Agra is a city on the banks of the river Yamuna in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, India. It is 378 kilometres (235 mi) west of the state capital, Lucknow, 206 kilometres (128 mi) south of the national capital New Delhi and 125 kilometres (78 mi) north of Gwalior. With a population of 1,686,993 (2013 est.), it is one of the most populous cities in Uttar Pradesh and the 19th most populous in India.Agra can also refer to the administrative district that has its headquarters in Agra city. It is a major tourist destination because of its many splendid Mughal-era buildings, most notably the Tāj Mahal, Agra Fort and Fatehpūr Sikrī, all three of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Agra is included on the Golden Triangle tourist circuit, along with Delhi and Jaipur.
The city was first mentioned in the epic Mahābhārata, where it was called Agrevaṇa (derived from Sanskrit (अग्रेवण) meaning “the border of the forest”).Legend ascribes the founding of the city to Raja Badal Singh, a Sikarwar Rajput king (c. 1475), whose fort, Badalgarh, stood on or near the site of the present fort. However, the 11th century Persian poet Mas’ūd Sa’d Salmān writes of a desperate assault on the fortress of Agra, then held by the Shāhī King Jayapala, by Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni.It was mentioned for the first time in 1080 AD when a Ghaznavide force captured it. Sultan Sikandar Lodī (1488–1517) was the first to move his capital from Delhi to Agra in 1506. He governed the country from here and Agra assumed the importance of the second capital. He died in 1517 and his son, Ibrāhīm Lodī, remained in power there for nine more years and several palaces, wells and a mosque were built by him in the fort during his period. Finally being defeated at the Battle of Panipat in 1526.Between 1540 and 1556, Afghans, beginning with Sher Shah Suri ruled the area. It achieved fame as the capital of the Mughal Empire from 1556 to 1658.
Though Agra’s history is largely recognised with Mughal Empire, the place was established much before it and has linkages since Mahabharat period so Mahirshi Angira in 1000 BC. It is generally accepted that Sultan Sikandar Lodī, the Ruler of the Delhi Sultanate founded Agra in the year 1504. After the Sultan’s death the city passed on to his son Sultan Ibrāhīm Lodī. He ruled his Sultanate from Agra until he fell fighting to Bābar in the First battle of Panipat fought in 1526.
The golden age of the city began with the Mughals. It was known then as Akbarabād and remained the capital of the Mughal Empire under the Emperors Akbar, Jahāngīr and Shāh Jahān. Shāh Jahān later shifted his capital to Shāhjahānabād in the year 1689.
Since Akbarabād 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 Arām Bāgh 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 Akbarabād called Fatehpūr Sikrī. This city was built in the form of a Mughal military camp in stone.
His son Jahāngīr had a love of gardens and flora and fauna and laid many gardens inside the Red Fort or Lāl Qil’a. Shāh Jahān, known for his keen interest in architecture, gave Akbarabād its most prized monument, the Tāj Mahal. Built in loving memory of his wife Mumtāz Mahal, the mausoleum was completed in 1653.
Shāh Jahān later shifted the capital to Delhi during his reign, but his son Aurangzeb moved the capital back to Akbarabād, usurping his father and imprisoning him in the Fort there. Akbarabād remained the 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 was called Agra, before falling into the hands of the British Raj in 1803.
In 1835 when the Presidency of Agra was established by the British, the city became the seat of government, and just two years later it was 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 30 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 forced to withdraw, this led to a mob sacking the city. However, the rebels moved onto Delhi which allowed the British to restore order by 8 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 birthplace of the religion known as Dīn-i Ilāhī, which flourished during the reign of Akbar and also of the Radhaswami Faith, which has around two million followers worldwide. Agra has historic linkages with Shauripur of Jainism and Runukta of Hinduism, of 1000 BC.
Tāj Mahal, Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri are all UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Places of interest
The Taj Mahal is one of the most famous buildings in the world, the mausoleum of Shah Jahan’s favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. It is one of the New Seven Wonders of the world, and one of the three World Heritage Sites in Agra. Agra is commonly identified as the “City of Taj”.
