Agra City

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This article has been extracted from

THE IMPERIAL GAZETTEER OF INDIA , 1908.

OXFORD, AT THE CLARENDON PRESS.

Note: National, provincial and district boundaries have changed considerably since 1908. Typically, old states, ‘divisions’ and districts have been broken into smaller units, units, and many tahsils upgraded to districts.Many units have since been renamed. Therefore, this article is being posted mainly for its historical value.

Agra City

Administrative head-quarters of Agra District, United Provinces, situated in 27 degree 10' N. and 78° 3' E., on the right bank of the river Jumna, 843 miles by rail from Calcutta and 839 miles from Bombay. The city is the fourth in size in the United Provinces and is growing rapidly in population. The number of inhabitants at the four enumerations was as follows: (1872) 149,008, (1881) 160,203, (1891) 168,622, and (1901) 188,022. The figures include the population of the cantonment, which amounted in 1901 to 22,041. Hindus numbered 121,249, and Musalmans 57,760.

Before the time of Akbar Agra had been a residence of the Lodi kings, whose city, however, lay on the left or eastern bank of the Jumna. Traces of its foundations may still be noticed opposite the modern town, and a flourishing suburb has grown up on part of the ancient site. Babar occupied the old palace after his victory over Ibrahim Khan in 1526; and when a year later he defeated the Rajput forces near Fatehpur Sikri and securely established the Mughal supremacy, he took up his permanent residence at this place. He died at Agra in 1530; but his remains were removed to Kabul, so that no mausoleum preserves his memory here. His son, Humayun, was for a time driven out of India by Sher Shah, the Afghan governor of Bengal, and after his re-establishment on the throne he fixed his court at Delhi. Humayun was succeeded by his son Akbar, the great organizer of the imperial system, who removed the seat of government to the present Agra, which he founded on the right bank of the river, and built the fort in 1566.

A second name of the city, Akbarabad, is still used by natives. Four years later he laid the foundations of Fatehpur Sikri, and contemplated making that town the capital of his empire, but was dissuaded apparently by the superior situation of Agra on the great waterway of the Jumna. From 1570 to 1600 Akbar was occupied with his conquests to the south and east ; but in 1601 he rested from his wars and returned to Agra, where he died four years later. During his reign the palaces in the Fort were com- menced, and the gates of Chitor were set up at Agra. Jahangir built his father's mausoleum at Sikandra, and also erected the tomb of his father-in-law, Itimad-ud-daula, on the left bank of the river, as well as the portion of the palace in the Fort known as the Jahangir Mahal. In 1618 he left Agra and Never returned. Shah Jahan was proclaimed emperor at Agra in 1628, and resided here from 1632 to 1637. It is to his reign that most of the great architectural works in the Fort must referred, though doubtless many of them had been commenced earlier date. The Moti Masjid or 'pearl mosque,' the fama Masjid or 'great mosque,' and the Khas Mahal were all completed under this magnificent emperor. The Taj Mahal, generally allowed to be the most exquisite piece of Muhammadan architecture in the world, com memorates his wife, Mumtaz Mahal.

In 1658 Shah Jahan's third son, Aurangzeb, rebelied and deposed him; but the ex-emperor was per- mitted to live in imperial state at Agra, though in confinement, until his death seven years later. Agra then sank for a while to the position of a provincial city, as Aurangzeb removed the seat of government per manently to Delhi. It had often to resist the attacks of the turbulent Jats during the decline of the Mughals ; and in 1761 it was actually taken by the Bharatpur forces under Suraj Mai and Walter Reinhardt, better known by his native name of Sumru. In 1770 the Marathas ousted the Jats, but were themselves driven out by the imperial troops under Najaf Khan four years later. Najaf Khan then resided in the city for many years with great state as imperial minister. After his death in 1779 Muhammad Beg was governor of Agra ; and in 1784 he was besieged by the forces of the emperor Shah Alam and Mahadji Sindhia. Sindhia took Agra, and held it till 1787, when he was in turn attacked by the imperial troops under Ghulam Kadir and Ismail Beg. The partisan, General de Boigne, raised the siege by defeating them near Fatehpur Sikri in June, 1788. Thenceforward the Marathas held the fort till it was taken by Lord Lake in October, 1803. From this time it remained a British frontier fortress ; and in 1835, when the new Presidency of Agra was founded, this city was chosen as the seat of government, though the Board of Revenue and the principal courts remained at Allahabad till 1843, when they were moved to Agra.

