Monday, April 27, 2009


Agra (pronounced [ɑːgrə] (help·info)) (Hindi: आगरा, Urdu: آگرہ) is a city on the banks of the Yamuna River in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, India. It finds mention in the epic Mahābhārata where it was called Agrevaṇa (अग्रेवण), or 'the border of the forest'[1]. Legend ascribes the founding of the city to Rājā Badal Singh (around 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 Ghazna.[2] Sultan Sikandar Lodhī was the first to move his capital from Delhi to Agra in the year 1506; he died in 1517 and his son Ibrāhīm Lodhī remained in power there for nine more years, finally being defeated at the Battle of Panipat in 1526[3]. It achieved fame as the capital of the Mughal emperors from 1526 to 1658 and remains 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 situated on the banks of the Yamaha river. It has an average elevation of 171&tbsp;meters (561&tbsp;ft). To the north it is bound by Mathura, to the south by Haulier, to the east by Faisalabad, to the south-east by Fatheaded and to the west by Bukhara. Agra is the third biggest city in Attar Prado. The Agra district is divided into six Testilys and fifteen Blocks. The total number of Nay Panchromatics in the district are 114 while Gram Sachas stands at 636. The total populated villages are 904. The total number of police stations in the district are 41 out of which 16 are in urban areas, while 25 are in rural ones. The total number of Railway Stations (including Halts) are 29 and Bus Stands/Bus Stops are 144. Total number of Broad Gauge lines is 196 K.M. and Meter Gauge is 35 K.M.[citation needed]

average temperatures in Agra, located on the Indo-Gangetic plain has a continental climate, with long, hot summers from April to September when temperatures can reach as high as 45 °C (113 °F). During summers dry winds (loo) blow in this region. The monsoon months from July to September see about 69 cm (27 inches) of rainfall annually. Winters last from November to February, with day time temperatures comfortably warm, but temperatures below freezing are not uncommon during the night. Agra is also prone to dense fog during the winter months of December & January.
A major tourist destination, Agra is best visited in the months of October, November, February and March, when the average temperatures are between 16-25 °C (60-75 °F). The monsoon season should be avoided by non-Indians due to the risk of disease and flooding, and the months of April to June due to the extreme heat. The months of December and January are to be avoided due to the dense fog and often freezing temperatures, especially since much of the city has no heating system.

As of the 2000 Indian census,[4] Agra had a population of 1,800,000. Males constitute 53% of the population and females 47%. Agra has an average literacy rate of 65%, higher than the national average of 63.5%; with 76% males literate. 11% of the population is under 6 years of age. Hindi is spoken by virtually everyone; English and Urdu are also spoken.

Agra is a medieval city situated on the banks of the river Yamuna. It is generally accepted that Sultan Sikandar Lodī, the Ruler of the Delhi Sultanate founded it in the year 1504. After the Sultan's death the city passed on to his son Sultan Ibrāhīm Lodhī. He ruled his Sultanate from Agra until he fell fighting to Bābar in the First battle of Panipat fought in 1526.
In the year 1556, the great Hindu warrior, Hemu Vikramaditya also known as Hem Chander Vikramaditya won Agra as the Prime Minister cum Chief of Army of Adil Shah of the Afghan Sūrī Dynasty. The commander of Humāyūn / Akbar's forces in Agra was so scared of Hemu that he ran away from the city without a fight. This was Hemu's 21st continuous win, and he later went on to conquer Delhi, having his coronation at Purānā Qil'a in Delhi and re-established the Hindu Kingdom and the Vikramaditya Dynasty in North India.
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 1649.

Taj Mahal.
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 Jats and was called Agra, before falling into the hands of the British Raj in 1803.

Agra, Main Street, c.1858
In 1835 when the Presidency of Agra was established by the British, the city became the seat of government, and just two year later it was the 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 the 30th of 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 force to withdraw, this lead to a mob sacking the city. However the rebels moved onto Delhi which allowed the British to restore order by the 8th of 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.[5]
Agra is the birth place 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.


