The city of Agra-a heritage gem of India situated at the banks of the Yamuna River a destination of the golden triangle circuit of India(Along with Delhi and Jaipur).Often known worldwide as the home for the renowned symbol of love-The Taj Mahal, the city has a unique culture persisting over time.
Agra, then a small settlement destroyed by the constant attacks of Mohammed Ghazni, was founded in 1504 by Sultan Sikander Lodi of the Lodi Dynasty ruling the Delhi Sultanate. In the battle of Panipat of 1526, his son Ibrahim Lodi, was defeated by Badshah Babur and thus started The Mughal Reign in India. Agra began to see its days of glory in the hands of the Mughals, especially after being designated as the capital of the new Mughal empire. It grew to become one of the coveted 12 provinces of Akbar (Subahs). Though briefly shifted in between it remained the capital until the time Aurangzeb changed to Aurangabad in 1653.
Agra was the birthplace of the religion Din-i-Illahi by Akbar and linkages with Jainism and Hinduism. It has a diverse culture, an amalgamation of multiple cultures with Hindu, Urdu & Punjabi are the m languages spoken. In terms of cuisine, the ‘pethas’ and Mughlai dishes such as kebabs and kormas are quite famous.
In terms of architecture, the city has a long legacy left by the Mughals, from streetscapes(chowks) to magnanimous forts and decorated mausoleums.
The very first notion that strikes the mind talking about Agra is the Taj Mahal. The Mausoleum, considered as the paradigm of Shahjahan’s love for his wife, Mumtaz, is an architectural beauty of its own. Its elegance is at full moon nights when its reflection cast on the pools below, embracing the subtle moonlight. The success of the design is its ability to induce a similar feeling on its visitors.
Fatehpur Sikri is a fortified complex, built by Emperor Akbar as a tribute to the Sufi saint Salim Chisti in 1571. The plan comprises some of the most iconic structures of the Mughal era built with red sandstone and white marble-Jami Masjid, Buland Darwaza, Tomb of Salim Chisti; thus depicting the architectural finesse during the emperor’s reign.
The halls Diwan-i-Am(Hall of Public Audience) and Diwan-i-Khas(Hall of Private Audience)have a special place, having witnessed the immense display of talent, be it Tansen’s music or Birbal’s wits. The mix of Islamic-Hindu styles in detailing depicts the religious tolerance and accommodation that existed during Akbar’s reign.
The Buland Darwaza built to commemorate the triumph over Gujarat by the emperor, stands tall as the gateway to this fortified complex.
The Agra Fort, built in the year 1565, is another gem by the Mughal Emperor Akbar, hence the name Qila-i-Akbari. The Red Fort of Agra has its initial structures built by Akbar with later additions by Shah Jahan. Built-in Islamic-Persian architecture has various Hindu features such as chattris.
Some of the other ancillary structures are the Sheesh Mahal, Khaas Mahal by Shahjahan and Diwan-i-Am by Jehangir to name a few.
Agra is one of the few cities of India, that even after various interventions of modernization has still remained to maintain the essence of its traditions. It has also been the major focus of various development schemes for conservation and restoration works, mainly the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission or JNNURM which is being monitored by the central government. Agra even today continues to bask in the glory of its legacy of heritage and culture beautifully portrayed in its architecture and lifestyle, thus maintaining its status as one of the popular destinations of India.