British rule continued undisturbed until the Mutiny in 1857. News of the outbreak at Meerut reached Agra on May 11, and the fidelity of the native soldiers at once became suspected. On May 30 two com panics of native infantry belonging to the 44th and 67th Regiments, who had been dispatched to Muttra to escort the treasure into Agra proved mutinous and marched off to Delhi. Next morning their comrades were ordered to pile arms, and sullenly obeyed. Most of them then quietly retired to their own homes.

The mutiny at Gwalior took place on June 15, and it became apparent immediately that the Gwalior Contingent at Agra would follow the example of their comrades. On July 3 the British officials found it necessary to retire into the fort. Two days later the Nimach and Nasirabad rebels advanced towards Agra, and drove back the small British force at Sucheta after a brisk engagement. The mob of Agra rose at once, plundered the city, and murdered every Christian, European or native, upon whom they could lay their hands. The mutineers, however, moved on to Delhi without entering the city ; and on July 8 partial order was restored in Agra. During the months of July and August the officials remained shut up in the fort, though occasional raids were made against the rebels in different directions.

The Lieutenant-Governor of the North-Western Provinces (John Colvin) died during those months of trouble, and his tomb now forms a graceful specimen of Christian sculpture within the fort of the Mughals. After the fall of Delhi in September, the fugitives from that city, together with the rebels from Central India, unexpectedly advanced against Agra on October 6. Meanwhile, Colonel Greathed's column from Delhi had entered the city without the knowledge of the mutineers. Neither force knew of the presence of the other till the attack took place, but the rebels were repulsed after a short contest, which com- pletely broke up their array. Agra was henceforth relieved from all danger, and the work of reconstituting the District went on unmolested. The provisional Government continued to occupy the former capital until February, 1858, when it removed to Allahabad, which was con- sidered a superior military position. Since that time Agra has become for administrative purposes merely the head-quarters of a Division and a District. But the ancient capital still maintains its natural supremacy as the finest city of Upper India, while the development of the railway system, of which it forms a great centre, is gradually restoring its commercial importance.

The city of Agra stretches inland west and south from the Jumna, forming a roughly equilateral triangle, with its base running west from the river. The cantonments lie beyond the southern point, and include a large rectangular area. Most of the civil station is surrounded by portions of the native city, but the Judge's court and the jails lie north of it.

The bazars are better built than those of most towns in the Provinces, and contain a large propor- tion of stone houses. The Mughal buildings for which the place is famous lie on the edge of the city or some distance away. The Jama Masjid or ' great mosque ' stands at the centre of the south-eastern face, separated from the river by the vast pile of buildings included in the Fort. From the north angle of the Fort the Jumna curves away to the east, and on its bank at a distance of a mile and a half rises the lovely marble building famous as the Taj. The space between, which was formerly an unsightly stretch of ravines, is now occupied by the MacDonnell Park, commenced as a famine work in 1897, which occupies about 250 acres. The tomb of Itimad-ud-daula and the Chini-ka-rauza are situated on the left bank of the river ; and the magnificent tomb of Akbar is at Sikandra, 5 miles north-west of the city.

The main building of the Jama Masjid, 130 feet in length by 100 in breadth, is divided into three compartments, each of which opens on the courtyard by a fine archway, and is surmounted by a low dome built of white and red stone in oblique , courses, producing a singular, though not unpleasing, effect. The work has all the originality and vigour of the early Mughal style, mixed with many reminiscences of the Pathan school. The inscrip- tion over the main archway sets forth that the mosque was constructed by the emperor Shah Jahan in 1644, after five years' labour. It was built in the name of his daughter, Jahanara, who afterwards devotedly shared her father's captivity when he had been deposed by Aurangzeb. This is the noble-hearted and pious princess whose modest tomb lies near that of the poet Khusru, outside Delhi.

Opposite to the Jama Masjid, across an open square, stands the Fort, whose walls are 70 feet high and a mile and a half in circuit ; but as they are only faced with stone and consist within of sand and rubble, they have no real strength, and would crumble at once before the fire of modern artillery. A drawbridge leads across the deep moat which surrounds the crenelated ramparts, giving access through a massive gateway and up a paved ascent to the inner portal. The actual entrance is flanked by two octagonal towers of red sandstone, inlaid with ornamental designs in white marble. The passage between them, covered by two domes, is known as the Delhi Gate. Within it, beyond a bare space once occupied by a courtyard, lie the palace buildings, the first of which is the Diwan-i-am, or ' hall of public audience,' formerly used as an armoury. It was built by Aurangzeb in 1685, and did duty as an imperial hall and courthouse for the palace.

