Agra, located in Uttar Pradesh, is a city that never fails to mesmerize visitors with its rich history and breathtaking architectural wonders. The world-renowned Taj Mahal, a true masterpiece, stands as the crown jewel of Agra. Once the magnificent capital of the Mughals, this city holds a significant place in India's cultural heritage.
Sultan Sikandar Lodi (reign: 1489-1517) is widely acknowledged as the founder of Agra. He was the second and most powerful ruler of the Afghan Lodi dynasty of Delhi.
During his conquest of Bayana in 1491, Sikandar Lodi captured the fort of Agra (then Ag-i-Rah), which was a subsidiary of the sarkar of Bayana. The fort was taken from Haibat Khan Jalwani, who held that fort for Sultan Ashraf Sharf-ud-din Jalwani, the chief of Bayana. Subsequently, Ashraf pledged his allegiance, and Bayana was annexed to Delhi.
In 1505, Sikandar Lodi made Agra the capital. Here is a detailed account of Khwaja Nimatullah regarding the foundation of Agra:
The jagirdars and tax agents residing along the banks of the River Yamuna in the Bayana region were often troubled by rebellious and corrupt individuals, prompting them to send desperate pleas to the court for assistance. For a long time, the Sultan was thinking of finding a suitable place on the bank of the river to build a city there.
In 1505, the Sultan decided to turn this idea into reality. His goal was to populate the area, transforming it into a royal seat, a gathering place for troops, and a stronghold to subdue the rebels of the neighbourhood. To accomplish this, he appointed a group of wise, experienced and farsighted men to explore the banks of the Yamuna River and identify a suitable location.
Setting off from Delhi on a vessel, they sailed downstream, surveying and reconnoitering until they reached the present-day site of Agra. Convinced of its potential, they presented their findings to the Sultan, who then embarked on a delightful journey from Delhi. Eventually, he arrived in Agra and spotted a high ground that seemed perfect for construction.
Sikandar asked the captain of the crew, Nayak, who served as the pilot of the royal boat, which of the two elevated areas ahead was more suitable for his purpose. Nayak confidently pointed to the "one in the foreground" (Ag-i-Rah). The Sultan smiled and declared, "Let this town also be named Ag-rah." He ordered the foundations to be laid at an auspicious hour.
The city was established on the outskirts of the villages of Basai and Poiya within the Deoli pargana in Bayana sarkar. The Sultan took nine districts out of the fifty-two districts of Bayana and allocated them to Agra. Since then, Agra has thrived and emerged as the capital of the rulers of Hindustan. Sikandar also commanded a fort to be built there.
According to Abdullah, the author of Tarikh-i-Daudi, Agra became a city during Sikandar's reign, prior to which it had been a simple village. However, historical evidence reveals that Agra possessed remarkable structures even before Sikandar's reign, as evident from the devastating earthquake that struck on July 6th, 1505, resulting in the destruction of numerous grand buildings.
Abdullah also mentions that when Mahmud of Ghazni (reign: 998-1030) invaded Hindustan, Agra was completely ruined. However, in fact, it was prince Mahmud, a great-grandson of Mahmud of Ghazni, who stormed the Agra fort in 1080-81. Jahangir, in his account of Agra, confirms this fact.
Jahangir's Account on Agra:
Jahangir asserts that prior to the reign of the Lodi Afghans, Agra was a thriving city with a strong fort, as Masud Sad Salman mentions in a qasida in praise of prince Mahmud, the son of Sultan Ibrahim of Ghazni, for conquering the aforementioned fort.
"The citadel of Agra appeared in the midst of the dust like a mountain, its ramparts and battlements like mountain peaks."
When Sikandar Lodi desired to take Gwalior, he came from Delhi, which was the capital of the Sultans of India, to Agra and established himself there. From that date, the town of Agra advanced to become the seat of the Delhi Sultans.
"Agra is one of the ancient and large cities of Hindustan, situated on the banks of the Yamuna River. Formerly it had an old citadel, but my father [Akbar] razed it before I was born and constructed a citadel of hewn red stone, the likes of which world-travelers are unable to point to", Jahangir remarks.
Mahmud's Invasion of Agra:
The invasion of Agra by prince Mahmud appears to have occurred around 1080-81. The Ghaznavid poet Masud Sad Salman describes the ancient fort of Agra as 'built amongst the sand like a hill and the battlements of it are like hillocks. No calamity had ever befallen its fortifications, nor had deceitful time dealt treacherously with it'.
On reaching Agra, Mahmud's forces attacked its ruler Jaipal. After several days of fierce fighting, they successfully captured the fortress.
It is said that a Rajput Chief named Badal Singh constructed a fort called Badalgarh in the year 1475, following the destruction of Agra in 1080-81. It is highly likely that the fort captured by Sikandar Lodi during the conquest of Bayana was indeed Badalgarh. Subsequently, Sikandar Lodi built a new fort on the same site where Badalgarh once stood.
To sum up, Sikandar Lodi conquered Agra and established it as his capital. Therefore, it can be concluded that Sikandar Lodi is the true founder of modern Agra. Subsequently, Agra came under the rule of Babur after being passed down from Sikandar's son, Ibrahim.
However, it remains unclear which old fort Akbar demolished to build the Agra fort. Is it possible that the old Badalgarh fort, which was fortified by Sikandar Lodi, was the one demolished by Akbar?
Sikandar Lodi also built the city of Sikandra, located near Agra, which has gained fame as the final resting place of Akbar. The Baradari near Sikandra was later converted into a tomb by the Mughals. It is believed to be the burial site of Mariam Zamani.
Tarikh-i-Khan Jahani Wa Makhzan-i-Afghani. A complete history of the Afghans in Indo-Pak sub-continent, of Khwaja Nimatullah