Agra, home to one of the Seven Wonders of the World namely the magnificent Taj Mahal is one of the most popular tourist destinations. Agra has a rich historical heritage linked to the Mughal dynasty. Modern Agra was founded by Sikandar Lodhi (Lodhi Dynasty) and later under the rule of Emperor Akbar two popular architectural monuments were built i.e. Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri. Agra reached its heights of glory and fame after Emperor Shah Jahan, ruler of the Mughal Empire built the most beautiful tribute to his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal, namely the Taj Mahal.
Agra is located in western Uttar Pradesh on the banks of the Yamuna River. It is not only known as a tourist destination but is also considered an strong industrial base for several manufacturing plants and produces automobiles, leather goods, handicrafts and stone carving items. The main languages spoken are Hindi and Urdu with a high Hindu and Muslim population.
While in Agra, a must visit would be the Emperor Shah Jahan’s Taj Mahal - this architectural master piece was constructed with a man power of 20,000 people from India and Central Asia and with specialists brought in from as far as Europe to produce the exquisite marble screens and marble inlay works.
The Agra Fort commissioned by Emperor Akbar is built with red sand stone and consists of exquisite buildings such as the Gem Mosque, Jahangir's Palace, Diwan-e-Am, Diwan-e-Khas (public and private audience halls), Shish Mahal, Musammam Burj and the Khas Mahal. The fort is semi-circular shaped, flattened on the east with a long, nearly straight wall facing the river. It is one of India’s finest Mughal forts.
The Itimad –Ud – Daulah Tomb (Pillar of the State), a Mughal Mausoleum is another fine architectural work commissioned by Noor Jahan (wife of Jahangir) for her father Mirza Ghiyas Bagh. The walls of the mausoleum are built in white marble and embedded with semi-precious stones.
Also make sure you feast your eyes on the beauty of Fatehpur Sikkim which was the short lived capital of the Mughal Empire and Akbar’s Tomb, which covers 119 acres and has a 105m wall that surrounds the tomb, it features marble minarets, pyramids roofs, geometrical embellishments and floral and calligraphic designs.
For all the food-lovers out there, Agra being the seat of Mughal rulers for a long time, offers you the best of Mughlai cuisine. Treat your taste buds to this rich dishes that incorporate creamy sauces with fruits and nuts and variety of meat dishes. Some of the dishes that you simply cannot miss are - tandoori chicken, Seekh and Boti Kabab (marinated and roasted meat), tandoori fish, tasty Paranthas (flat breads) and desserts like Petha (white pumpkin cooked in sugar syrup), Gazak (a mix of sesame seeds and condensed milk), savoury snacks like called Dalmoth (a fried mix of nuts and lentils), Kachoris and especially Chaat (originally popular street food). In addition to the hotels and restaurants, the local dhabas (street side shops) serve a very delicious variety of these dishes and more.
Shopping in Agra is a very enjoyable and eye-opening experience as you are further exposed to the exquisite local arts and handicrafts. Souvenirs you can purchase to take back home include handicrafts items like marble tabletops, soft stone work, semi-precious stones, jewellery items and handmade leather items, small replicas of the Taj Mahal, sandalwood items, durries, carpets and textiles and clothing with intricate “Chikan” embroidery. Al these are available at the local bazaars and state handicraft emporiums.
NOTE: Before you shop make yourself aware of the customs and quarantine regulations in your country to ensure that you can take back your treasure trove of shopping without any hassle, penalties or fines.