Near the gardens of Taj Mahal stands the important 16th-century Mughal monument known as the Red Fort of Agra. This powerful fortress of red sandstone encompasses within its 2.5-km-long enclosure walls, the imperial city of the Mughal rulers. The forbidding exteriors of this fort hide an inner paradise. There are a number of exquisite buildings like Moti Masjid – a white marble mosque akin to a perfect pearl; Diwan-E-Am, Diwan-E-Khaas, Musamman Burj – where Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan died in 1666 A.D., Jahangir’s Palace, Khaas Mahal and Sheesh Mahal. Agra Fort, an excellent example of Mughal architecture, is one of the few UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India.
The construction of the Agra fort was started around 1565, when the initial structures were built by the Mughal Emperor Akbar, and subsequently taken over by his grandson Shah Jahan, who added most of the marble creations to the fort. The fort is crescent shaped, flattened on the east with a long, nearly straight wall facing the river. It is ringed by double castellated ramparts of red sandstone, punctuated at regular intervals by bastions. A 9m wide and 10m deep moat surrounds the outer wall. An imposing 22m high inner wall imparts a feeling of invincible defensive construction. The layout of the fort was determined by the course of the river, which in those days flowed alongside. The main axis is parallel to the river and the walls bridge out towards the city.
Built by Shah Jahan, entirely of marble, the Khaas Mahal demonstrates distinctive Islamic-Persian features. These are well blended with a striking range of Hindu features such as chhatris. It is considered to be emperor’s sleeping room or ‘Aramgah’. Khaas Mahal provides the most successful example of painting on a white marble surface. On the left of the Khaas Mahal, is the Musamman Burj, built by Shah Jahan. It is a beautiful octagonal tower with an open pavillion. It boasts of its openness, elevation and cool evening breezes. This is where Shah Jahan lay on his deathbed, gazing at the Taj.
The royal city at Fatehpur Sikri, situated 26 miles west of Agra, Uttar Pradesh, was built under the orders of the great Mughal Emperor Akbar. In honour of saint Shaikh Salim Chisti, Akbar founded a magnificent city on Sikri ridge. In 1571, he ordered the construction of buildings for his own use and asked the noblemen to build houses for themselves.
Within a year, most of the work was finished and within the next few years, a well planned administrative, residential and religious buildings came into existence.
The Jami Mosque was perhaps among the first buildings to come up. Its epigraph gives AH 979 (A.D. 1571-72) as the date of its completion. The Buland-Darwaza was added some five years later. Among other important buildings are the tomb of Shaikh Salim Chishti, Naubat-or Naqqar Khana (drum-house), Taksal (mint), Karkhanas (royal workshop), Khazana (treasury), Hakim’s quarters, Diwan-i-Am (hall of public audience), house of Maryam also called Sunahra Makan (Golden House), palace of Jodh Bai, Birbal’s house, etc.
For over 100 years this fort has been over looking the city of Gwalior. One of the most invincible forts in India, this imposing citadel has changed many hands. It is built on a hill of sandstone and towers 100 meters from the plain. The outer wall of the fort is almost 2 miles in length and the width varies from one km’s to 200 meters. The walls of the fort gives way onto the steep slopes. This fort has been a witness to many battles in the turbulent times as well as festivals in the peace time. The rulers have imparted justice from the fort which has seen the imprisonment of many. The ceremonies held in the fort have been spelled out grandeur but the Jauhars have screamed distress. It was here that Tatyia tope and Rani of Jhansi fought for their freedom. Rani of Jhansi laid down her life in an assault by the British to capture the fort.
Jaisalmer Fort was built in 1156 and is the second oldest in the state of Rajasthan. Two hundred and fifty feet tall and reinforced by an imposing crenellated sandstone wall 30 feet high, the fort has 99 bastion, 92 of which were built between 1633 and 1647. Wells within the fort still provide a regular source of water. The fort, built by Rawal Jaisal, which crowns the 80m highTrikuta hill, has its outer wall of palaces, houses and temples of soft yellow sandstone. It has narrow winding lanes and four huge gateways, the last one leading to main chowk dominated by the old palace of the Maharwal. Almost one quarter of the town’s population resides inside the fort. It is approached through Ganesh Pol, Suraj Pol, Bhoot Pol and Hawa Pol. Also, within it are many beautiful havelies and a group of Jain temples dating from the 12th to the 15th centuries.
Humayun’s tomb in the capital Delhi is a fine specimen of the great Mughal architecture. Built in 1570, the tomb is of particular cultural significance as it was the first garden-tomb on the Indian subcontinent. Its unique beauty is said to have inspired several major architectural innovations, culminating in the construction of the unparalleled Taj Mahal. In many ways, this magnificent red and white sandstone building is as spectacular as the famous ‘monument to love’ in Agra. This historic monument was erected by Humayun’s queen Hamida Banu Begam (Haji Begam) at a cost of about 1.5 million. It is believed that she designed the tomb.
The splendour of this monument becomes evident on entering the grandiose double-storeyed gateway. High rubble walls enclose a square garden divided into four large squares separated by causeways and water channels. Each square is divided again into smaller squares by pathways, forming a typical Mughal garden called Charbagh. The fountains were worked with simple yet highly developed engineering skills quite common in India during this period. The last Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar II had taken refuge in this tomb during the first War of Independence in 1857. Several rulers of the Mughal dynasty lie buried here. Humayun’s wife is buried here too.
