being the major contributors, Akbar converted the brick fort into a red sand stone one while Shah Jahan gave it its current shape.

Based on a semi circular plan, the fort has double ramparts with regular bastions and battlements. Out of the four gates on four sides, the Delhi gate facing Delhi and the Lahore gate (also known as Amar Singh gate) facing Lahore are the most famous ones. Since the Delhi gate is now used by Indian army that occupies the northern portion of the fort, the Lahore gate is open for the public. The moat around the fort is crossed by a wooden bridge.

Hardly 30 mughal buildings out of 500 survive till day, others were pulled down either by Shahjahan (who wished to replace them with finer marble structures) or by the British. Architecture is a blend of muslim and hindu style. Besides calligraphy, geometrical and floral designs, living creatures like dragon, elephants and birds, otherwise avoided in Islamic buildings, are also used for decoration.

The main buildings of the fort include:

 Diwan-i-am (hall of public audience) where the king gave audience to his subjects.

Diwan-i-khas (hall of private audience) where the king met his ministers

Moti Masjid (Pearl Mosque) most beautiful building. Built by Shahjahan for his personal use.

Jahangir Palace that Akbar built for his son Jahangir

Sheesh Mahal (glass palace): the royal dressing room which was embellished with small pieces of mirror all over.

Musamman Burz: Large octagonal tower with a balcony facing the Taj. It was from here that the imprisioned king Shah jahan watched his glorious creation taj in his last days. 
Mina bazaar: where both sellers and buyers were ladies.

Rang Mahal: for the king’s wives and mistresses.

Naubat Khana: the drum house.

INR 250No close daysSunrise to Sunset
Tomb Of Itmad-ud-daula

Although the tomb of Mumtaz Mahal steals the show at Agra, her grandfather Itmad-ud-Daula’s tomb in the city is no less important, for it marked a transition in the style of Mughal architecture. Sometimes referred to as ‘Baby Taj’, it is actually the predecessor (1628) and thus an inspiration for Taj Mahal.  It, however, lacks the sense of proportion (building looks stunted) and restraint (too much ornamentation; it was built under the supervision of a lady it has an effeminate character and thus seems unfit to be a tomb of a man) that gives Taj the prestige it enjoys.

Commisioned by his accomplished daughter and Mughal Emperor Jahangir’s wife Nurjahan this was the first building to made extensively in marble and to be embellished with pietra dura (precious stone inlay) work. Nurjahan intended to raise it in silver but was advised against it for fear of theft. It is again a typical garden mausoleum with water channels and pathways. At each of the four corners of the main building stand 4 minarets. The cenotaphs of Itmad-ud-Daula and his wife Asmat Begum lie side by side, while those of other relatives are placed in adjacent chambers.

 INR 110No close daysSunrise to Sunset
India in Motion

This is a 30 minutes multisensory (6D) introductory movie on India, tracing its evolutionary history up to this time. The main character of the film Anupam Kher (a leading Bollywood actor) plays the host who takes a foreigner on a journey in a time machine that begins with information about the Indus Valley period (2500 BC), the period of King Ashok to the time of Mahatma Gandhi when India got independent. Briefly, but very interestingly the movie throws light on geographical historical and cultural features of India. It covers almost the whole of India from snow swathed mountains of Kashmir in North to the emerald backwaters of Kerala in the South. Meanwhile the audience can feel a light splash of water when the guest and the host reach river Ganges in Varanasi and sprinkle of snow when traversing the snowy peaks of Himalayas.

At the end of the movie the audience is moved to another hall for a quiz contest based on questions related to the theme of the movie. Each participant is provided with a touch pad and LCD screen remote unit to make their choices.

The movie shows are organized everyday in Hindi and English at TDI Mall near Taj Mahal.  

Show in English INR 450

in Hindi INR 150

No close days

Show timings are 3 pm and 6:15 pm

For exact information for the day please enquire at the no. 0562-3989 4040

‘Mohabbat The Taj’ show

‘Mohabbat-the-Taj’ at ‘Kalakriti Cultural and Convention centre is exceptionally inviting song and dance drama based on a love story set in the 17th century (the period of the construction of Taj) ambience and spun around the greatest edifice of love the Taj Mahal.

