The Taj Mahal Hindi: ताज महल; Persian/Urdu: تاج محل

The Taj Mahal Hindi: ताज महल; Persian/Urdu: تاج محل is a mausoleum located in Agra, India, built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal.

The Taj Mahal (also 'the Taj') is considered the finest example of Mughal architecture, a style that combines elements from Persian, Ottoman, Indian, and Islamic architectural styles. In 1983, the Taj Mahal became a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was cited as 'the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world's heritage.'

While the white domed marble mausoleum is its most familiar component, the Taj Mahal is actually an integrated complex of structures. Building began around 1632 and was completed around 1653, and employed thousands of artisans and craftsmen. The Persian architect, Ustad Ahmad Lahauri is generally considered to be the principal designer of the Taj Mahal.

Origin and inspiration

In 1631, Shah Jahan, emperor during the Mughal empire's period of greatest prosperity, was griefstricken when his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal, died during the birth of their fourteenth child, Gauhara Begum. In her dying breath, Mumtaz Mahal urged Shah Jahan to build a mausoleum for her that the world has never seen before. Shah Jahan granted his wife's wish, and construction of the Taj Mahal began in 1632, one year after her death. The court chronicles of Shah Jahan's grief illustrates the love story traditionally held as an inspiration for Taj Mahal. The construction of Taj Mahal begun soon after Mumtaz's death with the principal mausoleum completed in 1648. The surrounding buildings and garden were finished five years later. Emperor Shah Jahan himself described the Taj in these words:

Should guilty seek asylum here,
Like one pardoned, he becomes free from sin.
Should a sinner make his way to this mansion,
All his past sins are to be washed away.
The sight of this mansion creates sorrowing sighs;
And the sun and the moon shed tears from their eyes.
In this world this edifice has been made;
To display thereby the creator's glory.

Tomb of Humayun shares architectural similarities with the Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal incorporates and expands on design traditions of Persian and earlier Mughal architecture. Specific inspiration came from successful Timurid and Mughal buildings including the Gur-e Amir (the tomb of Timur, progenitor of the Mughal dynasty, in Samarkand), Humayun's Tomb, Itmad-Ud-Daulah's Tomb (sometimes called the Baby Taj), and Shah Jahan's own Jama Masjid in Delhi. While earlier Mughal buildings were primarily constructed of red sandstone, Shah Jahan promoted the use of white marble inlaid with semi-precious stones, and buildings under his patronage reached new levels of refinement.

Architecture

The tomb

The focus of the Taj Mahal is the white marble tomb, which stands on a square plinth consisting of a symmetrical building with an iwan, an arch-shaped doorway, topped by a large dome. Like most Mughal tombs, basic elements are Persian in origin.

The base structure is a large, multi-chambered structure. The base is essentially a cube with chamfered edges and is roughly 55 meters on each side (see floor plan, right). On the long sides, a massive pishtaq, or vaulted archway, frames the iwan with a similar arch-shaped balcony.

On either side of the main arch, additional pishtaqs are stacked above and below. This motif of stacked pishtaqs is replicated on chamfered corner areas as well. The design is completely symmetrical on all sides of the building. Four minarets, one at each corner of the plinth, facing the chamfered corners, frame the tomb. The main chamber houses the false sarcophagi of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan; their actual graves are at a lower level.

The marble dome that surmounts the tomb is its most spectacular feature. Its height is about the same size as the base of the building, about 35 meters, and is accentuated as it sits on a cylindrical 'drum' of about 7 metres high. Because of its shape, the dome is often called an onion dome (also called an amrud or guava dome). The top is decorated with a lotus design, which serves to accentuate its height as well. The shape of the dome is emphasised by four smaller domed chattris (kiosks) placed at its corners. The chattri domes replicate the onion shape of the main dome. Their columned bases open through the roof of the tomb and provide light to the interior. Tall decorative spires (guldastas) extend from edges of base walls, and provide visual emphasis to the height of the dome. The lotus motif is repeated on both the chattris and guldastas. The dome and chattris are topped by a gilded finial, which mixes traditional Persian and Hindu decorative elements.

The main dome is crowned by a gilded spire or finial. The finial, made of gold until the early 1800s, is now made of bronze. The finial provides a clear example of integration of traditional Persian and Hindu decorative elements. The finial is topped by a moon, a typical Islamic motif, whose horns point heavenward. Because of its placement on the main spire, the horns of moon and finial point combine to create a trident shape, reminiscent of traditional Hindu symbols of Shiva.

At the corners of the plinth stand minarets, the four large towers each more than 40 meters tall. The minarets display the Taj Mahal's penchant for symmetry. These towers are designed as working minarets, a traditional element of mosques as a place for a muezzin to call the Islamic faithful to prayer. Each minaret is effectively divided into three equal parts by two working balconies that ring the tower. At the top of the tower is a final balcony surmounted by a chattri that mirrors the design of those on the tomb. The minaret chattris share the same finishing touches, a lotus design topped by a gilded finial. Each of the minarets were constructed slightly outside of the plinth, so that in the event of collapse, a typical occurrence with many such tall constructions of the period, the material from the towers would tend to fall away from the tomb.

Exterior decoration

The exterior decorations of the Taj Mahal are among the finest to be found in Mughal architecture. As the surface area changes, a large pishtaq has more area than a smaller one, and the decorations are refined proportionally. The decorative elements were created by applying paint or stucco, or by stone inlays or carvings. In line with the Islamic prohibition against the use of anthropomorphic forms, the decorative elements can be grouped into either calligraphy, abstract forms or vegetative motifs.

The calligraphy found in Taj Mahal are of florid thuluth script, created by Persian calligrapher Amanat Khan, who signed several of the panels. The calligraphy is made by jasper inlaid in white marble panels, and the work found on the marble cenotaphs in the tomb is extremely detailed and delicate. Higher panels are written slightly larger to reduce the skewing effect when viewing from below. Throughout the complex, passages from the Qur'an are used as decorative elements. Recent scholarship suggests that Amanat Khan chose the passages as well. The texts refer to themes of judgment and include:

Surah 91 - The Sun
Surah 112 - The Purity of Faith
Surah 89 - Daybreak
Surah 93 - Morning Light
Surah 95 - The Fig
Surah 94 - The Solace
Surah 36 - Ya Sin
Surah 81 - The Folding Up
Surah 82 - The Cleaving Asunder
Surah 84 - The Rending Asunder
Surah 98 - The Evidence
Surah 67 - Dominion
Surah 48 - Victory
Surah 77 - Those Sent Forth
Surah 39 - The Crowds

As one enters through Taj Mahal Gate, the calligraphy reads 'O Soul, thou art at rest. Return to the Lord at peace with Him, and He at peace with you.'

Abstract forms are used especially in the plinth, minarets, gateway, mosque, jawab, and to a lesser extent, on the surfaces of the tomb. The domes and vaults of sandstone buildings are worked with tracery of incised painting to create elaborate geometric forms. On most joining areas, herringbone inlays define the space between adjoining elements. White inlays are used in sandstone buildings and dark or black inlays on the white marbles. Mortared areas of marble buildings have been stained or painted dark and thus creating a geometric patterns of considerable complexity. Floors and walkways use contrasting tiles or blocks in tessellation patterns.

Vegetative motifs are found at the lower walls of the tomb. They are white marble dados that have been sculpted with realistic bas relief depictions of flowers and vines. The marble has been polished to emphasise the exquisite detailing of these carvings. The dado frames and archway spandrels have been decorated with pietra dura inlays of highly stylised, almost geometric vines, flowers and fruits. The inlay stones are yellow marble, jasper and jade, leveled and polished to the surface of the walls.

Interior decoration

The interior chamber of the Taj Mahal steps far beyond traditional decorative elements. Here the inlay work is not pietra dura, but lapidary of precious and semiprecious gemstones. The inner chamber is an octagon with the design allowing for entry from each face, though only the south garden-facing door is used. The interior walls are about 25 metres high and topped by a 'false' interior dome decorated with a sun motif. Eight pishtaq arches define the space at ground level. As with the exterior, each lower pishtaq is crowned by a second pishtaq about midway up the wall. The four central upper arches form balconies or viewing areas and each balcony's exterior window has an intricate screen or jali cut from marble. In addition to the light from the balcony screens, light enters through roof openings covered by chattris at the corners. Each chamber wall has been highly decorated with dado bas relief, intricate lapidary inlay and refined calligraphy panels, reflecting in miniature detail the design elements seen throughout the exterior of the complex. The octagonal marble screen or jali which borders the cenotaphs is made from eight marble panels. Each panel has been carved through with intricate pierce work. The remaining surfaces have been inlaid with semiprecious stones in extremely delicate detail, forming twining vines, fruits and flowers.

Muslim tradition forbids elaborate decoration of graves and hence Mumtaz and Shah Jahan are laid in a relatively plain crypt beneath the inner chamber with their faces turned right and towards Mecca. Mumtaz Mahal's cenotaph is placed at the precise center of the inner chamber with a rectangular marble base of 1.5 meters by 2.5 meters. Both the base and casket are elaborately inlaid with precious and semiprecious gems. Calligraphic inscriptions on the casket identify and praise Mumtaz. On the lid of the casket is a raised rectangular lozenge meant to suggest a writing tablet. Shah Jahan's cenotaph is beside Mumtaz's to the western side. It is the only visible asymmetric element in the entire complex. His cenotaph is bigger than his wife's, but reflects the same elements: a larger casket on slightly taller base, again decorated with astonishing precision with lapidary and calligraphy that identifies Shah Jahan. On the lid of this casket is a traditional sculpture of a small pen box. The pen box and writing tablet were traditional Mughal funerary icons decorating men's and women's caskets respectively. Ninety Nine Names of God are to be found as calligraphic inscriptions on the sides of the actual tomb of Mumtaz Mahal, in the crypt including 'O Noble, O Magnificent, O Majestic, O Unique, O Eternal, O Glorious.. '. The tomb of Shah Jahan bears a calligraphic inscription that reads; 'He traveled from this world to the banquet-hall of Eternity on the night of the twenty-sixth of the month of Rajab, in the year 1076 Hijri.'

