India > Forts & Monuments > North India - Uttar Pradesh
In the year 1607 when a prince of the royal Mughal household strolled down the Meena Bazaar, accompanied by a string of fawning courtiers, he caught a glimpse of a girl hawking silk and glass beads. Five years later (in those days princes did not marry for love alone) the regal 20 yr old went to wed his 19 yr old bride. It was a fairytale union from the start, one that withstood court intrigues, battles for succession and finally, the grand coronation. And when she died on the 19th year of their marriage, he etched her story in stone. The Taj Mahal is the living symbol of the monumental passion of Shah Jahan and Arjumand Banu. Which other love story has so grand a memorial?.
Bada Ka Imambara
Built like a fort, this huge and elegant building is also called the Asafai Imambara. This building was built in a famine relief program in 1784 by Nabab Asaf-ud-Daulla. The structure took six years to be completed. Just as we enter the building there is a hall almost fifty meters long and 17 meters wide. The architecture of this 15 meter high room is very unique and unparalleled. Here the Nawabs used to hold there 'Darbar' or their public hearings. It is said that this hall is the worlds largest arched room without any pillars. The upper part of this building is in shape of honey bees comb and is surrounded by the famous 'Bhul Bhulliya'. This has got numerous steps and there are 489 doorless galleries which are similar in appearance. People get lost in these galleries. The largest of these mazed rooms and galleries has a speciality that even when a paper is torn on one of the end sit is heard on the other end. In the courtyard of Bara Imambara is the Sahi Masjid which stands tall on a platform, non muslims are not allowed here. Just besides the Sahi Masjid is the bottomless well. The BaraImambara also has the tomb of Asaf-Ud-Daulla.
Four kilometer from Agra is the mausoleum of Akbar. Construction of this beautiful monument was started by Akbar himself. This structure has a perfect blending of Hindu, Christian, Islamic, Buddhist, Jain motifs. The blending is much like Deen-e-Ilahi, a new religion started by Akbar. But Akbar died before his mausoleum could be completed and his son Jehangir completed it. But Jehangir made many modification in the original plan of the building. The structure gives an idea how the Mughal art was developing. From the Humayun's tomb in Delhi to Akbar's tomb in Sikandra which finally gave way to the Taj Mahal, all are definite stages of development of Mughal art and architecture.
Sikandra is named after Sikander Lodhi. The tomb has three-storey minarets on its corners. These minarets are built in red sandstone with stunning in lay work of marble. On the walk ways langur monkeys wait to be fed. The mausoleum is surrounded by a beautiful garden. Sikander Lodhi had built the Baradi palace in the garden. On the road from Sikandra to Agra are several tombs and also two 'Kos Minars' or mile stones.
The third Nawab of Avadh, Muhammad Ali Shah built this imposing structure in 1840. The real name of this structure is Husainabad Imambada. The interior of this magnificent building has chandeliers from Belgium, lamp shades and other decorative pieces which might have costed a fortune in those days. The decorations inside the building are ravishingly beautiful. Once a Prince from Russia said that this was the Kremlin of India.
Inside the Imambara are the tombs of Ali Shah and his mother. Enclosed in the structure is the Royal bath or the 'Sahi Hammam'. The use of marble and arches in constructing buildings on both sides of the courtyard makes one to compare the architecture with that of Taj Mahal. The Imambara also houses silver throne of Muhamad Ali Shah.
Dhamekh Stupa, Sarnath, Varanasi
Ancient Sarangnath or Sarnath also known as Mrigadava (deer park), only 8 km away from Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh. He set the great 'Wheel of Law' (Dharmachakra) in motion here, more than 2,500 years ago by revealing to the world his Eight fold path - the path to end sorrow, achieve inner peace, enlightenment and ultimate Nirvana. The region once housed 3,000 monks.
Remains of the Dharmarajika Stupa set up by Asoka; his Sarnath pillar edict and ruins of temples and monasteries and the spot where the Emperor meditated in seclusion; takes one back to the heydays of the Mauryan empire. The remains of an ancient monastery can still be seen here.
About 4 km from the main town is the residency which was started in 1780 by Asaf-ud-Daulla but was completed in 1800 during the rein of Saddat Ali. popularly known as Beli Gaurd, this building was occupied by the rebels during the first war of independence in 1857 but the building was soon recaptured by the British. But the rebels did not leave siege easily. The heavy cross firing which ensued between the rebels and British had badly damaged the structure. What ever is left of the structure has been attracting tourist and visitors in great number. The lush green grass and gardens around the Residency have developed as a picnic spot. In the night the structure is floodlit which adds to the beauty of this building.
