On the banks of the river Yamuna sits the city of Agra where stands one of the world’s most prized architectural jewels, the Taj Mahal, known as one of the New Seven Wonders of the world. Though the Taj Mahal in itself makes visiting Agra well worth the trip, the city has many note-worthy places to see and experience.
The Khas Mahal is exquisitely designed with Hindu and Islamic carvings. Much of the decor features elephants, dragons, and birds which is a departure of the usual abstract art and calligraphy of Islamic architecture. Inside is decorated in floral and geometric patterns primarily in blue and gold, considered the colors of royalty. It is located inside the Agra Fort and was built between 1631 and 1640. Despite its age, the Khas Mahal still retains much of its original detailing.
Located in the Agra district, Fatehpur Sikri is a beautiful complex of buildings constructed to honor Sheikh Salim Chisti after Akbar’s conquest of Gujarat in 1573. Due to a lack of water, it was abandoned a mere 15 years later. The buildings were made from red sandstone which was readily available at the time. The imperial complex is still beautifully intact and shows Hindu, Islamic, and Jain influences in the structures and carvings.
The Mankameshwar Temple, which sits on the banks of the river Yamuna, is one of four temples built to honor Lord Shiva. Within the sanctum sanctorum, one of the holiest of places, is an image, or vigraha, of Lord Shiva which is surrounded by several family idols. To get there you will have to descend several steps. The exterior of the temple is white and trimmed in a bold red. Smaller temples outside the sanctum sanctorum are devoted to other deities including Rama and Krishna.
The best-known attraction in Agra is without a doubt the Taj Mahal. This splendid monument to the memory of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan’s third and favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, was constructed between 1632 and 1653. The tomb holds the bodies of both husband and wife. Built of white marble and inlaid with semi-precious stones, it incorporates elements of Persian, Islamic, Indian, and Ottoman Turkish design. The white dome is home to the mausoleum and is part of a network of many structures.
There is more to Agra than stunning architecture. It is also home to Wildlife SOS which focuses on rescues and conservation. From injured reptiles to sloth bears being exploited for entertainment, this facility is dedicated to saving and giving these animals a second chance at a happy, cruelty-free life. Elephants, leopards, monkeys, and many more animal species have called this place home. Wildlife SOS also engages in undercover work and assists in the prosecution of poachers and animal traders.
Taj Nature Walk
Get some splendid views of the Taj Mahal and other city attractions while enjoying the Taj Nature Walk. Located about 500 meters from the Taj Mahal’s east gate, immerse yourself in the surrounding beauty of the dense forest and high grasslands. From October to April you’ll enjoy the 46 varieties of flowers that attract scores of butterflies. There are four watch towers that rise up twenty feet for stunning views of the Taj Mahal from varying angles. There is wildlife too, some of which you’ll want to be wary of such as leopards, hyenas, and cobras.
Agra is a wondrous place to explore. See one of the most famous places in the world, the Taj Mahal, but don’t forget the many other sites that also make this city worth visiting.