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The city of Agra, like Delhi, stands on the bank of the river Jamuna between Mathura and Surajpur. The region originally formed part of the Surasena Empire with Mathura as its capital. Agra has two histories: one of the ancient city on the left, bank of the river Jamuna, going back so far as to be lost in the legends of Krishna and the heros of the Mahabharata; where it is named as Agraban. This city in those days was considered to be the sister of Mathura which was more prominent than Agraban. The other history is of the modern city, founded by Akbar in AD.1558,on the right bank of the river. Muhammadans still retain its name as Akbarabad, which is intimately associated with the romance of the Great Moguls and known throughout the world as the city of the Taj. It is said that this city of Taj was established in 1475 by Badal Singh. Sikandar Lodhi made this place his capital when the Lodhi ruled north India.

The first definite mention of Agra and its fort has been made by Khwaja Masud bid s’ad bin Salman in his Diwan which consists of poems written in praise of the Ghaznavide sovereigns eg Masud, Ibrahim and Bahram Shah. According to the poet Mahmud Shah the governor of Hind (presumably parts of the Punjab and the North-west region) invaded the Fort of Agra in 1080-81. Jaipal, the Amir of Agra, gave tough fight but being disappointed, offered to submit. It may be surmised that the strong fort, which was defended against Mahmud Shah, was not an isolated construction undoubtedly it had a long background. Definite records show that there was a brick fort in existence before Akbar. Akbar found it in ruins and he rebuilt it with finished red sandstone, as it presently stands. All the three historions of Akbar viz Skeikh Abul Fazal, Mulla Abdul Qadar Badaoni and Khawaja Nizamuddin agree as to the reconstruction of the old fort by Akbar. His son Jehangir also concurred and has mentioned in his memoirs, this old fort on the bank of the Jamuna which was destroyed by his father and a new one built of red sandstone in its place.

The second battle of Tarain(1192) proved to be decisive as it overthrew the mighty Chauhans and firmly established the Turks in the heart of the country. Agra has not specifically been mentioned during the reign of the Mamluka, the so called slave dynasty of the Delhi Sultanate (1206-1290) nor of the Khaljis (1290-1320) or even of the Tughlaqus (1320-1411) It was in the reign of Syed Allauddin (1445-51) that Agra is specifically mentioned as a dependency of Biana. Later on Agra was seized by Sikandar Lodi. But the story narrated by Niamatullah, the chronicler of the Lodhi dynasty, that Sikandar founded the city and gave it the name of Agra is not acceptable as Agra has been mentioned in earlier records also.

Agra under Sikandar Lodhi was a great centre of cultural activities and was considered to be the Shiraz of India. Sikandar Lodi died here in the fort on Sunday : 14th December 1517. His son and successor; Ibrahim Lodi held it for 9 years.


View of Tamahal from Agra Fort

Ibrahim Lodhi, the Last Sultan of the Delhi Sultanate, was killed and the Lodi Empire was overthrown in the first battle of Panipat in 1526. Babur founded a dynastyof his own which is known as the Mughal dynasty.

Immediately after battle of Panipat he despatched his eldest son Humayun to Agra to seize the treasury. Treasures were seized by the Mughals which included some rare diamonds. The gem which was later named the Koh-i-Noor also formed part of the booty. It was presented to Humayun by Bikramjit family (Raja of Gwalior) Babur mentions that on May 10, 1526 he entered Agra and "dismounted at the Manzil of Sultan Ibrahim." He constructed a big baoli inside the fort. It was here in 1530 that Babur breathed his last and Humayun was crownd. For all practical purposes Agra was the seat of the Mughal government. Later on Afghan under Sher Shah defeated Humayun at the battle of Chausa and Agra came under the rule of Baramzid (Brahmajit Gaur) on behalf of Sher Shah. Agra was thus made the commanding station whence began a series of roads and cross roads leading to the remotest parts of the Sur Empire.

After the death of Islam Shah the son and successor of Sher Shah in 1515 Hemu became the master of the area in the vicinity. It was not, however until the second battle of Panipat in 1556 that he was defeatd and killed and Agra was occupied by Iskandar Khan on behalf of Akbar. Akbar made Agra as the headquerters of his state.It was during Akbar’s period that Agra became the center of Art,Culture,Commerce and learning. After the death of Akbar Agra was ruled by Jehangir and Shanjehan. Shah Jehan's long reign (1628-58) of thirty years was marked by comparatively settled condition.The Emperor had a passion for architecture and it was during his rule that the world famous monumental masterpieces like the Taj Mahal and the Moti Masjid were constructed.

Auranjzeb came to the throne is 1658. He murdered his brothers and nephews in cold blood and imprisoned his father in the fort of Agra. He trnasferred his capital to Delhi and allowed Agra to Sink into backgrounds after about a century of glamorous years.



Agra was one of the twelve Subas (provinces) of the Mughal empire. It comprised thirteen Sarkars (divisions) including Agra and its adjoining regions Gwalior, Kalpi, Kannauj, Koil (Modern Aligarh), Narnaul and Alwar. It extended from Ghatampur near Allahabad in the east to Palwal in the west with the Ganges on the North and Chanderi to the South. It was thus one of the largest Subas of the Empire. Abul Fazl, Akbar's court historian, gives a picture of Agra of Akbar's day: "Agra is a large city and possesses a healthy Climate. The river Jamuna flows through it for five kos and on either bank are delightful villas and pleasant stretches of meadow.It is filled with people from all countries and is the emporium of the traffic of the world. His majesty has built a fort of red stone, and like of which travellers have never recorded. It contains more than five hundred buildings of masonry after the beautiful designs of Bengal and architectural models ... his present majesty embellished it and thus a matchless city has arisen." Badaoni and Nizamuddin, two other contemporary historians of the time of Akbar, confirm the grandeur of the city and its lofty fort.

The Jesuit Father established a church, an orphanage and a college at Agra; here they had a regular burial ground which for a considerable period was the only Christian cemetry in Northern India.

Ralph Fitch who visited Agra in 1585 noted that it was much larger in dimensions and populatious than London.Jehangir also noted in his memoirs that in the number of its buildings it is equal to several cities of Iraq, Khurasan and Mawar-un-Nahr (Transoxiana) put together.

William Finch visited Agra in 1610 in connection with the trade in Neel (Indigo) and other country stuffs in which the English East India company dealt. He has also left a memorable narrative of his observations of Agra. It was here that the embassies of Hawkins, Canning, Keridge and Sir Thomas Roe were received. The English and Dutch established their factories in Agra.

Niccolao Manucci was a venetian. He served in the ranks of the Mughal army as a gunner and participated in the disastrous battle of Samogarh in 1658. Francis Bernier was attached to the Mughal court in the capacity of a physician, practically from 1659 to 1665.He too has left a representative description of Agra: "Agra having been a favourite and more frequent abode of the kings of Hindustan since the days of Akbar, by whom it was built and named Akbarabad. 

Agra was the capital of the grand Mughal Empire for nearly a century. Akbar and his nobles adorned it with beautiful palaces. It was here that he chose to be buried in a splendid mausoleum. It was here later that Nur Jehan constructed a beautiful tomb over the remains of her parents. And it was here at Agra that Shah Jehan decided to construct not only the magnificent palaces and the MotiMasjid but also that wonder-creation of art and architecture Which is today known by the Simple name of Taj Mahal.

The medieval history which is writ large on her monuments keeps the story of its grandeur as fresh as it was in the 16th and the 17th centuries.


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