Agra The Architectural Heritage

Item Code: IDK269
Author: Lucy Peck
Publisher: Lotus Collection Roli Books
Edition: 2008
ISBN: 9788174366115
Pages: 196 (Illustrated Throughout In B/W)
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 8.5" X 5.5"
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Book Description
Back of the Book

Few people know just how much more there is to Agra than the Taj Mahal. A recent listing by INTACH has identified many beautiful ruined Mughal gardens, tombs and mosques, colonial buildings, and havelis along the winding lanes of the old city. For those who want to range wider than the normal tourist route, lucy Peck's new book takes the visitor through historic Agra and Fatehpur Sikri, revealing the lesser-known buildings to be found in both places. It is illustrated with photos, line drawings and numberous maps, many of which feature walks through the historic areas.

Lucy Peck ws educated in the UK and is a qualified architect with a degree in Town Planning. She is very interested in urbanism and conservation, and has helped with INTACH interpretation projects such as the Lodi gardens pamphlets. She lives partly in Delhi and is the author of the bestseller, Delhi: A Thousand Years of Building, published in 2005 by Roli Books.


The Taj Mahal in Agra is an iconic building, representing its country in the same way that the Eiffel Tower represents France. However, Outside India, the vast majority of people will look blank if you mention Agra to see the Taj Mahal, often being quite unaware of the many other glories of Mughal architecture in the city. Those who consult books and websites will be aware of places such as the Red Fort, the tombs of Akbar and Itimad-ud-Daula and Fatehpur Sikri. They will also, it is hoped, allow time to visit them. They may even pick up rumours of other historic buildings, but while local taxi or auto-rickshaw drivers will be able to take visitors to the big five sites without difficulty, the other historic sites of the city can be frustratingly difficult locate. This is a pity because there are other glories to be seen and they help to flesh out the history of the whole city, not just that which relates to the imperial Mughal edifices.

Agra is pre-eminently a Mughal city. Along with Delhi and Lahore it was one of the Mughal Empire's capital cities, but while the other two had illustrious former histories and continued to be important political centres after the collapse of the Mughal Empire, Agra reverted to provincial status until the nineteenth century, when it became an important colonial administrative centre. It was also an important manufacturing and trading centre, and continues to be so even today. The built legacy of all this is visible in various forms, but from the Mughal period, as in other old cities, the buildings that forms, but from the Mughal period, as in other old cities, the buildings that remain are those that were intended to last for ever, and were therefore generally endowed with property for their upkeep. The Mughal emperors were of course Muslim, so the buildings they left in perpetuity were mainly mosques and tombs. The great houses and gardens built by the many noblemen who followed the court have mostly vanished, as have the numerous buildings housing the rest of the city's population, although their imprint on the city still remains in the shape of the street pattern and small localities that have come up within the walled compounds of former gardens, mansions or caravanserais.

More commonly found are nineteenth- and early twentieth-century buildings and it is much easier to construct a picture of nineteenth-century Agra from what remains than for its Mughal heyday. In fact, on close inspection, nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Agra reveals itself as a city of some magnificence: the main streets of the old city were lined with extremely ornate house-fronts, while north and south were leafy colonial areas, containing large houses set in vast gardens. Large and now disused industrial complexes line the river north of the old city, the legacy of early industrialization, before it was realized what damage could be done to the fabric of the historic buildings (specifically the Taj) by pollution. Of course, like so many other Indian cities, these older areas are now being engulfed by the modern city, which has extended outwards, mainly to the west and north, but has also insinuated itself into the old city areas by the gradual redevelopment of traditional urban buildings by the type of crude modern city buildings that can be seen the world over.

In summary, Agra means much more than the Taj Mahal, and it is the total city and its growth that this book attempts to describe. The first two chapters give a very basic outline of the city's history and its architecture. After that each chapter deals with a different part of the city, working forward chronologically as much as possible. The last chapter is about Fatehpur Sikri, which by rights comes near the beginning of the story of Agra, but it is some distance away and therefore there is no overlap ;with other chapters.

A World about Vocabulary, Spellings and Dates
This book is written for the general reader and is based on observation and English language secondary sources. Because I am writing in English, I have chosen to refer to buildings by their English names of that seems to be most frequently used in English, thus Red Fort instead of Lal Qila. I have come across numerous variations for spellings of names and objects, all being transliterations from the original Persian, Urdu, Hindi, etc. This wild variation can, presumably, be ascribed in part to the very great changes in pronunciation of languages over the decades, so transcriptions accurate at one time become comical a hundred years later. I have decided to stick with the versions that occur most frequently in books that are widely read, on the basis that they will therefore be most familiar to the general reader. Some words are in common Hindi usage, in which case I have tried to follow the transliterated Hindi spelling. I have also tried to stick to one short name for individuals, although it is sometimes necessary to use the given name and titles of the Mughal emperors.

I have given dates as frequently as possible, but many are my own guesswork, based on stylistic details. Sometimes different sources give different specific dates; I have generally selected one date rather arbitrarily, but a few years either way makes very little difference to the general chronology, Again, because most dates are 'transliterations result in a year that might span over parts of two years of the Christian calendar, thus giving a date of, say, 1670 – 71. I have elected to quote the earlier year.

Finally, because I am writing for the general reader, I have concentrated on those buildings or aspects of buildings that are easily accessible. It is frustrating to read to the marvelous interior of such and such a building and then find, on arrival, that the door is padlocked and access is prohibited. However, it is highly unlikely that all the buildings that are open (or closed) at the time of writing will remain way, so I apologized if some buildings are now closed of if others are omitted from description but are now accessible.


How to use this bookVI
Key to MapsIX
1 History of Agra11
2 Architecture of Agra31
3 The Red Fort49
4 Mughal Gardens (Itimad-ud-Daula's Tomb)63
5 Sikandra (Akbar's Tomb)81
6 Taj Mahal93
7 The Old City107
8 Colonial Agra127
9 Fatehpur Sikri155
Index and Glossary181
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