The Taj at Agra is, of course, the best place to start with. This superb specimen of Mughal architecture is a veritable poetry in stone constructed by Shahjahan in memory of his wife Mumtaz. Located 40 km away is Fatehpur Sikri built by Akbar.
Situated at a distance of 40 km from Agra, Fatehpur Sikri has the mausoleum of the famous saint Sheikh Salim Chisti. The mausoleum is in the premises of a mosque and was built during the reign of Akbar.
The main tourist attraction of Ayodhya was the Babri Masjid (Mosque), built by the Mughal king Babur. Unfortunately, the traveler can no longer see this monument as it was demolished in the riots that took place here in 1992. It is said that Ayodhya has 7000 temples, but there are some 100 temples of relative significance. Near the remains of the Babri Masjid, the traveler can see the Ram Janmabhumi (birthplace of Lord Ram) shrine. It is believed that Lord Ram spent much of his childhood here. Other places to visit in Ayodhya are Lakshman Ghat, Kala Ram temple and the Kanak Bhavan temple, which was built in the 19th century. There are several Jain shrines in Ayodhya. One kilometer east of the Ram Janmabhumi shrine is Hanumangadhi (Fortress of Hanuman, the revered monkey god and friend/devotee of Lord Ram). It is said that Lord Hanuman lived in a cave nearby to protect the Ram Janmabhumi.
Lucknow shot to fame during the period of the Nawabs of Awadh. Asaf-ud-daula built the Roomi Darwaza and the Bada Imambada. The Asafi Mosque, Daulat Khana, the Residency, Bibiapur Kothi, and Chowk Market were also built by Asaf-ud-daula. Ghazi-ud-din Haider built the Shahnajaf, Moti Mahal, Mubarak Manzil, and tombs of Saadat Ali and Khurshidzadi. The Hussainabad Imambada, Bari Jama Masjid, Hussainabad Baradari, and a few other buildings were built by Mohammad Ali Shah.
Mathura it is one of the seven holy cities of Hinduism. It is regarded as the birthplace of Lord Krishna.
Situated at the confluence of Ganga and Yamuna, Allahabad or Prayag, also known as Tirtharaj, is a famous pilgrim center of India.
Sarnath occupies a very important place among Buddhist shrines. After Enlightenment in Bodh Gaya, the Buddha preached his first sermon here.
Varanasi is among the most ancient cities of India. It has many beautiful temples, including the famous Vishwanath temple.
Vrindavan is situated at a distance of 10 km from Mathura. There are about 4,000 temples in Vrindavan.
Flora & Fauna
Uttar Pradesh is a state rich in flora and fauna. It has an amazing variety of some 1,000 woody plants, including 3,000 trees, 400 shrubs, and 100 woody climbers. More than 200 species of grasses have been identified in the Gangetic plains along with a rich supply of herbs and valuable medicinal plants. The variegated topography and climate of Uttar Pradesh is conducive for the upkeep of an enormous variety of animal life.
Its avifauna is among the richest in the country. The jungles of UP abounds in tigers, leopards, wild boars, jungle cats, jackals, foxes, monitor lizards and scores of other species of mammals and reptiles. The birds include dove, pigeon blue jay, peafowl, and kingfisher. To preserve its wildlife, the state has established one national park-the famed Corbett Park-and 12 game sanctuaries. The Corbett Park, which is a major tourist attraction, covers 324 sq km of land.
Fairs & Festivals
Uttar Pradesh has a long list of fairs and festivals. More than 2,230 festivals are held annually. Some are organized at several places simultaneously while others have only local importance. Festivals and feasts are linked with the golden harvest-the sensuous spring, the reverence for mythology, religion or in honor of the past great men. These are zestfully celebrated with song, dance, and merriment; others with solemnity, fervor, fast, or feast. These fairs and festivals help the people keep the culture vibrant and promote artistic activities.
One important festival of Uttar Pradesh is Navratri-a nine-day festival dedicated to the Primordial Energy, known as Durga, the consort of Shiva, which begins on the first day of the bright half of the month of Ashvina. Diwali is another prominent festival devoted to Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth.
The largest festival-fair held in India, drawing millions of people, is the Kumbha Mela. It is held every 12 years at Prayag in Allahabad. In between, the Ardh Kumbha Mela is held every six years at Allahabad and Haridwar.
Holi is another gay and colorful occasion that marks the onset of the gathering of the harvest. The most interesting celebrations are held at Barsana, when the women of the village go out to Nandgaon, the home of Lord Krishna, and challenge the men to throw color on them. This festival is also known as Lathmar Holi.