Saturday, January 13, 2007

Palace on Wheels - the royal India coach

A royal journey to the royalties of India!

India has much to entertain and to look up to but the distances are huge.

What fun would it be if all through the journey, you are the king, ruling over all the luxuries of life!

That’s Palace on Wheels: one of the world`s most exciting rail journeys, in terms of facilities provided on board, and the royal destinations it proceeds to every single day.

With everything taken care of – dining, accommodation, sight seeing - as well as organized shopping, there is nothing for the traveler to do but sleep in the history of the land, soak in the colors, and experience the royal life of a King.

The tour starts from Delhi and comes back to the city after going through, in order:

à Jaisalmer à Jodhpur à Sawai Madhopur à Chittaurgarh à Udaipur à Bharatpur à Agra à Delhi

Comforts on board

à Every saloon coach is equipped with a saloon, mini-bar and kitchenette.

à Each cabin has its own toilet with shower and hot and cold running water.

à Indian or European food is served in separate dining cars.

à A panorama saloon coach with bar is waiting to be visited.

à In each saloon coach a chief steward and his assistant look after your needs.

à A public address system provides background music and is used for important announcements.

à A library is available.

à There is a first-aid room on the train; medical assistance is available at every stopping place.

à A bureau de change which also accepts travelers’ cheques is also on board the train.

The schedule of this 8-day vintage journey is as follows:

Day 1, Wednesday, Delhi

Delhi, the capital city of modern India, is known for it`s rich, valorous and exotic history. Once the fabled city of the heroes of the Mahabharata, and ruled by the Rajputs before they were displaced by foreign invaders. The tour starts in the evening with a ceremonial welcome aboard the Palace on Wheels at Delhi Cantonment.

You will be introduced to your fellow travelers. Feel free to explore your new home, and acquaint yourself with its various facilities. Relax with a drink at the bar. Dinner will be served on board the two restaurants. The train departs from Delhi at 17.45 hrs.

Day 2, Thursday, Jaipur

Arrive at 00.00 in Jaipur, the pink city, known for it`s colourful and fascinating architecture. The tour begins at Hawa Mahal or the Palace of Winds, followed by a visit to the Amber Fort, riding on canopied elephants in pomp and royal style of ancient Maharajas.

After indulging oneself in shopping at Rajasthali, the State`s Handicrafts emporium for souvenirs and crafts, an exotic and sumptuous lunch awaits you at the majestic Rambagh Palace. The home of the erstwhile rulers, The City Palace, now a museum, full of royal splendor and the amazing Jantar Mantar - Astronomical Observatory, are to be explored at leisure.

In the evening after a cultural program of enthralling dance and music, dinner is a celebration under the canopy of the star-lit skies at exotic Jai Mahal Palace. The train departs from the Pink City at 17.30 hrs.

At its center rose the seven-tiered palace of the royal family, and around it came up gardens and temples, its Astronomical Observatory and the myriads of mansions and business houses. Jaipur also offers a greats shopping experience since the city is the country`s capital as far as handicrafts go - and they include a very extensive range - as well as a major international center for the cutting and polishing of gems and stones. It also has a large number of palace hotels, and both Rambagh and Jai Mahal, which are the venues for their lunch and dinner, are intimately linked with the history of this former princely state. Rambagh, in fact, was the last palace in which the former maharaja and his glamorous Maharani, and now Rajmata or Queen Mother of Jaipur, the popular Gayatri Devi, resided. The palace not only has most of the original furnishings and artifacts, but its famous Polo Bar also has pictures of the last maharaja with English Aristocracy and other important guests.

Day 3, Friday, Jaisalmer

Arrive at 06.15 hrs at Jaisalmer. Spend the day in this isolated, but architecturally, one of the greatest Royal Bastions of the World. After a safari dinner served under the stars, at a campsite, come back to the train to resume your journey. Departure is at 23.30 hrs.