This was the first hotel in Mussoorie. Charlieveli Hotel was only hotel in India which was under Queen Mary, who later became Queen of Britain. Since the last century till independence this hotel was very famous both in India and abroad. But, slowly Charlieveli Hotel lost its charm and in 1958 the hotel closed down to be lost in pages of history. Soon Government of India took over the hotel building and converted it into the National academy for training Indian administrative service officers. This institute is today called the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Administrative Academy. This academy is pride of Mussoorie and is a very important institute in India
Mahoba, Madhya Pradesh
Mahoba is associates with the Chandella kings who ruled over Bundelkhand between the 9th and 12th centuries. Mahoba derives its name from 'Mahotsava', which means great celebration performed by its founder Chandravarman, around 800 AD. In the next century, Mahoba became the Chandella capital in preference over Khajuraho.
This one time capital is now a small town with a population of 56,000. The town comprises three distinct areas - the old fort lying to the north of a low granite hill, the inner fort on top of the hill, and Dariba or the betel market on the south. Apart from several picturesque lakes, there are also many places of historical and archaeological interest.
Land of Lakes, the most notable feature of Mahoba is its several lakes or tanks, all of which were created by the Chandellas. The Disrapur Sagar is large, though partially silted. The Rahila Sagar was built by Rahila who ruled between 890 and 910 AD. It is the oldest tank near Mahoba and along with Suraj Kund, is the venue of the Kartiki Fair held in October. At the west of Rahila Sagar is a 9th Century granite Sun Temple. A large sandstone image of Surya, the sun god, was found by the Surya Kund. Vijay Sagar, an immense lake of considerable beauty was built by Vijayvarman (1035-1060 AD) Its deep waters are ideal for swimming and water sports. This lake has been converted into the Vijay Sagar Bird Sanctuary. The Kirat Sagar has fine ghats with granite embankments. Bundelkhand's famous Kajli Mela is held here in August. A hill of red earth provides a picturesque backdrop to the lake. On top of the hill in high esteem by Alha and Udal, the revered local heroes who gave their lives fighting Prithviraj Chauhan in 1182 AD. A roofless granite structure known as Alha's Baithak is by this lake.
The Madan Sagar, built by Mandanvarman (1129-1162 AD) is particularly beautiful for it has rocky islets containing some ruins. The famous granite Shiva temple, called Kakramath, is located here. The Kakramath temple is in the same style as the Khajuraho temples. On the nearby island of Majhari are the ruins of a Vishnu temple. The old Chandella fort, known as Qila Mismar is on the northern embankment of the lake. Within the fort are the ruins of Parmal's palace, the celebrated Maniya Devi temple a massive granite pillar known as Deewat or Alha Ki Gili and the shrine of Pir Mubarak Shah, a Muslim saint from Arabia who settled in Mahoba in 1252 AD. On the southeastern part of Gokhar Hill are 24 rockhewn images of Jain tirthankaras, with inscriptions dated 1149 AD. The Gokhar Hill, named after Guru Gorakhnath, has dramatic granite rock formations with caves and waterfalls. This spot is ideal for picnics and rock climbing. The Kalyan Sagar, associated with funeral ceremonies, is the sites for several sati memorials. Other places of interest at Mahoba incudes the Alha Udal Chowk, Bari-Chandrika Devi temple, Ram Kund, Suraj Kund and Siva temple at Katheswar.
Lal Tiba, Mussoorie
This place is highest point in Mussoorie. Lal Tibba is located in Landhour area which is the oldest inhabited place in Mussoorie. Landhour still carries style of British era. It was here that Britishers first settled. The buildings, the architecture everything tells a saga of an English past. After India gained independence many Britishers settled here. Even the name, Landhour was given by Britishers. In 1967, the municipal corporation of Mussoorie ordered a Japanese telescope which is placed on Lal Tibba. Thorough this telescope one can have a lovely view of many peaks in Himalayan range like Badrinath, Kedarnath, Banderpunch etc. Lal Tibba is considered as most beautiful place in Mussoorie.
