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India is a country steeped in history, and the remarkable fact is that in spite of numerous foreign invasions both by rulers and cultures, she still retains a unique flavour of her own. There is a great architectural heritage in India and Agra, or Agraban, as it was called in the Mahabarat times, a charmed city can boast of the most splendid monuments in the world, including three world heritage monuments.

Agra is a part of Brijbhoomi the land associated with the birth and legendry activities of lord Krishna. In Agra City there are five Shiva temples which are the symbols of ancient culture.

Agra was the capital city of Sikander Lodhi, the second ruler of the Lodhi dynasty, who defeated by the Persian King Babur in 1526 A.D. Babur too made Agra his capital city and so began the great Mughal rule. It was Babur who build the first monument in Agra, a planned garden garden called Gul-e-Afgaan or the Aaram Baugh.

After Babar in (1530 AD) HUMAUN took over the thrown of Agra. Sher Shah Soori also continued Agra as his Capital.

During the rule of Akbar (1556 to 1605 A.D.) Agra earned fame all over the world and was counted one of the great and beautiful cities of Medinal India. Emperor Akbar constructed many beautiful buildings. In the premises of famous Fatehpur Sikri and Agra Fort. During his rule people of all caste and religion living friendly upon which Akbar declared the concept of "Sulah Kul" in making the personality of Akbar the great his "NAVARATANS" Raja Man Singh, Raja Toder Mal Hakeem Lukman, Raja Birbal, Mullah-Do-Pyaza, Abdul-Fazal-Feuzi, Abdul Rahim Khana Khan and Miyan Tan Sen Played an important role.

For developing feeling of harmony and brotherhood among the people of various religions, Akbar started new religion named Deen-E-Elahi.

Sikandra and Etmad-Ud-Dowla are the famous buildings of Jahangiri period.

World famous Taj Mahal was constructed by Shahjahan in the sweet memory of his beloved queen Mumtaj Mahal. Agra earned the world fame due to Taj Mahal. Shah Jahan's period was remembered as a golden period for construction of good buildings and for their beautifications.

During the British period Agra was made a District in 1805 A.D. and a Collector was posted Agra presidency was founded in 1833 A.D. During Agra presidency in 1835 A.D. Western - North border Province which is known as United province was formed of which Agra remained Capital upto 1857 A.D. After 1857 A.D. mutiny the capital of United Province was shiffted from Agra to Allahabad. After this Agra remained only Commissionary which still continuing.

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PLACES OF INTEREST ARE:
Taj Mahal: It has been described as 'A tender elegy in marble'. One of the seven wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal is the finest example of symmetry and balance in architecture and is now on the World Heritage list. It was built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jehan as the final resting place for his beloved Queen, Mumtaz Mahal. Done in white marble, it took 22 years and over 20,000 workers and craftsmen to complete this rhapsody in stone (1630-52 AD). The main structure is set amidst landscaped gardens. While on three sides it is surrounded by high walls, the rear is bound by the river Yamuna.

Agra Fort: Few forts in the world have a more fascinating story to tell than the Great Fort of Agra. Originally planned as an impregnable military structure by Akbar, the Agra Fort, over a period of time, acquired all the elegance, lavishness and majesty of an imperial palace. Situated 1 km upstream of the Taj Mahal, on the right bank of the Yamuna, the Agra fort was built under the direction of Akbar, by Mohammed Quasim Khan, his commander-in-Chief and Governor of Kabul. It took eight years to complete and entailed an expenditure of three and a half million rupees.

Itmad-Ud-Daulah: About 4 km North of the Taj, on the left bank of the Yamuna, is the perfectly proportioned marble mausoleum Itmad-ud-Daulah. Noor Jehan constructed this splendid marble monument in her father's memory. This double storied marble tomb is replete with mosaic, inlaid with semi-precious stones.

Chini Ka Rauza: This was constructed by Afzal Khan - a high official in the court of Shahjahan. Decorated by glazed tiles on the façade, the structure clearly depicts the Persian influence in architecture.

Jama Masjid: This building, with a rectangular open forecourt was constructed in 1648 AD by Shahjahan's daughter, Jehanara Begum in memory of the famous Sheikh Salim Chishti and his grandson Islam Khan. Of particular importance is its wonderful assimilation of Iranian architecture.

Ram Bagh: One of the earliest Mughal gardens, it was laid out by Emperor Babar - the founder of the Mughal dynasty. It is said that Babar was temporarily buried here before being permanently interred at Kabul in Afghanistan.

Mariyam's Tomb: This unique tomb in red sandstone was built in 1611 A.D. in memory of Emperor Akbar's Goan-Christian wife - Mariyam. The tomb has some exceptional carvings.

