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Agra is a city on the banks of the river Yamuna in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, India. It is 378 kilometres west of the state capital, Lucknow, 206 kilometres south of the national capital New Delhi, 58 kilometres south from Mathura and 125 kilometres north of Gwalior. Agra is one of the most populous cities in Uttar Pradesh, and the 24th most populous in India.
Agra is a major tourist destination because of its many Mughal-era buildings, most notably the Tāj Mahal, Agra Fort and Fatehpūr Sikrī, all the three are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Agra is included on the Golden Triangle tourist circuit, along with Delhi and Jaipur; and the Uttar Pradesh Heritage Arc, tourist circuit of UP state, along Lucknow the capital of the state and Varanasi. Agra falls within the Braj cultural region.
The city was first mentioned in the epic Mahābhārata, where it was called Agrevaṇa (derived from Sanskrit (अग्रेवण) meaning “the border of the forest”).
However, the 11th century Persian poet Mas’ūd Sa’d Salmān writes of a desperate assault on the fortress of Agra, then held by the Shāhī King Jayapala, by Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni. It was mentioned for the first time in 1080 AD when a Ghaznavide force captured it. Sultan Sikandar Lodī (1488–1517) was the first to move his capital from Delhi to Agra in 1506. He governed the country from here and Agra assumed the importance of the second capital. He died in 1517 and his son, Ibrāhīm Lodī, remained in power there for nine more years and several palaces, wells and a mosque were built by him in the fort during his period. Finally being defeated at the Battle of Panipat in 1526. Between 1540 and 1556, Afghans Sher Shah Suri ruled the area. It was the capital of the Mughal Empire from 1556 to 1658
As of 2011 India census, Agra city has a population of 1,585,704, while the population of Agra cantonment is 53,053. The urban agglomeration of Agra has a population of 1,760,285. Males constitute 53% of the population and females 47%. Agra city has an average literacy rate of 75.11%, above the national average of 74%. Literacy rate of males is considerably higher than that of women. The sex ratio in the city was 875 females per thousand males while child sex ratio stood at 857. Agra district literacy rate is 62.56%.
Hindus are 80.68% while Muslims are 15.37% of the population in Agra district. Hinduism, Islam and Jainism are the major religions in Agra city with 80.68%, 15.37%. The Catholic minority is served by its own Metropolitan Archdiocese of Agra.
It is generally accepted that Agra was both an ancient city from the times of the Mahabharata and yet nevertheless Sultan Sikandar Lodī, the Muslim ruler of the Delhi Sultanate, founded Agra in the year 1504. After the Sultan’s death, the city passed on to his son, Sultan Ibrāhīm Lodī. He ruled his Sultanate from Agra until he fell fighting to Mughal Badshah (emperor) Bābar in the First battle of Panipat fought in 1526.
The Red fort, Agra, c. 1820
The golden age of the city began with the Mughals. It was known then as Akbarabād and remained the capital of the Mughal Empire under the Badshah (emperors) Akbar, Jahāngīr and Shāh Jahān. Akbar made it the eponymous seat of one of his original twelve subahs (imperial top-level provinces), bordering Old Delhi, Awadh (Oudh), Allahabad, Malwa and Ajmer subahs. Shāh Jahān later shifted his capital to Shāhjahānabād in the year 1649.
Since Akbarabād was one of the most important cities in India under the Mughals, it witnessed a lot of building activity. Babar, the founder of the Mughal dynasty, laid out the first formal Persian garden on the banks of river Yamuna. The garden is called the Arām Bāgh or the Garden of Relaxation. His grandson Akbar the Great raised the towering ramparts of the Great Red Fort, besides making Agra a centre for learning, arts, commerce and religion. Akbar also built a new city on the outskirts of Akbarabād called Fatehpūr Sikrī. This city was built in the form of a Mughal military camp in stone.
Kos Minar #793 at 12 mile on Agra-Fatehpur Sikri Road section of National Highway 21
His son Jahāngīr had a love of flora and fauna and laid many gardens inside the Red Fort or Lāl Qil’a. Shāh Jahān, known for his keen interest in architecture, gave Akbarabād its most prized monument, the Tāj Mahal. Built in loving memory of his wife Mumtāz Mahal, the mausoleum was completed in 1653.
Shāh Jahān later shifted the capital to Delhi during his reign, but his son Aurangzeb moved the capital back to Akbarabād, usurping his father and imprisoning him in the Fort there. Akbarabād remained the capital of India during the rule of Aurangzeb until he shifted it to Aurangabad in the Deccan in 1653.