Getting In

By Air
Agra Airport at Kheria is about 6 km from the city centre, but is not very well connected. Now one can catch connecting flights to Agra via delhi or jaipur from most of the major cities of India. Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi is the best option. Agra is very well connected to Delhi both by rail and road.

By Rail
Main article: Railways in Agra
Agra is on the main train line between Delhi (Station Code : NDLS) and Mumbai (Bombay) (Station Code : CSTM) and between Delhi and Chennai (Station Code : MAS) and many trains connect Agra with these cities every day. Some east-bound trains from Delhi also travel via Agra, so direct connections to points in Eastern India (including Kolkata) (Calcutta) are also available. There are close to 20 trains to Delhi every day, and at least three or four to both Mumbai and Chennai. There are three stations in Agra:
Agra Cantt (Station Code : AGC) is the main railway station and lies southwest of the Taj and Agra Fort, both of which are a short ride from the station by car, auto-rickshaw, or cycle rickshaw. There's a prepaid taxi stand right outside that charges a flat Rs.120 to any hotel in the city. The station has a pretty good Comesum food court that also sells cheap, hygienic takeaway snacks (sandwiches, samosas, etc).
Agra Fort Railway Station (Station Code : AF) near Agra Fort, is infrequently serviced by the interstate express trains. The station serves trains to the east (Kanpur, Gorakhpur, Kolkata, Guwahati) some of these trains also stop at Agra Cantt.
Raja Ki Mandi (Station Code : RKM) is a small station. Some of the trains which stop at Agra Cantt also stop here. It is a very laid back station and springs into life at the arrival of Intercity Express and Taj Express.
The luxury trains - the Palace on Wheels, and the Royal Rajasthan On Wheels also stop at Agra on their eight day round trip of tourist destinations in Rajasthan and Agra. The Buddhist Special Train also visits Agra.

By Road
Idgah Bus Stand is the biggest Bus Stand in Agra and is connected to most of the bigger cities in North India.
From Delhi: NH2, a modern divided highway, connects the 200 km distance from Delhi to Agra. The drive is about 4 hours. The primary access to the highway is along Mathura Road in Delhi but, if coming from South Delhi or Delhi Airport, it is easier to take Aurobindo Marg (Mehrauli Road) and then work up to NH2 via Tughlakabad.
From Jaipur: National Highway 11, a two lane undivided highway, connects Agra with Jaipur via the bird sanctuary town of Bharatpur. The distance of around 255 km can be covered in around 4–5 hours.
From Gwalior A distance of around 120 km, takes around 1.5 hours on the National highway 3, also known as the Agra - Mumbai Highway.
From Lucknow / Kanpur NH2, the divided modern highway, continues on to Kanpur (285 km, 5 hours) and from there to points East ending in Kolkata. From Kanpur, NH25 heads for the city of Lucknow (90 km, 2 hours).

Local Transportation

A Jugaad carrying passengers to a political rally in Agra, India
Auto rickshaw and Cycle Rickshaw are the main modes of transport in Agra and are readily available.
While passengers need to negotiate rates for the rickshaws and they are usually expensive, there is a system of (what is called) 'Tempo' which are autorickshaws that run on specific routes called out by drivers. Tempos take around 6 people simultaneously and work out to be most economical and practical.
There are City Buses but they are infrequent.
Polluting vehicles are not allowed near Tāj Mahal, so one needs to take electric Auto's or Tanga (Tonga) from a few kilometres outside the Tāj Mahal.

Places of Interest

Tāj Mahal
Main article: Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal
Agra's Taj Mahal is one of the most famous buildings in the world, the mausoleum of Shah Jahān's favorite wife, Mumtāz Mahal. It is one of the New Seven Wonders of the world, and one of three World Heritage Sites in Agra.
Completed in 1653 CE., the Tāj Mahal was built by the Mughal king Shāh Jahān as the final resting place for his beloved wife, Mumtāz Mahal. Finished in marble, it is perhaps India's most fascinating and beautiful monument. This perfectly symmetrical monument took 22 years (1630-1652) of hard 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 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 Koran 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 by fine inlay work, incorporating semi-precious stones.