Jaisalmer was the stronghold for the Bhatti Rajputs, and a hardier race never lived. Their earlier settlement was marked by bandit, as they looted caravans at will, stealing horses, and inviting the wrath of the West Asian invaders. Over time they began to settle, and the 12th century fort with its ninety-nine bristling bastions was established on top of Trikuta hill, exactly as prophesied for these descendants of Krishna. Isolated Jaisalmer may have been, a lost city in the sands of the Thar, more mythic than real for those of who heard it, but the caravans that passed through its territories enriched the coffers of the treasury. It also kept Jaisalmer in touch with the world, for such caravans carried not merely goods but also artisans and master-craftsmen. The Maharawalas of Jaisalmer thought little of making use of their services to build the magnificent, sandstone architecture for which it has become known around the world.

Day 4, Saturday, Jodhpur

Next on the route is yet another desert kingdom, Jodhpur, where you arrive at 08.00hrs. You can spend the morning at Mehrangarh Fort that towers over the city like an eagle’s eyrie and then come downhill to lunch at Umaid Bhawan Palace, the largest art-deco residence in the world and now home to the head of the royal family, museum and luxury hotel. Departure, after unwinding and relaxing at the palace, is at 15.30 hrs.

Umaid Bhavan, the palace the Maharajas set out to build as a famine relief project, is the world’s largest private residence. It was intended to and did rival the Presidential palace coming up then in Delhi. Build by a British Architect; while the planning has incorporated the elements of the Rajput lifestyle like large county yards, for example, or a zenana wing, there is a formal western sense of symmetry and restrained sense of ornamentation.

Day 5, Sunday, Sawai Madhopur

Arrive at 04.00 hrs, steam into Sawai Madhopur, to spend the day in the wilds of Ranthambhor where your hosts are, of course, royal. Ranthambhor National Park is home to the Royal Bengal Tiger, the most majestic of the big cats, and magnificent in its agility and grace. As it moves through the underbrush, its tawny gold hide striped with black bands, merges with nature, and the jungle stands to attention.

Ranthambhor is also very picturesque. A number of lakes from the shallow lands where tiger sightings are quite common, and where herds of deer can be seen foraging, while crocodiles bask in the sun. The lofty hills ring the park, and in the distance, the ramparts of Ranthambhor fort create a dramatic silhouette. Once, this was the scene for fierce battles, and for fiery Jauhars, but all that is of the past now, though former hunting lodges such as Jogi Mahal, close to the lakes, is still retains its former grandeur and glory.

Ranthambhor is particularly well known for its tiger sightings because the undisturbed ambiance and the spreading, shallow lakes provide them the surroundings best suited to their needs, and therefore sightings by day time are quite common. Various conservationists and wildlife photographers have worked at length here to document the life cycle of the tigresses of Ranthambhor, even giving them names, so that they are now a part of the regional lore.

Since the best time to visit the park is early morning, the train arrives at 04.00 hrs, and leaves for its destination, Chittaurgarh at 11.00 hrs. Arrival at Chittaurgarh at 15.30 hrs. Chittaurgarh is India`s most valorous fort, its history an unending saga of passion, chivalry and romance. Within its sprawling ramparts were beautiful palaces, but few of them remain, the fort having been sacked by invaders. Lunch and dinner are served on board the train.

Day 6, Monday, Chittaurgarh and Udaipur

Arrive at 07.30 hrs, Chittaurgarh and Udaipur, the capitals of the Sisodia Maharanas, enjoy pre-eminence among the Rajput clans of Rajasthan. Spend the day sight seeing at Udaipur. Lunch is at Lake Palace, the beautiful island palace built as a summer resort by the royal family, and now converted into one of the world`s finest hotels. The train departs again at 20.00 hrs, and dinner will be served on board.

Maharana Udai Singh, laid the foundation for a new kingdom-Udaipur-situated by Lake Pichola, where the impressive City Palace was lavished with aesthetic and imaginative works of art, and the art of miniature painting was encouraged as decor-et-al . Subsequently, the princes built the seemingly floating Island Palace, the royal summer retreat, offering a spectacular view of the lake and surrounding mountains. Besides the Lake Palace, there are other such retreats that have been converted into modern hotels, one of them, Shiv Niwas, being run by the current head of the family. A graceful, valorous race, the Sisodias and their city bring alive the excitement of a medieval kingdom as it once was, and with a little imagination, can still almost be...

