Agra was developed between the 16th and 17th centuries when it was seat of power for the Mughal Empire in India.
With minor interruptions Agra alternated with Delhi as the capital of the Mughal Empire. In 1501, Sikander Lodi seized it from a rebellious governor and made it his capital. The city fell into Mughal hands in 1526, when Emperor Babur defeated the last Lodi sultan at Panipat.
Agra reached the peak of its magnificence between the mid-16th and mid-17th centuries during the reigns of Akbar, Jehangir and Shah Jahan. During this period the fort, the Taj Mahal and other major mausoleums were built. In 1638 Shah Jahan built a new city in Delhi, and his son Aurangzeb moved the capital there 10 years later.
Akbar lived in Agra in the early years of his reign. Ralph Fitch, the English Elizabethan traveller, described Agra as a “magnificent city, with broad streets and tall buildings”. He also saw Akbar’s new capital at Fatehpur Sikri, 40 km west, describing a route lined all the way with stalls and markets. Akbar moved his capital again to Lahore, before returning to Agra in 1599, where he spent the last six years of his life. Jehangir left Agra for Kashmir in 1618 and never returned. Despite modifying the Red Fort and building the Taj Mahal, Shah Jahan also moved away in 1638 to his new city Shah Jahanabad in Delhi, though he returned in 1650, taken prisoner by his son Aurangzeb and left to spend his last days in the Red Fort. It was Aurangzeb, the last of the Great Mughals, who moved the seat of government permanently to Delhi. In 1761 Agra fell to the Jats, a warrior class who looted its monuments, including the Taj Mahal. The Marathas took over in 1770, but were replaced by the British in 1803. It was the centre of much fighting in the ‘Uprising’ and was the administrative centre of the Northwest Provinces and Oudh until that too was transferred to Allahabad in 1877 following the First War of Independence of 1857. Deprived of its administrative role, Agra developed as a centre for heavy industry, quickly becoming famous for its chemicals industry and air pollution, before the Taj and tourism became a major source of income.