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Visit the Taj Mahal – the greatest love story ever told. On the death of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal, in wild extravagance, Shahjehan built her this memorial. 20,000 men laboured for over 17 years to build this wealth of white marble and precious stone. Visit Agra Fort – behind its forbidding red sandstone battlements lie palaces that tell the story of the Moghul Empire. The most impressive part of the Fort are the Dewan-e-Am, where the Emperor sat on his throne to dispense to his subjects, and the Dewan-e-Khas where he received foreign dignitaries. Visit the tomb ofItmad-ud-Daulah, father of Queen Nur Jehan – a two-storied tomb bearing mosaics in inlaid semi-precious stones.
Visit the Taj Mahal at dawn when it emerges from the night ahead of the sun whose first pale rays make it appear as it were moving. (2 hours)
Fatehpur Sikri – 37 kms. west of Agra lies the ghost city of Fatehpur Sikri – an epic poem in red sandstone, built by Emperor Akbar the Great in 1569 and deserted 14 years later because its water supply failed. Its glorious courtyards and palaces conjure up dreams of the mysterious past. Buland Darwaza, the victory gate looms 134 feet high. There’s the imperial Jami Masjid, the tomb of Shaik Salim Chisti who predicted the birth of Akbar’s son Jehangir, the Panch Mahal, a strange building which resembles a Buddhist Temple, a cloistered courtyard which was the Hall of Public Audience, and the Pachchisi paved with black and white where the Emperor played chess using slave girls as figurines. (Duration 4 hrs.)
City tour of Agra plus Fatehpur Sikri – 12 hours duration for pax visiting Agra on day return excursion from Delhi to Agra by train.
Sikandra – 8 kms. north of Agra lies Sikandra, the site of the tomb of Akbar. The emperor’s mausoleum lies inside a huge garden. The slim minarets of the imposing gateway sprout from a wealth of Moghul inlay work in stone. Each floor of the four-storied mausoleum is a series of arcades, tapering to a marble cloister which seems to float on the top. Legend says that the pedestal in the tomb chamber once supported the Kohinoor diamond (Full day city tour of Agra plus Sikandra – 8 hrs)
Mathura is one of the oldest cities of India and revered by Hindu pilgrims as it is the birthplace of Lord Krishna. Its history can be traced back even before 325 BC. Visit the bathing ghats and temples. Mathura is 60 kms. from Agra. Duration of sightseeing: 10 hrs
Visit the Mathura Museum which contains artistic wealth left behind by foreign conquerors, including the Parthians and the Greeks. Mathura sculpture started in the first century AD and lasted for the startling period of 1,200 years. The museum has an excellent collection of some of these ancient sculptures & carvings.
Varanasi’s antiquity, like its spirituality, is shrouded in immortal time. Puranic and other ancient literature dates its existence to at least 3,000 years ago. Life in the Varanasi of today revolves around the ghats along the River Ganges where the bulk of the temples are located. From dawn to dusk a steady stream of devotees perform rituals. Every devout Hindu’s ambition is to visit Varanasi once in a lifetime and to bathe in the sacred river Ganges. For several thousand years, pilgrims have cleansed themselves of their sins here and sought release from the cycle of rebirth. The town itself is a maze of small streets and alleyways, hiding in disorderly array not less than a thousand temples and shrines. Hinduism, deep and mystical, is everywhere. In a decorated doorway, in a glimpse of a glittering temple, in the sound of a sacred bell, in the chant of the priests and the fragrance of flower offerings. This is Varanasi – the city that is a prayer.
Boatride on the holy river Ganges – (2 1/2 hours) Over three miles in length, steps lead down from a steep bank to the sacred river. The time to see the ghats is early dawn when out of the morning mist, forms descend the steps, their numbers increasing by the minute until a solemn silent multitude, lit by the sun’s first rays, moves in the same direction to immerse itself in the holy stream and to salute the sun. These rituals remind one of the nature worship prevalent in India during the Aryan age, 3,000 years ago. The ghats extend to almost four miles of riverbank. During this particular sightseeing no monuments are visited. See theBathing Ghats, Cremation Ghats, The Gyanvapi Mosque built in the 17th century when the fanatical Emperor Aurangazeb pulled down the original Vishwanath Golden Temple and on its site raised a mosque. After the boatride visit the Golden Temple and walk through the narrow lanes of Varanasi.
Sightseeing of Varanasi – (3 hours) During the 30 km. drive you will see the Bharat Mata Temple, dedicated to Mother India, which, instead of gods and goddesses, houses a relief map of India carved out of marble.. Emperor Aurangazeb’s Mosque built in the 17th century on the site of a Hindu Temple. The rear of the mosque reveals specimens of the ancient temple art of India. Vishwanath Temple (Golden Temple) erected by Rani Ahalyabai Holkar of Indore in 1776. The shikharas of the temple are gold plated. Visit Varanasi Hindu University, a great seat of oriental learning. It started as a centre of education in Sanskrit, Indian art, culture and music. Visit the Durga (Goddess of Power) Temple popularly known as the Monkey Temple because of hundreds of monkeys in the courtyard
Sarnath – 10 kms. from Varanasi – (3 hours) The Buddha preached his first sermon to five disciples at the Deer Park here, enshrining the principals of his teaching into laws. The Dhamek Stupa marks the location of a once resplendent monastery. A large complex of ruined monasteries cover the area north of the stupas. Some of the buildings belong to the Kushan and Gupta period. The first monk communities probably settled here in the 3rd century BC. Near the Dhamek Stupa is a new monastery built by the Buddhist Mahabodhi Society. The major events of Buddha’s life are depicted here in wall paintings by a Japanese artist. Sarnath has an interesting archaeological museum which has preserved the famous Sarnath pillar whose capital forms India’s national emblem. Visit the Dhamekh Stupa and Mulgandkuti Vihar.