The roof is supported by colonnades which somewhat impair the effect of the interior. This hall opens on a large court or tilt-yard ; and while the emperor with his grandees sat in the open hall, the general public occupied three of the cloisters. A raised throne accommodated the sovereign, behind which a door communicated with the private apartments of the palace. The main range of buildings does not belong to Akbar's time, but was built by his son and grandson. The centre consists of a great court 500 feet by 370, surrounded by arcades and approached at opposite- ends through a succession of corridors opening into one another. The Diwan-i-am is on one side, and behind it are two smaller enclosures, the one containing the Diwan-i-khas and the other the harem. Three sides were occupied by the residences of the ladies, and the fourth by three white pavilions. The Diwan-i-khas, or ' hall of private audience,' consists of two corridors, 64 feet long, 34 feet broad, and 22 feet high, both built in 1637. It has been repaired in a spirit Of fidelity to the original. The Machchhi Bhawan, or court between these and the Diwan-i-am, was probably built by Shah Jahan. On the river side of this court are two thrones, one of white marble and the other of black slate. The substructures of the palace are of red sandstone ; but the corridors, rooms, and pavilions are of white marble elaborately carved. Next to the Diwan-i-khas comes the Shish Mahal or ' palace of glass,' which was an Oriental bath adorned with thousands ol small mirrors. To the south again lies a large red building called the Jahangir Mahal, with a fine two-storeyed facade and relieving lines of white marble.

One of the inner courts is 70 feet square, and both are of red stone; between them is a handsome entrance on pillars. The Jahangir Mahal presents some admirable examples of Hindu carving, with projecting brackets as supports to the broad eaves and to the architraves between the pillars, which take the place of arches. This Hindu form is adopted in the Jahangir Mahal and in the neighbouring Saman Burj instead of the arch ; and the ornamentation of the former is purely Hindu. The exquisite Moti Masjid, or 'pearl mosque,' stands to the north of the Diwan-i-am. It is raised on a lolty sandstone platform, and has three domes of white marble with gilded spires. The domes crown a corridor open towards the court and divided into three aisles by a triple row of Saracenic arches. The pearl mosque is 142 feet long by 56 feet high, and was built by Shah Jahan in 1654. It is much larger than the pearl mosque at Delhi ; and its pure white marble, sparingly inlaid with black lines, has an effect at once noble and refined. Only in the slabs composing the floor is colour employed — a delicateyellow inlaid into the white marble. There is, however, in the Agra fort a second and much smaller pearl mosque, which was reserved for the private devotions of the emperor. This exquisite miniature house of prayer is entirely of the finest and whitest marble, without gilding or inlaying of any sort.

The Taj Mahal, with its beautiful domes, ' a dream in marble,' rises on the river bank. It is reached from the Fort by the Strand Road, made in the famineol 1838 and adorned with stone ghats by native gentlemen. The Taj was erected as a mausoleum for the remains of Arjmand Banu Begam, wife of the emperor Shah Jahan, known as Mumtaz Mahal or ' exalted of the palace.' She died in 1629, and this building was begun soon after her death, though not completed till 1648. The materials are white marbles from Makrana and red sandstone from Fatehpur Sikri. The complexity of the design and the delicate intricacy of the workmanship baffle de- scription. The mausoleum stands on a raised marble platform, and at each of the corners rises a tall and slender minaret of graceful proportions and exquisite beauty. Beyond the platform stretch the two wings, one of which is itself a mosque ol great architectural merit.

In the centre of the whole design, the mausoleum occupies a square of 186 feet, with the angles deeply truncated, so as to form an unequal octagon. The main feature of this central pile is the great dome, which swells upward to nearly two-thirds of a sphere, and tapers at its extremity into a pointed spire, crowned by a crescent. Each corner of the mausoleum by a similar though much smaller dome, erected on a pediment pierced with graceful Saracenic arches. Light is admitted into the interior through a double screen of pierced marble, which tempers the glare of an Indian sun, while its whiteness prevents the mellow effect from de generating into gloom.

The internal decorations consist of inlaid work in precious stones, such as agate and jasper, with which every spandril or other salient point in the architecture is richly fretted. Brown and violet marble is also freely employed in wreaths, scrolls, and lintels, to relieve the monolorty of the white walls. In regard to colour and design the interior of the Taj may rank first in the world for purely decorative workmanship ; while the perfect symmetry of its exterior, once seen, can Never be forgotten, nor the aerial grace of its domes, rising like marble bubbles into the clear sky.

The Taj represents the most highiy elaborated stage of ornamentation reached by the Indo-Muhammadan builders — the stage at which the architect ends and the jeweller begins.

