Agra is the city of the Taj Mahal, in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, some 200 km from Delhi.
Agra has three UNESCO World Heritage sites, the Taj Mahal and the Agra Fort in the city and Fatehpur Sikri nearby. There are also many other buildings and tombs from Agra’s days of glory as the capital of the Mughal Empire. The city has little else to recommend it. Pollution, especially smog and litter, is rampant and travellers are pestered by swarms of touts and hawkers at every monument, mosque, temple or palace. That said, the sites are some of the wonders of the world and no trip to India is complete without at least one visit to the Taj. Due to the very high number of tourists Agra it is a breeding ground for touts and people looking to separate you from your money. Try and limit your time in this once great city.
While Agra’s heyday was as the capital of the Mughal empire between 1526 and 1658, the city was founded much earlier. The earliest reference to Agra is in the ancient epic, the Mahabharata, while Ptolemy was the first person to call it by its modern name. The recorded history of Agra begins around the 11th century, and over the next 500 years, the city changed hands between various kings, both Hindu and Muslim.
In 1506, Sultan Sikandar Lodi, the ruler of the Delhi Sultanate, moved his capital from Delhi to Agra. His son Ibrahim Lodi was the last ruler of the Lodi dynasty, as he was defeated in 1526 by Babur, the first Mughal ruler, in the battle of Panipat. Agra fell too, and became the capital of the Mughals, whose rule over Agra was uninterrupted except for a brief period between 1540 and 1556. In 1540, Sher Shah Shuri overthrew Humayun became the ruler of much of North India, including Agra. After Sher Shah Suri’s death his descendants proved unequal to the task of ruling the kingdom, and Hemu, a Hindu general of Suri became the effective ruler who would later crown himself King Hemachandra Vikramaditya just as the kingdom was facing an assault from the reinvigorated Mughals. In 1556, Hemu would be defeated and killed in the second battle of Panipat, and the Mughals regained Agra.
Mughals were great builders. Babur built the Aram Bagh (garden of relaxation) modeled after the garden of paradise, where he was eventually buried after his death. His grandson Akbar refurbished the Agra fort and built the Fatehpur Sikri, an entire city just on the outskirts of Agra. He also renamed Agra after himself, and the city was known as Akbarabad while it was in Mughal hands. Akbar’s grandson Shah Jehan would give Agra its most famous monument, the Taj Mahal, which is the mausoleum of his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal. The Taj is constructed in white marble. It took 20 years to construct, and is now universally known as a monument to love. Legend has it that Shah Jehan wanted a replica of the Taj constructed in black marble that would be his final resting place. There is no actual support for this theory, but even if it were true, it would have been unlikely to be eventuated. His son Aurangzeb was austere and pious, and had no time or inclination for the ostentation of his forefathers, preferring to spend his money on wars in South India. In any case, even during Shah Jehan’s reign, which was the period when the Mughal empire was at its height, the construction of the Taj put a strain on the resources of the empire and caused a min-famine around Agra. Shah Jehan was eventually buried in the white Taj, next to his beloved Begum.
Shah Jehan, in addition to giving Agra its greatest claim to fame, was also responsible for beginning its decline, as decided to shift his capital to Shahjehanabad, which we now know as Old Delhi, in 1658. Though Aurangzeb ordered a move back, this too was short lived, as he moved his headquarters down south to Aurangabad to be focus on his wars. Agra declined, and so did the Mughal Empire. The city was eventually captured by the Marathas, who renamed it back to Agra. In 1803, it came under the British, who situated the Agra Presidency there, and when India gained independence, the city was incorporated into the state of Uttar Pradesh, and did not gain even the limited honour of being the state’s capital, that distinction going to Lucknow, further east. It is now a tourist town, known for the Taj and a couple of other monuments. Anyone interested in reading a novel based on the remarkable story behind the Taj Mahal’s creation should consider Beneath a Marble Sky by John Shors. Beneath a Marble Sky is an international bestseller, has won multiple awards, and is being made into a movie by Hollywood. Other book (historical fiction) is The Taj by Colin De Silva.
Get in ( Agra)
Agra is 200 km southeast from Delhi and is one of the points of the tourist’s Golden Triangle of Agra-Delhi-Jaipur. Agra is also very well connected via rail and road with other nearby cities and tourist destinations.
By plane ( Agra)
Service to Agra’s Kheria Airport (IATA: AGR ICAO: VIAG) is 5 days a week. As of January 2014, the city is served by Air India, which flies on the Delhi-Agra- via Varanasi, Agra – Khajuraho – Varanasi – Delhi ( 3 days a week ,ie Monday ,Wednesday and Saturday). Another Air India flight, Mumbai – Agra – Mumbai (Tuesday and Thursday) provides international connections via Mumbai and usually observes full load factor. The flights now are usually on time and provides connectivity via Delhi and Mumbai. One can save a lot of time travelling by air to Agra .
By train ( Agra)
Agra is on the main train line between the Delhi-Mumbai (Bombay) and Delhi-Chennai routes, 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) are also available. There are close to 20 trains to Delhi every day, and at least three or four to both Mumbai and Chennai. Agra and Delhi are notorious for their thick winter fog which reduces visibility to almost zero. If travelling in late December or early January (the fog season), travelers should be aware that, because of the reduced visibility, all trains slow down and travel time goes up. The Bhopal Shatabdi, for example, may arrive in Agra well after 10AM, and might return to Delhi well after midnight. From a safety point of view, it is always preferable to travel by train during the winters. Driving in fog on the road is very risky. 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 is a prepaid taxi stand right outside that charges a flat ₹150 to any hotel in the city. You may catch an auto-rickshaw for ₹50 if you walk a short way from the station, but they may not speak English. The station has a pretty good Comesum food court that also sells cheap, hygienic takeaway snacks (sandwiches, samosas, etc).
Agra Fort 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) 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. The station has a laid-back and lazy atmosphere, but springs into life at the arrival of Intercity exp and Taj express. It is situated in the middle of the city.
Agra City is in the heart of Agra. A relic of the metre gauge era, this station is not particularly useful. Idgah Railway Station is the first station if you arrive in Agra from Jaipur. Text taken from wikitravel.org/en/Agra
Top facts about Agra
- Agra is also known as Akbarabad
- Agra sits on the sacred Yamuna River
- Agra’s earliest recorder reference was in the ancient epic of Mahabharata, and Ptolemy was the first person to call it by its modern name.
- Agra’s history goes back to the11th century and over the next 500 years, the city changed hands between various kings, both Hindu and Muslim.
- Agra was established in 1526 by Babur as the capital of theMughal empire and remained until 1658
- Agra lies on the banks of the river Yamuna in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, India,
- Agra is located 200 kilometres (124 mi) south from New Delhi and 363 kilometres (226 mi) west of Lucknow state capital
- Agra has a population of 1,686,976 making it one of the most populous cities in Uttar Pradesh
- Agra is the 20th most polluted city in India with the majority of the city’s sewage flows into the Yamuna River
- Agra has three UNESCO World Heritage sites including the Taj Mahal, the Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri located nearby.
Top facts about Agra text taken from http://www.funkyindia.com