Sun Temple, Konark
Konark Sun Temple, located in the eastern State of Odisha near the sacred city of Puri, is dedicated to the sun God or Surya. It is a monumental representation of the sun God Surya’s chariot; its 24 wheels are decorated with symbolic designs and it is led by a team of six horses. It is a masterpiece of Odisha’s medieval architecture and one of India’s most famous Brahman sanctuaries.
The Konark temple is widely known not only for its architectural grandeur but also for the intricacy and profusion of sculptural work. It marks the highest point of achievement of Kalinga architecture depicting the grace, the joy and the rhythm of life all its wondrous variety.
The temple declared a world heritage by UNESCO was built in A.D. 1250, during the reign of the Eastern Ganga King Narasimhadeva-I (A.D. 1238-64). There are two rows of 12 wheels on each side of the Konark sun temple. Some say the wheels represent the 24 hours in a day and others say the 12 months. The seven horses are said to symbolize the seven days of the week. Sailors once called this Sun Temple of Konarak, the Black Pagoda because it was supposed to draw ships into the shore and cause shipwrecks.
Ajanta & Ellora Caves
About 107 km from the city of Aurangabad in Maharashtra, are the rock-out caves of Ajanta nestled in a panoramic gorge, in the form of a gigantic horseshoe. A set of 29 caves, Ajanta is among the finest examples of some of the earliest Buddhist architecture, cave paintings and sculptures. These caves comprise Chaitya halls or shrines, dedicated to Lord Buddha and Viharas or monasteries, used by Buddhist monks for meditation and the study of Buddhist teachings. The paintings that adorn the walls and ceilings of the caves depict incidents from the life of lord Buddha and various Buddhist divinities. Among the most interesting paintings are the Jataka tales, illustrating diverse stories relating to the previous incarnations of the Buddha as Bodhisattava, a saintly being who is destined to become the Buddha. These elaborate sculptures and paintings stand in impressive grandeur in spite of withstanding the ravages of time. Amid the beautiful images and paintings are sculptures of Buddha, calm and serene in contemplation.
The cave temples and monasteries at Ellora, excavated out of the vertical face of an escarpment, are 26 km north of Aurangabad. Sculptors, inspired by Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism, created elaborate rock carvings. Extending in a linear arrangement, the 34 caves contain Buddhist Chaityas or halls of worship, Viharas or monasteries and Hindu and Jain temples. Spanning a period of about 600 years between the 5th and 11th century A.D., the earliest excavation here is of the Dhumar Lena (Cave 29). The most imposing excavation is, without doubt, that of the magnificent Kailasa Temple (Cave 16) which is the largest monolithic structure in the world. Known as Verul in ancient times, it has continuously attracted pilgrims through the centuries to the present day.
Jama Masjid (the mosque of Friday), Delhi is the country’s largest and perhaps its most magnificent mosque. It stands across the road from Red Fort. The great mosque of Old Delhi is the final architectural extravagance of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan with a courtyard capable of holding 25,000 devotees. The mosque measures 65m by 35m, and its court forms a square of 100m. Built in 1656, it is an eloquent reminder of the Mughal religious fervour. Its spacious courtyard holds thousands of the faithful who offer their prayers here.
It’s also known as ‘Masjid-i-Jahanuma’ or ‘Mosque commanding view of the world’. It was designed as Emperor Shahjahan’s principal mosque. A sprawling esplanade separates it from the main road.
Situated in the ancient town of Old Delhi, this monument was built by five thousand artisans. This magnificent structure stands on the Bho Jhala, one of the two hills of the old Mughal capital city of Shahjahanabad. On the east, this monument faces the Lal Quila (Red Fort) and has three gateways, four towers and two minarets. It is constructed of alternating vertical strips of red sandstone and white marble. In the three domes white marble has been used extensively and they have been inlaid with stripes of black.
It is said that Emperor Shahjahan built Jama Masjid at the cost of Rs.10 crore and it can be called as the replica of Moti Masjid in Agra. It combines the best of Hindu and Muslim styles of architecture.
Sheer poetry in marble. Majesty and magnificence, unrivalled, the Taj Mahal is the only one of its kind across the world. The monumental labour of love of a great ruler for his beloved queen. The ultimate realisation of Emperor Shahjahan’s dream. One of the wonders of the world. From 1631 A.D., it took 22 years in its making. An estimated 20,000 people worked to complete the enchanting mausoleum, on the banks of the Yamuna. For a breathtaking beautiful view of the Taj Mahal, one has to see it by moonlight.
The construction of this marble masterpiece is credited to the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan who erected this mausoleum in memory of his beloved wife, Arjumand Bano Begum, popularly known as Mumtaz Mahal, who died in A.H. 1040 (A.D. 1630). Her last wish to her husband was “to build a tomb in her memory such as the world had never seen before”. Thus emperor Shah Jahan set about building this fairytale like marvel. The construction of Taj Mahal was started in A.D. 1632 and completed at the end of 1648 A.D. For seventeen years, twenty thousand workmen are said to be employed on it daily, for their accommodation a small town, named after the deceased empress-‘Mumtazabad, now known as Taj Ganj, was built adjacent to it.
The main gate of Taj faces the Southern gate. The gateway is 151 feet by 117 feet and rises to a height of 100 feet. Tourists can enter the main compound by a small gate at the side of the main gate.