Agra Red Fort
Built principally as a military establishment by Akbar in 1565, the red sandstone Agra fort was partially converted into a palace during Shah Jahan's time. Though the principle structure was built by Akbar many more additions were made by his grandsons. This massive fort is 2.5 km long and is considered as the predecessor of the Delhi Red fort. The colossal walls are 20 feet high and the whole fort is encircled by a fetid moat. Amar Singh gate towards the south is the only entry point in the fort. The building and structures inside the fort gives an impression of a city within the city. Many of the building inside the fort is now closed for the public. The marble pearl mosque inside the fort is one of the most stunningly beautiful mosques in India.
This structure was originally made out of wood but was later constructed in the present form by Shah Jahan. The throne room bears a clear influence of Shah Jahan style with the inlaid carvings and panels of marble with floral motifs. This hall of public hearing is the place where the Emperor heard the petitions of the public and met the officials. The hall of public hearing gives way to the Nagina mosque and the Ladies bazar where only ladies merchants were allowed to sell items to the Moghal ladies.
This was the hall of private audience. This hall was also added by Shah Jahan. This hall is divided into two rooms connected by three arches and it was here that the famous peacock throne was kept before being shifted to Delhi by Aurangzeb and finally carried away to Iran.
This exquisitely carved tower is close to the Diwan-i-Khas. It was here that Shah Jahan spent last seven years of his life imprisoned by his son Aurangzeb. The tower was considered to provide one of the best views of the Taj but today the pollution has reduced the visibility. The tower is in bad shape today but blank spaces and the empty inlay works give an idea how this building must have looked in those days.
Lakshman Jhula, Rishikesh
This suspended Iron bridge was build in 1939 and has been a major attraction among the tourists to Rishikesh. It is said that Lakshman crossed Ganga on jute ropes between the place where this bridge is built. The Ganges appears very panaromic from the bridge. One can enjoy the pictursque surroundings and the cool breeze from the river while standing on the bridge. If you feel like feeding the fish in the Ganges, take a boat and cross the river. The boat ride makes the bridge appear more gorgeous. Close to Lakshman Juhla is the Ram Jhula- this suspended bridge was recently build between Shivanand Ashram and Sawarg Ashram. It is similar to the Lakshman Jhula. Ram Juhla is also known as Shivanand Jhula.
Fatehpur Sikri, Agra
37 km from Agra is built a city predominantly in Red sandstone and is called Fatehpur Sikri. This town was built by the Mughal Emperor Akbar. He had planned this city as his capital but shortage of water compelled him to abandon the city. After this within 20 years, the capital of Mughals was shifted to Lahore. Fatehpur Sikri was built during 1571 and 1585. Today this ghost city has a population of about 30,000. This deserted city has retained the structures and due efforts of the Archeological department much of the city has been preserved as it was built.
Fatehpur Sikri is one of the finest examples of Mughal architectural splendour at its height. Though the city is in ruins, it is a place to visit if one comes to Agra. But in real terms Fatehpur Sikri is a place where one should spend some time. The sunset over the ruins is sight to cherish. Fatehpur Sikri is the best example of the culmination of Hindu and Muslim architecture. Fatehpur Sikri mosque is said to be a copy of the mosque in Mecca and has designs are derived from the Persian & Hindu architecture. Entrance to this mosque is through the Buland Darwaza which was built in Gujrat and is 54 meter high. To the north of the Mosque is the dargah of Shaikh Salim Chishti. This dargah was built in 1570. Here childless women come for blessings of the saint. Even Akbar was blessed with three sons when he came here. The lattice work in the dargah is among the finest to be found any where in India.
Palace of Jodha Bai : This palace is wrongly ascribed to Jodha Bai, the mother of Jehangir. The Hawa Mahal is a projecting room whose walls are made entirely of stone latticework. Other places to see in Fatehpur Sikri are the Birbal Bhawan, Karawan Sarai & Hiran Minar, Palace of Christian wife, Panch Mahal, the Treasury, Diwan-i-Khas, Diwan-i-am.
Chunargarh of 'Chandrakanta', the classic novel by Babu Devakinandan Khatri is 40 km from the city of Varanasi. Today the place is known as Chunar. Along one of the meander of the Ganges where the Kaimur Hills are taking a North facing are built the imposing fort of Chunar. The area is rich in sandstone and for centuries Chunar sand stone has been used. The highly polished Ashokan pillar was built from the sand stone from Chunar. History says that the place was existing in days of Vikamaditya, who had occupied the place way back in 56 BC.
