Agra is a city on the banks of the Yamuna river in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. It is 206 kilometres (128 mi) south of the national capital New Delhi. Agra is the fourth-most populous city in Uttar Pradesh and 24th in India.
There was an early reference to an “Agravana” in the ancient Sanskrit epic Mahabharata, and Ptolemy is said to have called the site “Agra.” The city was founded by Sultan Sikandar of the Lodhi dynasty in the early 16th century to be the capital of the Delhi sultanate. Agra also served as the Mughal capital during some periods of that empire. In the late 18th century the city fell successively to the Jats, the Marathas, the Mughals, the ruler of Gwalior, and, finally, the British in 1803. It was the capital of Agra (later North-Western) province from 1833 to 1868 and was one of the main centres of the Indian Mutiny (1857–58).
Places to visit
- Taj Mahal – Agra is best known for the Taj Mahal (17th century) which was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983. A complex mausoleum, the Taj Mahal is often considered to be the world’s best example of Mughal architecture. The Mughal emperor Shah Jahan built it for his favourite wife, Mumtaz Maḥal, in the mid-17th century. Agra Fort (16th century), called the Red Fort for its massive red sandstone walls, was built by the emperor Akbar; it contains the Pearl Mosque (Moti Masjid; 17th century), constructed of white marble, and a palace, the Jahangiri Mahal. The fort was also designated a World Heritage site in 1983.
- Agra Fort – 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 Shah Jahan’s time, and reworked extensively with marble and pietra dura inlay. Notable buildings in the fort include the Pearl Mosque or Moti Masjid, the Diwan-e-Aam and Diwan-e-Khaas (halls of public and private audience), Jahangir’s Palace, Khaas Mahal, Shish 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.
- Fatehpur Sikri – The Mughal Emperor Akbar built Fatehpur Sikri 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 Babur defeated Raṇa Sanga in a battle at a place called Sikra (about 40 km from Agra). Then the Mughal Emperor Akbar wanted to make Fatehpur Sikri his headquarters, so he built a majestic fort; due to the shortage of water, however, he had to ultimately move his headquarters to Agra Fort.
- Buland Darwaza – or ‘the lofty 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 52 steps. The Buland Darwaza 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 Darwaza demonstrates Akbar’s religious broad-mindedness; it is a message from Jesus advising his followers not to consider this world as their permanent home.
- Tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah – It is a Mughal mausoleum in the city of Agra in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Often described as a “jewel box”, sometimes called the “Bachcha Taj”, the tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah is often regarded as a draft of the Taj Mahal. Along with the main building, the structure consists of numerous outbuildings and gardens. The tomb, built between 1622 and 1628, represents a transition between the first phase of monumental Mughal architecture – primarily built from red sandstone with marble decorations, as in Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi and Akbar’s tomb in Sikandra – to its second phase, based on white marble and pietra dura inlay, most elegantly realized in the Taj Mahal. The mausoleum was commissioned by Nur Jahan, the wife of Jahangir, for her father Mirza Ghiyas Beg, originally a Persian Amir in exile, who had been given the title of Itimad-ud-Daulah (pillar of the state). Mirza Ghiyas Beg was also the grandfather of Mumtaz Mahal (originally named Arjumand Bano, daughter of Asaf Khan), the wife of the emperor Shah Jahan, responsible for the construction of the Taj Mahal. Nur Jahan was also responsible for the construction of the Tomb of Jahangir in Lahore. It is noticeable for the first use of pietra dura (floral design made up of semiprecious stone) technique.
6. Akbar’s Tomb – The Tomb of the mighty Mughal Emperor Akbar is situated in the outskirts of Agra. The emperor got his tomb monument constructed while he was alive as his final resting place. His son Jahangir finished the complete construction which is totally done with sandstone and white marble. The monument that is found in Sikandra within the suburbs of Agra is built over a region of 119 acres surrounded by lovely gardens designed by the Emperor Akbar. Overseeing the tomb of himself while living is part of the Tartary tradition which Akbar followed for his own tomb. The tomb is toward the rising sun and roughly a kilometer close to his wife’s tomb also in Sikandra.
Tourism, handicrafts, agriculture and manufacturing make up Agra’s economy. Agra has a thriving small scale industry sector connected to leather goods and iron foundries.
The delicate inlay and carving work in white marble of the Taj Mahal started getting affected by the rising air pollution levels in Agra. In response in year 2000 the Supreme Court mandated that a “safe” zone of 50 kilometres around the monument – or the Taj Trapezium Zone (TTZ) – be free of polluting industry and diesel vehicles. This has had scant impact on the pollution levels in the city in general as Agra ranked 4th most polluted city in 2016. The severe pollution is affecting tourism – both for visibility and health reasons.