Perched atop a rocky ridge 37 km west of Agra, Fatehpur Sikri came into being four centuries ago when the Emperor Akbar, not yet 28 years old, created the first planned city in Indo-Islamic style. The city was actualised with great energy, but was completely abandoned a little more than a decade later.
In 1568, Akbar was secure and powerful but he had no son and heir. His search for blessing for the birth of a successor brought him to the Sufi mystic Sheikh Salim Chishti, who lived in Sikri village. The saint prophesied the birth of three sons and soon after was born Prince Salim, later to become Emperor Jahangir. In gratitude for the blessing Akbar decided to create imperial residences in Sikri, which would function as a joint capital with Agra.As a mark of his faith and his recent victories, he named his new city Fatehpur Sikri. Akbar was a keen builder and the plan of Fatehpur Sikri reveals an architectural mastermind at work. Research has proved that it was planned on a definite mathematical grid.Fatehpur Sikri is built in red sandstone, and is a beautiful blend of Hindu and Islamic architectural elements. The sandstone is richly ornamented with carving and fretwork. Fatehpur Sikri was abandoned 14 years after its creation. A shortage of water is believed to be the reason. Today it is a ghost city, its architecture is in a perfect state of preservation, and wandering through the palaces it is easy to imagine that this was once a royal residence and a dynamic cultural centre.
Ayodhya is a popular pilgrim centre. This town is closely associated with Lord Rama, the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu. The ancient city of Ayodhya, according to the Ramayana, was founded by Manu, the law-giver of the Hindu. For centuries, it was the capital of the descendants of the Surya dynasty of which Lord Rama was the most celebrated king. Ayodhya during ancient times was known as Kaushaldesa. It was the venue of many an event in Hindu mythology, today pre-eminently a temple town, Ayodhya is also famous for its close association with the epic Ramayana. It is a city of immense antiquity full of historical significance and sacred temples. The Atharvaveda described Ayodhya as a city built by Gods and being prosperous as paradise itself.
Perhaps no other historical monument has evoked as much awareness and admiration from tourists and travellers alike, as the magnificent Taj Mahal - fondly called by people as the ultimate requiem of love, from a great Mughal Emperor to his beloved.
So overwhelming is the exquisite beauty and presence of this marble mausoleum that centuries later today, even the very land where it has been located - Agra - has been immortalised as the City of the Taj. Yet, it doesn’t take much for the roving eye to discover that there's more to Agra than just the fabled Taj Mahal.The city is a virtual gateway to a world of discovery. Much of the city's impressive past lives in evidence even today. In the hunting presence inside the monuments, the majesty of the buildings, the exquisite arts and crafts and not to forget, the lure of an exceptional cuisine all, cherished as priceless legacies of a nostalgic past.