The fort is attributed to the legendary Sher Shah Suri. The fort has also seen the live samadhi being taken by Bhartrihari within its premises. The Chunar fort is is protected by massive rampats which look down the flowing river and often when the river leaves the shore, the citadel overlooks a beautiful beach. From the ramparts the sunset is very beautiful to watch. Akbar once captured this fort but till the Britishers came in 1764 this fort was under the Nawabs of Avadh. The main attraction inside the fort is the Sonwa Mandap, the Sun Dial and the Huge Well.
This was built by Akbar for his favorite son Jahangir to provide him with the comfort and luxury inside the fort. This palace displays an excellent combination of Hindu and Muslim architecture. Inside the fort there are places like the private room for Shah Jahan, Khas Mahal. The room inlaid with mirrors called the Shish Mahal and was used as a dressing room by the harem. The Anguri Bagh or the grape garden was a small formal Moghal garden. The Hauz-i-Jehangri is a huge bowl which is carved out of a single stone and is kept just outside the Jahangir palace. The Amar Singh gate is the place where the Maharaja of Jodhpur in a bid to escape from the fort ran his horse over the fort wall. The stone statue of the horse has immortalized the loyal horse.
Kalinjar in the Basnda district of Uttar Pradesh has an ancient fort which rises above agricultural countryside. This mighty fort crowning a hill has been the scene of historic battles, for 'Lord of Kalinjar' was a coveted title. The origins of this stronghold are enmeshed in myths which link it to the legendary kind Bharata, as well as Lord Shiva. Historically, the fort is associated with the Chandella rulers of Bundelkhand. A polished stone at the entrance of the Neelkanth temple proclaims the Chandella lineage.
Kalinjar was a Chandella stronghold from the 9th to the 15th centuries, and strategically important till the time of the Mughals. During these centuries the fort was attacked by Mohammad Ghaznavi in 1019 and 1022 and by Qutb ud din Aibak who in 1203 defeated the last Chandela ruler Parmadideva. The Mughal emperor Humayun attacked the fort, but it was Akbar who finally conquered it in 1569. He gifted it to Birbal, one of the "nine jewels" of his court. From Birbal it passed into the hands of Chhatrasal, the legendary Bundela leader and thence to Hardev Shah of Panna before falling into British hands in 1812.
The town of Kalinjar was also encircled by ramparts pierced by four gateways. Of these three remain - Kamta Dwar, Panna Dwar and Rewa Dwar. The entrance to the fort is at the foot of the hill. To the right of the path is the Rathore Mahal, built by Akbar in 1583. The steep and stony path to the fort is marked by seven gates - the Alamgir Darwaza, Ganesh Dwar, Chauburji Darwaza, Budha Bhadra Darwaza, Hanuman Dwar, Lal Darwaza and Bara Darwaza. Fine sculpted figures lend their names to these portals.
The crest of the hill opens up to a mile long plateau where armies once assembled. In this area are the remains of the Raja and Rani Mahal, Chhatris, shrines and sati pillars. Raja Aman Singh's palace is marked by a courtyard bordered by two rows of peacock arches. The palace has been converted into a site museum by the Archaeological Survey of India. Stone relics from the site and other rare sculptures found in the fort area, including numerous Shiva images, Ganesh and other Vaishnavite deities are preserved inside the palace building.
Among places of interest within the fort are Sita Sej, a small cave with a stone bed and pillow once used by hermits; the Patal Ganga or underground Ganga which is a reservoir cut in the rock; the Pandu Kund, where water trickles from horizontal striations in the rocks; the Budha - Budhi taal, whose waters possess great healing powers believed to cure leprosy; the Gajantak Shiva image popularly known as Manduk Bhairon and Bhairvi carved on the rock face; and the Koti Tirth a large water reservoir, are among important places of pilgrimage at Kalinjar.
Kalinjar's holiest shrine is the Neelkanth's temple built by Parmardideva. The way to the shrine is marked by weathered inscriptions and marvelous carved images of shiva, Kala Bhairon, Ganesha and Hanuman.
Above the temple is the rock cut Swarga Rohan Kund. In a niche by this stands a colossal 18-armed figure of Kal Bhairav. Ornamented with a garland of skulls, this 24 ft high image represents the fearsome aspect of Lord Shiva. The Vankhandeshwar Mahdev temple at the source of the Shivasari Ganga is also of considerable importance.