Population : 956,000
Distance : 194 kmfrom Delhi
Agra is not synonymous with just the Taj Mahal. The earliest
reference to the city is found in the Hindu epic, Mahabharata, which
refers to it as Agrabana the city of paradise.
However, the town remained insignificant until Sikandar Lodi of the
Delhi Sultanate made it his seat of power in 1505.
It was here that Babur defeated the Rajput king Rana Sangha in the
Battle of Khanua in 1527, to sow the seed of the Mughal Empire, which
blossomed over the next 200 years. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the
sumptuous courts of Akbar, Jahangir and Shah Jahan transformed Agra
into a sophisticated, luxurious, man-made paradise.
When the fortunes of the Mughals dwindledin the 18th century, the
pre-eminence of Agra too declined.
Today, the town is a bustling industrial and commercial hub, and the
phrase Go to Agra has a different connotation. The
reference is to the psychiatric hospital in the area the
jocular implication being, that you need to check out your mental
¤ Agra At A Glance
A visit to the city is like being transported back in time. Situated
on the banks of the Yamuna, its narrow crowded streets and boulevards
are medieval in structure, while its bazaars are splashed with colour
and gaiety which is the hallmark of the city.
All sorts of stuff, especially leather goods, local handicrafts and
imitation inlay work on marble (including miniaturised Taj Mahals)
jostle for shelf space in the shops. Its pethas (pumpkin sweet),
dalmoth (fried peas) and sumptuous Mughlai food are worth a try.
The streets of Casablanca or Cairo could not have been very different
in the middle ages.
Although Muslims comprise just a tenth of the population of Agra
today, the town retains its Islamic character, reminiscent of the time
when it held centre-stage in Indian politics during the halcyon
days of the Mughal Empire.
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