The garden

The complex is set around a large 300-meter square charbagh, a Mughal garden. The garden uses raised pathways that divide each of the four quarters of the garden into 16 sunken parterres or flowerbeds. A raised marble water tank at the center of the garden, halfway between the tomb and gateway, with a reflecting pool on North-South axis reflects the image of the Taj Mahal. Elsewhere, the garden is laid out with avenues of trees and fountains. The raised marble water tank is called al Hawd al-Kawthar, in reference to 'Tank of Abundance' promised to Muhammad. The charbagh garden, a design inspired by Persian gardens, was introduced to India by the first Mughal emperor Babur. It symbolizes four flowing rivers of Paradise and reflects the gardens of Paradise derived from the Persian paridaeza, meaning 'walled garden'. In mystic Islamic texts of Mughal period, paradise is described as an ideal garden of abundance with four rivers flowing from a central spring or mountain, separating the garden into north, west, south and east.

Most Mughal charbaghs are rectangular with a tomb or pavilion in the center. The Taj Mahal garden is unusual in that the main element, the tomb, instead is located at the end of the garden. With the discovery of Mahtab Bagh or 'Moonlight Garden' on the other side of the Yamuna, Archaeological Survey of India interprets that the Yamuna itself was incorporated into the garden's design and was meant to be seen as one of the rivers of Paradise. The similarity in layout of the garden and its architectural features such as fountains, brick and marble walkways, and geometric brick-lined flowerbeds with Shalimar's suggest that the garden may have been designed by the same engineer, Ali Mardan. Early accounts of the garden describe its profusion of vegetation, including roses, daffodils, and fruit trees in abundance. As the Mughal Empire declined, the tending of the garden declined as well. When the British took over the management of Taj Mahal, they changed the landscaping to resemble that of lawns of London.

Outlying buildings

The Great gate (Darwaza-i rauza) - gateway to the Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal complex is bounded by crenellated red sandstone walls on three sides with river-facing side open. Outside these walls are several additional mausoleums, including those of Shah Jahan's other wives, and a larger tomb for Mumtaz's favorite servant. These structures, composed primarily of red sandstone, are typical of the smaller Mughal tombs of the era. The garden-facing inner sides of the wall are fronted by columned arcades, a feature typical of Hindu temples later incorporated into Mughal mosques. The wall is interspersed with domed kiosks (chattris), and small buildings that may have been viewing areas or watch towers like the Music House, which is now used as a museum.

The main gateway (darwaza) is a monumental structure built primarily of marble and is reminiscent of Mughal architecture of earlier emperors. Its archways mirror the shape of tomb's archways, and its pishtaq arches incorporate calligraphy that decorates the tomb. It utilizes bas-relief and pietra dura (inlaid) decorations with floral motifs. The vaulted ceilings and walls have elaborate geometric designs, like those found in the other sandstone buildings of the complex.
Taj Mahal mosque or masjid

At the far end of the complex, there are two grand red sandstone buildings that are open to the sides of the tomb. Their backs parallel western and eastern walls, and these two buildings are precise mirror images of each other. The western building is a mosque and its opposite is the jawab (answer) whose primary purpose was architectural balance and may have been used as a guesthouse. The distinctions between these two buildings include the lack of mihrab, a niche in a mosque's wall facing Mecca, in the jawab and that the floors of jawab have a geometric design, while the mosque floor was laid with outlines of 569 prayer rugs in black marble. The mosque's basic design is similar to others built by Shah Jahan, particularly to his Masjid-Jahan Numa, or Jama Masjid of Delhi, a long hall surmounted by three domes. The Mughal mosques of this period divide the sanctuary hall into three areas with a main sanctuary and slightly smaller sanctuaries on either side. At the Taj Mahal, each sanctuary opens onto an enormous vaulting dome. These outlying buildings were completed in 1643.

Construction

The Taj Mahal was built on a parcel of land to the south of the walled city of Agra. Shah Jahan presented Maharajah Jai Singh with a large palace in the center of Agra in exchange for the land. An area of roughly three acres was excavated, filled with dirt to reduce seepage and leveled at 50 meters above riverbank. In the tomb area, wells were dug and filled with stone and rubble as the footings of the tomb. Instead of lashed bamboo, workmen constructed a colossal brick scaffold that mirrored the tomb. The scaffold was so enormous that foremen estimated it would take years to dismantle. According to the legend, Shah Jahan decreed that anyone could keep the bricks taken from the scaffold, and thus it was dismantled by peasants overnight. A fifteen kilometer tamped-earth ramp was built to transport marble and materials to the construction site. Teams of twenty or thirty oxen were strained to pull blocks on specially constructed wagons. An elaborate post-and-beam pulley system was used to raise the blocks into desired position. Water was drawn from the river by a series of purs, an animal-powered rope and bucket mechanism, into a large storage tank and raised to large distribution tank. It was passed into three subsidiary tanks, from which it was piped to the complex.

The plinth and tomb took roughly 12 years to complete. The remaining parts of the complex took an additional 10 years and were completed in order of minarets, mosque and jawab and gateway. Since the complex was built in stages, discrepancies exist in completion dates due to differing opinions on 'completion'. For example, the mausoleum itself was essentially complete by 1643, but work continued on the rest of the complex. Estimates of the cost of the construction of Taj Mahal vary due to difficulties in estimating construction costs across time. The total cost of construction has been estimated to be about 32 million Rupees at that time which now runs into trillions of Dollars if converted to present currency rates.

The Taj Mahal was constructed using materials from all over India and Asia. Over 1,000 elephants were used to transport building materials during the construction. The translucent white marble was brought from Rajasthan, the jasper from Punjab, jade and crystal from China. The turquoise was from Tibet and the Lapis lazuli from Afghanistan, while the sapphire came from Sri Lanka and the carnelian from Arabia. In all, twenty eight types of precious and semi-precious stones were inlaid into the white marble.

A labour force of twenty thousand workers was recruited across northern India. Sculptors from Bukhara, calligraphers from Syria and Persia, inlayers from southern India, stonecutters from Baluchistan, a specialist in building turrets, another who carved only marble flowers were part of the thirty-seven men who formed the creative unit. Some of the builders involved in construction of Taj Mahal are:

* The main dome was designed by Ismail Afandi (a.ka. Ismail Khan), of the Ottoman Empire and was considered as a premier designer of hemispheres and domes.
* Ustad Isa of Persia (Iran) and Isa Muhammad Effendi of Persia (Iran), trained by Koca Mimar Sinan Agha of Ottoman Empire, are frequently credited with a key role in the architectural design, but there is little evidence to support this claim.
* 'Puru' from Benarus, Persia (Iran) has been mentioned as a supervising architect.
* Qazim Khan, a native of Lahore, cast the solid gold finial.
* Chiranjilal, a lapidary from Delhi, was chosen as the chief sculptor and mosaicist.
* Amanat Khan from Shiraz, Iran was the chief calligrapher. His name has been inscribed at the end of the inscription on the Taj Mahal gateway.
* Muhammad Hanif was a supervisor of masons and Mir Abdul Karim and Mukkarimat Khan of Shiraz, Iran (Persia) handled finances and management of daily production.

History

Taj Mahal by Samuel Bourne, 1860.
An early color photograph of the Taj Mahal. Source:The National Geographic Magazine, March 1921
Protective wartime scaffolding

Soon after the Taj Mahal's completion, Shah Jahan was deposed by his son Aurangzeb and put under house arrest at nearby Agra Fort. Upon Shah Jahan's death, Aurangzeb buried him in the Taj Mahal next to his wife.

By the late 19th century, parts of the Taj Mahal had fallen badly into disrepair. During the time of the Indian rebellion of 1857, the Taj Mahal was defaced by British soldiers and government officials, who chiseled out precious stones and lapis lazuli from its walls. At the end of 19th century British viceroy Lord Curzon ordered a massive restoration project, which was completed in 1908. He also commissioned the large lamp in the interior chamber, modeled after one in a Cairo mosque. During this time the garden was remodeled with British-looking lawns that are visible today.

In 1942, the government erected a scaffolding in anticipation of an air attack by German Luftwaffe and later by Japanese Air Force. During the India-Pakistan wars of 1965 and 1971, scaffoldings were again erected to mislead bomber pilots. Its recent threats have come from environmental pollution on the banks of Yamuna River including acid rain due to the Mathura oil refinery, which was opposed by Supreme Court of India directives. The pollution has been turning the Taj Mahal yellow. To help control the pollution, the Indian government has set up the Taj Trapezium Zone (TTZ), a 10,400 square kilometer (6462.26 square mile) area around the monument where strict emissions standards are in place. In 1983, the Taj Mahal was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Tourism

The Taj Mahal attracts from 2 to 4 million visitors annually, with more than 200,000 from overseas. Most tourists visit in the cooler months of October, November and February. Polluting traffic is not allowed near the complex and tourists must either walk from parking lots or catch an electric bus. The Khawasspuras (northern courtyards) are currently being restored for use as a new visitor center. The small town to the south of the Taj, known as Taj Ganji or Mumtazabad, originally was constructed with caravanserais, bazaars and markets to serve the needs of visitors and workmen. Lists of recommended travel destinations often feature the Taj Mahal, which also appears in several listings of seven wonders of the modern world, including the recently announced New Seven Wonders of the World, a recent poll with 100 million votes

The grounds are open from 6 am to 7 pm weekdays, except for Friday when the complex is open for prayers at the mosque between 12 noon and 2 pm. The complex is open for night viewing on the day of the full moon and two days before and after, excluding Fridays and the month of Ramzan. For security reasons only five items - water in transparent bottles, small video cameras, still cameras, mobile phones and small ladies' purses - are allowed inside the Taj Mahal.

Myths

Ever since its construction, the building has been the source of an admiration transcending culture and geography, and so personal and emotional responses to the building have consistently eclipsed scholastic appraisals of the monument.

