Agra facts for kids
Under Mughal rule, Agra became a centre for learning, arts, commerce, and religion, and saw the construction of the Agra Fort, Sikandra and Agra's most prized monument, the Taj Mahal, Constructed between 1632 and 1648 by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as a loving remembrance of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal. With the decline of the Mughal empire in the late 18th century, the city fell successively first to Marathas and later to the East India Company. After Independence, Agra has developed into an industrial town, with a booming tourism industry. It is now a major tourist destination for its many Mughal-era buildings such as Tāj Mahal, Agra Fort and Fatehpūr Sikrī, all three of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Agra has two histories: one of the ancient city on the east, or left, bank of the river Yamuna, going back so far as to be lost in the legends of Krishna and Mahabharata and reestablished by Sikandar Lodhi in 1504–1505; the other of the modern city, founded by Akbar in 1558, on the right bank of the river which is associated with the Mughals, and known throughout the world as the city of the Taj. Of ancient Agra little now remains except few traces of the foundations. It was a place of importance under various Hindu dynasties previous to the Muslim invasions of India, but its history is unclear, and possess little historical interest.
Agra's period of historical importance began during Sikandar Lodi's reign. In 1504–1505, Sultan Sikandar Lodi (reigned 1489–1517), the Afghan ruler of the Delhi Sultanate, rebuilt Agra and made it the seat of government. Sikandar Lodhi appointed a commission which inspected and surveyed both sides of the Yamuna from Delhi to Etawah and finally chose a place on the left bank, or the east side of the Yamuna, as the site for the city. Agra on the left bank of the Yamuna grew into a large flourishing town with royal presence, officials, merchants, scholars, theologians and artists. The city became one of the most important centres of Islamic learning in India. The sultan founded the village of Sikandra in the northern suburbs of the city and built there a Baradari of red sandstone in 1495, which was converted into a tomb by Jahangir, and now stands as the Tomb of Mariam-uz-Zamani, Akbar's empress.
After the Sultan's death in 1517, the city passed on to his son, Sultan Ibrahim Lodi (reigned 1517–26). He ruled his sultanate from Agra until he was defeated and killed by Mughal Emperor Babur in the First battle of Panipat, fought in 1526.
Babur (reigned 1526–30), the founder of the Mughal dynasty, acquired Agra after defeating the Lodhis and the Tomaras of Gwalior in the First Battle of Panipat in 1526. Very few vestiges remain of Babur's city, of his fruit and flower gardens, palaces, baths, tanks, wells and watercourses. The remnants of Babur's Charbagh can be seen today at Aram Bagh, on the east side of Yamuna.
Under Akbar (reigned 1556–1605), and followed by his grandson Shahjahan, Agra was immortalised in the history of the world. Akbar built the modern city of Agra on the right bank of Yamuna, where the majority of its part still lies. He converted the city into a great centre of political, cultural and economic importance, connecting it with the various parts of his vast empire. Akbar raised the towering ramparts of the Agra Fort, besides making Agra a centre for learning, arts, commerce, and religion. Akbar also built a new capital city of Fatehpur Sikri, around 35 km from Agra. The new capital city was later abandoned. Before his death, Agra had become probably one of the biggest cities in the east, with huge amounts of trade and commerce happening through its bazaars. The English traveller Ralph Fitch who visited Agra in September 1585 in the life-time of Akbar, writes about the town:
Akbar's successor Jahangir (reigned 1605–27) had a love of flora and fauna and laid many gardens inside the Red Fort. Akbar's mausoleum at Sikandra was completed during Jahangir's reign. The Jahangiri Mahal in Agra fort and the tomb of Itmad-ud-daulah were also constructed during the reign of Jahangir. Jahangir loved Lahore and Kashmir more than Agra, but the latter continued to be the first city of the realm. It was, however, Shah Jahan (reigned 1628–58) whose building activity raised Agra to the pinnacle of its glory. Shah Jahan, known for his keen interest in architecture, gave Agra its most prized monument, the Taj Mahal. Built in loving memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal, the mausoleum was completed in 1653. The Jama Masjid and several other notable buildings like the Diwan-i-Am, the Diwan-i-Khas, the Moti Masjid, etc., inside the fort were planned and executed under his orders.
