Agra And The Great Mughals

Agra situated on the west bank ok river Yamuna is about 2520 kilometres from Delhi. The earliest mention of Agra is found in the Indian epic Mahabharata as Agrabana (Paradise) while another theory describes the city as Agragriha or one of the earliest homes of the Aryans. But historical evidences date it back to only five hundred years. It came into prominence when Sikander Lodi, a ruler of the Afghan dynasty decided to shift his capital from Delhi to Agra in 1501, in order to have a better control over his empire.

Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary

Agra grew into an important cultural and commercial centre. After Sikander’s death in 1517, his son Ibrahim Lodi began to rule but lost both power and his life to Babur, a Turk, in the first battle of Panipat in .

He ruled in India, but his heart always yearned for the lush green gardens of his homeland Kabul. He was of the opinion that ‘’ Hindustan is a country that has few pleasure to recommend it…….there is an excessive quantity of earth and dust flying about’’. So, one of the first significant things he did was to layout Rambagh, the first Persian Charbagh with symmetrical pathways, fountains and running water, which is now in ruins. For Babur ‘’gardens were an evocation of the practical and poetic elements of his character’’. This is the place where ‘’Babur was initially buried and later his body was moved to Bagh-i-Babur in Kabul.

His son Humayun, built a new capital city named Dinapanah in Delhi but he was overthrown by an Afghan ruler Sher Shah Suri in 1540. He spent fifteen years in exile in Persia, familiarizing himself with their art and culture. This knowledge spurred him to invite Persian artists to his court when in a surprising move, he regained power in 1555. Though his comeback was short lived, because of a fatal fall from the stairs of his library six months later, he nonetheless sowed the seeds of a Mughal miniature school of painting which was to reach great heights in the years to come. His wife Haji Begum built humayun’s tomb in Delhi, (8 years after his death) which remains ‘’An outstanding landmark in the development and refinement of the Mughal architecture’’ and without doubt a precursor to the renowned Taj mahal. Akbar realized very early that he needed the cooperation and support of the Hindus in order to build a strong and durable government and when hes Hindu wife Jodha Bai gave birth to Salim (who was later known as emperor jahangir), Salim became a ‘’living synthesis of the august tradition of the two societies! A well entrenched political and financial system, enabled Akbar to expand his empire which covered almost the whole of India.

The Agra fort with its formidable sandstone ramparts, which he built for himself, became one of the most distinguished and ambitious architectural projects of the period. During his reign a most distinctive style of architecture ( a synthesis of Hindu-Muslim elements) evolved which made use of red sandstone, marble inlay, carvings and decorative forms like pillars, arches and domes. In 1570, he shifted base to Fatehpur Sikri, 38 kilometres southwest of Agra, where he built a city comprising palaces, houses, halls and religious places in homour of Sheikh Salim Chisti, a mystic Saint, ‘’With this magnificent architectural complex emerged a culture and lifestyle which would endure for another century’’. Bur Akbar chose to abandon the city he had so painstakingly created after fifteen years and shifted to Lahore. He finally returned to Agra in 1599 and continued to rule from there till his death in 1605.

He was buried eight kilometres north of Agra at Sikandra in a grand mausoleum which he started building during his lifetime, but was completed by his son and heir Jahangir ( who had rebelled against him to gain access to the throne).

Shah Jahan ruled for 30 years, inheriting one of the richest empires of the world, with an overflowing treasury, rubies and diamonds and the famous Peacock throne. He also encouraged and patronized merchants, jewellers, artisans, poets, musicians and artists during his reign. But his happiness was short lived because in the fourth year of his rule, his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal died, leaving him shattered and heartbroken. He then went on to built the Taj Mahal, one of the greatest monuments of love in her memory.

Under Shah Jahan, the Mughal architecture reached its pinnacle. It is rightly said that Shah Jahan ‘’captured the very essence of architecture.’’ While living in Agra Fort, he brought down most of the sandstone structures built by Akbar and replaced them with more elaborate and luxurious ones made from marble. Though he later moved to Delhi and built a spectacular walled city called Shahjahanabad in 1648, his last years were spent in captivity in the Agra Fort, where his son Aurangzeb imprisoned him after usurping his throne

Aurangzeb, unpopular with his people because of his religious asceticism and authoritarian ways, had scant interest in architecture and he lived for most of his time n Delhi and later in Deccan during his rule of forty eight years till 1707.