In its magnificent gateway the diagonal ornamentation at the corners which satisfied the designers of the gateways of the Itimad-ud-daula and Sikandra mausoleums is superseded by fine marble cables, in bold twists, strong and handsome. The tri- angular insertions of white marble and large flowers have in like manner given place to a fine inlaid work. Firm perpendicular lines in black marble, with well-proportioned panels of the same material, are effec- tively used in the interior ol the gateway. On its top, the Hindu brackets and monolithic architraves of Sikandra are replaced by Moorish cusped arches, usually single blocks of red sandstone in the kiosks and pavilions which adorn the roof. From the pillared pavilions a magnificent view is obtained of the Taj gardens below, with the Jumna at their farther end, and the city and fort of Agra in the distance.

From this splendid gateway one passes up a straight alley, through a beautiful garden cooled by a broad shallow piece ol water running along the middle of the path, to the Taj itself. The Taj is entirely of marble and gems. The red sandstone of other Muhammadan buildings has disappeared; or rather the red sandstone, where used to form the thick ness ol the walls, is in the Taj overlaid completely with white marble, and the white marble is itself inlaid with precious stones arranged in lovely patterns of flowers. A feelling of purity impresses itself on the eye and the mind, from the absence of the coarser material which forms so invariable a feature ol Agra architecture.

The lower walls and panels are covered with tulips, oleanders, and full-blown lilies, in flat carving on the white marble; and although the inlaid work of flowers, done in gems, is very brilliant when looked at closely, there is on the whole but little colour, and the all-prevailing sentiment is one of whiteness, silence, and calm. The whiteness is broken only by the fine colour of the inlaid gems, by lines in black marble, and by delicately written inscriptions, also in black, from the Koran. Under the dome of the vast mausoleum a high and beautiful screen of open tracery in white marble rises round the two tombs, or rather cenotaphs ', of the emperor and his princess ; and in this marvel of marble, the carving has advanced from the old geometric patterns to a trelliswork of flowers and foliage, handled with great freedom and spirit. The two cenotaphs in the centre of the exquisite enclosure have no carving, except the plain kalamdan, or oblong pen-box, on the tomb of Shah Jahan. But both the cenotaphs are inlaid with flowers made of costly gems, and with the ever-graceful ofeander scroll.

The tomb of Itimad-ud-daula stands some distance from the opposite or left bank ol the river. Itimad-ud-daula was the Wazir or prime minister of the emperor Jahangir, and his mausoleum forms one of the treasures of Indian architecture. The great gateway is constructed of red sandstone, inlaid with white marble, freely employing an orna- mentation of diagonal lines, which produce a somewhat unrestful Byzan- thee effect. The mausoleum itself in the garden looks from the gateway like a structure of marble filigree. It consists of two storeys. The lower one is of marble, inlaid on the outside with coloured stones chiefly in geometrical patterns, diagonals, cubes, and stars.

The numerous niches in the walls are decorated with enamelled paintings of vases and flowers. The principal entrance to the mausoleum is a marble arch, groined, and very finely carved with flowers in low relief. In the in- terior, painting or enamel is freely used for the rool and the dado of the walls ; the latter is about 7/2 feet high, of fine white marble inlaid with coloured stones in geometrical patterns. The upper storey consists of pillars of white marble (also inlaid with coloured stones), and a series of perforated marble screens stretching from pillar to pillar. The whole forms a lovely example ol marble open filigree work.

In addition to the ordinary District offices, Agra contains some fine public buildings. Among these may be mentioned the three colleges, the Roman Catholic Cathedral and the Mission buildings, the Thomason Hospital, now one of the best equipped in the United Provinces, the Lady Lyall Hospital, the Central and District jails, and the Lunatic Asylum. Agra is the head-quarters of the Commissioner of the Division, the Commissioner of Salt Revenue in Northern India, two Superintending Engineers in the Irrigation branch, the Chemical Exandner to Government in the United Provinces, and an Inspector of Schools. The city was the earliest centre of missionary enterprise in Northern India, for the Roman Catholic Mission was founded here

1 The real tombs are in a vault below. in the sixteenth century, and in 1620 a Jesuit College wa opened. Northern India was constituted an Apostolic Vicariati in 1822, with head-quarters at Agra; but in 1886 Agra became the seat of an Arch beshop appointed by the Holy Sec. The Baptist Mission hen founded in 1811, and the Church Missionary Society commenced work in 1813.