A longstanding myth holds that Shah Jahan planned a mausoleum to be built in black marble across the Yamuna river. The idea originates from fanciful writings of Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, a European traveller who visited Agra in 1665. It was suggested that Shah Jahan was overthrown by his son Aurangzeb before it could be built. Ruins of blackened marble across the river in Moonlight Garden, Mahtab Bagh, seemed to support this legend. However, excavations carried out in the 1990s found that they were discolored white stones that had turned black. A more credible theory for the origins of the black mausoleum was demonstrated in 2006 by archeologists who reconstructed part of the pool in the Moonlight Garden. A dark reflection of the white mausoleum could clearly be seen, befitting Shah Jahan's obsession with symmetry and the positioning of the pool itself.

No evidence exists for claims that describe, often in horrific detail, the deaths, dismemberments and mutilations which Shah Jahan supposedly inflicted on various architects and craftsmen associated with the tomb. Some stories claim that those involved in construction signed contracts committing themselves to have no part in any similar design. Similar claims are made for many famous buildings. No evidence exists for claims that Lord William Bentinck, governor-general of India in the 1830s, supposedly planned to demolish the Taj Mahal and auction off the marble. Bentinck's biographer John Rosselli says that the story arose from Bentinck's fund-raising sale of discarded marble from Agra Fort.

In 2000, India's Supreme Court dismissed P.N. Oak's petition to declare that a Hindu king built the Taj Mahal. Oak claimed that origins of the Taj, together with other historic structures in the country currently ascribed to Muslim sultans pre-date Muslim occupation of India and thus, have a Hindu origin. A more poetic story relates that once a year, during the rainy season, a single drop of water falls on the cenotaph, as inspired by Rabindranath Tagore's description of the tomb as 'one tear-drop..upon the cheek of time'. Another myth suggests that beating the silhouette of the finial will cause water to come forth. To this day, officials find broken bangles surrounding the silhouette.

Yamuna River (Sanskrit: यमुना, sometimes called Jamuna or Jumna)

The Yamuna (Sanskrit: यमुना, sometimes called Jamuna or Jumna) is a major tributary river of the Ganges (Ganga) in northern India. With a total length of around 1,370 kilometers (851 mi), it is the largest tributary of the Ganges.

Its source is at Yamunotri, in the Uttarakhand Himalaya, which is north of Haridwar in the Himalayan Mountains. It flows through the states of Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, before merging with the Ganges at Allahabad. The cities of Baghpat, Delhi, Noida, Mathura, Agra, Etawah, Kalpi, Hamirpur, Allahabad lie on its banks. The major tributaries of this river are the Tons, Chambal, Betwa, and Ken; with the Tons being the largest.

A heavy freight canal, known as the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL), is being built westwards from near its headwaters through the Punjab region near an ancient caravan route and highlands pass to the navigable parts of the Sutlej-Indus watershed. This will connect the entire Ganges, which flows to the east coast of the subcontinent, with points west (via Pakistan). When completed, the SYL will allow shipping from India's east coast to the west coast and the Arabian sea, drastically shortening shipping distances and creating important commercial links for north-central India's large population.

Yamuna is severely polluted after Wazirabad in Delhi. One official describes the river as a 'sewage drain' with biochemical oxygen demand values ranging from 14 to 28 mg/l and high coliform content.

Agra Hindi: आगरा, Urdu: آگرہ

Agra (Hindi: आगरा, Urdu: آگرہ) is a city on the banks of the Yamuna River in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, India. It finds mention in the epic Mahabharata when it was called Agrabana, or Paradise. Tradition and legend ascribe the present city of Raja(around 1475) whose fort, Badalgarh, stood on or near the site of the present Fort. However, the 12th century Persian poet Salman writes of a desperate assault on the fortress of Agra, then held by one King Jaipal, by Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni. It was ruled by Sultan Sikandar Lodi in the year 1506. It achieved fame as the capital of the Mughal emperors from 1526 to 1658 and remains a major tourist destination because of its many splendid Mughal-era buildings, most notably the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri, all three of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Geography

Agra is situated on the banks of Yamuna river. It has an average elevation of 171 metres (561 ft). On the north it is bound by Mathura, on the south by Dhaulpur, on the east by Firozabad, on the south-east by Fatehabad and on the west by Bharatpur. Agra is the third biggest city in Uttar Pradesh. The Agra district is divided into Six Tehsils and 15 Blocks. Total number of Nayay Panchayats in the district are 114 while Gram Sabhas stands at 636. The total populated villages are 904. The total number of police stations in the district are 41 out of which 16 are in Urban area and 25 are in Rural area. The total number of Railway Stations (including Halts) are 29 and Bus Stands/Bus Stops are 144. Total number of Broad Gauge lines is 196 K.M. and Meter Gauge is 35 K.M.

Agra, located on the Indo-Gangetic plain has a humid continental climate, with long, hot summers from April to September when temperatures can reach as high as 45 °C (113 °F). During summers dry winds (loo) blow in this region. The monsoon months from July to September see about 69 cm (27 inches) of rainfall annually. Winters last from November to February, with day time temperatures comfortably warm, but temperatures below freezing are not uncommon during the night. Agra is also prone to dense fog during the winter months of December & January.

A major tourist destination, Agra is best visited in the months of October, November, February and March, when the average temperatures are between 16-25 °C (60-75 °F). The monsoon season should be avoided by non-Indians due to the risk of disease and flooding, and the months of April to June due to the extreme heat. The months of December and January are to be avoided due to the dense fog and often freezing temperatures, especially since much of the city has no heating system.

Demographics

As of the 2000 Indian census, Agra had a population of 1,800,000. Males constitute 53% of the population and females 47%. Agra has an average literacy rate of 65%, higher than the national average of 63.5%; with 76% males literate. 11% of the population is under 6 years of age. Hindi is spoken by virtually everyone. English & Urdu are also spoken.

History

Agra is a medieval city situated on the banks of the river Yamuna. It is generally accepted that Sultan Sikandar Lodi, the Ruler of Delhi Sultanate founded it in the year 1504. After the sultan's death the city passed on to his son Sultan Ibrahim Lodi. He ruled his Sultanate from Agra until he fell fighting to Babur in the First battle of Panipat fought in 1526.

In the year 1556, the great Hindu warrior, Hemu Vikramaditya also known as Hem Chander Vikramaditya won Agra as Prime Minister cum Chief of Army of Adil Shah of Afgan Sur Dynasty. The commander of Humayun / Akbar's forces in Agra was so scared of Hemu that he ran away from Agra without the fight. This was Hemu's 21st continuous win, who later on won Delhi also and had his coronation at Purana Qila in Delhi and re-established Hindu Kingdom and the Vikramaditya Dynasty in North India.

The golden age of the city began with the Mughals. It was known then as Akbarabad and remained the capital of the Mughal Empire under Emperor Akbar, Jahangir and Shah Jahan. Shah Jahan later shifted his capital to Shahjahanabad in the year 1649.
Taj Mahal.

Since Akbarabad was one of the most important cities in India under the Mughals, it witnessed a lot of building activity. Babar, the founder of the Mughal dynasty laid out the first formal Persian garden on the banks of river Yamuna. The garden is called the Aram Bagh or the Garden of Relaxation. His grandson Akbar raised the towering ramparts of the Great Red Fort besides making Agra, a center for learning arts, commerce and religion. Akbar also built a new city on the outskirts of Akbarabad called Fatehpur Sikri. This city was built in the form of a Mughal military camp in stone.

His son Jahangir had a love of gardens and flora and fauna and laid many gardens inside the Red Fort or Laal Kila. Shah Jahan known for his keen interest in architecture gave Akbarabad its most prized monument, The Taj Mahal. Built in loving memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal, the mausoleum was completed in 1653.

Shah Jahan later shifted the capital to Delhi during his reign, but this son Aurangzeb shifted the capital back to Akbarabad and had his father imprisoned in the Fort there. Akbarabad remained capital of India during the rule of Aurangzeb until he shifted it to Aurangabad in the Deccan in 1653. After the decline of the Mughal Empire, the city came under the influence of Marathas and Jats and was called Agra, before falling into the hands of the British Raj in 1803.
Agra, Main Street, c.1858

In 1835 when the Presidency of Agra was established by the British, the city became the seat of government, and just two year later it was the witness to the Agra famine of 1837–38. During the Indian rebellion of 1857 British rule across India was threatened, news of the rebellion had reached Agra on 11 May and on the 30th of May two companies of native infantry, the 44th and 67th regiments, rebelled and marched to Delhi. The next morning native Indian troops in Agra were forced to disarm, on 15 June Gwalior (which lies south of Agra) rebelled. By 3 July the British were forced to withdraw into the fort. Two days later a small British force at Sucheta were defeated and force to withdraw, this lead to a mob sacking the city. However the rebels moved onto Delhi which allowed the British to restore order by the 8th of July. Delhi fell to the British in September, the following month rebels who had fled Delhi along with rebels from Central India marched on Agra - but were defeated. After this British rule was again secured over the city until the independence of India in 1947.

Agra is the birth place of religion Din-i-Ilahi, which flourished during the reign of Akbar and also of the Radhaswami Faith, which has around two million followers worldwide.

Transportation

By Air

Agra Airport at Kheria is about 6 km from the city centre, but is not very well connected. Now one can catch connecting flights to Agra via delhi or jaipur from most of the major cities of India. Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi is the best option. Agra is very well connected to Delhi both by rail and road.

By Rail

Agra is on the main train line between Delhi (Station Code: NDLS) and Mumbai (Bombay) (Station Code: CSTM) and between Delhi and Chennai (Station Code: MAS) and many trains connect Agra with these cities every day. Some east-bound trains from Delhi also travel via Agra, so direct connections to points in Eastern India (including Kolkata) (Calcutta) are also available. There are close to 20 trains to Delhi every day, and at least three or four to both Mumbai and Chennai. There are three stations in Agra:

* Agra Cantt (Station Code: AGC) is the main railway station and lies southwest of the Taj and Agra Fort, both of which are a short ride from the station by car, auto-rickshaw, or cycle rickshaw. There's a prepaid taxi stand right outside that charges a flat Rs.120 to any hotel in the city. The station has a pretty good Comesum food court that also sells cheap, hygienic takeaway snacks (sandwiches, samosas, etc).

