History of Agra – From Mughals to the British Rule

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Home to some of the most magnificent historical monuments including the Taj Mahal, the pride of India, and one of the most iconic seven wonders of the world, Agra holds a strong cultural heritage and historical background. The city had been ruled by several rulers of different dynasties especially the Mughal dynasty ruled over Agra for a very long time. During Jahangir’s reign, the city was bestowed with some really beautiful palaces and colorful gardens.

However, it was Shah Jahan who gifted the city with the magnificent Taj Mahal and this is believed to be the era when the glorious city adorned its real charm. It was not only the Mughals who contributed to the vibrant heritage and rich history of Agra but there were also many other rulers. The Lodi dynasty also ruled over the city for many decades.

History of Agra -The Story of Agra from Mughals to the British Rule

Early Origin

The historical significance of Agra can be evidenced from the holy epic Mahabharata as Agraban where van means “forest” in Sanskrit. During that period, the city was not so developed and was an arid forest land one could spot Black Bucks. Abul Fazl who was one of the nine jewels or Navratnas at Akbar’s court mentioned about this fact. This also proves that Agra’s surrounding areas were bedecked with thick dense forests during Akbar’s rule.

Agra is believed to be discovered in 1475 by Raja Badal Singh and was predominantly ruled by Muslim dynasties and other rulers.

Lodi Rule

Lodi dynasty was the first to introduce Muslim rule in the city. Since 1506, Agra has gained popularity as an individual city when Sikandar Lodi transferred his capital from Delhi to Agra. Trading at that time was very much limited, hence, agriculture remained the primary activity. The city started to grow rapidly as a human settlement because of the gorgeously flowing River Yamuna and this only made agriculture possible.

The Mughal Era

The emergence of Islam steadily rose in the city and Babur was the first Mughal ruler who sat on the throne and soon after his death in 1530, he was succeeded by Humayun, his son. However, there was a short break in this rule, and Sher Shah Suri, an Afghan ruler defeated Humayun and took control over the city.

Sher Shah Suri was a competent ruler who ruled over Agra for a small period of time. While fighting against the former ruler in Bundelkhand, he died in a gunpowder explosion and Humayun regained his power. Akbar dethroned his father in 1558 and it was actually Akbar’s rule when Mughal architecture gained immense popularity in Agra. After consolidating his power, Akbar transformed the mud-walled structure of Agra Fort into a colossal fort built of red sandstone.

Later on, Shah Jahan and Jahangir added several other magnificent halls to this colossal fort and they too brought development to the city. Akbar ruled over the place for more than four decades and during his reign, he constructed Fatehpur Sikri, a new city established a few kilometers ahead of the city.

He also made Agra a trading hub and developed it into a grand city and this is how the town was called Akbarabad. After his death in 1605, Jahangir (Akbar’s son) sat on the throne and paved the way for the Britishers to set their foot in this beautiful city. During Jahangir’s reign, Mughal architecture continued to flourish and the magnificent structures had such a great impact on the history of Agra.

Shah Jahan dethroned Jahangir and took the architecture of the city to unparalleled heights. Although there are numerous structures like Chini-Ka-Rauza, carved out with the glazed tiles but Taj Mahal rendered immense prominence to the glory of Agra. Shah Jahan constructed this magnificent architecture in remembrance of his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal. The structure is built of gorgeous White marbles with impressive Arabic and Persian inscriptions done on the walls.

This took a total of 17 years to complete the construction process of this astonishing monument and almost 20000 workers worked on this project. The massive cost incurred to erect this massive representation led the city towards the great Famine and set the base for its steady decline and this declination rate increased more when the ruler decided to transfer the capital to Shahjahanabad.

Afterward, Aurangzeb dethroned his father and moved the capital to Aurangabad resulting in the ultimate decline of the Mughal rule in the city.

British Rule

Post the declination of the Mughal dynasty, the British and Marathas started spreading their kingdom over the city. The successors of the Mughal dynasty were restricted mainly to Delhi as they were not powerful enough to regain Agra. The British made Calcutta, the capital of the colonial empire and made Agra a presidency in North India. Gradually, Agra started losing the significance that was enjoyed during the Mughal dynasty.

Post India’s independence, the city gradually developed into an industrial town and became an important part of Uttar Pradesh. Travelers from all around the world flock to this wonderful city to explore the legendary monuments where some of them are a part of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The Taj Mahal attracts archaeologists, historians, photographers, architecture admirers, and many more in massive numbers throughout the year.

It is pretty fair to state that the rulers and kings might have left a long time back in history but the culture they introduced to the town is still present in this popular city. A trip to Varanasi makes you feel so proud of the culture and tradition of the country. Earlier famed as “Golden Bird”, Agra is a sign of prestige and royalty of India.

How Did Agra Become An Incredible City?

Sikandar Lodi is believed to be the founder of Agra city and is worldwide famous for its Mughal era. In the first battle of Panipat in 1526 fought between Babur and Sikander Lodi, the former defeated the latter one. After Babur’s death, Akbar, his grandson ruled over Agra and his area was called a golden age because he constructed several monuments depicting Mughal architecture. Aram Bagh was the first garden constructed by Babur on the banks of River Yamuna.

Even the first stone used for the construction of Red Fort was also laid by Akbar and during his reign, the city was called “Akbarabad”. Later on, he founded a new city named Fatehpur Sikri (a palate of Mughal monuments) established in the outskirts of Agra. Taj Mahal, one of the most adorable Mughal monuments and one of the seven wonders of the world was constructed by Shah Jahan.

Aurangzeb, the son of Shah Jahan shifted the capital from Agra to Akbarabad. Marathas defeated the Mughals and overruled the city and this is how the declination of the Mughal dynasty started.

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