The most attractive feature of the show or to put it straight the crowd puller there is a huge replica of Taj Mahal built in the same Makrana marble and inlaid with same precision as the original Taj. The 8,250 kg replica was brought up by 28 craftsmen who toiled for 7 years to recreate a magic in stone. Unfortunately, due to increase in level of pollution, the Taj does not reflect the light in same manner as it once used to. With the help of state-of-the-art technology, in a 90 minutes show, the replica appears before you in various moods as the original Taj would during different seasons and different hours of the day. So, isn’t it a great chance to absorb the beauty of the Taj to the hilt? The 90 minutes show may be enjoyed in eight different languages including Hindi and English. The viewers can select any one of their choice, just click a button and listen to the presentation in your choice of language.

INR 1000

(INR 750 for August – September 09) 

 No close days

90 minutes show beginning at 18:30

The show is not held in the months of May, June and July

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Getting there

Agra airport at Kheria is about 6 km from the city centre, but is not very well connected. Delhi (200 km) is the major airport near Agra.The two major railway stations of Agra are Agra Fort and Agra Cantt. Regular trains are available to almost all the major cities of the country. High speed Shatabdi express connects it to Delhi.Idgah Bus Stand is the biggest Bus Stand in Agra and is connected to most of the bigger cities in North India. Agra is 200 km south east of Delhi, 235 km east of Jaipur, 365 km west of Lucknow, 118 km north of Gwalior, 395 km north of Khajuraho.
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Agra Festivals

Name of festivalDates / MonthsFestival details with link for more information

Taj Mahotsav

Venue: Shilpgram near Eastern gate of Taj Mahal, Agra

18 – 27 February every yearThe city of Taj Mahal becomes even more alluring when Uttar Pradesh tourism comes up with ten days of wholesome celebration during the Taj Mahotsava. We say wholesome because it is an extravaganza of best of Indian crafts…… cuisines………..and cultural performances. . The festival commences with a befitting grand procession of decked up camels and elephants accompanied by drummers and folk artists exuding the air of the Mughal days. The evenings reverberate with the captivating performances of stalwarts of their fields be it folk songs and dances, classical performances or the entertainers from the Bollywood. 
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Excursions from Agra

Excursion (distance in kms)Description
Fatehpur Sikri (40km west of Agra/1.25 hr)

The greatest of the Mughul Emperors, Akbar was heir less until he received the blessings of saint Sheikh Salim Chisti. In gratitude the emperor brought up his new capital, at the saint’s place. Construction began in 1571 and by 1585 the city had to be abandoned probably due to the scarcity of water in that area. An expression of Akbar’s eclecticism, Fatehpur Sikri occupies a place in UNESCO’s World Heritage List for its brilliant architectural style (a blend of Hindu and Islamic styles) and town planning. It is an ensemble of styles resonating with traditional elements from diverse regions. The typical chajjas (overhangs), the roofs outlined with chattris (umbrella shaped kiosks), beams and brackets (as in Panch Mahal) are features borrowed from Gujarat, Rajasthan and Gwalior.

The perfect placing of courtyards and buildings gives rich spatial effects. All main buildings like the residences of king and queens, Diwan-i-khas (hall of private audience) lie at right angles on cardinal angles. Service areas like courts, Jami Masjid, Diwan-i-am (hall of public audience) lie towards the periphery. Secular buildings lie on north south axis while the mosques on east west axis.

Besides typical mughul buildings like the Diwan-i-am and Diwan-i-khas, mosques, naubat khana, rang Mahal that you may find else where also, there is Buland Darwaza (Victory Gate), perhaps the largest in Asia, built to commemorate Akbar’s victory in Gujarat. Then there is white marble tomb of Sheikh Salim Chisti that childless women frequent up to this day. To its right lie the graves of royal family members and also an entrance to a tunnel (now closed) that is said to reach Agra fort. The Pachisi court that has a large chess board on which Akbar used to play the game using the slave girls as the pieces. Hiran Minar that has stones (resembling elephant tusks) jutting out of it is said to be built upon emperor’s favourite elephant’s grave. Supported by enormous brackets, central column of Diwan-i-khas was where Akbar sat to debate with the scholars who occupied the ends of the four bridges that emerged from the central column to join it to the hanging balcony that runs along the walls of the hall.

