Built in the early 13th century a few kilometres south of Delhi, the red sandstone tower of Qutb Minar is 72.5 m high, tapering from 2.75 m in diameter at its peak to 14.32 m at its base, and alternating angular and rounded flutings. The surrounding archaeological area contains funerary buildings, notably the magnificent Alai-Darwaza Gate, the masterpiece of Indo-Muslim art (built in 1311), and two mosques, including the Quwwatu'l-Islam, the oldest in northern India, built of materials reused from some 20 Brahman temples.
The Red Fort Complex was built as the palace fort of Shahjahanabad – the new capital of the fifth Mughal Emperor of India, Shah Jahan. Named for its massive enclosing walls of red sandstone, it is adjacent to an older fort, the Salimgarh, built by Islam Shah Suri in 1546, with which it forms the Red Fort Complex. The private apartments consist of a row of pavilions connected by a continuous water channel, known as the Nahr-i-Behisht (Stream of Paradise). The Red Fort is considered to represent the zenith of Mughal creativity which, under the Shah Jahan, was brought to a new level of refinement. The planning of the palace is based on Islamic prototypes, but each pavilion reveals architectural elements typical of Mughal building, reflecting a fusion of Persian, Timurid and Hindu traditions The Red Fort’s innovative planning and architectural style, including the garden design, strongly influenced later buildings and gardens in Rajasthan, Delhi, Agra and further afield.
This serene, enormous red sandstone monument is dedicated to the second of India’s Mughal emperors, who lost an empire, recaptured it, and died in 1556 in an unlucky tumble down a staircase. It is a precursor to the Taj Mahal and an early example of Mughal architecture. One highlight is the pearly-white onion dome. Built in the 1560s for Humayun, the second Mughal emperor, the domed mausoleum has an elaborate garden, potted with red sandstone tombs, gates and a mosque. Built in 1570, Humayun’s Tomb is of particular cultural significance as it was the first garden-tomb on the Indian subcontinent.
An immense mausoleum of white marble, built in Agra between 1631 and 1648 by order of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favourite wife, the Taj Mahal is the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world's heritage.
With shimmering marble domes and towers reflecting in landscaped pools, the Taj Mahal is considered the world’s greatest monument to love. Cool and white by moonlight (if you are lucky to be in Agra during full moon nights), its elegant façade is at its best glowing pearlescent pink at dawn, but at any time of day this iconic building never fails to take your breath away. The Taj is inlaid with black marble and semi precious stones, on both the inside and the outside, while the entire Koran is inscribed on the exterior of the main dome. Thousands upon thousands of flowers constructed in inlaid mosaics of varied stones decorate the floors and interior walls, along with an incredible finely carved screen.
Near the gardens of the Taj Mahal stands the important 16th-century Mughal monument known as the Red Fort of Agra. This powerful fortress of red sandstone encompasses, within its 2.5-km-long enclosure walls, the imperial city of the Mughal rulers. It comprises many fairy-tale palaces, such as the Jahangir Palace and the Khas Mahal, built by Shah Jahan; audience halls, such as the Diwan-i-Khas; and two very beautiful mosques.
Built in the late 16th century by Emperor Akbar, the wealth, strength and secularism of the Mughals is at its most impressive amongst the poignant ruins of Fatehpur Sikri. The splendorous red-sandstone citadel-city stayed the capital of the Mughal Emperor for just 14-years before it was abandoned (some say due to a water shortage) to it surrounding wilderness.
Within its impregnable walls are almost completely intact buildings built in a style that combined elements of Jain, Hindu and Persian design. The stunning centrepiece is the Jama Masjid, considered even more beautiful than its counterpart in Delhi. Within it is the exquisitely carved white marble tomb of Salim Chisti, the Sufi saint. As you explore Fatehpur Sikri, (and with the services of a guide), you can get a real sense of the royal court and life in 16th century India under the Mughals.