Agra’s strategic location in the Indo-Gangetic plains has attracted settlers, invaders, rulers and builders for centuries, much before it reached its current grandeur and lore during the time of the Mughal rulers.
Agra is an ancient site, that has been mentioned in literature and inscriptions going back to prehistoric times. Cave paintings in the area suggest that humans inhabited this area before formal settlements were established. The region is referred to as Arya Griha, home of the Aryans, in ancient literature and as Agravana, border of the forest, in the epic Mahabharata. Ancient Greco-Roman scholar Ptolemy first mentioned the name Agra in the 2nd century AD in his book Geographia.
12th century AD Persian poet Salman writes that the fort of Agra held by King Jaipal was besieged by Mahmud of Ghazni. Legend suggests that Badalgarh Fort of Raja Badal Singh stood at the location of the present Agra fort in the 15th century AD.
Modern Agra was established in the 16th century by Sikandar Lodi of the Lodi dynasty in the Delhi Sultanate. Babur stayed here briefly and built a Char Bagh garden and water palace. Agra reached the peak of its grand beauty during the Mughals. Akbar built the Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri, making the region his capital. Jehangir built more palaces and monuments inside Agra Fort and the city. Shah Jahan shifted his capital to Shahjahanabad near Delhi, but built the Taj Mahal in Agra. Aurangzeb moved the capital back to Agra.
After the death of Aurangzeb, Agra Fort was captured by the Marathas in the 16th century. Subsequently it was occupied by the Jats, and after the Second Anglo-Maratha War by the British. It became a part of the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh. It became an important center of administration and commerce, and the cantonment area was built. The Battle of Agra played a minor but decisive role in the First War of Indian Independence in 1857. It lost its significance under the British rule.
Post-independence, Agra emerged as an industrial city. With the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri being recognized as UNESCO World Heritage sites, Agra transformed into a popular international tourist destination, and the history and legends of its peak during the 16th and 17th centuries continue to echo in its monuments and its marketplaces.