Sikandra (10 km north west of Agra Fort/ 20 min)Sikandra houses the tomb of the greatest Mughal Emperor Akbar, the Great. The construction began under the expert guidance of the emperor himself but was completed by his son Jahangir and this is very much evident from the difference in architectural style employed here. Unlike the Taj or tomb of Itmad-ud-daula it is made primarily in red sandstone and inlaid with white marble geometric patterns. Stunning gateway with 3 storey minaret at each corner reminds one of the Buland Darwaza at Fatehpur Sikri. In conformity to the ideal mausoleum plan of mughals, the main building, a pyramidal structure, lies in the centre of a charbagh. The plain interior stands in striking contrast to the ornamented exterior.
Keoladeo Ghana Bird Sanctuary/ Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary (55 km west of Agra/1.5 hrs)

Located in the Bharatpur district in state of Rajasthan, this is a World Heritage site and also a Ramsar site. It is an artificially created sanctuary that served as a former hunting reserve for Maharajas and Viceroys of India. One third of the area is wetland, the rest covered by tall grasses, scattered trees and shrubs. The wetland is a wintering area for massive congregations of waterfowl. The park supports a population of 364 species of birds, numerous mammals and reptiles. With the onset of winter, migratory birds from Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, China and Siberia come here. They arrive by August and leave in February. Visitors include Coot Snipes, Spanish Sparrow, Red Crested Porhard, Rosy Pelican and Flamingo. However, the star of KNP remains the highly endangered Siberian Crane. Besides the enormity in number and variety of these birds, the possibility of watching them from close quarters is the major attraction of this park. Besides one can spot Pythons, Spotted Deer, Sambhars, Blue Bull, Black Buck, Jackals, Civets, Monitor Lizards.

The 30 sq km area of park has well-defined treks, which can easily be covered on foot or on a cycle (the best way) or you can hire a rickshaw.  Trained by the park management the rickshaw pullers are quite knowledgeable. Boats are also available on hire (subject to weather condition). The KNP is open throughout the year. August-October is the breeding season. So, the ideal time to visit the Bharatpur Wildlife Sanctuary is from August-November for the indigenous breeding birds and October- February for the migrant birds.

The shortage of water in the park has become a matter of concern and needs to be tackled efficiently.

Bear Rescue Centre (In Sur Sarovar Bird Sanctuary – 17 km west of Agra/30 min)

Inside the Sur Sarovar Bird Sanctuary is a rescue centre for the sloth bears that once danced on the streets at the instance of their masters ( men from nomadic Qalander tribe) to entertain the public. This is India’s first sanctuary for dancing bears (others are at Bangalore, Bhopal & West Bengal) that has been established by Wildlife SOS in the year 2002. It provides refuge, rehabilitation and veterinary care to more than 250 sloth bears. A small documentary movie played on a projector tells the sad story of a dancing bear named ‘Rani’ who was sold to a Qalander after poachers killed her mother when she was less than 4 weeks old. How her delicate muzzle was pierced by red hot iron rod and a rope was passed through it, her claws and canines were taken off to render her harmless so that her master could make her perform on roads.  Everyday when her master pulled the rope passing through her muzzle Rani jumped in pain – to the world it appeared as if she was dancing. (This is the story of all the dancing bears that have been rescued by people from Wildlife SOS). Wildlife SOS made settlement with her master, he was helped with an alternative livelihood and Rani was brought to this rescue centre. Here one can find many bears making rhythmic movements – probably the tunes to which they have danced for years are still to fade from their memories. The activists there do not demand anything but sensitive visitors do make donations to contribute for this very noble cause.

The Sur Sarovar sanctuary is open for visitors but the bear rescue centre is not. It is not commercialized and can be visited only on special requests. The entry fee for the sanctuary is INR 350.

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Suggested Holidays with Agra

Holiday NameNo. Of days Destinations Covered & Highlights
Golden Triangle6 days - 5 nightsDelhi -Agra -Jaipur
Rajasthan with Taj Mahal14 days 13 nightsDelhi- Agra - Jaipur - Pushkar - Udaipur - Jodhpur - Jaisalmer - Bikaner - Mandawa - Delhi
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