Completed in 1653, the Tāj Mahal was built by the Mughal king Shah Jahan as the final resting place for his beloved wife, Mumtāz Mahal. Finished in marble, it is perhaps India’s most beautiful monument. This perfectly symmetrical monument took 22 years (1630–1652) of labour and 20,000 workers, masons and jewellers to build and is set amidst landscaped gardens. Built by the Persian architect, Ustād ‘Īsā, the Tāj Mahal is on the south bank of the Yamuna River. It can be observed from Agra Fort from where Emperor Shāh Jahān gazed at it for the last eight years of his life, a prisoner of his son Aurangzeb. It is an acknowledged masterpiece of symmetry. Verses of the Quran are inscribed on it and at the top of the gate are twenty-two small domes, signifying the number of years the monument took to build. The Tāj Mahal was built on a marble platform that stands above a sandstone one. The most elegant dome of the Tāj Mahal has a diameter of 60 feet (18 m), and rises to a height of 80 feet (24 m); directly under this dome is the tomb of Mumtāz Mahal. Shah Jahān’s tomb was erected next to hers by his son Aurangzeb. The interiors are decorated with fine inlay work, incorporating semi-precious stones.
Agra Fort (sometimes called the Red Fort), was commissioned by the great Mughal Emperor Akbar in 1565, and is another of Agra’s World Heritage Sites. A stone tablet at the gate of the Fort states that it had been built before 1000 but was later renovated by Akbar. The red sandstone fort was converted into a palace during Shāh Jahān’s time, and reworked extensively with marble and pietra dura inlay. Notable buildings in the fort include the Pearl Mosque or Motī Masjid, the Dīwān-e-‘Ām and Dīwān-e-Khās (halls of public and private audience), Jahāngīr’s Palace, Khās Mahal, Shīsh Mahal (mirrored palace), and the Musamman Burj.
The forbidding exteriors of this fort conceal 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 kilometres (1.5 mi), and is ringed by double castellated ramparts of red sandstone punctuated at regular intervals by bastions. A moat 9 metres (30 ft) wide and 10 metres (33 ft) deep surrounds the outer wall.
Chhatrapati Shīvajī visited the Agra Fort, as a result of the conditions of the Treaty of Purandar entered into with Mirzā Rājā Jaisingh to meet Aurangzeb in the Dīwān-i-Khās (Special Audience Chamber). In the audience he was deliberately placed behind men of lower rank. An insulted Shīvajī stormed out of the imperial audience and was confined to Jai Sing’s quarters on 12 May 1666. Fearing the dungeons and execution he escaped on 17 August 1666. A heroic equestrian statue of Shīvajī has been erected outside the fort.
The fort is a typical example of Mughal architecture, effectively showing how the North Indian style of fort construction differed from that of the South. In the South, the majority of forts were built on the seabed like the one at Bekal in Kerala.
The Mughal Emperor Akbar built Fatehpūr Sikrī about 35 km (22 mi) 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. The name of the place came about after the Mughal Emperor Bābar defeated Rāṇā Sāngā in a battle at a place called Sikrī (about 40 km (25 mi) from Agra). Then the Mughal Emperor Akbar wanted to make Fatehpūr Sikrī his headquarters, so he built a majestic fort; due to shortage of water, however, he had to ultimately move his headquarters to Agra Fort.
Buland Darwāza or ‘the lofty gateway’ was built by the great Mughal emperor, Akbar in 1601 CE. at Fatehpūr Sikrī. Akbar built the Buland Darwāza to commemorate his victory over Gujarat. The Buland Darwāza is approached by 52 steps. The Buland Darwāza is 53.63 metres (175.95 feet) high and 35 metres (115 feet) wide. it is made of red and buff sandstone, decorated by carving and black and white marble inlays. An inscription on the central face of the Buland Darwāza demonstrates Akbar’s religious broadmindedness, it is a message from Jesus advising his followers not to consider this world as their permanent home.
The Empress Nūr Jahān built I’timād-Ud-Daulah’s Tomb, sometimes called the “Baby Tāj”, for her father, Mirzā Ghiyās Beg, the Chief Minister of the Emperor Jahāngīr. 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 area of the mausoleum itself is about 23 m2 (250 sq ft), and is built on a base that is about 50 m2 (540 sq ft) and about one metre (3.3 feet) high. On each corner are hexagonal towers, about thirteen metres (43 feet) 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 Tāj 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 penetrates to the interior through delicate jālī screens of intricately carved white marble.
Many of Nūr Jahān’s relatives are interred in the mausoleum. The only asymmetrical element of the entire complex are the tombs of her father and mother, which 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 the Delhi-Agra Highway, only 13 kilometres (8.1 miles) 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 langurs 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 Turkic custom which the Mughals followed religiously. Akbar’s son Jahāngīr completed construction of this pyramidal tomb in 1613. The 99 names of Allah have been inscribed on the tomb.
