Uttar Pradesh has nurtured human thoughts and human endeavor in equal measures through the ages. With rich mythological origins the centuries behind us have shaped this land defining what we know as the Heritage Arc.
The Heritage Arc runs across the heart of Uttar Pradesh, covering three very distinct regions- Agra, Lucknow and Varanasi. The Heritage Arc effortlessly traverses great epochs of Indian history, heritage, art, culture, myriad cuisine and spiritual traditions. This Heritage Arc is well connected through the Air, Rail and Road expressway.
Agra, erstwhile imperial capital of the great Mughals, home of the immortal Taj Mahal, needs no introduction. As an earlier and premier city of a vast and powerful empire, Agra and its environs are studded with architectural gems. Beyond the better known monument- Taj Mahal, Agra fort, Fatepur Sikri. The founder of the dynasty – Babar's pleasure garden, Arambagh tombs of the greatest Mughal – Akbar and his Hindu Rajput wife, mother to his son and heir Jahangir, the tomb of Itmadud- Dullah built in memory of her father by Jahangir's wife Noor Jahan, bazaars and palaces where vestiges of the glory of the empire may still be seen and felt. Heritage can do with a walk through Agra, with local historians and residents, brings to life a city beyond the staple guidebook prattle. This ancient land has also many artistic expressions like marble stone – inlay work, sculpture, murals and carpets. The adjoining region of Bateshwar which has one of the oldest temple series on the banks of a flowing river also encompasses a very rich culture.
The National Chambal Sanctuary supports the largest population of Ghariyals, the Gangetic Dolphins and rare species of Turtles. This region is home to rich variety of indigenous and migratory birds like the Indian Skimmers. Likewise in the Keetham region has the largest congregation of rescued sloth bears, apart from elephants, reptiles and other endangered species. The Lion Safari in Etawah will soon be another attraction.
The twin holy cities of Mathura, 56 km from Agra and Vrindavan a further 15km are traditionally recognized as the capital of Braj Bhoomi, are integral to the legend of Lord Krishna. Charkuls dance, Phoolon ki Holi, Lathmaar Holi and the Rasleela are famous cultural activity in this region.
Culture, Craft & Cuisine - Agra is also known for its fabulous handicrafts, made of marble and softstone inlay work. The Mughals were great patrons of arts and crafts. Empress Nur Jahan took personal interest and was an accomplished artist herself in Zari embroidery work. Agra's major handicraft products besides inlay work are: leatherware, brassware, carpets, jewellery and embroidery work. Agra is also well known for its sweets 'petha' and 'Gazak' and saltish snack 'Dalmoth’.
Lucknow, the land of the Nawabs and Taluqdars an explosive profusion of minarets and domes of refinement and indolence, of languid grace of adab and tehzeeb indulgence and yet great turmoil. Almost a counterfoil to Agra, Lucknow began its ascent even as Imperial power and Mughal might declined. The architectural styles like Bara Imambara, Chhota Imambara, Rumi Darwaza, Kaiserbagh Complex, and its cultures, languages, traditions, handicrafts like Chikankari, the exquisite embroidery, Lucknowi cuisine which include the famous kebabs have earned Lucknow the sobriquet of the land of Ganga Jamuni Tehzeeb – a distinct identity that blends the best of all to produce a refinement uniquely its own.
It is here that colonial power is reflected in the battle scarred ruins of the British residency, in edifices like the La Martiniere College, Dilkusha, the grand avenues of the shopping area of Hazratganj, the stately homes of the nobility in Kaiserbagh, the impressive buildings of power now serving as offices of the state government.
Dudhwa Nation Park is India's most exciting forest reserve. The largest number of swamp deer, which move in herds, is found in the Sthiana and Kakraha blocks. Dudhwa is a major habitat for tigers. The grasslands are also the natural abode of the Indian one horned rhinoceros. Nawabganj Bird Sanctuary is a paradise for bird lovers; it attracts various rare migratory birds.
The famous pilgrim sites in this region include Deva Sharif, Naimisharanya, Misrikh and Ayodhya.
Culture, Craft & Cuisine - For centuries Lucknow has been famous for its various handicraft most well known is the exquisite Chikan work, Zardozi and Kamdani hand embroidery. 'Attar'('Itr') or perfumes attained new heights in Lucknow. Apart from perfumes, Lucknowi Paan, Zarda and Khamira produced by the local tobacconists are hot favourites. Another craft that has reached a high level of artistry in Lucknow is Kite making. Kathak, Thumri, Khayal, Dadra, Gazals, Qawalies and Sher-o-Shairi reached their zenith point in this city. The bawarchis of Awadh achieved a high degree of finesse in cooking and transformed the traditional dastarkhwan with elaborate dishes like kababs, kormas, kaliya, naharikulchas, zarda, Biryani, sheermal, roomali rotis and warqi parathas. “Shahi tukda” and “Halwas” are among the many delicious desserts this city offers.
Varanasi, one of the oldest living cities of the world, inhabitated since time immemorial, a thriving center mentioned in the great Hindu epics – Ramayana and Mahabharata, and later in Buddhist chronicles. The great stupa at Sarnath commemorates Buddha's first sermon.
Varanasi is the starting point of the Gachhami Buddhist path where Lord Buddha walked and preached in eastern Uttar Pradesh. Kushinagar, is where He attained Mahaparinirvana and Sravasti is where Lord Buddha spent maximum monsoons and showed his divine prowess impressing even non believers.
Varanasi has charmed and challenged travelers through the ages. It has a tumultuous history, both materially and spiritually. Varanasi is representative of the inclusiveness of Indian traditions, the acceptance of divergent philosophies, their rise and fall and resurrection all in one time capsule on the banks of the mighty Ganga, in the very heart of India. The handicrafts, exotic embroidery on Banarasi silk, royal carpets, fantastic wooden work, attractive bead and pearl jewelry are all fascinating enough to win your heart.
Allahabad crowned in scriptures as Prayag, Prayagraj or Teertharaj, the holiest pilgrimage center, blessed with the amazingly picturesque Sangam- a confluence of India's most revered rivers – Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati. Allahabad boasts of All Saints' Cathedral one of the finest Anglican Cathedrals in Asia.
Ramnagar, Vindhyachal, Sonbhadra, Jaunpur, Chandauli, Chunar are among easy excursions from Varanasi.
Culture, Craft & Cuisine - Varanasi is famous for its silk weaving. Banaras Brocades are prized the world over. Brassware, copperware, wooden and clay toys and exquisite gold jewellery are some of the other craft the city is famous for. The hand - knotted carpets of Mirzapur and musical instruments are among the other shopping attractions. Banaras is also famous for its ‘Langda Aam’, a variety of mangoes available in the summer. Betel leaf is also a specialty. This city is also reputed for its schools of dance, arts & music.