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Akbar's Tomb, Agra

Agra Ashok Hotel, Taj View Hotel, Mughal Sheraton, Novotel Agra. At Sikandra, 10 km north-west of Agra, the tomb of Akbar lies in the center of a large peaceful garden. Akbar started its construction himself but it was completed by his son, Jehangir, who significantly modified the original plans, which accounts for the some what cluttered architectural lines of the tomb.

The building has three-storey minarets at each corner and is built of red sandstone inlaid with white marble polygonal patterns. Four red sandstone gates lead to the tomb complex: one is Muslim, one Hindu, one Christian, and one is Akbar's patent mixture. Like Humayun's Tomb in Delhi, it is an interesting place to study the gradual evolution in design that culminated in the Taj Mahal.

Taj Mahal, Agra

Taj Mahal stands on the bank of river Yamuna. Taj Mahal means "Crown Palace" built for love and is in fact the most well preserved and architecturally beautiful tomb in the world. It is one of the seven wonders of the world. It was built by the fifth Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan in 1631 in memory of his second wife, Mumtaz Mahal, a Muslim Persian princess. She died while accompanying her husband in Burhanpur in a campaign to crush a rebellion after giving birth to their 14th child. The death so crushed the emperor that all his hair and beard were said to have grown snow white in a few months.

When Mumtaz Mahal was still alive, she extracted four promises from the emperor: first, that he build the Taj; second, that he should marry again; third, that he be kind to their children; and fourth, that he visit the tomb on her death anniversary. He kept the first and second promises. Construction began in 1631 and was completed in 22 years. Twenty thousand people were employed to work on it. It was designed by the Iranian architect Istad Usa and it is best appreciated when the architecture and its adornments are linked to the passion that inspired it. It is a "symbol of eternal love".

The Taj Mahal is situated more than 900 ft. (275 m.) away from the entrance at the opposite end of the garden. The path is divided by a long watercourse in which the Taj is beautifully reflected.

The dome is made of white marble, but the tomb is set against the plain across the river and it is this background that works its magic of colors that, through their reflection, change the view of the Taj. The colors change at different hours of the day and during different seasons. Like a jewel, the Taj sparkles in moonlight when the semi-precious stones inlaid into the white marble on the main mausoleum catch the glow of the moon. The Taj is pinkish in the morning, milky white in the evening and golden when the moon shines. These changes, they say, depict the different moods of woman.

The marble mausoleum is square in plan with chamfered corners. Each facade of the tomb is composed of a grand iwan framed by bands of calligraphy. The doorways inside these iwans are also adorned with calligraphy. The iwan is flanked on both sides by small double arches one over the other. They are rectangular while the arched alcoves of equal size at the angles of the tomb are semi-octagonal. Each section in the facade is well demarked on both sides by attached pilasters which rising from the plinth level of the tomb rise above the frieze and are crowned by beautiful pinnacles with lotus buds and finials. The pinnacles ornament the superstructure and help along with the other features to break the skyline gracefully.

In the spring the flowerbeds of the paths are a profusion of color. To the west is a small museum housing original architectural drawings of the Taj, arms, miniatures and some examples of celadon plates said to split into pieces or change color if the food served on them contained poison.


Dashavatar Temple : This fine Gupta temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu is the earliest known Panchayatan temple in north India. The terraced basement above the high plinth is decorated with sculpted panels. The figures of Ganga and Yamuna adorn the carved doorway leading to the sanctum sanctorum. Only the lower portion remains of the spire, which was the most important part of the temple. Jain Temples: These 31 Jain temples are somewhat later in origin than the Vishnu temple, but are no less remarkable. They are situated inside the fort of Karnali on the hills overlooking the Betwa. The temples abound in panels depicting scenes from Jain mythology, Tirthankara images, votive pillars, votive tablets, Jain images visible from all sides and pillars carved with a thousand Jin figures.

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