Day 7, Tuesday, Bharatpur and Agra

Arrive at 06.00 hrs at a royal kingdom where the Jats, rather than the Rajputs, ruled. Bharatpur’s Jat history is not too old, with Suraj Mal establishing a firm stronghold in a region contested by both the Rajputs and the Mughals. Suraj Mal’s exploits are legendary, and the fort, Lohargarh, or Iron Fort, has a history that recounts it with pride. The only fort in the state to have bastions of mud, these proved meritorious because they simply swallowed up the cannon shells, not allowing them to impact.

Your journey here must focus on the bird sanctuary, one of the finest in the world. The Keoladeo Ghana National Park was developed by a royal edict when dykes were created so that water could be canalized for the hunting preserve at the maharaja of Bharatpur wished to create. In the early decade of this century, Bharatpur became famous among visiting British royalty and aristocracy for the amount of game the visitors bagged. These days, thankfully, only shooting by cameras is permitted in this sanctuary with over three hundred species of birds, many of them migrant species that come from parts as distant as Siberia and China.

After visiting the sanctuary in the morning, visitors travel by couch to Fatehpur Sikri, the red sandstone city build by Emperor Akbar on a lavish scale, but which he had to abandon soon after because of shortage of water. From here to Agra, first for lunch at Welcome Group Mughal Sheraton and then for a visit to the world’s most well-known monument and well worth its fame; The Taj Mahal. Built in the memory of his beloved empress by Emperor Shah Jahan, this marble mausoleum is the greatest gesture of love known to mankind, and is breathtakingly, bewitchingly beautiful. Land for the building of the Taj Mahal in Agra came from the maharaja of Jaipur and the marble used in its construction was from the mines of Makrana, also in Rajasthan. The precious stones used in its inlay, and the craftsmen employed for the twenty-two years its construction took, came not only from India, but from all over the World.

The Taj Mahal is the perfect finale to your Royal Sojourn.

Day 8, Wednesday - Delhi

Wednesday, and you’re back in Delhi as early as 06.00 hrs where, after breakfast on board the train, you descend to the humdrum existence of modern life, with only royal memories to retain for the rest of your lifetime.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Agra- City of the Taj

Few Indian cities can match the rich historical and cultural heritage Agra boasts of. Agra is the single most famous tourist destination of India on account of its world renowned monument of love the Taj Mahal. Agra is part of the great northern Indian plains and is situated on the western bank of the river Yamuna. The environs of this city hold many glorious monuments of the Mughal era.

Agra is located at a distance of about 200 to the south of Delhi. Another city close to Agra is Mathura, about 60 kilometres away.

Agra is inextricably linked with the Mughal era starting with Akbar when he decided to build a fort and shift his capital here. In the mid 16th century and earlier 17th century Agra witnessed a spurt in building activity. The buildings were constructed in the pure Mughal style and were of very high quality. A great deal of the credit of the building activity goes to Shah Jahan, who built the Taj Mahal as a monument of love for his deceased wife Mumtaz.

Places of interest
The first place goes definitely to Taj Mahal, which is one of the most visited and most photographed monuments of the world. Its transcendent beauty has inspired artists and poets of all times ever since it was made.

The Agra Red Fort constructed by Akbar in 1565 and the Itmad-ud-Daulah’s Tomb are also worth visiting. Apart from these, the Fatepur Sikri which is 37 kilometres from Agra is also a must see. Mathura, known as the birthplace of Lord Krishna in Hindu mythology, is also located at a convenient distance of 60 kilometres.

Best times to visit
Summer months of May and June are extremely hot and the next two months are also not so pleasant due to humidity. Winters bring severe cold in December and January, but if you are used to cold climates this is a good time to travel. The ideal time would be autumn in September- October and spring in February- March.

How to reach
Agra has its own airport, besides being well connected by rail and road to the other Indian cities. You can also opt for a conducted tour or a private vehicle from Delhi, as that enables you to cover the spots including Mathura on the way at your own pace.

Where to stay
As Agra is one of the most visited places in India, there are well developed facilities for the tourists. Right from five star to budget category, you will find a wide range of hotels and restaurants.

Some nearby cities
Delhi is 200 km, Jaipur 235 km, Bharatpur 60 km, Mathura 60 km and Gwalior 120 km.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Hotels in India

No doubt India is one of the dream destinations in the world, which fascinates the tourists coming to India. India offers the best accommodation facilities to the travellers coming from all across the globe. The hotels in India are not only competitive but also luxurious and comfortable in all respects, satiating the tourists at the end of the day. The distinctive features of Indian hotels are high standard and quality accommodation catering to the needs of clients at the most reasonable rates.