* Agra Fort Railway Station (Station Code: AF) near Agra Fort, is infrequently serviced by the interstate express trains. The station serves trains to the east (Kanpur, Gorakhpur, Kolkata, Guwahati) some of these trains also stop at Agra Cantt.

* Raja Ki Mandi (Station Code: RKM) is a small station. Some of the train which stop at Agra Cantt also stop here. Its a very laid back station and springs into life at the arrival of Intercity Express and Taj Express.

The luxury train - Palace on Wheels also stops at Agra on its eight day round trip of tourist destinations in Rajasthan and Agra.

By Road

Idgah Bus Stand is the biggest Bus Stand in Agra and is connected to most of the bigger cities in North India.

* From Delhi: NH2, a modern divided highway, connects the 200 km distance from Delhi to Agra. The drive is about 4 hours. The primary access to the highway is along Mathura Road in Delhi but, if coming from South Delhi or Delhi Airport, it is easier to take Aurobindo Marg (Mehrauli Road) and then work up to NH2 via Tughlakabad.

* From Jaipur: National Highway 11, a two lane undivided highway, connects Agra with Jaipur via the bird sanctuary town of Bharatpur. The distance of around 255 km can be covered in around 4-5 hours.

* From Gwalior A distance of around 120 km, takes around 1.5 hours on the National highway 3, also known as the Agra - Mumbai Highway.

* From Lucknow / Kanpur NH2, the divided modern highway, continues on to Kanpur (285 km, 5 hours) and from there to points East ending in Kolkata. From Kanpur, NH25 heads for the city of Lucknow (90 km, 2 hours).

Local Transportation

Auto rickshaw and Cycle Rickshaw are the main mode of transport in Agra and are available very readily. The Rickshaw are not metered so its best to negotiate the fares before the ride.

City Buses are there but they frequency is very low.
Polluting vehicles are not allowed near Taj Mahal, so one needs to take electric Auto's or Tanga (Tonga) from few KM outside Taj Mahal.

Places of Interest

Agra's Taj Mahal

Agra's Taj Mahal is one of the most famous buildings in the world, the mausoleum of Shah Jahan's favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. It is one of the New 7 Wonders of the world, and one of three World Heritage Sites in Agra, the others being Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri.

Completed in 1653 CE., the Taj Mahal is believed to have been built by the Mughal Badshah (king) Shah Jahan as the final resting place for his beloved wife, Mumtaz. Finished in marble, it is perhaps India's most fascinating and beautiful monument. This perfectly symmetrical monument took 22 years (1630-1652) of hard labour and 20,000 workers, masons and jewellers to build and is set amidst landscaped gardens. Built by the Persian architect, Ustad Isa, the Taj Mahal is on the bank of the Yamuna River. It can be observed like a mirage from the Agra Fort from where Emperor Shah Jahan stared at it, for the last eight years his life as a prisoner of his son Aurangzeb. It is a masterpiece of symmetry, seeming to be floating in the air from a distance, and each revealed as an illusion experienced as one enters through the main gate. Verses of the Koran are inscribed on it and at the top of gate 22 small domes, signifying the number of years the monument took to build. The Taj Mahal was built on a marble platform that stands above a sandstone one. The most elegant dome of the Taj, with a diameter of 60 feet (18 m), rises 80 feet (24 m) over the building and directly under the dome is the tomb of Mumtaz Mahal. Shah Jahan's tomb was erected next to hers by his son Aurangzeb. Fantastic inlay works using semi-precious stones decorate the interiors.

Opening Times: sunrise to sunset (closed Fridays)

Agra Fort

Another world heritage site in Agra. Agra's dominant structure,purushotam the Agra Fort (sometimes called the Red Fort), was built by Akbar in 1565. Be Noted that a Stone Plate located at the Gate of Fort describes it to be built before 1000 and later renovated by Akbar. The red sandstone fort was renovated and converted into a palace during Shah Jahan's time, and reworked extensively with marble and pietra dura inlay. Notable buildings in the fort include the Pearl Mosque, the Diwan-e-Am and Diwan-e-Khas (halls of public and private audience), Jehangir's Palace, Khaas Mahal, Sheesh Mahal (mirrored palace), and Musamman Burj.

The great Mughal Emperor Akbar commissioned the construction of the Agra Fort in 1565 CE., although additions were made till the time of his grandson Shah Jahan. The forbidding exteriors of this fort hide an inner paradise. The fort is crescent shaped, flattened on the east with a long, nearly straight wall facing the river. It has a total perimeter of 2.4 k.m., and is ringed by double castellated ramparts of red sandstone punctuated at regular intervals by bastions. A 9 mt. wide and 10 mt. deep moat surround the outer wall.

Shivaji visited Agra fort as per the 'Purandar Treaty' entered into with Mirza Raja Jaisingh to met Aurangzeb in the Diwan-i-khas. In the audience he was deliberately placed behind men of lower rank. Insulted Shivaji stormed out of the imperial audience and was confined to Jai Sing's quarters on 12 May 1666. Fearing the dungeons and execution, in a famously sweet legend, he escaped on the 17th of August 1666. A heroic equestrian statue of Shivaji has been erected outside the fort.

The fort standing as a typical example of the Mughal architecture. It shows how the North Indian style of fort construction differentiated from that of the South.In South majority of the beautiful forts were built on the sea beds like the one at Bekal in Kerala

Fatehpur Sikri

The Mughal Emperor Akbar built Fatehpur Sikri about 35 km from Agra, and moved his capital there. Later abandoned, the site displays a number of buildings of significant historical importance. A World Heritage Site, it is often visited by tourists to Agra. The name of the place came after Mughal Emperor Babur defeated Rana Sanga in a battle at a place called Sikri (about 40 km from Agra). Then Mughal Emperor Akbar wanted to make Fatehpur Sikri his head quarters. So he built this majestic fort. But due to shortage of water he had to ultimately move his headquarters to Agra Fort.

Buland Darwaza or the loft gateway was built by the great Mughal emperor, Akbar in 1601 CE. at Fatehpur Sikri. Akbar built the Buland Darwaza to commemorate his victory over Gujarat. The Buland Darwaza is approached by 42 steps. The Buland Darwaza is 53.63 m high and 35 meters wide. Buland Darwaza is the highest gateway in the world and an astounding example of the Mughal architecture. The Buland Darwaza or the magnificence gateway is made of red and buff sandstone, decorated by carving and inlaying of white and black marble. An inscription on the central face of the Buland Darwaza throws light on Akbar's religious broad mindedness, here is an inscription one on the monument which is a message from Jesus advising his followers not to consider this world as their permanent home.

Itmad-Ud-Daulah

Empress Nur Jehan built Itmad-Ud-Daulah's Tomb, sometimes called the Baby Taj, for her father, Ghias-ud-Din Beg, the Chief Minister of Emperor Jahangir. Located on the left bank of the Yamuna river, the mausoleum is set in a large cruciform garden criss-crossed by water courses and walkways. The mausoleum itself is set on a base about 50 meters square and about 1 meter high. The mausoleum is about 23 meters square. On each corner are hexagonal towers, about 13 meters tall. Small in comparison to many other Mughal-era tombs, it is sometimes described as a jewel box. Its garden layout and use of white marble, pietra dura, inlay designs and latticework presage many elements of the Taj Mahal.

The walls are white marble from Rajasthan encrusted with semi-precious stone decorations - cornelian, jasper, lapis lazuli, onyx, and topaz in images of cypress trees and wine bottles, or more elaborate decorations like cut fruit or vases containing bouquets. Light to the interior passes through delicate jali screens of intricately carved white marble.

Many of Nur Jahan's relatives are interred in the mausoleum. The only asymmetrical element of the entire complex is that the cenotaphs of her father and mother have been set side-by-side, a formation replicated in the Taj Mahal

Akbar's Tomb, Sikandra

Sikandra, the last resting place of the Mughal Emperor Akbar the Great, is on Delhi-Agra Highway, is only 13 kilometres from the Agra Fort. Akbar's tomb reflects the completeness of his personality. The vast, beautifully carved, red-ochre sandstone tomb with deers, rabbits and Langoor is set amidst a lush garden. Akbar himself planned his own tomb and selected a suitable site for it. To construct a tomb in one's lifetime was a Tartary custom which the Mughals followed religiously. Akbar's son Jahangir completed the construction of this pyramidal tomb in 1613.

Swami Bagh Samadhi

The Swami Bagh Samadhi is the mausoleum of Huzur Swamiji Maharaj (Shri Shiv Dayal Singh Seth) in the Swamibagh section, on Bhagwan Talkies to Dayal bagh road, in the outskirts of the city. He was the founder of the Radhaswami Faith and the Samadhi is sacred to its followers. Construction began in February 1904 and still continues. It is believed that the construction will never end at Swami Bagh. It is often seen as the 'next Taj Mahal'. The carvings in stone, using a combination or coloured marble, is life-like and not seen anywhere else in India. The picture shown is taken from the backside and shows only two floors. When completed, the samadhi will have a carved dome and a gateway.

Mankameshwar Temple

MankaMeswar Temple is one of the four ancient temples dedicated to Lord Shiva that are located on the four corners of Agra City. It is located in the near the Jama Masjid and is about 2.5 kilometers from Taj Mahal and about less than 1 km from Agra Fort. Being located in the old city, the temple is surrounded by Mughal-era markets, some of which date back to the early days of Mughal rule in India.

Guru ka Tal

Guru ka Tal was originally a reservoir meant to collect and conserve rainwater built in Agra, near Sikandra, during Jehangir's reign next to the Tomb of Itibar Khan Khwajasara in 1610. In 1970s a gurudwara was erected here. Guru ka Tal is a holy place of worship for the Sikh. Four of the 10 Sikh gurus are said to have paid it a visit. Enjoying both historical and religious importance, this gurudwara attracts number of devotees and tourists. Boasting elaborate stone carvings and 8 towers of the 12 original towers, this gurudwara beckons travelers from far and away to bask in its glory.It is established at national(Delhi-Agra)highway-2. Akbar Tomb is 2 kilometer far from Guru Ka Tal.