Shah Jahan later shifted the capital to Shahjahanabad (now known as Delhi) in the year 1648, followed by his son Aurangzeb (reigned 1658–1707) moving the entire court to Delhi in 1658. With this Agra began rapidly declining. Nevertheless, the cultural and strategic importance of Agra remained unaffected and in official correspondence it continued to be referred to as the second capital of the empire.
The region around Agra consists almost entirely of a level plain, with hills in the extreme southwest. The rivers in the region include Yamuna and Chambal. The region is also watered by the Agra Canal. Millet, barley, wheat and cotton are among the crops grown in the surrounding countryside. Both Rabi and Kharif crops are cultivated. The deserted city of Fatehpur Sikri is about 40 km southwest of Agra. The sandstone hills near Fatehpur Sikri and on the south-eastern borders of the district are offshoots from the Vindhya range of Central India. Agra is about 210 km away from the National capital of New Delhi(via Yamuna Expressway), about 336 km from state capital Lucknow(via Agra-Lucknow Expressway), and about 227 km from Kanpur(via Agra-Lucknow Expressway). The city has an average elevation of 170 metres above sea level.
Agra is on the Indo-Gangetic plain and has a continental climate, with long, hot summers from April to September. During summers dry winds blow in this region. The monsoon months from July to September see about 69 cm of rainfall annually. Winters are from November to February. Agra is best visited in the months of October, November, February and March, when the average temperature are between 16 and 25 Celsius.
In the 2001 Indian census, Agra had a population of 1,326,000. Males consist of 53% of the population and females consist of 47% of the population. 11% of the population is under 6 years of age. The main language used by the people in Agra is Hindifollowed by English and Urdu.
There are City buses but they are infrequent.
Monuments and architecture
The Taj Mahal rises above the banks of the river like a solitary tear suspended on the cheek of time.
Taj Mahal is mausoleum complex in Agra, built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan as a tomb for his wife Mumtaz Mahal ("Chosen One of the Palace"). She was the emperor's inseparable companion and died in childbirth in 1631. India's most famed building, it is situated in the eastern part of the city on the southern (right) bank of the Yamuna River, about 1.6 km east of the Agra Fort, also on the right bank of the Yamuna. The Taj Mahal is distinguished as the finest example of Mughal architecture, a blend of Indian, Persian, and Islamic styles. Other attractions include twin mosque buildings (placed symmetrically on either side of the mausoleum), pleasant gardens, and a museum. The complex was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983, and is one of the New Seven Wonders of the world. The Taj Mahal is the most visited tourist spot in the India, attracting nearly 6.9 million visitors in 2018–19.
The chief architect was probably the Persian architect Ustad Ahmad Lahori. Designed as a unified entity according to the principles of Mughal architecture, the five principal elements of the complex were the main gateway, garden, mosque, jawab (literally 'answer', a building mirroring the mosque), and the mausoleum, with its four minarets. The construction commenced in 1632 with upwards of twenty thousand workers from India, Persia, the Ottoman Empire, and Europe working to complete the mausoleum itself by 1639, the adjunct buildings by 1643, with decoration work continuing until at least 1647. In total, construction of the 42 acre (17 hectare) complex spanned 22 years.
It can be observed from Agra Fort from where Emperor Shah Jahan gazed at it for the last eight years of his life, a prisoner of his son Aurangzeb. Verses of the Quran are inscribed on it and at the top of the gate are 22 small domes, signifying the number of years the monument took to build. The Taj Mahal was built on a marble platform that stands above a sandstone one. The most elegant and largest dome of the Taj Mahal has a diameter of 60 feet (18 m), and has a height of 80 feet (24 m); directly under this dome is the tomb of Mumtaz Mahal. Shah Jahan's tomb was erected next to hers by his son Aurangzeb. The interiors are decorated with fine pietra dura inlay work, incorporating semi-precious stones.
However, air pollution caused by emissions from foundries and other nearby factories and exhaust from motor vehicles has damaged the Taj, notably its marble facade. A number of measures have been taken to reduce the threat to the monument, among them the closing of some foundries and the installation of pollution-control equipment at others, the creation of a parkland buffer zone around the complex, and the banning of nearby vehicular traffic, and more recently, use of 'mud pack' therapy. Perhaps most importantly, the 10,400 km2 (4,000 sq mi) Taj Trapezium Zone has been created around the Taj Mahal and other nearby monuments where strict pollution restrictions are in place on industries, following a 1996 Supreme Court of India ruling.
