Perhaps no other historical monument has evoked as much awareness and admiration from tourists and travellers alike, as the magnificent Taj Mahal - fondly called by people as the ultimate requiem of love, from a great Mughal Emperor to his beloved.
So overwhelming is the exquisite beauty and presence of this marble mausoleum that centuries later today, even the very land where it has been located - Agra - has been immortalised as the City of the Taj. Yet, it doesn't take much for the roving eye to discover that there's more to Agra than just the fabled Taj Mahal. The city is a virtual gateway to a world of discovery, a freeze-frame from a resplendant era that's long since gone by. In the great epic 'Mahabharat' the region of Agra is described as 'Agraban' (an integral part of the Braj Bhumi or the land of Lord Krishna). The latter part of Indian history outlines the origins of Agra to 1475 A.D., when the reign of Raja Badal Singh.
However, Agra came into limelight during the rule of Afghan King Sikandar Lodhi - who had made it the capital of his empire.Later in 1526 A.D., the Mughal Emperor Babar took upon himself the task for rendering Agra, a unique character and beauty of its own. The visionary that he was and a great patron of the arts, Emperor Babar brought in a change in the culture and life-style among the people of Agra, which then brought forth some of the finest craftsmen, artists, statesmen, warriors and nobility, this part of India had ever withnessed. The golden age of Agra's history, thus began to set in.
The next few hundred years of Agra witnessed the rise of the pomp and pageantry of three great Mughal monarchs - Emperor Akbar, Jehangir and ShahJahan - all of whom lavished on this fabled city, their love and riches immeasurable to transform the land into one of the great centers of art, culture, learning and commerce.
Much of the city's impressive past lives in evidence even today, in the hunting presence inside the monuments like the Agra Fort, which again is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the largest forts in India, the majesty of the buildings, the sprawling landscaped gardens, the fascinating tombs, the exquisite arts and crafts and not to forget, the lure of an exceptional cuisine, all cherished as priceless legacies of a nostalgic past.
Apart from Taj Mahal and Agra Fort, what is worth visiting in Agra is the Radha Saomi Temple, Dayalbagh because of its excusitive architecture. Under construction for over 100 years, the inside of this temple is even more over-whelming than Taj Mahal. The temple has been built by Radha Saomi Satsang sect with a vision of the founder Saomi Shivdayal Singh who wanted to build a temple on the most fertile land in the city of Agra. So when in Agra, a visit to this temple is sure to be divine for you.
The older city of Agra has impressively retained much of its resplendent history, captivating every visitor with fond memories to take back home. Today, luxury replicawatches and modern convenience also exist adjacent to tradition - luxury hotels, shopping malls and plazas along with the traditional chowks (marketplaces) like Sadar Bazaar, which also happens to be one of the most famous markets in Agra and is known for handicraft items, shoes and leather work. Agra is also famous for its exquisite marble products so don't miss buying ornate marble souvenirs and gifts such as coasters, flower vases and jewellery boxes, all inlaid with semi-precious stones.
Speaking of food in Agra, the most upscale experience is to have dinner at Esphahan restautrant while on-looking the Taj. Apart from this, you can enjoy the Mughlai food and the famous petha of Agra (preferrably Panchi brand), which also makes for a great gift for your loved ones back home.
In short, this city known for Taj Mahal is a complete destination in itself and no traveler ever leaves the city unhappy but is rather over whelmed with its beauty and the perfect blend of all things in one. And not just this, it is also one of the most traveled cities of India visited both by locals from India and of course the tourists from across the globe.
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