Jama Masjid

The Jama Masjid is a large mosque attributed to Shah Jahan's daughter, Princess Jahanara Begum, built in 1648, notable for its unusual dome and absence of minarets.

Chini Ka Rauza

Notable for its Persian influenced dome of blue glazed tiles, the Chini Ka Rauza is dedicated to the Prime Minister of Shah Jahan, Allama Afzel Khal Mullah Shukrullah of Shiraz.

Ram Bagh

The oldest Mughal garden in India, the Ram Bagh was built by the Emperor Babur in 1528 on Yamuna's bank. It lies about 2.34 km north of Taj Mahal. The pavilions in this garden are designed in such a manner that the wind from the Yamuna, combined with the greenery, keeps these pavilions cool even during the peak of summer. Aram Bagh is also incorrectly called Ram Bagh by the locals. It was the place where Mughal emperor Babar used to spend his liesure time and at the same place he died and his body was kept here for sometime before sending it to Kabul

Mariam's Tomb

Mariams Tomb, is the tomb of Mariam, the wife of great Mughal Emperor Akbar. The tomb is within the compound of Christian Missionary Society.

Mehtab Bagh

Mehtab Bagh, is on the opposite bank of River Yamuna on which the Taj is present.

Keetham Lake

Also known as Sur Sarovar, the Keetham Lake is situated at about 23 kilometres from Agra within the Surdas Reserved Forest. The lake has an impressive variety of aquatic life and water birds. The tranquil surroundings present an ideal relaxing place.

Mughal Heritage Walk

Mughal Heritage Walk is a 1km loop which connects the agricultural fields with the Rajasthani culture, river bank connected with the ancient village of Kuchhpura, the Heritage Structure of Mehtab Bagh, the Mughal aqueduct system, the Humanyun Mosque and the Gyarah Sidi.

Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception

The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Agra.

Economy

Tourism contributes to a large extent in the economy of Agra. Agra has some of the finest Hotels & Spa's in India. Agra is home to Asia’s largest spa called Kaya Kalp — The Royal Spa, at Hotel Mughal in Agra.

The city also has a substantial industrial base. A lot of manufacturing plants and industry related wholesale markets are prominent in Agra. Agra's industries are doing a fine job in various fields. Producers and dealers of Agra have a vast market to support them.

Agra has a good number of apparel and garment manufacturers and exporters. Agra has also an important market for the automobile industry. Anil Diesels, Harvest Group of Industries, Indian Agriculture & Automobile Corporation(IAAC) and Malloys India are some of the major players of the automobile industry in Agra.

Over 7200 Small Scale Industrial Units are spared all over the district. Agra city is famous for the Leather Goods, Handicrafts, Zari Zardozi, Marvel and Stone carving & inlay work. Agra is also welknown for its sweets (Petha & Gajak) and Snacks (Dalmoth)

The leather industry is among the most traditional and original industries of Agra. Some of the leading manufacturers, exporter and sellers of leather in Agra are Polyplast Industries, Royal International, Eskay Sales Corporation, Best Buy, Bandejjia Traders and Expomore.

With the expansion of the Agra city, more and more construction works are going around the city. To facilitate the flow of work, a lot of organizations dealing in building materials have come up. A few leading names are Silver Gatta Agency, Yashoda Exports, Glass Expressions and Sharda Enterprises. The jeweleries of Agra is a great favorite with the tourists and is in good demand in the international market also. The Yoga Handicrafts and the D.R.Chain and Wire Manufacturing Company are two of the several important names of the related industry.

Education

Agra has always been a centre for education and learning. It was during the advent of Mughal era that Agra grew as a centre of Islamic education. In the coming decades Agra saw great literary figures come from the city. Abul Fazl and others were among the pioneers. The Urdu literature grew by leaps and bounds in the city. Mir Taqi 'Mir' and Mirza Asadullah Beg 'Ghalib' were the icons produced by the city.
Britishers introduced the western concept of education in Agra. In the year 1823, Agra College, one of the oldest colleges in India was formed out of a Sanskrit school established by the Scindia rulers.
In the British era, Agra became a great center of Hindi literature with people like Babu Gulab Rai at the helm.

University

* Agra University  was established on 1 July 1927 and catered to colleges spread across the United Provinces, the Rajputana, the Central Provinces and almost to entire North India, at present around 142 Colleges are affiliated to this University. The historic Agra University was later rechristened as Dr. BhimRao Ambedkar University by the then Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Ms. Mayawati.

* Dayalbagh Educational Institute. Radhasoami Satsang Sabha, started the Radhasoami Educational Institute, as a co-educational Middle School, open to all, on January 1, 1917. It became a Degree College in 1947, affiliated to Agra University. In 1975, it formulated an innovative and comprehensive programme of undergraduate studies which received approbation from the Government of Uttar Pradesh and the University Grants Commission, as a result of which in 1981 the Ministry of Education, Government of India, conferred the status of an institution deemed to be a University on the Dayalbagh Educational Institute, to implement the new scheme.
* Central Institute of Hindi. Central Institute of Hindi (also known as Kendriya Hindi Sansthan) is an autonomous institute under Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India engaged in teaching Hindi as a foreign and second language. Apart from running regular and residential Hindi language courses for foreign students, the institute also conducts regular training programmes for teachers of Hindi belonging to non-Hindi states of India.The institute is situated at a 11 acres campus on the outskirts of Agra city. Headquartered in Agra the institute has eight regional centers in Delhi, Hyderabad, Mysore, Shillong, Dimapur, Guwahati, Ahmedabad and Bhubneshwar. The institute is the only government run institution in India established solely for research and teaching of Hindi as a foreign and second language.

College

Agra is also home to some of the oldest and renowned colleges

* The Institute of Engineering & Technology Khandari, Agra (I.E.T. Khandari, Agra), is the prestigious and renowned engineering institute of Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar University, Agra (formerly Agra University), situated at Khandari, Agra in Uttar Pradesh.
* Sarojini Naidu Medical College, Agra, named after the first lady Governess of Uttar Pradesh, poetess and freedom fighter, Bharat Kokila Smt. Sarojini Naidu, is one of the first three Medical Schools of the country. During year 2004-2005, S. N. Medical College & Hospital is celebrating its 150th Foundation year (1854-2004)
* St. John's College, Agra, was established in 1850 by the Church Missionary Society of England through the efforts of the Agra C. M. S. Association which came into being in 1840. Shankar Dayal Sharma, the 9th President of India received his education from St. John's college.
* F.E.T Agra College, Agra Carrying the legacy of Agra College and Agra University, Faculty of Engineering and technology came into existence in the Year 2000, the college which is nearly 9 years old can boast of strong alumni base which is spread all across the world.
* RBSCollege, Agra RBS College is one of the biggest college of ASIA, It has a prestegious history and was started by AWAGARH Kingdom. This college is having the largest campus area and maximum number of education branches.

Schools

* Air Force School, Kheria, Agra.
* Army School Agra Cantt.
* RBS Inter College, Khandari, Agra
* N. C. V. Inter college, Agra Cantt.
* St. Peter's College, Agra, built in 1846, is in fact one of the oldest of its kind in the country.
* Sumeet Rahul Goel Memorial Senior Secondary School, Kamla Nagar, Agra
* St. Patrick's Junior College, Agra     * St. Conrad's Inter College, Transport Nagar
* St. George's College, Hariparvat
* ROYAL PUBLIC SCHOOL, Transyamuna, NH-2, Agra
* St. Andrew's Senior Secondary School, karmayogi Enclave
* DPS , Shastripuram
* St. Clare's Senior Secondary School
* St. Francis Convent School, Wazirpura Road, Agra
* B.R.B. Saraswati Vidya Mandir, Runakta, Agra
* St.Paul's Church College, bagh farzana agra
* Wellam Garden School, Nehru Enclave, Shaheed Nagar
* Saraswati Vidhya Mandir, Vijay Nagar, Agra
* Saraswati Vidhya Mandir, Kamla Nagar, Agra
* INDRABHAN G. INTER COLLEGE, DARESI NO. 2, Agra
* Mahavir Digember Jain Inter College Agra

Uttar Pradesh Hindi: उत्तर प्रदेश, Urdu: اتر پردیش

Uttar Pradesh (Hindi: उत्तर प्रदेश, Urdu: اتر پردیش, translation: Northern Province), is a state located in the northern part of India. With a population of over 190 million people, it is India's most populous state, as well as the world's most populous sub-national entity, and only 5 nations including India itself have more people than U.P.

With an area of 93,933 sq mi (243,286 km²), Uttar Pradesh covers a large part of the highly fertile and densely populated upper Gangetic plain. It shares an international border with Nepal and is bounded by the states of Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Bihar. The administrative and legislative capital of Uttar Pradesh is Lucknow and the financial and industrial capital is Kanpur. The state's high court is based at Allahabad. It is home to many historical cities like Agra and Varanasi.

Throughout its history, it was sometimes divided between petty kingdoms and at other times formed an important part of larger empires that arose on its east or west, including the Magadha, Nanda, Mauryan, Kushan, Gupta, Sunga, Pala and Mughal empires. Uttar Pradesh has an important place in the culture of India; as it is considered to be the birthplace of Hinduism and has many important sites of Hindu pilgrimage. It also holds much of the heritage of the Mughal Empire, including both the famous Taj Mahal and the tomb of the great Mughal Emperor Akbar in Agra and Akbar's capital-palace in Fatehpur Sikri.

The Indo-Gangetic plain, that spans most of the state, has been the ancient seat of Hindu religion, learning and culture, the birth place of the Indo-Islamic syncretic culture of the medieval period, a center of nationalism during the colonial period and has continued to play a prominent role in Indian political and cultural movements. The state has a rich heritage of traditional crafts and cottage industries of various types that employ highly skilled craftsmen and artisans.

Uttar Pradesh is the most populous state in the Indian Union and the most populous first-level administrative country subdivision in the world. Kanpur is the biggest city in the state. Other big cities are Lucknow - the political capital of the state, Meerut, Agra, Varanasi, Bareilly, Allahabad, Ghaziabad and Noida. The Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas, the three upper castes people of the state who have dominated the political and economic scene over the centuries are in a majority. A major group comprises of the backward classes, scheduled castes and tribes. The tribal population is largely concentrated in the hill, terai-bhabhar and Vindhya regions. The central government has recognised five of the tribal communities, viz. Tharus, Bhoksas, Bhotias, Jaunswaris and Rajis as scheduled tribes. Besides the upper class, there are also other Hindu and Muslim communities. The scheduled castes and scheduled tribes live in rural areas and are mostly dependent on agriculture, forming the landless labour class.

