Agra, Uttar Pradesh

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There’s more to Agra than just the Taj. The city is a virtual gateway to the historic marvels like the ‘Mahabharata’ where it was shown as an extension to Braj Bhoomi, the capital city of Lord Krishna. Agra came into existence during the rule of Sikandar Lodhi who made Agra his capital and in 1526 A.D. The Mughal Emperor Babar gave a unique character to the city. Later the city was ruled by the very famous Mughal emperors like Akbar, Jehangir and Shah Jahan.

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The Taj Mahal was built by Emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial to his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal. Master craftsmen were invited to build this world famous tribute to love. This magnificent mausoleum, took 22 years to complete with the help of approx 20000 workers. The city of Agra is divided into two parts the old and the new. Today, luxury and modern convenience exist adjacent to tradition. There are a number of luxury hotels and shopping malls. The city is surprisingly peaceful at night and there are not many people on streets, chaotic otherwise it is.

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Agra is a city in western Uttar Pradesh and is known for many things. Agra is the city of Mughal Architecture. There are many attractions like Sikandra fort, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra Footwear Market, the Mental Hospital and food delicacies including the Petha is what Agra is Famous for. The Taj Mahal being the most famous. Agra is flocked by international tourists during winter months who are visiting the Taj Mahal and other Mughal Monuments.

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Time : September 2015
Stay : ITC Mughal

Places to see in Agra
• The Agra Fort
• Chini Ka Rauza
• Samadh of Soamiji Maharaj
• Ram Bagh
• Taj Nature Walk
• Mehtab Bagh
• Itimad-ud-daula’s : Tomb (Baby Taj)
• Sikandra – Tomb of Akbar the Great
• Mariyam’s Tomb
• Red Taj Mahal- Catholic Cemetery.
• Jama Masjid
• Bauddhmath –  it’s a monastery Near Agra Fort Bus stand.
• There are number of Hindu Temples, Gurudwaras, Churches, Mosques and Jain Temples.

Mehtab Bagh is located on the left bank of river Yamuna opposite to the Taj Mahal. The garden complex is a huge square measuring approximately 300m X 300m and in straight alignment with the Taj Mahal.

If you need to visit Agra in true sense one needs at least 3 days.

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Agra and Beyond
• Soor Sarovar Sanctuary (Keetham Lake) 23 km.
• Fatehpur Sikri (39 km.)
• Mathura-Vrindavan (56 km.)
• Bateswar (70Km.)
• Chambal Safari:(October-March) (80Kms on Fatehabad Road)

It’s a fine day here in Delhi and we have plans to visit Agra for business purpose. Since there is so much work to do here in Agra, we always fall short of time to visit these monuments. But as time favored this time, we could visit the Taj Mahal. Agra is also known for its fabulous handicrafts, made of marble and soft stone inlay work. The Mughals were great patrons of arts and crafts.

Agra is located approx 200 kilometres from Delhi and can be reached from two alternative routes. The “Greater Noida – Agra Expressway” being the shortest in terms of travel time. It takes less than 3 hours to cover this distance of 200 kilometres form Delhi.

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I have been to Agra several times in the past but this time was somewhat different. This time was the full moon night Poornamashi as we know it. There is special preview of Taj Mahal for visitors from all around the world. Archaeological Survey of India organizes a special event and a chance to view of Taj Mahal in the full moon light. One may only get this chance once a month on full moon night. The bookings for the night needs to be done a day before. Rs.510 is the entry fees, but is worth every penny spent.

After completing the work, we checked into our Hotel. ITC is a very nice property and probably the best what Agra has to offer. The hotel is a massive sized property 35 acres and has huge gardens, and in close proximity to the Taj Mahal is the best representation of Mughal dynasty architecture. As we checked in we were welcomed with a smile and we soon went to our room for rest. Our stay at ITC Mughal was very comfortable and wish we could stay a bit longer to explore Agra. We had only one night stay as we had to return back. Though short and crisp, we had enough to do in one day itself.

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Huge and massive reception and long decorated bridges and passages leading to the rooms. The rooms were ultra luxurious and modern. The hotel has a small shopping arcade and also an observatory to view Taj Mahal from roof top. We moved to the Cantt market to buy some gifts and also to have famous Agra Chat. Agarwal Chat Bhandaar being the world famous in Agra. There are several options to have dinner outside the hotel too. The best one in Agra being “Pinch of Spice” located right opposite the main gate of the hotel. Agra is a small city as compared to any metro and Agra cantt market is located less than 3 kilometres from the hotel. Besides pinch of spice, there are all other usual options to dine into.

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Taj Mahal is open to visitors all day long from 6:00AM to 7:00 PM. We woke up early at 5 and rushed to the Taj East Gate. The Eastern Gate is located near ITC Mughal and we decided to go by an auto. Agra has very prompt auto service and one can get an auto rickshaw from anywhere to anywhere at any time. You have to just be careful of your belongings. It was not a problem hiring an auto to the Taj East Gate. Flat rate Rs 50.

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Upon reaching Shilpgram, we have to buy a ticket for entry, Rs 20 per head for Indians and then a battery car or Tonga till the East Gate. One can choose to walk also. Upon reaching one thing I liked about foreigners was that they don’t break ques. There was along queue for foreigners and hardly any Indians there. We got access as if we had a privilege pass. We were the first ones to enter the Gates. Awesome views we got as I haven’t seen Taj premises that deserted. Its 6:00 AM and sun is rising in the east and moon is setting in the west. Panoramically we could see both on the horizon at the same time.

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Twilight time gives us the best time to see Taj Mahal. We spent quiet some time there taking good memories and pictures with us. Morning hours are flooded with foreign tourists and generally Indians only arrive after 8:00 AM. After the precious morning hours spent at the Taj, Hotel offered us the Breakfast which was continental. They have a vast menu. The restaurant is nice and its very spacious. The Itc Mughal has a sibling of Delhi’s Itc Maurya’s Bukhara called Peshawari. This restaurant is too on the similar platform.

We started from agra but one last thing. We had to Post a letter. The Agra HPO is a heritage property too!! Its listed in the “Heritage Post Office Buildings” in India. It has a unique character of its own! We leave for Delhi once we are through with posting the letter.

Agra Expressway is the shortest and easiest way to reach Delhi.

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