History of Agra India
Brief History of Agra: Period before Islamic Rulers.
Agra's history dates back to as far as the 11th century. Ptolemy was the first one to refer Agra by its name. It has also been mentioned in the Arya Griha during the time of the Aryans. Light must be thrown on the reference, which Agra has got in the great Hindu epic, the Mahabharata where it has been called Agra ban (ban meaning forest). At the time Hindu rulers dominated most parts of India. The mention in the Mahabharata of Agra Ban gives an idea that at the time Agra was nothing much but a dry arid forest landscape as is the nature with most parts of central India even till today. One may probably imagine a dry dusty country land where Black Bucks could have been sighted much easier than humans near or far. This idea is credible since Abu'l Fazl, one of the navratnas or nine jewels at Akbar's court mentions the pleasure of the Emperor at watching his 'chita-i-khas' or royal cheetah hunting a blackbuck after leaping across a river and chasing it down, as is mentioned in Akbarnama, the official history of Akbar's reign. This point proves that even if Agra was founded as a city from dry scrub of forests, its surrounding areas were still forests, which had plenty of game to offer the royals in the form of hunting, a sport that was practiced from the time of the Rajas to the period of the British Raj.
Agra History: Under the Lodi Dynasty
Agra has long been associated with Muslim rulers. But before the Sultanate rule and the coming of the Mughals, it is said that the true founder of Agra as a city in its initial phase was Raja Badal Singh in the year 1475. The first Muslim rulers were of the Lodi Dynasty. It was Sikandar Lodi in the year 1506 that shifted his capital from Delhi to Agra and from this time on, Agra as a city gained much significance. Sikandar Lodi proved to be a capable leader and crushed many who came his way. But in the year 1516, he died a natural death and the throne was taken over by his son, Ibrahim Lodi. Agra by this time started to flourish steadily as a human settlement primarily because of the river Yamuna flowing through it. This made agriculture possible. Trade at the time was limited and agriculture remained the primary activity. The hold of the Lodi Dynasty in Agra was to come to an end after 10years from the time Ibrahim Lodi took charge. In 1526, he suffered a defeat in a hard fought battle against Babur, the first Mughal ruler in India. The battle field was Panipat.
Agra History during the Mughal Period
This was the start of a long domination of Mughal stronghold not just in Agra but across many parts of the Indian subcontinent. With Babur on the throne, the influence of Islam started steadily in Agra. The ruler built the Aram Bagh or the Garden of Relaxation, where he was believed to have spent time relaxing while being away from royal duties. In 1530, Babur died and was succeeded by his son, Humayun. The rule was interrupted only for a brief time between 1540-45 when Sher Shah Suri, an Afghan ruler born in Sasaram, Bihar defeated Humayun and took over the city. He proved to be an extremely capable ruler but his glory was short lived. He died of a gunpowder explosion while fighting the Rajputs in Bundelkhand. Humayun was back on the throne and Agra back to the Mughals. But it was from the time of Akbar, son and successor to Humayun who took to the throne in 1558 when Agra came to its own. It was during the reign of Akbar when Mughal Architecture took prominence. Akbar consolidated his power and one of the first signs was when he reconstructed the fort of Agra from a mud-walled structure left behind by the Lodi's into a huge Fort made of Red sand stone. Many other halls were added to this magnificent Fort later on by his predecessors, son Jahangir and grandson Shah Jahan. Akbar ruled for more than four decades in which he built a new city, Fatehpur Sikri, just a few kilometres from Agra. During Akbar's reign, Agra was modernized and transformed into a splendid city. Many soon referred it as Akbarabad. Agra came under Muslim influences and adopted much of the Muslim culture. But Akbar's idea of religion was liberal and this he portrayed through Din-i-Ilahi, a religious doctrine introduced in the court to merge the best elements of every faith not just of Islam and Hinduism, but also Christianity and Zoroastrian. An example of his liberalism is the Padres Santos Chapel which stands even today. It was constructed by the Portuguese, built on a land granted by Akbar himself to the missionaries which was built with the motive of dedicating it to the priests martyred in 1633. The Mughals were not only great at war but also had great love for literature, art and music. At the court of Akbar were greats like Abul Fazl, Faizi, and Tansen to name a few. Akbar finally died in the year 1605 and buried in Sikandra, just on the outskirts of Agra city. His tomb is inside a beautifully built structure of Fine Mughal Architecture. During the reign of Jahangir, son and successor to Akbar, the English started to arrive at Agra as traders to be granted permission from the emperor for allowance to trade. As the accounts of the English Travelers suggests, there were no such law in the court of Jahangir. Agra was ruled by the King himself. Whatever he said was to be followed without any question. Thomas Roe was the first ambassador from the King of England to the great Mughal Ruler; Roe was not just a courtier, but a true diplomat and realist. This was the first big step of the English to turn from traders to rulers during the later stages. In 1620 however, an independent English Traveler named Thomas Coryate arrived at Ag