Kinari Bazaar: The alleys of this old marketplace, start near the Jama Masjid. There are several distinct areas which are relics of the Mughal period, although they don't always bear relation to what is sold there today. The Loha Mandi (Iron Market) and Sabzi Mandi (Vegetable Market) are still operational, but the Nai ki Mandi (Barber's Market) is now famous for textiles. Something entirely different is for sale in the Malka Bazaar, where women beckon passing men from balconies. In the butcher's area next to the leather market, watch out for the festering animal skins that are piled high in the streets.

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EXCURSIONS:
Dayal Bagh (12 km): Situated 12 km from the hotel, this is the headquarter of the Radhasoami religious sect, founded in 1861 by Shri Shiv Dayal Singh, also known as Swamiji Maharaj. Being built to commemorate the Supreme Creator, this tall, unfinished façade of marble, lined with exquisitely carved pillars and panels, was estimated to cost about five million rupees when it was conceived. Today, the cost of work finished and work still to be done will run into ten million. About 500 devotee stay in the colony adjoining the samadhi. It is claimed that is may rival the Taj Mahal in splendor when it is completed.

Sikandra (8 km): Sikandra is 8 km north-east on the Agra-Delhi road. It is one the same side of the river Yamuna as the Taj. Sikandra was built in 1492 by Sikander Lodhi, a ruler of one of the last dynasties of the Delhi Sultanate. Akbar, in his time, ordered the construction of Sikandra again, this time as a site for his mausoleum but he died before it could be completed. The work was completed by his son Jehangir in 1613. The tomb is a combination of Muslim and Hindu architectural styles. The building of red sandstone is four storeys tall, approximately 31 metres in height. The first three storeys are of red sandstone, while the fourth is entirely of marble.

Mathura (10 km): Holy Mathura, about 55 km from Agra and 10 km south of Bridavan on the west bank of the Yamuna, is believed to be the birthplace Lord Krishna, who is said to have been born in a prison here. Mathura is one of the oldest cities in India, much older than even Agra. Its history can be traced back prior to the days of the Maurya dynasty, which ruled from 325 BC to 184 BC.

Fatehpur Sikri (37 km): Fatehpur Sikri, about 37 km south-west of Agra, was built by the side of an artificial lake about 3 km long and 1.6 km wide. Still perfectly preserved, this complex of palaces, mosques, gardens and pavilions is a rich legacy of the Mughal era. You can stroll through the Emperor's bedroom, climb to the top of the Panch Mahal, the five tiered palace and look down on the Pachisi courtyard. Then move to the Anup Talau, the sandstone platform on a pond, where Mian Tansen once sang. And no trip is complete without a visit to Salim Chisti's Dargah, where you can tie a thread on the latticework of its walls and make a quiet wish.

Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary (60 km): Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary is situated 60 km from Agra. During the season, cormorant, darter, spoonbill, egret, stork and black ibis are found in large numbers. In winters, migrant birds from as far as Siberia and Northern Europe collected here. Dabchicks, pheasant tailed jacanas, moorhens and coots find their natural surroundings here.

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FAIRS & FESTIVALS:
Taj Mahotsav, Agra: A festival of art, craft, culture and celebrations. Organised by U.P. Tourism, it is held every year between 18th -27th February.

Janmashthami & Krishna Leela: Janmashtami, the birth of Lord Krishna is celebrated with great devotion in the August/September months, on the Ashtami of Krishna Paksh or the 8th day of the dark fortnight in the month of Bhadon, in the whole of north India.

Temples and homes are beautifully decorated and lit. An attractive feature of the celebrations are cribs & other decorations depicting stories of Lord Krishna's childhood. There are five main "jhankis" of Janmashtami which depict the entire sequence of events from Lord Krishna's birth to his being discovered in Gokul. The "jhankis" include the birth of Krishna in jail, Vasudev carrying Krishna to safety across the river Yamuna amidst thunder and lightning, Vasudev's return to the jail, Kansa killing Yashoda's daughter and finally the little Krishna in the cradle in Gokul. "Jhankis" are created out of dolls dressed up as kids, men and women with lehangas, chunnis, dhotis & kurtas.

Raslila of every type are also performed - Janmalila, Shankarlila, Putnalila and Naglila. In the evening bhajans are sung which end at midnight, the auspicious moment when Lord Krishna was born. Thereafter arti is done, prasad distributed and flowers showered on the idol.

SHOPPING:
Agra is well known for leather goods, jewellery, durries weaving and marble items inlaid with coloured stones, similar to the pietra dura work on the Taj.

Sadar Bazaar and the area south of Taj Ganj are full of emporiums of one kind or another, but prices here are more expensive than in the bazaars of the old part of the city.

The best jewellery shops are around Pratapur, also in the old part of Agra, though you can still pick up precious stones cheaper in Jaipur (Rajasthan).

About a kilometre along the road running from the eastern gate of the Taj is Shilpgram, a crafts village and open-air emporium. It has displays of crafts from all over the country. Prices are certainly on the high side, but the quality is good and the range hard to beat.

 

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