In transcribing the following paragraphs from the Internet Archive online version of The Imperial Gazetteer’s entry on Mysore (Mysuru), I have expanded the abbreviations for easier reading and added paragraphing and links. The title-page bears the date 1856, but internal evidence in various entrees makes clear that the text dates from 1851. This discussion of a major city in British India has particular importance because it immediately precedes the 1857 Mutiny.— George P. Landow]

AGRA, or AKBARABAD, a city of Hindoostan, is the capitol of the province of same name, on the right bank of the river Jumna 115 miles Southsoutheast of Delhi and 740 miles westnorthwest of Calcutta; 630 mileds northjnortheast of Bombay; and 1000 mile snorth by west of Madrasat latitude 27˚ 11' North and longitude 78˚ East.

The Taj Mahal. Source: G. W. Forrest’s Cities of India (1903). Click on image to enlarge it.

A great part of the city is now in a ruinous state, but it still maintains much of its original splendour. The houses, generally, are lofty, consisting of several stories, and the streets extremely narrow. It contains no modern buildings of any note, but some of its more ancient structures are on a scale of great magnificence. Of these the most celebrated is the Tauje, or Taje Mahal, a mausoleum, built in the 17th century, by the Emperor Shah Jehan, in commemoration of Noor Jchan, his favourite queen. This superb edifice, the finest in India, probably in the world, stands on the banks of the Jumna, is enclosed on three sides by a high red stone wall, and forms a quadrangle of 190 square yards, with a lofty dome of 70 ft. diameter in the centre, and tall minarets rising from the angles of the terrace. It is built of white marble, and the great central hall, in which are the tombs of the Emperor and his queen, is paved with alternate squares of various coloured marbles; while the walls, tombs, and screens, are ornamented with the most exquisite mosaic work, chiefly of cornelian, lapis lazuli, and jasper. The chambers and corridors, which surround the hall, are finished with similar elegance. The whole cost of the building is said to have been £3,174,802 sterling. It is surrounded by a beautiful garden, adorned with fountains of white marble, and contain ing a profusion of fine trees and flowering shrubs. It is now in charge of the British Government, and is kept in the highest order.

Moti Musjid, the Pearl Mosque. Source: G. W. Forrest’s Cities of India (1903). Click on image to enlarge it.

The imperial palace, built by the Emperor Akbar, the Mootee Musjeed, or pearl mosque, both now used as offices, warehouses, and lodgings ; the mosque named the Jumna Musjeed, and the tonib of Etimaud-ud-Dowlah, are all re markable structures. In the neighbourhood are likewise numerous splendid remains of Indian art.

The Fort. Source: G. W. Forrest’s Cities of India (1903). Click on image to enlarge it.

The fort of Agra is large, and strongly built of red sandstone, with a ditch, a double rampart, and bastions. It has been repaired, and much improved, for the accommodation of the British garrison. The trade of Agra, carried on partly by land and partly by water, consists chiefly in the exportation of indigo, silk, and sugar ; and the importation of horses, camels, grain, fresh and dried fruits, and manufactured silk and cotton.

Agra was at various periods the seat of the Mogul Government, and is intimately connected with the whole modern history of India. Previously to the 16th century, it was an inconsiderable village; but, early in that century, it seems to have been first made an imperial residence by the Afghan Emperor, Sekunder. It was further enlarged by Akbar about 50 years afterwards, and by him named Akbarabad. It continued to be the occasional seat of Government till the final decay of the Mogul dynasty, about the middle of the 18th century.

Two views of Secundra — Akbar’s Tomb, Agra [Click on images to enlarge them.]

In 1784, it was taken by the Mahratta chief, Madhajee Sindia, who retained possession of it till 1803, when it was besieged and captured by the British under Lord Lake. Soon after, it was made the head quarters of a civil establishment for the administration of justice, and collection of revenue ; and subsequently became the seat of the British lieutenant-governor of the N.W. pro vinces. This city is the birthplace of the celebrated Abul Fazel, vizier or prime minister to Akbar, whom he assisted in the preparation of a work entitled the Ayeen Akberry, con taining an account of everything connected with the domin ions, government, and occupations of that emperor.

Agra is still regarded with great veneration by the Hindoos, as the birthplace of the sixth Avatar, or incar nation of the god Vishnu, named Parasu Rama, whose conquests extended to the island of Ceylon. Pop. in 1837, 96,597. (Historical and Descriptive Account of British India; Heber s Indian Journal; Hamilton s East India Gazetteer; Jac- quemont s Letters from India ; Martin y British Possessions in the East Indies.)


Forrest, G. W. [On title-page: “Ex-director of Records, Government of India”]. Cities of India. London: Archibald Constable, 1903. Internet Archive online version of a copy in the University of California Library. Web. 25 November 2018.

Last modified 26 November 2018