The availability of Hotels in India ranges from Luxury Hotels, Standard Hotels, Budget Hotels to the Heritage Hotels In India. Not to forget is the fact, that there are also several Indian and International Hotel Chains in India offering excellent hospitality services to the business as well as discerning travellers. Throughout the entire length and the breadth of the country that is exceptionally rewarded with tourist destinations the hotels in India make your trip a memorable one.

Hotels in Agra India

The Indian city of Taj Mahal Agra is dotted with Five Star Hotels, four-star hotels, three star hotels, Government approved hotels, and other hotels. The various hotels of Agra are replete with modern day facilities. The services offered by the hotels in Agra are efficient. The luxury hotels of Agra promise you a time of your life in Agra.

Most of the Agra Hotels are located close to its landmark the Taj Mahal. The leisure travelers and tourists in Agra usually prefer hotels near Taj Mahal. For the business travelers Agra Hotels offer well-equipped business centres and meeting rooms. The government approved hotels, and other hotels of Agra cater to the accommodation needs of the budget travelers. The honeymoon hotels in Agra are heaven on Earth for the honeymooners. The Airport hotels in Agra are strategically located near the airport in Agra.

Five Star Hotels in Agra India
  • Jaypee Palace Hotel and Convention Center
  • Welcomgroup Mughal Sheraton
  • Clarks Shiraz
  • Hotel Agra Ashok
  • Hotel Taj View
  • Howard Park Plaza International
  • Hotel Amar Vilas

    Other Hotels in Agra India
  • Hotel Kant
  • Taj Khema

  • Four Star Hotels in Agra India
  • Hotel Holiday Inn
  • The Trident

    Three Star Hotels in Agra India
  • Hotel Deedar-e-Taj
  • Hotel Amar
  • Hotel Mansingh Palace

    Government Approved Hotels in Agra India
  • Hotel Amar Yatri Niwas
  • Mayur Tourist Complex
  • Monday, June 12, 2006

    Agra and the World’s Most Famous Tomb

    by: Stephan Mandl on Mar 17 2006 6:43AM in Travel

    Fatehpur Sikri is only 37 km away from Agra, so we thought the bus ride would be no problem. Far from that! We had to take a minibus, there was no other means of public transport available. Our luggage was safely stored in a separate compartment and when we got in and took our seats, we knew why: there was absolutely no space inside. Mind you, the seats were so small that even Klaudia’s knees touched the back of the front seat, and she really isn’t very tall. Stephan called it a shrunk bus and was wondering whether we were not riding on a recycled school bus. This trip was the most uncomfortable one so far, the streets inside Agra were so full of potholes that you could no longer see any tar and are a real shame for a city housing the world’s most famous building (according to our guidebook).

    Already on our way from Barathpur we had got a foretaste of this driving from the railway station to the bus stand, had disliked it then and did not like it any better today. We wanted to stay in a hotel close to the Taj Mahal and really got a room there, how exciting to sleep in the vicinity of such a famous monument, furthermore at reasonable prices. What attracted us most at the place was its lush garden, where you could sit until late in the evening if the mosquitoes did not eat you up before. One day, we met a French-speaking family there, it turned out she was French, he was Tunisian and they were living with their two kids in Cairo. We sat with them and had a long interesting chat, it is so nice to meet people of different walks of life when travelling!

    The Taj Mahal as well as the Red Fort lie by the Yamuna River, and in our typical European point of view we thought the surrounding districts to be posh, but this is India and it was not a residential area at all. Close to the Taj there was a commercial street, very busy and crowded, driving there in an auto-rickshaw was a nightmarish experience, walking even more so. Although we had arrived early in the afternoon, we did not visit the Taj Mahal the same afternoon because the sky was whitish and Stephan’s honour as a photographer would not allow the famous Taj in such a sky. Klaudia needed a rest because she was still weak and Stephan went to explore the surroundings. He walked alongside the eastern side and spotted many stone cutters, who were busy repairing the outer wall. Unlike in the South they did not use any machines for the initial stages, one could watch the guys chiselling away chunks of red sandstone until the slates were approximately flat.

