The City of Taj! Amazing Agra

Come and fall in love with this city. City in which you can explore history and love. A city that is expanding fast and is still trying to hang on to its past. From kings and Queens to the new generation this city has place from everyone. A city that is struggling to find its feet and become smart as the new adage goes. However, its history , tradition and heritage must be protected at all cost.

Bill Clinton, former President of United States of America after visiting Taj Mahal had famously said that ‘ there are two kinds of people in this world, those who have seen the Taj Mahal and love it, and those who have not seen the Taj Mahal and love it. I would like people to watch Taj Mahal and fall in love with it.

Such is the beauty of this monument that symbolises immortal love of an emperor for his wife. The city of Agra, situated at the banks of River Yamuna, and its history dates back to ancient times. It also symbolises the rich culture and heritage of the country. It is said that the city is mentioned in epic tales of Mahabharat as ‘Agrevana’ literally it means

‘ border of the forest’. It’s a perfect destination for globetrotters as it is home to one of the seven wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal. The Mughals have left an indelible impression on the city evident in many mausoleums and forts found here. A visit to Agra Fort will mesmerize you. A proud testimonial of Mughal architecture, its palaces, mosques and mausoleums leave you speechless. At the ruins of Fatehpur Sikri, the legends of Akbar and his courtiers are still kept alive. The marketplaces and alleyways in the old city are still hub of many activities. Centuries ago, the artisans and craftsmen who made Taj a reality set up their houses nearby and created a network of alleyways known as Taj Ganj.

The History of Agra

It’s popularly believed that the city was built by Badal Singh. Sikandar Lodi, in the year 1475 made it his capital city, during his rule of Delhi Sultanate. The city then known as Akbarabad ever since remained capital of many kings,

especially the Mughals. Agra, the modern city as we see it today was laid by Akbar. He transformed the city into a centre for art culture, commerce and learning. It was his brain child that gave birth to the religion, Din-i-Ilahi. Mughal influence on the city is evident even today in the form of art, culture and cuisine. In the early years, Agra was chosen city of Mughal emperors. It was in this place where founder of the Mughal dynasty, Babar, laid out the Persian garden on the banks of River Yamuna. His grandson Akbar built the great Red Fort and built its towering ramparts. Within the confines of this great fort, Jahangir built rose-red palaces, courts and gardens. Shahjehan added to it and embellished the place with marbled mosques. Sikandara and Fatehpur Sikri on the outskirts of Agra are two other historic places. Sikandara is known for garden mausoleum that Akbar built for himself and at Fatehpur Sikri he built an entirely new city that still stands tall today. His imagination is a living example of unique concept of planning and design. He created a marvel of architecture that was a perfect blend of “Islamic spatial concept and the Hindu genius for decorative sculpture’. But Agra’s crowning glory remains the Taj Mahal, a monument to love built by Shahjehan in memory of his beloved queen, Mumtaz Mahal.

Preserving the Heritage and the Monuments

The city has three world heritage sites and many monuments that must be preserved at all costs. Climate change to heavy level of pollutants are affecting these sites and monuments. Taj Mahal also is not an exception. Archeological Survey of India has taken many steps to arrest the situation from going bad to worse. Chief Superintendent of ASI Agra says, “Most primary concern is that how we control the environment. We need to control the environment and improve the quality that is prevailing at the moment. Other institutions are working on the environment front. ASI cannot do much on that. We see that they are physically and visually distorted in the prevailing environment.” ASI in Agra has been doing hard work to preserve the heritage. Its quite challenging for them to keep the visuals effect intact. He adds “ASI mandate is not to clean the environment but whatever visuals impact we see, especially on Taj Mahal, we do clean them periodically. This time we have taken up the big exercise of cleaning entire surface of Tal Mahal. Earlier we used to do in shaded area where pollutants used to settle and not cleaned by rain but this time we have taken it up as a whole. Every surface, every inch of Taj Mahal is being cleaned.” ASI can not do it alone. Agra needs a concerted effort to clean its environment that will not just protect its monuments heritage but also its citizenery which is breathing air poison.

The City Today as it is

A village, a town and a city and so on are not just human habitats but ensemble of interconnected time-space trajectories as manifested in their dynamic cultural – economy .. these places are locations of successes and failures, people’s past present and their future dreams of all generations. Shashikant Pandey, Associate Professor at Agra College says “Agra is a world known city – both because of its historicity as the seat of Mughal power and their continuing significance of political-cultural innovations like Din-e-Ilaahi and sulah kul along with principles of management of empire. Second, also because of the architectural magnificence of the buildings built during centuries of Mughal rule, the Taj Mahal is a gem of all. Agra surrounds other medieval places as well -Fatehpur Sikri, Mathura-Vrindavan which together complete and fulfil the city of Agra as true centre of Indo-Islamic cultural ethos.” He further adds “Agra and it’s surrounding villages and towns are interwoven in this synthetic cultural ethos and heritage-which even now, in spite of attempts at fracturing this cultural unity, thrive and resonate in the air.”

City is continuously growing in size, activities, population, vehicular traffic, market space, trade and it’s natural for existing infrastructure to face the pressure and occasionally fail too. Quite like any other city facing growth and pres-sure all areas need urgent attention, e.g.- managing vehicular traffic congestion, improvement in law and order situation and effective policing, people friendly health and hospital system, long-term city planning for imminent drinking water crisis, environment degradation, rejuvenation of public education and university system including setting up a Central University ‘ -to name some of foremost priorities and concerns. Member of Parliament from the city Ram Shankar Katheria agrees and says that Agra being a world city is facing a host of problems and the state and central government are jointly working on that. He also accepts that there is a disconnect between various civic and development authorities and says “He has put this issue in front of the chief Minister of the state that a joint development authority should be formed and the last leg of all the development work should be conducted by that body. The chief Minister has taken it seriously and we are working in this direction. A new mechanism for development must be created only then we can successfully execute the projects on the ground. Work in that direction is on and I am hopeful that it will be achieved.”

The City deserves more than what it exists for and has contributed not just to Indian society and culture but to the entire humanity with celebration of love as the seventh wonder of the world- Taj Mahal!

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