Agra 

A Metropolitan City



The early history of Agra is obscure but traditions trace its origin to the great epic period of the Mahabharata when it was called Agravana. Tradition also mentions its association with the early life and exploits of Lord Krishna.

The archaeological excavations and explorations at Agra Fort, Mehatab Bagh and Fatehpur Sikri have revealed ancient remains of different ages in the form of ruined structures, sculptures, coins, inscriptions, bricks and pottery. Mauryan bricks were also found at Agra. There were ancient temples belonging to Hindu & Jain religion which shows Agra's historic, religious and commercial importance.

The town was founded long before the Mughal's conquest of India .The city with its brick fortress is mentioned for the first time in Qasida , composed in praise of Ghaznavid Prince Mahmud Bin Ibrahim by the famous early Persian poet of Lahore Mas'ud bin Sad Salman assigning the conquest of Agra Fort in ca. 1100 .The town was then ruled by one Rajput chief Jaypal .Agra was conquered by Sultan Muhammad bin Sam in 1193 of Delhi and remained subjugated but the Rajputs often declared independence. In ca.1500 Sikandar Lodi transferred his seat of Government to Agra, he occupied Badalgarh in which he constructed his palace which was demolished by Akbar.

City flourished under the Lodis and eminent scholars, Sufis, saints and poets settled in Agra .The real glory of Agra started from the time of Mughal emperor Babur who established his capital at Agra in 1526.He built his palace in the Persian Char Bagh garden and founded a series of stately buildings, ornamental gardens, pleasure pavilions and other landscaped structures on the banks of Yamuna. The grandeur of Agra City owes its fast development to Emperor Akbar, Emperor Jahangir , Empress Nurjahan and Emperor Shah Jahan and their numerous works of art & architecture were unparallel in medieval India .

Climate


Agra features a semiarid climate that borders on a humid subtropical climate. The city features mild winters, hot and dry summers and a monsoon season. However the monsoons, though substantial in Agra, are not quite as heavy as the monsoon in other parts of India. This is a primary factor in Agra featuring a semiarid climate as opposed to a humid subtropical climate.


Demographics


According to the 2011 India census, Agra city had a population of 17,75,134 and that of Agra district was 3,620,436. Males constitute 53% of the population and females 47%. Agra city has an average literacy rate of 81%, higher than the national average of 59.5%; with 86% males literate. Literacy rate of males is considerably higher than that of women. Agra district literacy rate is 62.56%.

Hinduism, Islam, and Jainism are three major religions in Agra district with 81.6%, 15.5%, and 1.4% of the population following them. And others are 1.5% 52.5% of Agra's population is in the 15-59 years age category. Around 11% of the population is under 6 years of age.




Important Monuments of Agra



Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal is one of the most famous buildings in the world. It is a mausoleum of Shah Jahan's favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, situated on the bank of the Yamuna River in Agra, India. In its harmonious proportions and its fluid incorporation of decorative elements, the Taj Mahal is distinguished as the finest example of Mughal architecture, a blend of Indian, Persian, and Islamic styles. One of the most beautiful structural compositions in the world, the Taj Mahal was designated a World Heritage Site in 1983. Now it is known as “Number One” wonder of the world among “New Seven Wonders” of the world.

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Agra Fort

Agra fort, made of red sandstone located on the bank of Yamuna River in the historic city of Agra, India. Agra fort served as a royal residence, a military base and as the seat of government when Agra was capital of Mughals. The structure, a contemporary of Humyaun’s tomb in Delhi, reflects the architectural grandeur of the Mughal reign in India. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983.
The fort was commissioned by Mughal emperor Akbar in 1565 after demolishing the old fort of Sikander Lodi at the site of Badalgarh and reportedly took eight years to construct.

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The Tomb of Akbar the Great

Akbar’s tomb is situated on the out skirts of the Agra City. It houses the mortal remains of the Mughal Emperor. To construct a tomb in one's lifetime was a Turkic custom which the Mughals followed religiously. Akbar, during his lifetime itself had completed the tomb and laid out a beautiful garden. However, the top Storey of mausoleum made in marble was constructed by Jahangir. Akbar's son Jahangir completed construction of this tomb in 1613. The 99 names of Allah have been inscribed on the tomb.