    Close to the river there was a gate with a turnstile leading down to the river and a small temple with several steps leading into the water, a typical ghat where people would gather for bathing and washing the laundry. From there you already had a nice view of the backside of the Taj Mahal and following a small footpath it got even better as you approached the building. The view from there was stunning but the filth was repelling. The riverbank by the Taj Mahal was unbelievably dirty, a real shame for the city of Agra, where foreign tourists leave so much money every day. You pay the usual 250 Rupees (ca. EUR 5) which go to the Archaeological Survey of India and they really do good work with the money, the monuments are clean and the parks and gardens are nicely kept. You have to pay additional 500 Rupees as a toll tax, which go to the city of Agra and they definitely do not use the money in an appropriate way. With the sum foreign tourists pay every day, they could easily employ several guys to clean the riverside.

    Next day we were up early and went to see the Taj Mahal, we hoped for blue sky so that the photographer could take good pictures. Stephan is perfectly aware of our readers’ expectations and he was quite stressed to live up to these. In spite of the very early hour there were already many visitors around and it was practically impossible to photograph the Taj Mahal without people around or with just the person you wanted to. The beauty of the complex does not only stem from the stunning building of white marble with intricate stone inlays, but is also due to the fine Muslim garden. In the Koran the garden is repeatedly seen as a symbol of paradise, the old Persian word pairidaeza even means garden. Muslims venerate water, without which plants will not grow, this is the more understandable as Islam was born in the deserts of Arabia. The “charbagh” (= quartered garden) is typically Moghul, its idea originates in the four main rivers of paradise (water, milk, wine and purified honey). This concept was also applied in the Taj Mahal, the charbagh is separated by watercourses originating from the central pool and the quarters are furthermore divided into 16 flowerbeds, making a total of 64. It is well kept nowadays but is nothing compared with its former glory. Due to the water shortage, most of the channels remain dry and offer a rather sordid sight. The Taj Mahal is definitely a sublime building, but we have to admit that we were not as awe-struck by it as many other visitors. Maybe this due to the fact that we have seen so many wonderful buildings in India before or maybe our expectations were just too high.

    We still had plenty of time that day as we had started very early and took a bicycle-rickshaw to Agra's second famous monument, the Red Fort. It is already visible from the Taj Mahal, you can get a glimpse of the massive walls of red sandstone. There are solid fortifications with a heavy exterior gate and a still working draw-bridge, it must not have been easy to conquer it. If an aggressor managed to get through the outer gate they would have to make a right hand turn and thereby expose their flank to the defenders on the inner wall. The inner gate is a good example for the fort's defensive power and is flanked by two massive towers, but has been attractively decorated with tiles. The Red Fort covers a huge area and is endowed with the known buildings, like Hall of Public and Private Audience, you can see an interesting throne as well and a small private mosque, several towers in the bastion can be visited, in one of them the emperor even had his bedroom due to the coolness, in one of the courts we found a very nice garden with interesting display of water. The buildings were in a very good state and the stone carvings and inlay works absolutely amazing. We liked it much better than the Red Fort in Delhi, if you are short of time you can skip the Delhi monument, but do not miss the one in Agra!

    It was still early afternoon, the weather was wonderful (nice blue sky for top pictures) and we were feeling good, so we hired a taxi for the last of Agra's three great monuments, the I'timad-ud-Daulah, sometimes called "Baby Taj". The rickshaw took us to the east bank of the river, through horrible streets, once we passed a bridge so full of potholes (!) that we could hardly advance. We were glad to get off the rickshaw and to walk again, this way we felt much safer. This mausoleum is the least visited monument in Agra, though it does not deserve this nor the slightly pejorative sobriquet. It set a startling precedent as the first Moghul building (1678) to be faced with white marble inlaid with contrasting stones. Unlike the Taj, it is small, intimate and has a gentle serenity. Repair works constantly go on and we watched the inlay work being performed, really fascinating. We spent quite a long time in the nice garden and admired the exquisite stone inlays or watched kites feeding their chicks in the nest. When you are in Agra, please do not miss it, it left a strong impression on us.

