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Agra
 
Agra
 

Agra is a city on the banks of the river Yamuna in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, India. It is one of the most populous cities in Uttar Pradesh and the 19th most populous in India. Agra can also refer to the administrative district that has its headquarters in Agra city.

The city finds mention in the epic Mahabaratha where it was called Agreva'a, or 'the border of the forest'. Legend ascribes the founding of the city to Raja Badal Singh (around 1475), whose fort, Badalgarh, stood on or near the site of the present Fort. However, the 11th century Persian poet Mas'ud Sa'd Salman writes of a desperate assault on the fortress of Agra, then held by the Shāhī King Jayapala, by Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni. Sultan Sikandar Lodi was the first to move his capital from Delhi to Agra in the year 1506; he died in 1517 and his son Ibrahim Lodi remained in power there for nine more years, finally being defeated at the Battle of Panipat in 1526. It achieved fame as the capital of the Mughal emperors from 1526 to 1658 and remains a major tourist destination because of its many splendid Mughal-era buildings, most notably the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri, all three of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Places of interest

Taj Mahal: Agra's Taj Mahal is one of the most famous buildings in the world, the mausoleum of Shah Jahan's favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. It is one of the New Seven Wonders of the world, and one of three World Heritage Sites in Agra.

Completed in 1653, the Tāj Mahal was built by the Mughal king Shāh Jahān as the final resting place for his beloved wife, Mumtāz Mahal. Finished in marble, it is perhaps India's most fascinating and beautiful monument. This perfectly symmetrical monument took 22 years (1630–1652) of hard labour and 20,000 workers, masons and jewellers to build and is set amidst landscaped gardens. Built by the Persian architect, Ustād 'Īsā, the Tāj Mahal is on the bank of the Yamuna River. It can be observed from Agra Fort from where Emperor Shāh Jahān gazed at it, for the last eight years of his life, a prisoner of his son Aurangzeb. It is an acknowledged masterpiece of symmetry. Verses of the Koran are inscribed on it and at the top of the gate are twenty-two small domes, signifying the number of years the monument took to build. The Tāj Mahal was built on a marble platform that stands above a sandstone one. The most elegant dome of the Tāj Mahal has a diameter of 60 feet (18 m), and rises to a height of 80 feet (24 m); directly under this dome is the tomb of Mumtāz Mahal. Shah Jahān's tomb was erected next to hers by his son Aurangzeb. The interiors are decorated by fine inlay work, incorporating semi-precious stones.

Agra Fort: Agra Fort (sometimes called the Red Fort), was commissioned by the great Mughal Emperor Akbar in 1565, and is another of Agra's World Heritage Sites. A stone tablet at the gate of the Fort states that it had been built before 1000 but was later renovated by Akbar. The red sandstone fort was converted into a palace during Shāh Jahān's time, and reworked extensively with marble and pietra dura inlay. Notable buildings in the fort include the Pearl Mosque, the Dīwān-e-'Ām and Dīwān-e-Khās (halls of public and private audience), Jahāngīr's Palace, Khās Mahal, Shīsh Mahal (mirrored palace), and the Musamman Burj. Reference required

The great Mughal Emperor Akbar commissioned the construction of the Agra Fort in 1565 CE., although it was converted into a place by his grandson Shāh Jahān, being reworked extensively with marble and pietra dura inlay. Notable buildings in the fort include the Pearl Mosque or Motī Masjid, the Dīwān-e-'Ām and Dīwān-e-Khās (halls of public and private audience), Jahāngīr's Palace, Khās Mahal, Shīsh Mahal (mirrored palace), and the Musamman Burj. The forbidding exteriors of this fort conceal an inner paradise. The fort is crescent shaped, flattened on the east with a long, nearly straight wall facing the river. It has a total perimeter of 2.4 kilometres (1.5 mi), and is ringed by double castellated ramparts of red sandstone punctuated at regular intervals by bastions. A 9 metres (30 ft) wide and 10 metres (33 ft) deep moat surrounds the outer wall.