Some antique views were published in the Fisher's Drawing Room Scrap Books, namely Tâj-Mahal, Agra. by Samuel Prout from a mid-distant angle (1832) and Ruins about the Taj Mahal. by S. Austin from those said ruins (1836). Both are accompanied by poetical illustrations by Letitia Elizabeth Landon.
Taj Mahal and outlying buildings as seen from across the Yamuna River (northern view)
Taj Mahal from Agra fort
The Agra Fort is a large 16th-century fortress of red sandstone located by the Yamuna River in Agra. It was first established by the Mughal Emperor Akbar and served as the seat of royal government when Agra was the capital of the Mughal empire in addition to being a military base and a royal residence. Built on the site of earlier fortifications by Islam Shah Suri(son of Sher Shah Suri), the Agra Fort lies on the right bank of the Yamuna River and is connected to the Taj Mahal (downstream, around a bend in the Yamuna), by a stretch of parkland. The fort was commissioned by Akbar in 1565, taking around eight years to build. Though much of the structure of the fort was founded by Akbar, both the interior and exterior underwent considerable changes under his son Jahangir and grandson Shah Jahan, who added many new structures, often of marble. The red sandstone walls of the roughly semi-circular structure have a perimeter of about 2.5 km, rise 21 metres high, and are surrounded by a moat. There are two entrances in the walls: the Delhi Gate facing west, the original entrance, situated nearly opposite to the Agra Fort railway station and Jama Masjid, and decorated with intricate marble inlays; and the Amar Singh Gate(also known as Hathi Pol, or Elephant Gate) facing south, presently the only means in or out of the fort complex). The complex of buildings in the fort—reminiscent of Persian and Timurid architecture, with great inspiration from Jain and Hindu architecture—forms a city within a city.
Among the major attractions in the fort is Jahangiri Mahal, the largest residence in the complex, built by Akbar as a private palace for his Rajput wives. In the Diwan-i-Am (Hall of Public Audience), the emperor would listen to public petitions and meet state officials. The Diwan-i-Khas (Hall of Private Audience) was used for receiving distinguished visitors. The famous Peacock Throne was once kept there, before Aurangzeb took it to Delhi. Near the Diwan-i-Khas stands the Musamman Burj, an octagonal Tower which was the residence of Shah Jahan's favourite empress, Mumtaz Maḥal. The Moti Masjid (Pearl Mosque), constructed by Shah Jahan, is a structure made entirely of white marble. The emperor's private residence was the Khas Mahal, whose marble walls were once adorned with flowers depicted by precious gems. Located to its northeast is the Sheesh Mahal (Palace of Mirrors), its walls and ceilings inlaid with thousands of small mirrors. Numerous other structures are there in the complex, including the Anguri Bagh, the Mina Bazaar etc.
In addition to its other functions, the fort also served as a prison for Shah Jahan when Aurangzeb, his son and successor as emperor, had him confined there from 1658 until his death in 1666.
Musamman Burj, an octagonal Tower which was the residence of Shah Jahan's favourite empress, Mumtaz Maḥal
Nur Jahan commissioned I'timād-ud-Daulah's tomb, sometimes called the "Baby Taj", for her father, Mirza Ghiyas Beg, the Chief Minister of the Emperor Jahangir. Located on the left bank of the Yamuna river, the mausoleum is set in a large cruciform garden, crisscrossed 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 Taj 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 the interior through delicate Jali screens of intricately carved white marble.
Akbar's Tomb, Sikandra
Sikandra, the last resting place of the Mughal Emperor Akbar the Great, is on the Delhi-Agra Highway, about 13 kilometres (8.1 miles) from the Agra Fort. The four-storied tomb combines both marble and sandstone in its exterior. The construction of Sikandra was commenced in Akbar's reign and was completed by his heir and son Jahangir in 1613. The tomb with is set amidst a large garden and is enclosed by four battlemented walls, each with a large gateway. The 99 names of Allah have been inscribed on the tomb. The tomb has seen some damage to its minarets and other aspects, which was inflicted by the Jats of Bharatpur. The vast gardens around Sikandra are inhabited by several Blackbucks, which are in the process of being shifted to the Etawah Safari Park. Next to Akbar's tomb, stands the Tomb of Mariam-uz-Zamani, the favourite wife of Akbar.
