AGRA A city in the southwestern part of Uttar Pradesh, Agra is located on the river Jumna (Yamuna) and is linked by the Grand Trunk Road to Mathura and Etawah and to the rest of India by train. An ancient site, modern Agra was founded by Raja Birbal Singh in 1475; Sikandar Lodi (r. 1489–1517) made it his capital. Along with Delhi, it was the preeminent capital of the Mughal dynasty. In 1526 the first Mughal ruler Babur (d. 1530) made Agra a co-capital, with Delhi, and built the first of the Mughal gardens, the Ram Bagh, along the river Jumna. His grandson Akbar the Great (r. 1556–1605) made Agra his capital before shifting temporarily to Fatehpur Sikri, 23 miles (37 km) from Agra, between 1571 and 1585, and he is buried at Sikandra, 6 miles (10 km) northwest of Agra. Under Akbar's son Jahangir (r. 1605–1627) and his Persian wife, Nur Jahan (Light of the World), Agra became a magnificent center of Indo-Persian culture, but it was under the third of the Great Mughals, Shah Jahan (r. 1628–1658), that Mughal style became "crystallized" and Agra became one of the most renowned cities in the world as the site of a building considered to be one of the wonders of the modern world, the Taj Mahal (Crown Palace). Shah Jahan was the most lavish spender of the Mughal rulers. He demolished almost all of the structures inside Agra Fort, built between 1565 and 1571, replacing them with white marble and stucco-covered buildings, considered by some to be more delicate and exquisite than even the Taj Mahal. The fort's walls are one and a half miles long, faced with dressed stone, and the main entrance was through the Delhi Gate. The emperor's private buildings were built in marble along the river; the public buildings such as Moti Mosque and the Public Audience Hall (Diwan-i Am), which originally housed the famous Peacock Throne, were in stucco or plaster and were located farther away. The Tomb of Itimad al-Daula (d. 1622), Jahangir's father-in-law, is another of the city's architectural wonders.
The Taj Mahal, considered the greatest of Agra's exquisite buildings, is the mausoleum of Shah Jahan's third wife, Mumtaz Mahal (Exalted of the Palace), who died in 1631. Shah Jahan's grave was also added. Designed by Ustad Ahmad and completed in 1648, it took some twenty thousand workers twenty-two years to build. Many consider it the most sublime Mughal building ever created. Built of white marble and designed using the interlocking arabesque plan, it stands on a raised, square platform, 186 by 186 feet (57 m X 57 m). The central dome is 58 feet (18 m) in diameter and is 213 feet (65 m) tall. Inside and out it is inlaid with designs of flowers and calligraphy, using precious stones such as agate and jasper. Four reflecting pools in the large garden create an ethereal effect. In the extensive grounds are a mosque, a guest house, and several other buildings. In the eighteenth century the city was occupied by Jats, Marathas, the Mughals again, and Gwalior; in 1803 the British made it their capital of Agra (North-Western) province. Though it is now an overcrowded and polluted industrial city, it remains a popular tourist destination.
Roger D. Long
Asher, Catherine B. Architecture of Mughal India. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1992.
Carroll, David, ed. The Taj Mahal. New York: Newsweek Book Division, 1972.
Nath, R. Agra and Its Monumental Glory. Mumbai: Tara-porevala, 1977.
Richards, John F. The Mughal Empire. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1993.
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