    We had visited three impressive monuments that day, but we were still not tired of culture and Klaudia was again feeling fit. She was tired, though, and Stephan had to convince her to make another stop. He had in mind a romantic walk on the riverbank at the backside of the Taj Mahal. We arrived there without any problems and were there almost on our own. The light was perfect and finally Stephan could take the fabulous pictures everybody awaited. It was really marvellous though it was not as romantic as Klaudia had hoped, the riverside was too dirty and we were disturbed by a boy who absolutely wanted us to take a picture of the Taj Mahal with a camel, what a strange idea. Still we were glad to have seen the Taj Mahal from this side, too.

    So a long day ended, once again we were exhausted but we had seen beautiful buildings and were again ready for new adventures after Klaudia's illness. Agra's monuments are fantastic but we disliked the industrial, chaotic and dirty city lacking of atmosphere. Next day, we headed towards Khajuraho with several stops in between, the first one at Gwalior.

    Magical Sunrise at the Taj Mahal

    The Taj Mahal (meaning crown palace) is situated o the banks of River Yamuna in the industrial town of Agra about 200km southeast of Delhi in Uttar Pradesh. I was compelled to get up early and see the Taj Mahal at sunrise as this is the best time to see it apparently, I was not disappointed. I entered through the east gate at 6.30 am. The Taj Mahal is the resting place of Emperor Shah Jahan's second wife, Mumtaz Mahal who died during labour. The white marble building houses her tomb and is surrounded by very well kept gardens and a red sandstone perimeter wall that makes an wonderful contrast to the white marble of the Taj Mahal proper.

    To the west of the tomb is a mosque and to keep the symmetrical balance on the east is a guest house of very similar dimensions. The Emperor died in 1629 however work started on the building in 1631, being completed in 1653, the Emperor therefore did not get to see the beauty of his late wfe's tomb. 22,000 people were employed to make the building and materials imported from all over the world. The opal used comes from Belgium whilst other precious stones are from China and Italy, the clean white marble comes from Rajasthan which is very nearby. After completion some of the masons subsequently had their hands chopped off so that they could not replicate their work elsewhere! The four white towers surrounding the tomb lean slightly away from it so that if they were to ever fall they would not topple onto the tomb and destroy Mumtaz's resting place.

    Thursday, June 08, 2006

    Excursions Around Taj Mahal

    Delhi - The Capital of India

    Introduction to Delhi

    "The world is the body and Delhi its soul," wrote the poet Mirza Ghalib about the city he loved and lived in. And, as the soul is hard to describe, so is Delhi, this city with hundreds of years of history. As a political city and the capital of the country, Delhi is also an administrative unit in itself. It houses the power structure, the ministries and the parliament. And, perhaps the most special of all, it offers a variety of cultural activity of dance and music shows of the highest caliber.

    Delhi - Tourist Attractions

    Qutab Minar
    The Qutab Minar is his legacy to the city. This tower of victory is remarkable for its planning and construction, built to its great height at a time when stones were lifted manually all the way of it height of 72.5 m. A staircase inside was being used by the muezzin to climb into the minaret to call the faithful to prayer. Muslim and Hindu architecture is mixed in this complex as the remnants of all these kingdoms combine to give us brief glimpses of that time.

    On one side of the great mosque stand the remnants of 27 Hindu and Jain temples.
    And in the center of the courtyard is the Ashoka Pillar inscribed with a Sanskrit text. This is made of a special metal, which has been impervious to rust over the centuries.

    Bahai Temple

    Modern wonders have been added to the wealth of the past like the Bahai temple near Kalkaji. Made in white marble, this temple is shaped like a lotus flower. A huge hall inside offers a place for quiet thought and meditation. Its gardens provide a contrasting splash of color where groups of dahlias and roses and a variety of flowers stand like a symbol of unity of religions, just like the temple.

    Jantar Mantar

    Jantar Mantar was one of the five observatories built by great astrologer and king of Jaipur, Sawai Jai Singh. Now dysfunctional, this structure situated in the center of Delhi, creates a lot of interest in the tourists coming to Delhi.

    Tughlaqabad Fort

    Ten kilometers south of the Qutab stands the mammoth fort of Tughlaqabad built between 1320-1324 by Ghiyas-ud-din. Piles of gigantic boulders rise in stark, savage splendor. The fort was never attacked but was plundered for its building material by Mohammed Tughlaq.