Other places of Interest
Agra also has several other places of interest, most of them from its Mughal past. They include the Jama Masjid, Chini Ka Rauza, Aram Bagh, Mariam's Tomb, and Mehtab Bagh among others. The Jama Masjid is a large mosque attributed to Shah Jahan's daughter Jahanara Begum, built-in 1648, notable for its unusual dome and absence of minarets. The Chini Ka Rauza, notable for its Persian influenced dome of blue glazed tiles, is dedicated to the prime minister of Shah Jahan, Afzal Khan. The Aram Bagh, commonly known as Ram Bagh today, is one of the oldest Mughal garden in India, and was built by the Mughal emperor Babur in 1528 on the bank of the Yamuna. It lies about 2.3 km (1 mi) north of the Taj Mahal. The original name of the gardens was Aram Bagh, or 'Garden of Relaxation', and this was where Babur used to spend his leisure time. Tomb of Mariam-uz-Zamani is the tomb of Mariam, the favourite wife of Emperor Akbar. The tomb is within the compound of the Christian Missionary Society. The Mehtab Bagh, or 'Moonlight Garden', is on the opposite bank of the River Yamuna from the Taj Mahal. Agra also has a nearby bird sanctuary, Keetham Lake. Also known as Sur Sarovar Bird Sanctuary, it is situated within the Surdas Reserved Forest. The lake has nearly two dozen varieties of migratory and resident birds.
- Jahangiri Mahal
- Mina Mosque
- Moti Masjid (Agra Fort)
- Musamman Burj (Agra Fort)
- Nagina Masjid
- Shah Jahani Mahal
- Throne of Jahangir
- Dayal Bagh temple
- Aram Bagh, Agra
- Chini Ka Rauza
- Akbar's Church
- Jama Mosque, Agra
- Jaswant Ki Chhatri
- Mehtab Bagh
- Gyarah Sidi
- Black Taj Mahal
- Ram Barat
- Taj Mahotsav
- Paliwal Park
- Tomb of Mariam-uz-Zamani
- Fatehpur Sikri
- Buland Darwaza
- Panch Mahal, Fatehpur Sikri
- Tomb of Salim Chishti
- Ibadat Khana
- Maktab Khana
- Jama Mosque, Fatehpur Sikri
- Keetham Lake
- Bateshwar, Uttar Pradesh temples
Agra's cuisine is derived from its Mughal past. Mughlai cuisine mainly consists of meat enriched with creamy, boldly flavoured curries, with lots of dried fruits and spices. Vegetarian dishes, using paneer instead of meat are equally loved. Mughal cuisine is available in restaurants all around the city. Petha, a sweet made using ash gourd, is one of the famous dishes of Agra, and is available in many varieties. Another dish that is endemic to Agra is dalmoth, which is a dry snack made with spicy fried dal (lentils), nuts and raisins. The breakfast specialties include Bedai, which is a puffy kachori (made with all purpose flour, which is deep fried) with spicy filling inside and is generally served with spicy aloo sabzi and dahi (curd). Equally popular as a snack is chaat, a collective term which includes snacks like dahi bhalla, raj kachori, samosas, and gol gappa, among others. Paratha, a pan fried flat wheat bread which is stuffed with potatoes, cauliflower, carrots or paneer, is also popular, and eaten accompanied with curd, pickle and chutney.
Taj Mahotsav is a cultural festival and craft fair that was started in the year 1992 and has grown since then. The year 2019 was the 28th year of this Mahotsav. The fair is held in a big field in Shilpgram, near the eastern gate of the Taj Mahal. This festival also figures in the calendar of events of the Department of Tourism, Government of India. A large number of Indian and foreign tourists coming to Agra join this festivity. One of the objectives of this craft fair is to provide encouragement to the artisans. It also makes available works of art and craft at reasonable prices that are not inflated by high maintenance cost. The Mahotsav is hosted from 18 to 27 February every year. The theme for the 2020 Taj Mahotsav was Sanskriti ke Rang, Taj ke Sang. For the first time since 1992, Taj Mahotsav 2021 has been cancelled, because of tourism restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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In Spanish: Agra para niños
Agra Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.