North India - Tourism Attraction

Taj Mahal, Agra

Picture of Taj Mahal

Agra. Where the sun dawns gently over the Taj Mahal. Where words of undying love need never spoken to be heard. Where white marble walls, fine filigree trellises and exquisite pietra-dura tell their own story.

The Taj was built in the memory of the beautiful queen Mumtaz Mahal who died in child-birth. The bereaved Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan, had no desire to live except to see a mausoleum built, as afitting tribute to her extraordinary beauty.

The finest architects were summoned and the Taj Mahal was crafted as a labor of love over 21 years. Set on the banks of the River Jamuna, the Taj rises like a lovely lyric in white marble.

Agra is far more than just the Taj. The seat of the Mughal Empire for years, its forts and mosques reflect Mughal architecture at its zenith. The Agra Fort with its massive red sandstone walls, deep moats, heavy draw-bridges and mysterious underground tunnels. Jahangirís Palace with its symmetrically planned gardens, bubbling fountains, and richly engraved work on marble is an interesting blend of Hindu and central Asian architectural styles.

 


 

Delhi

The first reference to the name Delhi seems to have been made in the 1st century BC when Raja Dhilu built the first city of Delhi near the site of the future Qutab Minar. Delhi went through many ups and downs and did not reemerge into prominence until the 12th century A.D., when it was made the capital of the ruler Prthviraja III. After his defeat later that century, the city passed into Muslim hands. Qutb-ud-Din Aybak, builder of the famous tower Qutab Minar (completed in the early 13th century), also chose Delhi as his capital.

The second city of Delhi was built by Ala-ud-Din Khalji at Siri, three miles northeast of the Qutab Minar (near what is today Hauz Khaus and the Asian Games Village).

Picture of Qutabminar

The third city of Delhi was built by Ghiyas-ud-Din Tughluq (1320-25) at Tughlakabad but had to be abandoned in favor of the old site near Qutab Minar because of a scarcity of water. The ruins of Tughlakabad are located on the present-day Delhi-Haryana border towards Faridabad.

His successor, Muhammad ibn Tughluq, extended the city farther northeast and built new forticications around it. It then became the fourth city of Delhi, under the name Jahanpanah. The new settlements were located between the old cities near the Qutab Minar and Siri Fort.

Fort in Delhi

Muhammad ibn Tughluq's successor, Firuz Shah Tughluq, abandoned this site altogether and in 1354 moved his capital farther north near the ancient site of Indraprastha. Thus, the fifth city of Delhi, Firuzabad, was founded on what is now the Firoz Shah Kotla area. Delhi was invaded and partially destroyed by Timur at the end of the 14th century, and the last of the sultan kings moved the capital to Agra.

Babur, the first Mughal ruler, reestablished Delhi as the seat of his empire in 1526. His son and successor, Humayun, built a new city on the site of the previously demolished Firuzabad and called in Din Panah. Sher Shah, who overthrew Humayun in 1540, razed Din Panah and built his capital, the Sher Shahi (the Old Fort or Purana Qilah), as the sixth city of Delhi.

Delhi once again lost importance when the Mughal emperors Akbar (1556-1605) and Jahangir (1605-1627) moved their headquarters to Fatehpur Sikri (near Agra) and Agra, respectively. The city was restored to its glory in 1638 when the son of Jahangir, Shah Jahan, laid the foundations of the seventh city of Delhi, Shahjahanabad. What was Shahjahanabad has come to be known as Old Delhi. The greater part of the city is still confined within the space of Shah Jahan's walls and several gates built during his rule -- the Kashmiri Gate, the Delhi Gate, the Turkman Gate, and the Ajmeri Gate -- still stand.

Front view of Dehli Fort

Lal Qila (Red Fort)

The largest of Old Delhi's monuments is Lal Qila, or Red Fort (daily dawn-dusk; Rs0.50), whose thick red sandstone walls, bulging with turrets and bastions, rise above a wide dry moat in the northeast corner of the original city of Shahjahanabad. The fort covers a semi-octagonal area of almost 2km, its longest walls facing the town in the west and the River Yamuna in the east. Work was started on the fort - modeled on the royal citadel in Agra - in 1639, and it was completed by 1648. It contains all the expected trappings of the centre of Moghul government: halls of public and private audience, domed and arched marble palaces, plush private apartments, a mosque, and elaborately designed gardens.

