Agra – A city of Colour, Aroma and full of Lively spirit
Agra, a land of extraordinary and magnificent Mughal’s architecture and framework, home to the UNESCO heritage sites and one of the seven wonders of the world which continue to amaze tourist till now and no wonder the genesis of a renowned town Fatehpur Sikri. Every corner of this city narrates the tales of the history.
Taj Mahal for travellers around the world it is the most prominent destination in Agra, an immense mausoleum of white marble that is adjudged as an epitome of love and romance. But with this magical site, the city has other two UNESCO world heritage sites that too will take you to another level of astonishment. One is Agra Fort, that is a residence of the Mughal emperors, and the other is the city itself founded by the emperor Akbar -Fatehpur Sikri.
This place is the perfect amalgamation of multiple cultures that have been the part of this sub-continent. Tourist can revel in the city of splendour architecture, history fanatics and explorers are drawn towards this city, literature buffs, and solo travellers, cannot resist falling in love within the hassle streets that still finds its way to touch their soul.
Heartwarming gestures of localities, succulent and scrumptious street food, atavistic shopping bazaars makes the Agra- A city of colour, aroma and full of lively spirit.
The charm of this historical city has remained unsullied, since the Vedic age. In the Hindu epic Mahabharata, it was referred to as ‘Agraban’ (in Sanskrit it means Forest) or ‘Arya Griha’, which means the abode of Aryans. Later, the Greek Philosopher, traveller, and writer have given this city the name of ‘Agravan’. Over the centuries Agra has been ruled by legions of the dynasty. A 16th century Delhi Sultanate Sikandar Lodhi was a face as an originator of a city Agra, under him the city grew and flourished progressively as a human settlement. Situated on the bank of Yamuna river, agriculture gained its importance as a primary activity. But the hold of Lodhi dynasty soon came to an end, when it suffered a defeat against the first ruler of India, Babar.
Agra under the Mughals: As Babar was the first and foremost monarch, to leave his imprint on this city, he introduced the square Persian-styled gardens, which was later incorporated as the concept of typical Mughal architecture. The Mughals has really blossomed the city under their reign, especially by Akbar the town has got its new splendour architecture and colonies. Akbar who ruled Agra for more than four decades and during that time-period he built the majestic Agra Fort and established a new city, Fatehpur Sikri, a few kilometres ahead of Agra. Fatehpur Sikri got demolished under some bizarre circumstances, but it was prominent as the administrative capital of Akbar for fifteen years long. It was claimed that Agra was also stated as the city of Akbarabad during those days.
The historical journey of Agra has witnessed the crucial changes with times, lots of things have been added or destroyed during the Mughal Dynasty. After Akbar’s death in 1605, his progeny Jahangir continued to flourish the Mughal architecture and the beautification of Agra, the tomb of Itmad-ud-daulah was added to the list of remarkable structures with that he added halls to the spectacular Agra Fort and resurrected the verdant gardens following the lineage of Persian lines as same as it was forge by his ancestors.
Shahjahan predecessor of Jahangir has gifted the landmark to the city of Agra, an impeccable white marble mausoleum of his beloved wife Mumtaz, is now well renowned as the world heritage site. Taj Mahal was built in the memory of his second wife Arjumand Banu Begum (Mumtaz), has become the epitome of love to the world. Though Shahjahan had to shift his capital to Shahjahanabad ( present-day old Delhi), and in 1658 he was imprisoned by his own son Aurangzeb in Agra Fort. Aurangzeb moved the Mughal capital back to Agra but with that, the era of Mughal was also doomed, and he was remembered as the last ruled Mughal emperor in the history of Agra.
Over some time, there was the emergence of petty kingdoms such as Jats, Marathas which didn’t last for a long time in Agra and lastly, the Britishers took over the city.
British Colonies: Britishers arrived in the early 1800’s and declared Agra as the presidency city in North India, but the significance of royal city was lost on the same hand.
