Agra and Taj Mahal, what to see

September 18, 2019

Agra is part of the Golden Triangle in India, and it's the capital of the district in Uttar Pradesh. Once capital of the Moghul Empire, now it's one of the most charming cities, also thanks to the Taj Mahal.

Taj Mahal reflecting on water, Agra

Welcome to Agra, the third city of the Golden Triangle of India (the other two are Jaipur and Delhi), the capital of the district of Agra in Uttar Pradesh.

Once the capital of the Moghul empire with the name of Akerabad, today Agra is one of the most fascinating cities of India and certainly one of the most visited. What attracts tourists from all over the country and from all over the world, in addition to the ruins of the Red fort, is certainly the mausoleum of the Taj Mahal, perhaps a symbol of India as a whole and a UNESCO heritage.

If Agra is on the list of your next travel destinations, here is some advice on the must-see landmarks.

Agra in Uttar Pradesh
The bustling city of Agra

What to see in Agra

Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal of Agra is a mausoleum that the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan had built in 1632 in memory of his favorite wife Arjumand Banu Begum, known as Mumtaz Mahal, who died while giving birth to their fourteenth child. There are doubts about who was the architect who designed it, but the most convincing hypotheses converge on Ustad Ahmad Lahauri. The works for the construction of the Taj Mahal lasted 22 years, from 1632 to 1654, involving about 20 thousand people from Europe and Central Asia. Materials from all over Asia were used, transported by buffaloes and elephants. The only local material used is red sandstone. The walls of the complex were adorned with different types of precious stones set in white marble.

Today the main site of interest in India, the Taj Mahal was abandoned to decay and neglect for several centuries, but starting from 1899, with the appointment of Lord George Nathaniel Curzon as viceroy of India, restoration works were started. Today the Taj Mahal is considered one of the greatest examples of Islamic architecture, it has been a UNESCO heritage since 1983 and is part of the new seven wonders of the world since 2007.

Taj Mahal and its garden in Agra
A beautiful Taj Mahal on a sunny day

Akbar Tomb

The Tomb of Akbar the Great, a masterpiece of Mughal architecture in Agra, was built between 1605 and 1613 in the suburb of Sikandra, to house the remains of the emperor, who ordered its construction while still alive. At his death, the construction works were carried out by his son Jahangir. One kilometer from the Tomb of Akbar is also the Tomb of Mariam, wife of Akbar.

Red Fort

The Fort of Agra, also called Red Fort because of its color, due to the use of red sandstone in the construction, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site about 2.5 km away from the Taj Mahal. It was inhabited by Sultan Sikander Lodi and Akbar the Great for a short time before his death. The complex extends for 380 thousand square meters, surrounded by walls 23 meters high with bastions, battlements and loopholes. The fort has four entrances: the main two are the Delhi gate and the Lahore gate. The Delhi gate is particularly worthy of interest, adorned with inlays of white marble. The fort was accessed via a wooden bridge, which allowed to cross the moat and reach the door. To make it even safer, the fort was equipped with a retractable and rotatable drawbridge. Inside, the fort housed five hundred buildings, largely destroyed, in Bengal and Gujarat style. Today, only about thirty Mughal buildings have remained standing on the southeastern side of the fort.

Details of Fort of Agra, India
A detail of the Red Fort

Jama Masjid Mosque

Jama Masjid Mosque in Agra stands opposite the Agra Fort and is also called "Friday mosque". Among the largest mosques in India, it is made of red sandstone with elaborate marble decorations. The interior walls and ceilings are decorated in blue, while several bazaars are located around the building. The structure is located on a platform accessed after climbing a flight of steps: a solution designed to make the mosque visible to the faithful even from afar. The mosque is still used today and is one of the main attractions of Agra.

Fatehpur Sikri

Fatehpur Sikri is another site of great interest to visit during a stay in Agra, even if it is located outside the city. Often referred to as an "abandoned city" or "ghost town", Fatehpur Sikri was built starting in 1570 by the will of Akbar, who wanted to make it a capital. The works ended in 1573, also involving artisans of the newly conquered Gujarat: not surprisingly, Fatehpur Sikri means "city of victory". In 1585 the court of Akbar moved however to Lahore and Fatehpur Sikri fell into a state of abandonment, a victim of looting and the wear and tear of time. The current state of the city is due to the restoration works of the British viceroy Lord Curzon, who also took care of the recovery works of the Taj Mahal. The citadel is a classic example of a walled city in the Mughal style, characterized by majestic entrances and a combination of Hindu and Islamic style. Today only the palace and the mosque remain in the ancient city, while there is no trace of the ancient private residences.

Complex of Fatehpur Sikri, India
The abandoned palace of Fatehpur Sikri

Did Agra and the Taj Mahal intrigue you? Maybe it's time to book a trip to India!