The last Lodi Sultan moved his capital to Agra in 1504, and although he was defeated in 1526 by Babur, the founder of the Mogul empire, it remained India's premier city for almost two centuries. The city's greatest days were during the reign of Babur's grandson, Akbar the Great (1556-1605), who built Agra Fort, and although Shah Jahan created a new capital in Delhi, his heart remained in Agra. In 1631 he chose Agra as the spot to construct what is undisputedly the world's greatest monument to love: the Taj Mahal.
For many, Agra represents the best and worst of India. The city is a daunting sensory experience for even the most hardened traveller: many of the streets are foul, the air polluted and, particularly in the alleyways around the Taj Mahal, visitors are plagued by notoriously persistent touts and rip-off merchants. Despite all this, Agra's magnificent sights make the adventure more than worthwhile.
Agra, along with Delhi and Jaipur, forms the 'Golden Triangle', which is India's most popular tourist route. Situated just 125 miles (200km) south of Delhi, it makes an easy day-trip by train. However, it is worth spending at least a night in the city just to truly appreciate the wondrous Taj Mahal and its many moods; to stand in awe and watch it change from rose-pink in the morning, to brilliant-white at noon, to eggshell-blue at dusk.