    Purana Qila

    The Purana qila (fort) stands on the site of the legendary Indraprastha. Work was started in 1539 by Humayun who completed the lofty ramparts and gateways, at the center of Dinapanah, the new city. Soon Sher Shah replaced Humayun and destroyed much of his predecessor's work. He built the magnificent Qala-i-Kuhna mosque and Sher Mandal, the octagonal tower. On his return to power in 1556, Humayun used Sher Mandal as his observatory and library.

    Humayun's Tomb

    Humayun's tomb is a grand affair, built by his widow who brought 300 craftsmen from Persia for this job. This magnificent tomb in red sandstone, crowned by a glorious double-dome in marble stands on a terrace, Char Bagh-the authentic Islamic lay out for a paradise on earth. Four canals divide the garden into four sections. In the central domed chamber is Humayun's grave lying in isolated grandeur. Some less fortunate later Mughal princes are also buried here. In 1857, Bahadur shah II sought refuge in the tomb but was captured, tried and exiled.

    Red Fort

    Shahjahan added glittering monuments to Delhi.
    His city, called Shahjahanabad, is built in front of the Red Fort. Though destroyed a fair deal by the British, the fort still contains some magnificent palaces. The Diwan-i-Khas is grand in its marble columns and stone platform on which stood the Peacock Throne with its solid gold frame studded with the empire's costliest diamonds, emeralds, rubies and pearls valued at 12,037,500 pounds sterling as per Travernier's contemporary account. Diwan-i-Khas witnessed the apex of Mughal glory and its fall. Here the Persian invader Nadir Shah sat on the Mughal throne and Muhammad Shah stood in attendance. Here Shah Alam II was blinded by an Afghan chief Ghulam Qadir. 'Seat of the Shadow God' in the Diwan-i-Aam is a marvelously sculpted throne ornamented with exquisite pietra dura Italian panels depicting gorgeous birds, flowers and Orpheus playing flute to animals. These panels were removed and sold to a London Museum; retrieved and rest on the orders of Lord Curzon. The marble lotus in the Rang Mahal, crafted out of a single block of marble is a marvel. Also ingeniously crafted is the lattice screen in the royal chambers. The gardens and palaces were fed by channels of Nihir-i-bihisht (stream of Paradise) running through the royal area.

    Jama Masjid

    Outside the Red Fort the Jami Masjid dominates the landscape with its bulbous domes and twin slender minarets piercing the sky. The Chandni Chowk, cultural center of Shahjahanabad has a few mosques, notably the Sunehri Masjid from where Nadir Shah had supervised the plunder and carnage of the city. The Fatehpuri Masjid without minarets is unique in its architectural style.

    Wednesday, June 07, 2006

    Tour Packages for Agra

    Spread over an area of 120.57 sq. km in Uttar Pradesh, India, Agra is a city of historic importance and is famous as being home to one of the Seven Wonders of the World- the Taj Mahal. Former President of United States Bill Clinton on his visit to Agra remarked, "There are two groups of people in the world, one that has seen Taj Mahal in Agra and other that has not seen it. I am happy to be in the former one." You can also be one in the former group through the tour packages offered by India Tours and packages.

    Agra, the wonderful architectural city has derived its name from the forest named Agrabana; its mention is even there in India's largest epic Mahabharata. It became the center of the region under the rule of Raja Badal Shah in 1475 AD. In 1492 AD Sikander Lodi made it his new capital. There after during and after the Mughal rule, Agra remained the center of power of the new rulers. The monumental glory of this ancient city reached its zenith during the rule of Mughal rulers like Akbar, Jahangir and Shah Jahan.

    With its immense wealth of architecture, handicrafts and jewellery, Agra has secured its place on the international map. Monuments such as Agra Fort, the tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah, the Jahangiri Mahal, the Rambagh and Dayalbagh Gardens and the Chini ka Rauza are the major historic sights that you can see on the tours packages.

    Akbar's tomb in Sikandra and Fatehpur Sikri, built by Akbar are other beautiful places worth visiting near Agra. The city is also famous for its carpets, gold thread embroidery and leather shoes.

    India Tours and packages offer tour packages, tour itineraries and tours to Agra India.