 

India Gate in Delhi


India Gate in Delhi - The Famous Monument of  IndiaAt the center of New Delhi stands the 42m high India Gate, an "Arc-de-Triomphe" like Archway in the middle of a crossroad. Almost similar to its French counterpart war memorial. It commemorates the 70,000 Indian soldiers who lost their lives fighting for the British Army during the First World War and bears the names of more than 13,516 British and Indian soldiers killed in the Northwestern Frontier in the Afghan war of 1919.

The foundation stone was laid by His Royal Highness, the Duke of Connaught in 1921 and was designed by Edwin Lutyens. The monument was dedicated to the nation 10 years later by the then Viceroy, Lord Irwin. Another memorial, Amar Jawan Jyoti was added much later, after India got its independence. It is in the form of a flame that burns day and night under the arch to remind the nation of soldiers who laid down their lives in the Indo-Pakistan War of December 1971.

The entire arch stands on a low base of red Bharatpur stone and rises in stages to a huge molding, beneath, which are inscribed Imperial sons. Above on both sides is inscribed INDIA, flanked by MCM and to the right, XIX. The shallow domed bowl at the top was intended to be filled with burning oil on anniversaries but this is rarely done.

Surrounding the imposing structure is a large expanse of lush green lawns, which is a popular picnic spot. One can see hoards of people moving about the brightly lit area and on the lawns on summer evenings.

 


Other places of interest

 

THE FORT OF AKBAR

Built by Akbar in 1564 and enlarged by the next three generations, the fort contains the Moti Masjid, Diwan-i- Am, Diwan-i-Khas, Jehangir Mahal etc. - all of which are the fine examples of the Mughal architecture.

FATEHPUR SIKRI

Palace of fatepur Sikri

24 miles south west of Agra lies the deserted sandstone city of Fatehpur Sikri, built by the Mughal Emperor Akbar in 1569 at the spot where Saint Salim Chisti, who foretold the birth of a son to the Emperor lived. To commemorate the event, Akbar shifted his Capital there and in a short span of time a complex of Forts, Palaces and Mosques sprang up. It is said that Englishmen who came to meet the Emperor at Sikri in 1583 could scarcely beleive their eyes for the glory and grandeur of the city.

Because of scarcity of water, Akbar was forced to abandon the city and Fatehpur Sikri became a ghost town. A number of graceful buldings adorn the city, the more important of which are :

 

 

JAMA MASJID

Built in 1575 and designed to hold 10,000 worshippers, the Mosque excels in symmetry and inlay designs. The Victory Gate, the Buland Darwaza, with its massive dimensions, dominates the scene.

Within the courtyard of the Mosque is the mausoleum of Saint Salim Chisti who had foretold the birth of a son of Emperor Akbar. Even today thousands of childless women, belonging to all religions, come to the tomb of this Mohamadan saint, seeking the same blessing that he bestowed upon the Emperor over 400 hundreds ago.

DIWAN-I-AM
(Hall of public audience)

More than 350 feet long, it consists of an alcove around a courtyard within which is the Hall of Judgement where Emperor Akbar sat. Behind the hall is the courtyard where the Emperor played chess using slave girls as living pieces.


Jammu Kashmir Tourism

Sonmarg
Situated at 9,000 kms. above sea level, Sonmarg is one of the smallest resorts in Kashmir, lying in the heart of a gorgeous valley carved by the river Sindh.. Also known as "Golden meadow", this place gets its name 'Son' meaning golden, from the bloom of yellow crocuses that fill this valley in the spring. It can be reached by roads, which runs through the picturesque Sind valley flanked on one side by the densely populated slopes and many varieties of alpine flowers.

A gushing river is the highlight of this meadow, flowing down from snowy heights into the dense woodlands of firs and silver birches. Glaciers pour down from this stream from the Himalayas on to the many camping sites in Sonmarg. A thick forest cover of sycamore, alpine flowers, silver birch, fir and pine, Sonamarg offers adventure in the form of treks, sledging, angling, alpine skiing and white water rafting.

Sonmarg, on the Srinagar-Leh highway is approximately 110 kms from Srinagar and the road to Sonmarg passes through the famous Jawahar tunnel. Buses and private taxis can be hired from Srinagar.

Few world famous landmarks of sonmarg are:


Sam Sand Dunes- Jaisalmer, Rajasthan.

Welcome to the world of the Thar Desert, the land of Sam Sand Dunes, of adventure and rugged expeditions! Explore the undisturbed beauty, the rich culture and the picturesque sand dunes!

Any trip to Jaisalmer is indeed, incomplete, without a trip to the most panoramic dunes of Sam where the wind is unceasingly carving out scenic patterns, on the sand!