History

The known history of Uttar Pradesh goes back 4000 years, when the Aryans first made it their home in 2000 BC. This heralded the Vedic age of the Indian civilization and Uttar Pradesh was its home. The Aryans, who settled in the Doab region and the Ghagra plains, called it with various names: Madhya Desha (midland) or Aryavarta (the Aryan land) or Bharatvarsha (the kingdom of Bharat, an important Aryan king). In the ages to come, Aryans spread to other parts of the Indian subcontinent, reaching as far south as Kerala and Sri Lanka.

The ancient Mahajanapada era kingdom of Kosala in Ayodhya - where, according to Hindu legend, the divine king Rama of the Ramayana epic reigned - was located here. Krishna - another divine king of Hindu legend, who plays a key role in the Mahabharata epic and is revered as the eighth reincarnation (Avatara) of Hindu god Vishnu - was born in the city of Mathura. The aftermath of the Mahabharata war is believed to have taken place in the area between the present Uttar Pradesh and Delhi, during the reign of the Pandava king Yudhishtira, in what was Kuru Mahajanapada. The revered Swaminarayan - mentioned in the Brahma Purana and Vishwaksena Samhita as the manifestation of God - was born in the village of Chhapaiya.

Most of the empire building invasions of North India, from the east as well as the west, passed through the vast swathe of Gangetic plains of what is today Uttar Pradesh. Control over this region was of vital importance to the power and stability of all of India's major empires, including the Mauryan (320-200 BC), Kushan (100-250 AD) and Gupta (350-600 AD) empires. After the Guptas, the Ganga-Yamuna Doab saw the rise of Kannauj. During the reign of Harshavardhana, the Kannauj empire was at its zenith: it covered an area extending from Afghanistan and Kashmir in the west to Bengal in the east and up to the Vindhyas in the south, with its capital at Kannauj. Even today many communities in various parts of India - from Kashmir, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Bihar to Bengal - boast of being descendants of migrants from Kannauj, reflecting its glory in the past.

The state is also important to Buddhism since its early days. The Chaukhandi Stupa marks the spot where Buddha met his first disciples. The Dhamek Stupa in Sarnath commemorates Buddha's first sermon. Also the town of Kushinagar is where Gautama Buddha died.

Medieval

Causing the fall of post-Harshavardhana Rajput kings of north India came the Turko-Afghan Muslim rulers and what we call Uttar Pradesh today once again became the catalyst for things to come; much of the state formed part of the various Indo-Islamic empires (Sultanates) after 1000 AD and was ruled from their capital, Delhi. Later, in Mughal times, U.P. became the heart-land of their vast empire; they called the place 'Hindustan', which is used to this day as the name for India in several languages.

Agra and Fatehpur Sikri were the capital cities of Akbar, the great Mughal Emperor of India. At their zenith, the Mughal empire covered almost the entire Indian subcontinent (including present day Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh), which was ruled at different times from Delhi, Agra and Allahabad. But, when the empire disintegrated, their last territory remained confined to the Doab region of Hindustan and Delhi.

Other areas of Hindustan (U.P.) were now ruled by different rulers: Oudh was ruled by the Nawabs of Oudh, Rohilkhand by Afghans, Bundelkhand by the Marathas and Benaras by its own king, while Nepal controlled Kumaon-Garhwal as a part of Greater Nepal. The state's capital city of Lucknow was established by the Muslim Nawabs of Oudh in the 18th century.

Modern-colonial

Starting from Bengal in the later half of the 18th century, a series of battles for North Indian lands finally gave the British East India Company accession over this state's territories, including the last Mughal territory of Doab and Delhi, also Bundelkhand, Kumaon and Benaras divisions. Ajmer and Jaipur were also included in this northern territory and they called it the North-Western Provinces (of Agra). Today, the area may seem big compared to several of the Republic of India's present 'mini-states' - no more than the size of earlier 'divisions' of the British era - but at the time it was one of the smallest British provinces. Its capital shifted twice between Agra and Allahabad.
Mangal Pandey

Mangal Pandey is widely seen as the starting point to what came to be known as the Indian Rebellion of 1857. After its failure and turmoil settled, the British made a major revamp, in desperation: they truncated the Delhi region from NWFP of Agra and merged it with Punjab, while the Ajmer- Merwar region was merged with Rajputana. At the same time, they included Oudh into the state. The new state was called the 'North Western Provinces of Agra and Oudh', which in 1902 was renamed as the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh. It was commonly referred to as the United Provinces or its acronym UP.

In 1920, the capital of the province was shifted from Allahabad to Lucknow. The high court continued to be at Allahabad, but a bench was established at Lucknow. Allahabad continues to be an important administrative base of today's Uttar Pradesh and has several administrative headquarters.

The All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) was formed at the Lucknow session of the Indian National Congress in April 11, 1936 with the legendary nationalist Swami Sahajanand Saraswati elected as its first President, in order to mobilise peasant grievances against the zamindari attacks on their occupancy rights, and thus sparking the Farmers' movement in India.

Uttar Pradesh continued to be central to Indian culture and politics and was especially important in modern Indian history as a hotbed of both the Indian Independence Movement and the Pakistan Movement.

Post Independence

After independence, the state was renamed Uttar Pradesh ('northern province') by its first chief minister, Govind Ballabh Pant. Pant was known and close to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and was also popular in the Congress party; he established such a good reputation in Lucknow that Nehru called him to Delhi, the capital and seat of Central Government of the country, to make him Home Minister of India in December 27, 1954. He was succeeded by Dr. Sampoornanand, a university professor and classicist Sanskrit scholar, who was chief minister till 1957, before becoming governor of Rajasthan.

Sucheta Kripalani served as India's first woman chief minister from October 1963 until March 1967, when a two-month long strike by state employees caused her to step down. The confusion and chaos ended only with the defection of Charan Singh from the Congress with a small set of legislators; he set up a party called the Jana Congress, which formed the first non-Congress government in U.P. and ruled for over a year.

Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna was chief minister for cngress party government for part of the 1970s. He was dismissed by the Central Government headed by Indira Gandhi, along with several other non-Congress chief ministers, shortly after the imposition of the Emergency, when Narain Dutt Tewari - later chief minister of Uttarakhand - became chief minister. The Congress Party lost heavily in 1977 elections, following the lifting of the Emergency, but romped back to power in 1980, when Mrs. Gandhi handpicked the man who would later become her son's principle opposition, V.P. Singh, to become Chief Minister.

On Nov 09, 2000, the Himalyan portion of the state, comprising the Garhwal and Kumaon divisions and Haridwar district, was formed into a new state called Uttarakhand, meaning the 'Northern Segment' state.

Geography

Uttar Pradesh shares an international border with Nepal and is bounded by the Indian states of Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Bihar. The state can be divided into two distinct hypsographical regions:-

* The larger Gangetic Plain in the north: it includes the Ganga-Yamuna Doab; the Ghaghra plains; the Ganga plains and the Terai. It has highly fertile alluvial soils and flat topography - (slope 2 m/km) - broken by numerous ponds, lakes and rivers.
* The smaller Vindhya Hills and plateau region in the south. It is characterised by hard rock strata; varied topography of hills, plains, valleys and plateau; limited availability of water.

Climate

The climate of Uttar Pradesh is predominantly sub-tropical, but weather conditions change significantly with location and season.

Temperature: Depending on the elevation, the average temperatures vary from 12.5–17.5°C (54.5–63.5°F) in January to 27.5–32.5°C (81.5–90.5°F) in May and June. The highest temperature recorded in the State was 49.9°C (121.8°F) at Gonda on May 8, 1958.

Rainfall: Rainfall in the State ranges from 1,000–2,000 mm (40–80 inches) in the east to 600–1,000 mm (24–40 inches) in the west. About 90 percent of the rainfall occurs during the southwest monsoon, lasting from about June to September. With most of the rainfall concentrated during this four-month period, floods are a recurring problem and cause heavy damage to crops, life, and property, particularly in the eastern part of the state, where the Himalayan-origin rivers flow with a very low north-south gradient.

Droughts: Periodic failure of monsoons results in drought conditions and crop failure.

Snowfall: In the Himalayan region of the State, annual snowfall averaging 3 to 5 metres (10 to15 feet) is common between December and March.

Constituent regions

The state comprises several distinct regions: -

* The Doab region: the upper Doab and the lower doab with the Braj-bhumi in its centre, which runs along its western border from north to south;
* The Rohilkhand region in the north;
* Awadh Oudh, the historic country of osalas in the centre;
* The northern parts of Bagelkhand and Bundelkhand in the south; and
* The south-western part of the Bhojpur country, commonly called Purvanchal ('Eastern Province'), in the east.

Administrative divisions and districts (as in 2007)
Main article: Districts of Uttar Pradesh

The state of Uttar Pradesh consists of seventy districts, which are grouped into eighteen divisions: Agra Division, Aligarh Division, Allahabad Division, Azamgarh Division, Bareilly Division, Basti Division, Chitrakoot Division, Devipatan Division, Faizabad Division, Gorakhpur Division, Jhansi Division, Kanpur Division, Lucknow Division, Meerut Division, Mirzapur Division, Moradabad Division, Saharanpur Division and Varanasi Division.

The largest district in terms of area is Lakhimpur Kheri. The largest district in terms of population is Allahabad followed by Kanpur Nagar (Census 2001).