    Recommended Itineraries

    Golden Triangle Tour of India
    Classical India Tour
    Palace on Wheels Tour

    Map of Taj Mahal

    Taj Mahal Map

    Tuesday, June 06, 2006

    Taj Mahal Tours

    India Wildlife Tours offers Taj Mahal Tours to India. The Taj Mahal Tours cover historic, cultural and scenic destinations across India and include a tour of the mesmerizing Taj Mahal. This beautiful marble mausoleum in Agra, in Uttar Pradesh, North India is recognized worldwide for its architectural beauty and as a symbol of eternal love.

    Our Taj Mahal Tours will leave you with many unforgettable memories of the mesmerizing Taj Mahal, in Agra, India.

    Our popular Taj Mahal Tours include the Forts and Palaces Tour on which you can see the Mughal monuments of Delhi and the majestic forts and fairytale palaces of the exotic destinations of Mandawa, Bikaner, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Bundi, Udaipur, Pushkar and Jaipur in Rajasthan. Then stop at Agra for a tour of the beautiful Taj mahal. On the North India Plus Nepal Tour, see the sights of Delhi, Jaipur and Agra, tour the exotic temples of Khajuraho and the holy city of Varanasi then proceed to Nepal where you can tour the sights of Kathmandu and visit the heirage city of Patan and the wildlife sanctuary at Chitwan.

    On the Angling and Rafting Tour in Arunachal Pradesh you can try your hand at fishing in the rivers of North Eastern India and end with a tour of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. Leave with happy memories of the fish you've caught as well as the sight of the enchanting Taj Mahal. On the world-class fishing tour, visit the streams of Kashmir where you can fish for trout and see the scenic beauty of Jammu and Kashmir before you conclude your tour with a visit to the Taj Mahal.

    India Tour Packages

    India is a land full of diversity. Indian tradition, handicrafts, monuments and artifacts are famous all over the world. India Tours and Packages takes you on a tour to all the interesting places and makes your vacation a memorable experience. For a hassle free holiday, book your hotel with India Tours and Packages. India Tours and Packages offer booking for hotels ranging from Deluxe Hotels, Five Star Hotels, Four Star Hotels to Budget / Two/ Three Star Hotels.

    Discerning travelers book for theme tours like Cultural Tour of India, Nature Tours and Packages for India, India Train Tours, Wildlife Tours and more... Tour Packages are available from Himalayas to Kanyakumari. India is a land of god fearing and religious minded people. Many Temples, Gurudwaras, Churches, Monastries and Mosques are built throughout the country since ancient era.

    Book for Pilgrimage Tours and Packages for India and get a chance of getting blessed by the Almighty God dwelling in these religious sites. India offers many tourist destinations. All the cities of India are full of wonderful sites for sightseeing. Book a tour to Agra and chance upon seeing Taj Mahal (one of the seven wonders of the world). Kancheepuram is famous for silk saris, Tea Gardens and Plantations in Darjeeling are worth visiting. India has many beautiful tourist destinations located across the length and breadth of this vast subcontinent. You can travel through India and see its historic cities, grand monuments, magnificent tombs and temples, and colorful festivals with tour packages for India, from India Tours and Packages.

    Our tour packages for India destinations, take you to fascinating tourist destinations across India. You can travel from Srinagar in the North to Kumarakom in the south, and from Puri beach in the east to Diu beach in the west. On your journey you will see the beautiful landscape and natural wonders of India. Tour packages for India show you the magical, the mystical and the exotic in India. You can see age-old temples, carved with exquisite skill. Witness customs and celebrations that remain untouched by time when you travel to India destinations. Be amazed by the coexistence of tradition and modernity in the cities of India.

    Surrender yourself to exotic India, a rainbow that colours every traveler's dream holiday. From sun-kissed beaches to misty mountains, serene vales to dreamily spread desert, India is a joy to cherish. Meander through lands steeped in chivalry and pageantry that begin before recorded history. Feel and experience the effervescent culture & heritage, the exotic places that bejewels this land so vast. Take a pilgrimage tour to the holy shrines of India that echo with tales of antiquity or let the jungle lure you to a fascinating world at a diverse array of wildlife sanctuaries and national parks....... this is the wonder that is India.