Chhatrapati Shīvajī visited the Agra Fort, as a result of the conditions of the Treaty of Purandar entered into with Mirzā Rājā Jaisingh to meet Aurangzeb in the Dīwān-i-Khās (Special Audience Chamber). In the audience he was deliberately placed behind men of lower rank. An insulted Shīvajī stormed out of the imperial audience and was confined to Jai Sing's quarters on 12 May 1666. Fearing the dungeons and execution he escaped on 17 August 1666. A heroic equestrian statue of Shīvajī has been erected outside the fort.

The fort is a typical example of Mughal architecture, effectively showing how the North Indian style of fort construction differentiated from that of the South. In the South, the majority forts were built on the seabed like the one at Bekal in Kerala.

Fatehpur Sikri: The Mughal Emperor Akbar built Fatehpūr Sikrī about 35 km from Agra, and moved his capital there. Later abandoned, the site displays a number of buildings of significant historical importance. A World Heritage Site, it is often visited by tourists. The name of the place came about after the Mughal Emperor Bābar defeated Rājā Sāngā in a battle at a place called Sikrī (about 40 km from Agra). Then the Mughal Emperor Akbar wanted to make Fatehpūr Sikrī his head quarters, so he built a majestic fort; due to shortage of water, however, he had to ultimately move his headquarters to Agra Fort.

Buland Darwāza or 'the lofty gateway' was built by the great Mughal emperor, Akbar in 1601 CE. at Fatehpūr Sikrī. Akbar built the Buland Darwāza to commemorate his victory over Gujarat. The Buland Darwāza is approached by 52 steps. The Buland Darwāza is 53.63 m high and 35 meters wide. it is made of red and buff sandstone, decorated by carving and black and white marble inlays. An inscription on the central face of the Buland Darwāza demonstrates Akbar's religious broadmindedness, it is a message from Jesus advising his followers not to consider this world as their permanent home.

Itmad-Ud-Daulah's Tomb: The Empress Nūr Jahān built I'timād-Ud-Daulah's Tomb, sometimes called the 'Baby Tāj', for her father, Mirzā Ghiyās Beg, the Chief Minister of the Emperor Jahāngīr. Located on the left bank of the Yamuna river, the mausoleum is set in a large cruciform garden criss-crossed by water courses and walkways. The mausoleum itself covers about 23 square metres (250 sq ft), and is built on a base about fifty meters square and about one meter high. On each corner are hexagonal towers, about thirteen meters tall. Small in comparison to many other Mughal-era tombs, it is sometimes described as a jewel box. Its garden layout and use of white marble, pietra dura, inlay designs and latticework presage many elements of the Tāj Mahal.

The walls are white marble from Rajasthan encrusted with semi-precious stone decorations - cornelian, jasper, lapis lazuli, onyx, and topaz in images of cypress trees and wine bottles, or more elaborate decorations like cut fruit or vases containing bouquets. Light penetrates to the interior through delicate jālī screens of intricately carved white marble.

Many of Nūr Jahān's relatives are interred in the mausoleum. The only asymmetrical element of the entire complex is that the tombs of her father and mother have been set side-by-side, a formation replicated in the Taj Mahal

Tomb of Akbar the Great: Sikandra, the last resting place of the Mughal Emperor Akbar the Great, is on the Delhi-Agra Highway, only 13 kilometres from the Agra Fort. Akbar's tomb reflects the completeness of his personality. The vast, beautifully carved, red-ochre sandstone tomb with deers, rabbits and langurs is set amidst a lush garden. Akbar himself planned his own tomb and selected a suitable site for it. To construct a tomb in one's lifetime was a Turkic custom which the Mughals followed religiously. Akbar's son Jahāngīr completed construction of this pyramidal tomb in 1613. The names of the Gods of ninety-nine religious sects have been inscribed on the tomb.