After the Independence, Agra gradually turned into the Industrial town, but the lost essence is revived inside the narrow streets of Agra, the sagas of iconic dynasties and battles are preserved in the history. Though there are no more princely rulers, but the ethos of Mughal cuisine is still served in the local markets.
Agra is derived from the city’s ancient name mentioned in the Hindu epic Mahabharata, “ Agrevana” – border of the forest. Agra has a blend of cultures from the past, from Rajputs till Mughals then Britishers, and that’s how this city contributes its role in the diversity of Indian Culture. Centuries passed, and this city has been the constant endower of art, craft, music, literature, poetry, and architecture to the nation and that attracts the thousands of travellers every year to the city. The essence of Mughals is still present in Agra through its food, clothing, customs, mainly in a whole lifestyle. The major dialects of Agra are both Hindi and Urdu with its mother tongue Braj Bhasha.
People of Agra: For centuries Agra has been ruled for Mughal Dynasty, but at the same time, it is rated as a highest Hindu population. Apparently, the second largest population is of Muslim community completes this medley with Christianity, Buddhism and Jainism. This city is a symbol of emancipation and oneness, through its diversity in cultures that have faith in living the harmonious life.
Attire of Agra-wasis: Agra-wasis are very well known as the lively people, their spirit of enjoying life to the fullest is easily shown in their acceptance of both the traditional as well as the modern clothing. Earlier, women of this city, are spotted in saree, salwar kameez as there daily wear clothes, and similarly, men wear dhoti kurta or kurta pyjamas. But the with the adaption of urban lifestyle, this city is becoming more cosmopolitan, as gradually people opt wearing western wears too. But still, for festivals and occasions, people prefer carrying their Traditional’s , Sherwani’s, and Lehengas.
Festival and Fairs of Agra
Visited by the countless tourist from far-flung parts of the world, Agra is no doubt famous for its grandeur Mughal architecture. But apart from the graceful beauty of the structures, fortress, and Baghs, one can relish the vibrancy and zeal of the Agra-wasi’s in their fairs and festivals. One can experience traditional and modernity both in the typical braj way or the sophistication of urban lifestyle in these festivals.
Taj Mahotsav– The grand celebration of Taj, (literal meaning) but it happens in real too! It’s an annual event, that is organised in the month of February every year for 10 days by Uttar Pradesh tourism. The Mahotsav begins with a grand procession of decorated camels and elephants, folk performers, that are accompanied by drumbeaters. Also, there is an array of activities for all age group to enjoy!
Kailash Fair- Organized at Kailash Temple, at a distance of 12km from Agra, Kailash fair is celebrated to remember Lord Shiva who appeared as a “Lingam” formation. Devotees are called as Shivities or Lingites. This festival is held during the monsoon season in between the months of August or September.
Ram Barat- Organized every year in Agra, Ram Barat is the special marriage procession of Lord Ram. The role played by every character in this procession is done by young local boys. This Barat is a part of ramleela, which ends on the day of Dussehra. This event is attended by thousands of Lord Rama devotees, who want to witness the royal wedding of Lord Rama and Sita.
Bateshwar Fair- Located at a distant of 70 km from Agra, the town was named after the deity Bateshwar Mahadeo. This town is well known for its spiritual significance as it has 108 temples of Hindu gods and goddess. This is a month-long religious festival which is highly famous worldwide, where the devotees take a dip in the holy river Yamuna.
Taj Literature Fair- Taj Literature fair is a celebration and tribute both to the bygone era of rich literature. Every year numerous authors, literature buffs, artists, attend the event, talks, debates and discussions on the work of literary figure were organised. This festival is to be as a harbinger of trends to be followed by young aspirants of literature.
Cuisines of Agra
Tasting the savouring delicacies of Agra is definitely going to be a fantastic experience you had never before. This city is swarmed with numerous food joints, with all the unique specialities they have to serve the visitors. The local street food is utterly palatable and full-flavoured with exotic spices.