Divisions        

Agra • Aligarh • Allahabad • Azamgarh • Bareilly • Basti • Chitrakoot • Devipatan • Faizabad • Gorakhpur • Jhansi • Kanpur • Lucknow • Mirzapur • Moradabad • Saharanpur • Varanasi
Districts          

Agra • Aligarh • Allahabad • Ambedkar Nagar • Auraiya • Azamgarh • Badaun • Bagpat • Bahraich • Ballia • Balrampur • Banda • Barabanki • Bareilly • Basti • Bijnor • Bulandshahr • Chandauli • Chitrakoot • Devaria • Etah • Etawah • Faizabad • Farrukhabad • Fatehpur • Firozabad • Gautam Buddha Nagar • Ghaziabad • Ghazipur • Gonda • Gorakhpur • Hamirpur • Hardoi • Jalaun • Jaunpur • Jhansi • Jyotiba Phule Nagar • Kannauj • Kanpur Dehat (Akbarpur) • Kanpur Nagar • Kanshiram Nagar • Kaushambi • Kushinagar (Padrauna) • Lakhimpur Kheri • Lalitpur • Lucknow • Mahamaya (Hathras) • Maharajganj • Mahoba • Mainpuri • Mathura • Mau • Meerut • Mirzapur • Moradabad • Muzaffarnagar • Pilibhit • Pratapgarh • Raebareli • Rampur • Saharanpur • Sant Kabir Nagar • Sant Ravidas Nagar (Bhadohi) • Shahjahanpur • Shravasti • Siddharthnagar • Sitapur • Sonbhadra • Sultanpur • Unnao • Varanasi
Major cities    

Agra • Allahabad • Kanpur • Lucknow • Meerut • Varanasi

Urban centres

Major cities

Agra • Allahabad • Bareilly • Ghaziabad • Gorakhpur • Jhansi • Kanpur • Lucknow • Meerut • Varanasi (Banaras).

Other important cities

Aligarh • Azamgarh •Budaun. Bahraich • Ballia • Banda • Barabanki • Bijnor • Bulandshahr • Deoband • Etawah • Faizabad • Farrukhabad • Fatehgarh • Firozabad • Ghazipur• Gola • Gonda • Gorakhpur . Hameerpur • Kannauj • Khurja • Kulpahar • Kushinagar • Lalitpur • Modinagar • Mainpuri • Mahoba • Mathura • Mirzapur • Moradabad • Muzaffarnagar • Noida • Orai • Pilibhit • Raebareli • Rampur • Saharanpur • Shahjahanpur • Sultanpur • Sant Kabir Nagar.

Transportation

The state has a large network of multimodal transportation system.

Airways: The state has 4 important airports and 23 air strips. Cities that have nationally well connected domestic airports are Agra, Kanpur, Lucknow and Varanasi. Lucknow is the biggest and most important airport of the state.(an upgradation of Bareilly's Trishul Air-base into a domestic airport is also underway.)

Railways: Almost all the major as well as smaller cities of the state are linked through railways. It has largest railway network in the country; with a total length of 8,546 km (2006), it has the sixth largest railway density.

Roadways: The state has largest road network in the country, after Maharashtra. It boasts of 31 National Highways (NH), with a total length of 4,942 km (8.5% of total NH length in India). It has seventh highest road density in India (1,027 km per 1000 sq km in 2002 ) and largest surfaced urban road network in the country (50,721 km, as on 2002). Cities of Kanpur, Lucknow, Bareilly, Allahabad, Varanasi,Jhansi,Gorakhpur,Agra and Ghazipur are connected to number of National Highways. New express-ways are coming up between Agra and Noida and between Noida with Ballia (near Ghazipur). State Transport company UPSRTC serves nationalized routes in the state for intra-state and interstate transport.

Waterways: A long stretch of the river Ganges - from Allahabad (Uttar Pradesh) to Haldia (West Bengal) - has been declared as National Waterway (NW)-I and 600 km of the total NW-I lies in Uttar Pradesh.

Although, the state has a large and diversified transportation network, its condition and functioning need substantial improvement.

Demographics

Uttar Pradesh is the most populous state in India with a population of over 190 million people as of July 1 2008. If it were a separate country, Uttar Pradesh would be the world's fifth most populous nation, next only to China, India, the United States and Indonesia.

As of the 2001 census of India, slightly over 80% of Uttar Pradesh population is Hindu, while Muslims make up 18% of the population. The remaining population consists of Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians and Jains.

Politics

The State Assembly (Vidhan Sabha) has 403 electoral constituencies. In the Uttar Pradesh Elections, 2007, Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party achieved unexpected majority status leading to her emergence as the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. This is the first time, since 1991 victory of the Bharatiya Janata Party with a majority, that a single party has gained absolute majority; the last two decades having been mostly dominated by various coalitions among the Samajwadi Party, Bharatiya Janata Party, and the Bahujan Samaj Party. One characteristic of the BSP win in 2007 was the amalgamation of Brahmin votes into this Dalit dominated party, as opposed to the decades-old trend of deep-rooted electoral divisions in the state between Dalits, Upper Castes, Muslims and different OBC groups, which tend to vote in blocks.

Mayawati, having won 206 seats, took the oath of secrecy for the post of UP's next CM on 13 May 2007. She became Chief Minister for the fourth time. Along with her 19 cabinet rank ministers, 21 State Ministers Independent Charge were also sworn in by T. V. Rajeswar the Governor. Some of the prominent names are: Awadhpal Singh, Babu Singh Kushwaha, Badshah Singh, Nasimuddin Siddiqui, Rakesh Dhar Tripathi, Ratanlal Ahirwar and Sudhir Goyal. Former Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav's Samajwadi Party stood second in State with 97 seats.

Issues

The image of politics in Uttar Pradesh has been tarnished in recent times by the extensive infiltration of people who are alleged to carry a questionable reputation or are prone to incite violence. But, in the last election, the Election Commission of India was perceived as having effectively managed to prevent booth-capturing and other abuse, through deployment of extremely strict security.

The number of criminal-politicians participating in the elections have been growing, particularly because they have been successful in the past. In the U.P. Assembly elections, 2002, candidates with criminal records won 206 out of 403 seats in the assembly, i.e. more criminals were elected than regular politicians. In 2007 elections, the participation by criminals increased significantly.

Political Leadership

The state has a record of providing national leadership; eight of India's fourteen Prime Minister's were from Uttar Pradesh. They are: Jawaharlal Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Choudhary Charan Singh, Vishwanath Pratap Singh, Chandra Shekhar and Atal Behari Vajpayee, who represents a UP constituency, though he was born in Gwalior.

The contemporary political scene is also interesting in the national context. Heirs-apparent to the Nehru-Gandhi family have adopted U.P. as their home state. Congress President Sonia Gandhi represents Rae Bareli and her son Rahul Gandhi Amethi, Sultanpur. Indira Gandhi's estranged daughter-in-law Maneka Gandhi is a BJP Parliamentarian from Pilibhit, while her son Varun Gandhi is expected to make his debut soon. Other prominent politicians include BJP leader and past Human Resources Development minister Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi, SP leader and ex-Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav, BSP leader and now fourth time Chief Minister Mayawati, BJP President and ex-Chief Minister Rajnath Singh, former BJP Chief Minister Kalyan Singh, Rashtriya Lok Dal chief Ajit Singh and ex-Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh and later of Uttarakhand, Narayan Dutt Tiwari.

At the lowest tier of political pyramid, the state has a large number of village councils known as Panchayats just like the other states of India.

Education

The region of Uttar Pradesh had a long tradition of learning, although it had remained mostly confined to the elite class and the religious establishment. Sanskrit-based education comprising the learning of Vedic-to-Gupta periods , coupled with the later Pali corpus of knowledge and a vast store of ancient-to-medieval learning in Persian/Arabic languages, had formed the edifice of Hindu-Buddhist-Muslim education, till the rise of British power.

Economy

Uttar Pradesh is the second largest state economy in India after Maharashtra, contributing 8.17% to India’s total GDP. Between 1999 and 2008, the economy grew only 4.4% per year, one of the lowest rates in India.

The major economic activity in the state is agriculture and, in 1991, 73% of the population in the state was engaged in agriculture and 46% of the state income was accounted for by agriculture. UP has retained its preeminent position in the country as a food-surplus state.

The largest shoe-manufacturing centre in the country is Kanpur. Uttar Pradesh is home to largest number of Small Scale units in the country, with 12% of over 2.3 million units.

    * Labour efficiency is higher in UP (26) than the National Average (25).
* The state is one of the top tourist destinations in India, with more than 71 million domestic tourists (in 2003) and almost 25% of the All-India foreign tourists visiting Uttar Pradesh.
* Agra was visited by more than 8 million domestic and 825,000 foreign tourists in 2006, followed by Varanasi, Lucknow, Allahabad, Vrindaban and Mathura. .
* Lucknow and NOIDA are among the top IT destinations of the country.
* Meerut is regularly listed among the top tax paying cities in the country.

Culture

Architecture

Architectural legacies of the past millennia of the region of Uttar Pradesh survive to varying extent. The oldest of them fall within the purview of archeology or mythology; religious places in the State - identifiable in the narratives of Puranas and other sacred literature of Indian religions - have architectural edifices that are very old and have been built over repeatedly in course of time. Medieval kings and emperors have left imposing monuments: forts, palaces, temples and mausoleums, whose external and internal grandeur reminds of the opulence of those times. British colonial buildings, built for the administration, judiciary, hospitals, banks, postal services, police, railways etc. are still seen in most of the cities; their architecture in most cases is purely functional.

Art and Craft

Uttar Pradesh is famous for its rich heritage of art and craft. Most famous centres are the following: -

    * Kanpur, is internationally known for its leather craft; shoes and other leather items are made for the Indian market and exported to foreign countries as well.
* Bareilly, boast for its Jari work (a type of fabric decoration), Surma, Jhumka.
* Firozabad, the city of bangles, is also a hub for many glass accessories. The glass artifacts produced in its factories are just amazing and are exported the world over.
* Kannauj, is well known for oriental perfumes, scents and rose water and also for tobacco.
* Khurja, is famous for its ceramics pottery. In fact, the entire state is famous for its pottery not only in India but also around the world.
* Lucknow, the capital, boasts of its cloth work and embroidery (chikan) work on silk and cotton.
* Mirzapur, and Bhadohi are known for carpets.
* Moradabad, is well know for its metal ware, specially brass artifacts.
* Pilibhit, is known for its wood flutes and wood chappal (Khadaoo). Flutes are exported to Europe, America and other countries.
* Saharanpur, is known all over India and abroad for wood carving items produced here.
* Varanasi, is famous for its banarasi saris and silk. A banarasi sari is an essential part of any marriage in the state.