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I'timad-ud-Daula's Tomb

The Itimad-ud-Daula’s Tomb is situated on the bank of river Yamuna. Itimad-ud-Daula was the title given to Mirza Ghiyas Beg, father of Nur Jahan. He held the post of Lord of treasure of the Mughal Empire and later rose to the dignity of Wazir( Prime Minister) under Emperor Jahangir. Nur Jahan completed the construction of the tomb of her father in 1628 AD, nearly 7 years after his death.

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Fatehpur Sikri

Akbar (1556-1605), grandson of Babur, shifted his residence and court from Agra to Fatehpur Sikri, for a period of 13 years, from 1572 to 1585 to honour the Sufi Saint Sheikh Salim Chishti, who resided here (in a cavern on the ridge). Akbar revered him very much as the Saint had blessed him with a son who was named Salim in 1569. He raised lofty buildings for his use, and houses for the public. Thus grew, a great city with charming palaces and institutions.

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Mehtab Bagh

Mehtab Bagh or 'Moonlight Garden' is on the opposite bank of the River Yamuna from the Taj Mahal. Mehtab Bagh was the last of eleven Mughal built gardens along the Yamuna river. Shah Jahan had identified a site from the crescent-shaped, grass covered floodplain across the Yamuna river as an ideal location for viewing the Taj Mahal. It was then created as "A moonlit pleasure garden called Mehtab Bagh." White plaster walkways, airy pavilions, pools and fountains were also created as part of the garden, with fruit trees and narcissus. The garden was designed as an integral part of the Taj complex in the riverfront terrace pattern. Its width was identical to that of the rest of the Taj Mahal.

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Economy


Nearly five centuries ago, Agra was the commercial nerve centre of Mughal empire. Due to the presence of the Taj Mahal and other historic monuments, it has a tourism industry as well as royal crafts like pietra dura , marble inlay and carpets. Tourism contributes to the economy of Agra. Today 40% of the population depends largely on Agriculture, others on Leather, Footwear business, Iron Foundries and Tourism industries.



A marble table top in pietra dura , a craft practiced since the Mughal era in Agra.



An Agra craftsman is doing marble inlay work.

Education


It was during the advent of the Mughal era that Agra grew as a centre of Islamic education. British people introduced the western concept of education in Agra. In the year 1823, Agra College, one of the oldest colleges in India was formed out of a Sanskrit school established by the Scindia rulers. In the British era, Agra became a great center of Hindi literature with people like Babu Gulab Rai at the helm.

Agra University - was established on 1 July 1927 and catered to colleges spread across the United Provinces, the Rajputana, the Central Provinces and almost to entire North India, at present around 142 Colleges are affiliated to this university. The historic Agra University was later rechristened as Dr. BhimRao Ambedkar University.

Dayal Bagh Educational Institute- Radhasoami Satsang Sabha, started the Radhasoami Educational Institute, as a co-educational Middle School, open to all, on 1 January 1917. It became a Degree College in 1947, affiliated to Agra University. In 1975, it formulated a programme of undergraduate studies which received approbation from the Government of Uttar Pradesh and the University Grants Commission, as a result of which in 1981 the Ministry of Education, Government of India, conferred the status of an institution, deemed to be a University on the Dayal bagh Educational Institute, to implement the new scheme.

Central Institute of Hindi- Central Institute of Hindi (also known as Kendriya Hindi Sansthan) is an autonomous institute under Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India engaged in teaching Hindi as a foreign and second language. Apart from running residential Hindi language courses for foreign students, the institute also conducts regular training programmers' for teachers of Hindi belonging to non-Hindi states of India. The institute is situated at 11 acres (4.5 ha) campus on the outskirts of Agra city. Headquartered in Agra the institute has eight regional centre in Delhi, Hyderabad, Mysore, Shillong, Dimapur, Guwahati, Ahmedabad and Bhubneshwar. The institute is the only government run institution in India established solely for research and teaching of Hindi as a foreign and second language.

Petha


Agra is famous for its sweetdish "petha".Petha is a translucent soft candy from North India and Pakistan (Punjab region and metros). Usually rectangular or cylindrical, it is made from the ash gourd vegetable (also known as winter melon or white pumpkin, or simply petha in Hindi and Urdu). With growing demand and innovation, more varieties of the original preparation are available. Many flavoured variants are available, e.g. Kesar Petha, Angoori Petha etc. There are some other variations based on content, one with coconut mixed, another with some nuts put into it. Sometimes Kewda essence is used to flavor Petha.

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