Agra was constituted a municipality in 1863. During the ten years ending 1901 the income and expenditure averaged 3.3 lakhs, excluding the loan account. In 1903-4 the income was .-3 lakhs, which included octroi (2.4 lakhs), water rate (Rs. 68,coo), rents (Rs. 37,000), sale of water (Rs. 33,000), and tolls (Rs. 35,000). The expenditure was4.8 lakhs, including repayment of loan-, (1.3 lakhs), conservancy (Rs.70,000), water-supply and drainage (capital, Rs. 12,000; maintenance, Rs. 63,000), administration and collection (Rs. 50,000), roads and buildings (Rs. 24,000), and public safety (Rs. 41,000). An attempt was made between 1884 and 1887 to obtain a water-supply from an artesian well, but was abandoned in favour of a sup- ply from the Jumna. The work commenced in 1889, and water was supplied to the city in 1891. Many extensions and improvements have- been made since, and loans amounting to nearly 16 lakhs have been obtained from Government. In 1903 the daily consumption of filtered water was more than 19/2 gallons per head, and there were 811 house connexions. About 27 miles of drains are flushed daily.

The drainage system has long been recognized as defective, owing to the small flow in the Jumna during the hot season and changes in its channels. An intercepting sewer has recently been completed, which discharges its contents below the city.

The cantonment is ordinarily garrisoned by British and native infantry and British artillery. Agra is also the head-quarters of the Agra Volunteer Corps. The cantonment fund has an annual income and expenditure of over Rs. 60,000 ; a Cantonment Magistrate is stationed here.

The trade of Agra has undergone considerable changes under British rule, the principal factors being the alteration in trade routes due to the extension of railways and changes in native fashions. It was formerly the great centre through which sugar industries and tobacco passed to Rajputana and Central India, while salt was received from Rajputana, cotton and ghi from the sur- rounding country, and stone from the quarries in the west of the District. There was also a considerable trade in grain, the direction of which varied according to the seasons. Agra has now become a great railway centre, at which the East Indian and Great Indian Peninsula broad-gauge lines and the narrow-gauge Rajputana Malwa line meet, and these important functions olcollection and distribution have increased and been added to. The recent opening of another broad-gauge line to Delhi will augment its trade still further.

In addition to the products ol the country, European piece-goods and metals are largely imported, and distributed to the neighbouring towns and villages. Agra was also famous for its native arts and manu- factures, such as gold and silver wire-drawing, embroidery, silk-weaving, calico-printing, pipe-stems, shoes, carving in marble and soapstone, inlaying ol precious stones in marble, and the preparation olmillstones, grinding-stones, and stone mortars. Consequent on the growing pre- ference for articles ol European manufacture, the industries connected with embroidery, silk-weaving, wire-drawing, shoemaking, and pipe- stems have declined ; and calico-printing is little practised. On the other hand, the trade in useful stone articles has prospered, and ornamental work has been fostered by the large sums spent in the restoration of the principal buildings and by the demand created by European visitors ; and although some of the indigenous arts are depressed, new industries have been created.

In 1903 there were six cotton gins and presses, employing 959 hands ; and three cotton- spinning mills, with 30,000 spindles and 1,562 workers. The Agra Central jail has long been noted for the production of carpets, of which about 15,000 square yards are turned out annually; and a private factory manufactures the same articles. A flour-mill and a bone-mill are also working. The total value of the annual rail-borne traffic of Agra is nearly 4 crores of rupees. The trade with the rest of the United Provinces amounts to nearly half of this, and that with Raj- putana and Central India to a quarter. Bombay has a larger share of the foreign trade than Calcutta.

Agra is one of the chief educational centres in the United Provinces. The Agra College was founded by Government in 1823, and endowed with a grantol land in 1811. In 1883 it was made over to a local committee, and now receives an annual grant ol Rs. 7,000 from Government.

In 1904 it contained 175 students in the Arts classes, besides 45 in the law classes and 312 in the school department. The Roman CatholicCollege, St. Peter's, was founded in 1841, and is a school for Europeans and Eurasians, with six students reading in college classes in 1904.

In 1850 the Church Missionary Society founded St. John's College, which in 1904 contained 128 students in college classes and 398 in the school. It also has a business department with 56 pupils, and five branch schools with 350. The municipallty maintains one school and aids 22 others with 1,756 pupils. In addition to these colleges and schools, there are a normal school for teachers and a medical school (founded in 1855) for training Hospital Assistants. The latter contained 260 pupils, including female candidates for employment under the Lady Dufferin Fund. There are about twenty printing presses, and weekly and six monthly papers are published. Agra is noted as the birthplace of Abul Fazl, the historian of Akbar, and his brother, FaizI, a celebrated poet. It produced several distinguished authors of Persian and vernacular literature during the nineteenth century. Among these may be mentioned Mir Taki and Shaikh Wali Muhammad (Nazir). The poet Asad-ullah Khan (Ghallb) resided at Agra for a time.

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