No matter what kind-of foodie you are, whether you love the spicy, tangy, or pungent taste or simply if you have a sweet tooth. Agra has a distinct flavour, and to begin with, its typical dish Dalmoth a crispy, spicy snack which is made with lentils, nuts and spices, another is the Chaat. “Agra ki chaat” is a favourite snack, one can spot in the chaotic lanes of Agra, that includes, ‘Aloo tikki’, ‘Gol gappe’, ‘Chaat papdi’, ‘samosa’, ‘kachori’ etc. Another delectable and celebrated dish is Bedai and Jalebi, it is served as a Morning breakfast in Agra. You can have Badam Milk or Lassi to finish your meal.
The influence of Mughals is directly showered in the menu of the cuisines of Agra. The evidence of delectable Mughal cuisine is present till now. The fleshy meat cooked in creamy curry that is relished with whole and ground spices along with dried fruits and nuts.
And lastly, Petha which is as famous as Taj Mahal in Agra. This centuries-old sweet delicacy has a soft and syrupy texture and sometimes a bit hard to chew, but your journey to Agra is incomplete if you ain’t visit the Panchi Petha. This Petha store is run through generation after generations, and now here you can get nearly around 30 new flavours and varieties of Petha.
Day 1- Reach Agra in the early morning, have breakfast and rejuvenate yourself, visit the Keoladeo National Park, this place has been marked as a World Heritage List, explore the diverse habitat by foot or hire a bike. If you visit in between Oct-Mar, you will be able to spot the migratory birds too. Don’t forget to carry water bottles and binoculars. By afternoon visit the most iconic Islamic architecture Taj Mahal. Explore the grounds, sightsee the view of world-renowned structures, complete with the bulbous dome. Adore the exterior and interior beauty of Islamic calligraphy on the white marble, raised motifs, tiles and lastly the tombs of both Shahjahan and Mumtaz. In the evening, you can visit the Subhash emporium, just a 15 min drive from Taj Mahal, it is famous for promoting the ancient art of “Prachinkari” in marble( marble inlay art). It remains the go-to place for art buffs looking for a quality piece.
Day 2- Visit Shah Burj in the early morning it will take an hour to explore this historic site. Then within the drive of 15-20 min, you will reach the Tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah which is an intricately decorated mausoleum, often nicknamed “Baby Taj” in comparison to its grandiose neighbour. The shrine boasts more delicate decorations, made with precious topaz, lapis as well as lace-like, intricate carvings in its marble walls. Then visit the majestic grandeur structure built by Akbar, within walking distance you will reach to the Agra Fort. Visit the imposing fortress and walled city, begun in 1565, and marvel at its brick walls and defensive towers. Wander the extensive complex, meeting halls, mosques, and other buildings built by Shah Jahan in the 17th century.Don’t miss to reach till the fort’s eastern walls, from where you can enjoy a sweeping view of the nearby Taj Mahal.
Day 3- On the last day of your trip, you have a must-visit place in your list, that is Chini ka rauza, the mausoleum of Afzal Khan who was a Persian poet during the reign of Jahangir, later he became the wazir during Shah Jahan’s reign. The facade of the tomb is famous for glazed tile work, known as Kashi in Mughal era. Then visit the famous Jama Masjid, built by Mughal emperor, Shahjahan in 1648 and dedicated to his favourite daughter, Jahanara Begum. Lastly by the evening visit the most famous market Sadar bazaar, best known for leather products, and renowned for ethnic clothing, footwear and accessories.
What you will like
Majestic Mughal Architecture, great connectivity through, rail, road and air, and delectable authentic cuisine.
What you might not like
Bustling streets, congested during peak season, polluted lanes and market areas. Stay aware from false travel guides and touts.
Can have a day road trip. Best for Explorers and solo travelers, family trips too, history buffs. People who are inquisitive for archeology.