The city of Agra is situated on the banks of the river Yamuna in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, India. The city is renowned for its phenomenal architecture and historical significance. It was the capital city for some of the great Mughal Emperors like Akbar, Jehangir, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb.
Though Agra’s history is largely connected with the Mughal Empire, it is said that after the death of Buhlul Khan, who belonged to the Lodi tribe of Afghans, his second son, Nizam Khan, was proclaimed King at Jalali, under the title of Sultan Sikandar Shah, in the year 1498.
Sikandar made earnest efforts to increase the strength of the kingdom by removing the disorders and confusion into which it had been thrown during the preceding reigns. He asserted his authority as far as the boundaries of Bengal. With the object of controlling the chiefs of Etawah, Biyana, Koil, Gwalior and Dholpur in an effective manner, he founded a new town in 1504 on the site where the modern city of Agra now stands. The Sultan breathed his last at Agra on the 21st November, 1517.
After the death of Sikandar, his eldest son, Ibrahim, was elevated to the throne at Agra. He ruled his Sultanate from Agra until one of his noble, Dilawar Khan, who was his uncle and a pretender to the throne of Delhi, out of ambition and disaffection to Ibrahim, invited Babur to invade India.
Babur met Ibrahim Lodhi, the nominal ruler of the withered Afghan Empire, on the historic battle of Panipat on the 21st April 1526 and won a decisive victory over Ibrahim Lodhi by superior strategy and use of artillery. Babur quickly occupied Delhi and Agra.
Babur died at Agra and three days after his death, his son Humayun ascended the throne of Hindustan at the age of twenty three. Humayun was able to expand the empire further, leaving a substantial legacy for his son, Akbar. Akbar was the third and one of the greatest rulers of the Mughal Dynasty in India.
Akbar was a follower of Salim Chishti, a holy man who lived in the region of Sikri near Agra. Realizing the importance of its central situation, Akbar made it his capital and arrived in Agra in 1558. Besides making Agra a centre for learning, arts, commerce and religion. Fatehpur Sikri, a new city on the outskirts of Akbarabad, was built by Akbar. Mughal architecture developed vigorously during Akbar’s reign. Among his accomplishments were a tomb for his father Humayun, the Agra Fort, the fort-city of Fatehpur Sikri and the Buland Darwaza.
The Mughal architecture reached its zenith during the reign of Shah Jahan, Akbar’s grandson, who constructed the famous Jama Masjid, the Red Fort, large sections of Agra Fort, the Moti Masjid, and the Jehangir Mausoleum – his father’s tomb. He also had the Peacock Throne, “Takht-e-Taus”, made to celebrate his rule.
Shah Jahan’s best architectural work was the magnificent Taj Mahal, a splendid mausoleum built over the grave of his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Regarded as one of the seven wonder of the world, The Taj Mahal is a declared World Heritage Site by the UNESCO. Apart from the Taj Mahal, the Agra Fort and the Fatehpur Sikri are also declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Agra achieved fame as the capital of the Mughal Empire. Shah Jahan later shifted the capital to Delhi during his reign, but his son Aurangzeb moved the capital back to Akbarabad. It is said that Shah Jahan was deposed and restrained by his son, Aurangzeb, in the fort. He died in Muasamman Burj, a tower with a marble balcony with a view of the Taj Mahal. After his death, Agra lost its grandeur.
Aurangze’s reign corresponded with the decline of Mughal architecture and the Empire itself. After Aurangzeb’s death in 1707, Agra Fort witnessed a saga of sieges and plunder during which it was held by the Jats, the Marathas and finally the British captured it from the latter in 1803.
The Agra Fort was the site of a battle during the Indian rebellion of 1857. Before the rebellion broke out, Agra was an important centre of British administration and commerce. News of the revolt spread fast and the 44th and 67th Regiments of Bengal Native Infantry rebelled and marched to Delhi. The native Indian troops in Agra were forced to disarm, and the city of Gwalior (which lies south of Agra) rebelled.
The British were forced to withdraw and take shelter in the historic Agra Fort. Delhi however, was too strong an attraction for the sepoys and other rebels. The rebels moved onto Delhi which allowed the British to restore order. Delhi fell to the British in September; the following month rebels who had fled Delhi along with the rebels from Central India marched on Agra but were defeated. After this British rule was again secured over the city which remained a part of the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh of British India during the closing decades of the British Raj until India got independence in 1947.
The city of Agra is one of the most prominent tourist destinations of India and is included on the Golden Triangle Tourist Circuit. The city is famous for its historical monuments, beautiful carpets, gold & silver jewellery and handicrafts, leather goods etc. The Mughlai cuisine and the skilled craftsmen can still be seen in the narrow lanes of the city as a reminiscent of the lost times.