The dunes touched by the wind, and therefore becoming as it were wrinkled, create a mystical picture, a challenge to every trigger-happy photographer or filmmaker. Nevertheless, you need a little bit of luck with the clouds, that means no clouds at all. The best point of time is of course is sunrise or sunset.


Ajanta caves, Aurangabad

The state of Maharashtra is blessed with a rich heritage of ancient monuments and exquisite architectural marvels representing different phases of development in the art and architectural style. The prime rock-cut architectural examples of the cave temples that are spread all over the state are the caves of Ajanta and Ellora.

Ajanta caves including the unfinished ones are thirty in number; of which five - 9, 10, 19, 26 and 29 are 'Chaitya-Grihas' and the rest are 'Sangharamas' or 'Viharas' (monasteries). After centuries of oblivion, these caves of Ajanta were discovered in AD 1819. They fall into two distinct phases with a break of nearly four centuries between them. All the caves of the earlier phase date between 2nd century BC - AD.

Ajanta caves of the second phase were excavated during the supremacy of the Vakatakas and Guptas. According to inscriptions, Varahadeva, the minister of the Vakataka king, Harishena (c. 475-500 AD), dedicated Cave 16 to the Buddhist Sangha while Cave 17 was the gift of the prince, a feudatory. An inscription records that - Buddha image in Cave 4 was the gift of some Abhayanandi who hailed from Mathura.

A few paintings, which survive on the walls of Caves 9, and 10 go back to the 2nd century BC-AD. The second group of the Ajanta cave paintings started in about the 5th century AD and continued for the next two centuries as, noticeable in later caves. The themes are intensely religious in tone and centre round Buddha, Bodhisattvas, incidents from the life of Buddha and the 'Jatakas'. Ajanta cave paintings are executed on a ground of mud-plaster in the tempera technique.

 

Ellora caves, Aurangabad

The magnificent group of rock-cut shrines of Ellora, representing three different faiths, Buddhist, Brahmanical and Jaina were excavated during the period from 5th to the 13th century AD. Ellora Buddhist Caves (1 to 12) were excavated between the 5th and the 7th centuries AD, when the Mahayana sects were flourishing in the region. Important in this group are Caves 5, 10 and 12.

Cave 10 is a Chaitya-hall and is popularly known as 'Visvakarma'. It has a highly ornamental facade provided with a gallery and in the Chaitya-hall is a beautiful image of Buddha set on a Stupa. Among the Viharas, Cave 5 is the largest. The most impressive Vihara is the three - storeyed cave called 'Tin - Tala'. It has a large open-court in front which provides access to the huge monastery. The uppermost storey contains sculptures of Buddha.

The Brahmanical caves of Ellora numbering 13 to 29 are mostly Saivite. Kailasha (Cave 16) is a remarkable example of rock-cut temples in India on account of its striking proportion, elaborate workmanship architectural content and sculptural ornamentation. The whole temple consists of a shrine with Linga at the rear of the hall with Dravidian Shikhara, a flat-roofed Mandapa supported by sixteen pillars, a separate porch for Nandi surrounded by an open-court entered through a low Gopura. There are two 'Dhvajastambhas', or pillars with the flagstaff, in the courtyard. The grand sculpture of Ravana attempting to lift mount Kailasha, the abode of Siva, with his full might is a landmark in Indian art.

The Jaina Caves (30 to 34) are massive, well-proportioned, decorated and mark the last phase of the activity at Ellora.


Gateway of India, Mumbai

The Grand and Magnificent Landmark Of Mumbai
Mumbai's principal landmark, the Gateway of India is a huge archway on the water's edge at Apollo Bunder. It is the starting point for most tourists who want to explore the city. This famous Indian monument was built to commemorate the visit of the first ever British Monarch, King George V and Queen Mary in 1911.

The Gateway of India was built by the British and designed by the architect George Wittet. The first stone was laid by the then Governor of Bombay on March 31st, 1913. The Gate was formally opened in 1924.

It is 26m high structures, complete with four turrets and intricate latticework carved into the yellow basalt stone. Ironically, when the British Raj ended in 1947, this colonial symbol also became a sort of epitaph: the last of the British ships that set sail for England left from the Gateway.

A Major Sightseeing Hangout - Gateway of India, Mumbai
Behind the arch, there are steps leading down to the water. Here, one can get onto one of the bobbing little motor launches, for a short cruise through Mumbai's splendid natural harbour. One can buy tickets for a short cruise on the motor launches from here.

Near the Gateway of India is Taj Mahal Hotel, one of the most famous and luxurious hotels in India. Close by are the statues of the Maratha leader Shivaji astride his horse and of Swami Vivekananda, that add to the charm of this Indian monument