Agra Fort

Amar Singh Gate,one of two entrances into Agra's Red Fort
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, 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 great Mughal Emperor Akbar commissioned the construction of the Agra Fort in 1565 CE., although it was converted into a place by his grandson Shāh Jahān, being 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 km, and is ringed by double castellated ramparts of red sandstone punctuated at regular intervals by bastions. A 9 m. wide and 10 m. deep moat surrounds the outer wall.
ChhatrapatiShīvajī 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 the 17th of August 1666. A heroic equestrian statue of Shīvajī has been erected outside the fort.
The fort is a typical example of Mughal architecture.It shows how the North Indian style of fort construction differentiated from that of the South.In the South the majority of the beautiful forts were built on the seabed like the one at Bekal in Kerala.[6]]

Fatehpūr Sikrī
Main article: Fatehpur Sikri

Diwan-i-Khas – Hall of Private Audience
The Mughal Emperor Akbar built Fatehpūr Sikrī about 35 km 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 from Agra). Then the Mughal Emperor Akbar wanted to make Fatehpūr Sikrī his head quarters, 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 42 steps. The Buland Darwāza is 53.63 m high and 35 meters wide. The Buland Darwāza 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.

Main article: Itmad-Ud-Daulah's Tomb

The 'Itmad-Ud-Daulah's Tomb at Agra'
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 mausoleum itself covers about twenty-three square meters, and is built on a base about fifty meters square and about one meter high. On each corner are hexagonal towers, about thirteen meters 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 is that the tombs of her father and mother have been set side-by-side, a formation replicated in the Tāj Mahal

Akbar's Tomb, Sikandra
Main article: Tomb of Akbar the Great

Tomb of Akbar the Great
Sikandra, the last resting place of the Mughal Emperor Akbar the Great, is on the Delhi-Agra Highway, only 13 kilometres 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 langoors 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 names of the Gods of ninety-nine religious sects have been inscribed on the tomb.

Swāmī Bāgh Samādhi
The Swāmī Bāgh Samādhi is the mausoleum of Huzūr Swāmijī Mahārāj (Shrī Shiv Dayāl Singh Seth) in the Swāmībāgh section, on the high road that goes from Bhagwan Talkies to Dayāl Bāgh, in the outskirts of the city. He was the founder of the Radhāswāmī Faith and the Samādhi is sacred to its followers. Construction began in February 1904 and still continues. Many believe that construction will never end at Swāmī Bāgh - it is often seen as the next Tāj Mahal. The carvings in stone, using a combination or coloured marble, are life-like and not seen anywhere else in India. The picture shown is taken from the rear of the building and shows only two floors. When completed, the Samādhi will have a carved dome and a gateway.

Mankameshwar Temple
Main article: Mankameshwar Temple
The Mankameswar 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 kilometers from the Tāj Mahal and less than 1 km from Agra Fort. Being located in the old city, the temple is surrounded by markets, many of which date back to the Mughal Era.

Gurū kā Tal
Main article: Guru ka Tal
Gurū kā Tal was originally a reservoir meant to collect and conserve rainwater built in Agra, near Sikandra, during Jahāngīr's reign next to the Tomb of I'tibār Khān Khwājasara in 1610. In 1970s a gurdwāra was erected here. Gurū kā 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 gurdwāra attracts a large number of devotees and tourists. Boasting elaborate stone carvings and 8 towers of the twelve original towers. It is located by national (Delhi-Agra) highway-2.

Jamā Masjid
Main article: Jama Masjid (Agra)
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 costed Rs 5 Lakhs at that time for its completion

Chīnī kā Rauza
Main articles: Chini Ka Rauza and 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 Shirāz.

Rām Bāgh
Main article: Ram Bagh
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 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 sometime before sending it to Kabul

Main article: Mariams Tomb
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.

Mehtāb Bāgh
The Mehtāb Bāgh, or 'Moonlight Garden', is on the opposite bank of the River Yamuna from the Tāj Mahal.

Keetham Lake

Also known as Sur Sarovar, Keetham Lake is situated about 23 kilometres from 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 improving their living environments through infrastructure services and integration within the city.
The Mughal Heritage Walk is a one kilometer 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.

No comments:

Post a Comment