Language and Literature

Uttar Pradesh is often referred to as the 'Hindi heartland of India'. While the languages of state administration are Hindi, established by the Uttar Pradesh Official Language Act, 1951, and Urdu, established by the Amendment to the same in 1989, the native languages of the state are considered as dialects of Hindi both by the common populace as well as the state and central governmental authorities. Linguistically the state spreads across the Central, East-Central and Eastern zones of the Indo-Aryan languages, the major native languages of the state being Bhojpuri, Awadhi, Bundeli, Braj Bhasha, Kannauji and the vernacular form of Khari boli, which also forms the basis for the standardized Hindi and Urdu registers. Bagheli is spoken on the South-western fringes of the state. The state government promotes the native dialects in cultural festivals - education however, in the dialects is negligible. Moreover, the literature of the two main literary dialects of the medieval era, Braj Bhasha and Awadhi, is considered to be subsumed under Hindi literature. While once these two dialects were the main literary vehicles in the region, any progress in literature in them or any of the other native languages is negligible.

The number of speakers of the native languages is difficult to estimate because most educated people in the urban areas return Hindi as their mother tongue as it is the language of administration and education, while people in the rural areas return 'Hindi' as the generic name for their language, primarily because of a lack of a linguistic awareness. Recently however, Bhojpuri has seen a linguistic assertion of sorts, while there has been weak activism with respect to Bundeli.

Dance and Music

The state is home to a very ancient tradition in dance and music. During the eras of Guptas and Harsh Vardhan, Uttar Pradesh was a major centre for musical innovation. Swami Haridas was a great saint-musician who championed Hindustani Classical Music. Tansen, the great musician in Mughal Emperor Akbar's court, was a disciple of Swami Haridas. The ragas sung by Tansen were believed to be so powerful that they could bring rain, or light a fire, when recited.

Kathak, a classical dance form, involving gracefully coordinated movements of feet along with entire body, grew and flourished in Uttar Pradesh. Wajid Ali Shah, the last Nawab of Awadh, was a great patron and a passionate champion of Kathak. Today, the state is home to two prominent schools of this dance form, namely, Lucknow Gharana and Banaras Gharana. The Bhatkande Music University at Lucknow is named after the great musician Pandit Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande.

In modern times, Uttar Pradesh has given to the world music legends like Anup Jalota, Baba Sehgal, Girija Devi, Gopal Shankar Misra, Hari Prasad Chaurasia, Kishan Maharaj, Naushad Ali, Pandit Ravi Shankar, Shubha Mudgal, Siddheshwari Devi, Talat Mehmood, Ustad Bismillah Khan etc. The legendary Ghazal singer Begum Akhtar belonged to Uttar Pradesh; she took this aspect of music to amazing heights. 'Ae Mohabbat Tere anjaam pe rona aaya' is one of her best musical renditions of all times. It is also, incidentally, the birthplace of British pop legend Sir Cliff Richard.

The region's folk heritage includes songs called rasiya (known and especially popular in Braj), which celebrate the divine love of Radha and Shri Krishna. These songs are accompanied by large drums known as bumb and are performed at many festivals. Other folk dances or folk theater forms include:

* Khayal
* Naqal - (mimicry)
* Nautanki
* Qawwali
* Ramlila, which includes enacting the entire Ramayana
* Raslila
* Swang

Cuisine

Uttar Pradesh has two distinct traditions of cuisine: Vegetarian and Non-vegetarian.

* A formal vegetarian meal consists of Chapatis (pancakes) and/or Puries (deep fried pancakes), Daal (thick lentil soup), Rice (boiled white rice), Vegetable curries (one or more of dry/fried and semi-liquid curries each), Curd, Pickles, Papad (thin spicy crackers) and a variety of Sweetmeats. It is normally served in metal dishes and traditionally eaten without the use of cutlery, sitting on the bare floor. When a large gathering is to be feasted in a traditional manner, food may also be served on disposable, flat platters (called 'Pattal'), which are made by intertwining broad leaves of certain trees.

* A non-vegetarian meal consists of many varieties of meat or rice preparations that have evolved in the region and are now nationally and internationally known as the Moghlai cuisine; some of these are: Kebab, Kufta, Korma, Keema, Pulao, Biryani, Prothas (plain or stuffed), Halwa, Firni etc. In addition, a selection from the above vegetarian dishes may be present among the food spread. Traditionally, food is served in metal-ware or ceramic crockery, eaten directly with bare hands or (some times) with spoons, sitting on the ground covered with a flooring material like cloth-sheet or carpet.

In most of the modern homes, use of western table ware and dining table and chairs have become the norm and western dishes are also included at times.

Dress

A variety of dresses are worn by the people of Uttar Pradesh and hence, the public scene is always a show of many types of dresses and many colours.

* Traditional styles of dress include draped garments, such as sari for women and dhoti or lungi for men, and stitched clothes, such as salwar kameez for women and kurta-pyjama for men.
* European-style trousers and shirts are also common among the educated men.

Dress material is chosen as per the need of the weather; hence, cotton is common in summer and woollens are needed in winter, when a sweater,jacket and/or a coat may be worn, specially in peak winter.

Festivals

Religious practices are as much an integral part of everyday life, and a very public affair, as they are in the rest of India. Therefore, not surprisingly, many festivals are religious in origin, although several of them are celebrated irrespective of caste and creed. Among the most important Hindu festivals are Diwali, Holi and Vijayadasami, which are also observed with equal fervour by Jains and Sikhs. Eid al-Milad, Eid ul-Fitr, Bakr-Id and Moharram are Muslim religious festivals. Mahavir Jayanti is celebrated by Jains, Buddha Jayanti by Buddhists, Guru Nanak Jayanti by Sikhs and Christmas by the Christians.

Sports

Presently, common sports of Uttar Pradesh are of two distinct categories: the traditional sports and the modern sports of mainly European origin.

* Traditional sports, now played mostly as a past time, include wrestling, swimming, Kabaddi and track- or water-sports played according to local traditional rules and without use of modern gears; some times, display of martial skills using a sword or ‘Pata’ (stick) etc. form the basis of sports. But, due to lack of organized patronage and requisite facilities, these sports are surviving mostly as individuals' hobbies or local competitive events, e.g. in interested schools.

* Modern sports - indoor, field and track games - are popular, especially among the educated class, but the state has yet to attain alround national standing in most of them. There was a time when field hockey was immensely popular and Uttar Pradesh produced some of the finest hockey players of India, who brought glory to the nation.

* Dhyan Chand, the legendary field hockey player of India and a hero of many Olympic Games of yester years, was born on 29 August 1905, in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh. Adolf Hitler, the Chancellor of Germany, was so impressed by Dhyan Chand's performance in the Berlin Olympic hockey-finals that he offered to elevate 'Lance Naik' Dhyan Chand to the rank of a Colonel if he migrated to Germany. Chand declined the offer.

* Hockey's popularity is now taken over by cricket. Though not renowned for it cricket team, U.P. won its first Ranji Trophy in February 2006, beating Bengal in the final. It can also boast of its 3-4 players normally finding a place in the national side.

* Green Park Stadium in Kanpur is one of the oldest cricket venues in India and has witnessed some of India's most famous victories.

Tourism

Uttar Pradesh attracts a large number of visitors both national and international. There are two regions in the state where a majority of the tourists go:

* The city of Agra, which gives access to three World Heritage Sites: Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri.
o Taj Mahal is a mausoleum built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. It is cited as 'the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world's heritage.'
o Agra Fort is about 2.5 km northwest of its much more famous sister monument, the Taj Mahal. The fort can be more accurately described as a walled palatial city.
o Fatehpur Sikri was the the world famous 16th century capital city near Agra, built by the Mughal emperor Akbar the Great, whose mausoleum in Agra is also worth a visit.
* The holiest of the holy cities of Hindus on the banks of sacred rivers Ganga and the Yamuna: Varanasi (also considered world's oldest city), Ayodhya (birth place of Lord Rama), Mathura (birth place of Lord Krishna) and Allahabad (the confluence or 'holy-sangam' of the sacred Ganga-Yamuna rivers).

In Agra itself, Dayal Bagh is a temple built in modern times that many visit. It is still under construction and would take an estimated one century for completion. Its life-like carvings in marble are unique in India. Agra's dubious modern attractions include Asia's largest Spa as well as Asia's first and only 6D theatre.

Every year, thousands gather at Allahabad to take part in the festival held on the banks of the Ganges, the Magh Mela. The same festival is organised on a larger scale every 12th year and is called the Kumbha Mela, where over 10 million Hindu pilgrims congregate — the largest gathering of human beings in the world.

Varanasi is widely considered to be one of the oldest cities in the world. It is famous for its ghats (bathing steps along the river), that remain bustling year round with devotees from all over India and beyond, who want to take a holy dip in the sacred Ganges River.

From Varanasi are the historically important towns of Sarnath and Kushinagar. Gautama Buddha gave his first sermon at Sarnath after his enlightenment and Kushinagar is where Gautama Buddha died; hence both are important pilgrimage site for Buddhists. Also at Sarnath are the Pillars of Ashoka and the Lion Capital of Ashoka, both important archaeological artifacts with national significance. From Varanasi, a distance of 80 km Ghazipur is famous for Ganga Ghats and Lord Kornwalis Tomb maintained by Archeological Survey of India.

Dudhwa National Park is one of the best Tiger reserves in the country. Lakhimpur Kheri is a must see location - home to the Tiger Reserve - and another sanctuary, Katerniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary, the most concentrated sanctuary in India, with a large population of tigers, as well as leopards, situated in Bahraich and bordering Nepalis also worth a visit.

Kushinagar is a town where Gautama Buddha died.

Regions of Uttar Pradesh

* Upper Doab
* Middle Doab
* Lower Doab
* Rohilkhand
* Awadh
* Purvanchal
* Bundelkhand
* Baghelkhand


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