The Mankameshwar Temple is one of four ancient temples dedicated to Lord Shiva located on the four corners of Agra City. It is located near the Jāma Masjid and is about 2.5 kilometres (1.6 miles) from the Tāj Mahal and less than 1 km (0.6 mi) from Agra Fort. Being located in the old city, the temple is surrounded by markets, many of which date back to the Mughal Era.
Indrabhan Girls’ Inter College
It is widespreadly considered to be the birthplace of great poet Mirza Ghalib. It is located near the Mankameshwar Temple and is about 3 kilometres (1.9 miles) from the Tāj Mahal and less than 1 km (0.6 mi) from Agra Fort. Being located in the old city, the College is surrounded by markets. Approximately four or five years back, the birth room of Mirza Ghalib was hidden behind the wall by the Management of the college to keep the identity of the place secret.
Gurudwara Guru ka Taal
Guru ka Tal was originally a reservoir meant to collect and conserve rainwater built in Agra, near Sikandra, during Jahangir’s reign next to the Tomb of I’tibār Khān Khwājasara in 1610. In the 1970s a gurudwara was erected here. Guru ka Tal is a holy place of worship for the Sikhs. Four of the ten Sikh Gurus are said to have paid it a visit. Enjoying both historical and religious importance, this shrine attracts a large number of devotees and tourists. Boasting elaborate stone carvings and eight of the twelve original towers. It is located by national (Delhi-Agra) highway-2.
The Jāma 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. The inscription at its entrance shows that it cost Rs 5 Lakhs at that time for its completion.
Chīnī kā Rauza
Notable for its Persian influenced dome of blue glazed tiles, the Chīnī kā Rauza is dedicated to the Prime Minister of Shāh Jahān, ‘Allāma Afzal Khāl Mullā Shukrullāh of Shiraz.
The oldest Mughal garden in India, the Rām Bāgh was built by the Emperor Bābar in 1528 on the bank of the Yamuna. It lies about 2.34 km (1 mi) north of the Tāj Mahal. The pavilions in this garden are designed so that the wind from the Yamuna, combined with the greenery, keeps them cool even during the peak of summer. The original name of the gardens was Ārām Bāgh, or ‘Garden of Relaxation’, and this was where the Mughal emperor Bābar used to spend his leisure time and where he eventually died. His body was kept here for some time before sending it to Kabul.
On Ram Bagh to Tundla road near Etmadpur, there is a famed Yoga Ashram of Mahaprabhu Ramlal ji and Gurudev Chandra mohan ji maharaj named Shri Siddha Gufa Sawai. Thousands of devotees and seekers visit this holy place.
Mariams Tomb, is the tomb of Mariam, the wife of great Mughal Emperor Akbar. The tomb is within the compound of the Christian Missionary Society.
Plan of the Taj complex with the Mehtab Bagh gardens to the left
The Mehtāb Bāgh, or ‘Moonlight Garden’, is on the opposite bank of the River Yamuna from the Tāj Mahal.
Also known as Sur Sarovar, Keetham Lake is situated about 7 kilometres (4.3 miles) from the Akbar tomb in Agra, within the Surdas Reserved Forest. The lake has an impressive variety of aquatic life and water birds.
Mughal Heritage Walk
The Mughal Heritage Walk is a part of community development programme being implemented with support of Agra Municipal corporation, USAID and an NGO; Center for Urban and Regional Excellence. It seeks to build sustainable livelihoods for youth and women from low resource communities and improve their living environments through infrastructure services and integration within the city.
The Mughal Heritage Walk is a one-kilometre (0.62-mile) 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.
The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Agra.
Paliwal Park (Hewitt Park)
Paliwal Park, during the British Raj was known as Hewitt Park, is now renamed in memory of Shri Krishna Datta Paliwal, Who was the first finance minister of Uttar Pradesh, when Shri Govind Ballabh Pant was the Chief Minister of U.P State.
Paliwal Park is located in the heart of Agra, India. It is spread over an area of around 70 acres (280,000 m2). It also has a small lake and has vast variety of trees.
Paliwal Park links the residential areas of Vijay Nagar Colony & Gandhi Nagar to the financial Hub of the city i.e. Sanjay Place.
John’s Public Library, also known as the Agra Municipal Library, is also located here and one can find rare books on diverse topics here.
Many people come here for morning walk, as a result this place is full especially during the summer holidays when youngsters play all sort of different games.