Swāmī Bāgh Samādhi: The Swāmī Bāgh Samādhi is a monument to hold the ashes of Huzūr Swāmijī Mahārāj (Shrī Shiv Dayāl Singh Seth) in the Swāmībāgh section, on the high road that goes from Bhagwan Talkies to Dayāl Bāgh, in the outskirts of the city. He was the founder of the Radhāswāmī Faith and the Samādhi is sacred to its followers. Construction began in February 1904 and still continues. Many believe that construction will never end at Swāmī Bāgh - it is often seen as the next Tāj Mahal. The carvings in stone, using a combination or coloured marble, are life-like and not seen anywhere else in India. The picture shown is taken from the rear of the building and shows only two floors. When completed, the Samādhi will have a carved dome and a gateway.

Mankameshwar Temple: The Mankameshwar Temple is one of four ancient temples dedicated to Lord Shiva located on the four corners of Agra City. It is located near the Jāma Masjid and is about 2.5 kilometers from the Tāj Mahal and less than 1 km from Agra Fort. Being located in the old city, the temple is surrounded by markets, many of which date back to the Mughal Era.

Gurū kā Tal: Gurū kā Tal was originally a reservoir meant to collect and conserve rainwater built in Agra, near Sikandra, during Jahāngīr's reign next to the Tomb of I'tibār Khān Khwājasara in 1610. In 1970s a gurdwāra was erected here. Gurū kā Tal is a holy place of worship for the Sikhs. Four of the ten Sikh Gurus are said to have paid it a visit. Enjoying both historical and religious importance, this gurdwāra attracts a large number of devotees and tourists. Boasting elaborate stone carvings and 8 towers of the twelve original towers. It is located by national (Delhi-Agra) highway-2.

Jamā Masjid: The Jāma Masjid is a large mosque attributed to Shah Jahan's daughter, Princess Jahanara Begum, built in 1648, notable for its unusual dome and absence of minarets. The inscription at its entrance shows that it costed Rs 5 Lakhs at that time for its completion.

Chini Ka Rauza: Notable for its Persian influenced dome of blue glazed tiles, the Chīnī kā Rauza is dedicated to the Prime Minister of Shāh Jahān, 'Allāma Afzal Khāl Mullā Shukrullāh of Shirāz.

Ram Bagh: The oldest Mughal garden in India, the Rām Bāgh was built by the Emperor Bābar in 1528 on the bank of the Yamuna. It lies about 2.34 km north of the Tāj Mahal. The pavilions in this garden are designed so that the wind from the Yamuna, combined with the greenery, keeps them cool even during the peak of summer. The original name of the gardens was Ārām Bāgh, or 'Garden of Relaxation', and this was where the Mughal emperor Bābar used to spend his leisure time and where he eventually died. His body was kept here for sometime before sending it to Kabul.

Mariam's Tomb: Mariams Tomb, is the tomb of Mariam, the wife of great Mughal Emperor Akbar. The tomb is within the compound of the Christian Missionary Society.

Mehtab Bagh: The Mehtāb Bāgh, or 'Moonlight Garden', is on the opposite bank of the River Yamuna from the Tāj Mahal.

Keetham Lake: Also known as Sur Sarovar, Keetham Lake is situated about 23 kilometres from Agra, within the Surdas Reserved Forest. The lake has an impressive variety of aquatic life and water birds.

Mughal Heritage Walk: The Mughal Heritage Walk is a part of community development programme being implemented with support of Agra Municipal corporation, USAID and an NGO; Center for Urban and Regional Excellence. It seeks to build sustainable livelihoods for youth and women from low resource communities and improving their living environments through infrastructure services and integration within the city.

The Mughal Heritage Walk is a one kilometer loop which connects the agricultural fields with the Rajasthani culture, river bank connected with the ancient village of Kuchhpura, the Heritage Structure of Mehtab Bagh, the Mughal aqueduct system, the Humanyun Mosque and the Gyarah Sidi.

The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception: The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Agra.

 
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    Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agra
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