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Monday, December 16, 2019

Explained: Locating Agra and ‘Agravan’, in Ptolemy and the Mahabharata

The Greek astronomer, mathematician and geographer Claudius Ptolemy who lived in the 2nd century AD in the city of Alexandria in the Roman province of Egypt, is believed to be the first person to refer to the city of "Agra".

Written by Mehr Gill , Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi | Updated: November 21, 2019 7:19:53 am
agra name change, city agra to agravan, adityanath change agra to agravan, agravan explained, indian express explained, indain express news The website says that the “golden age” of the city began with the Mughals, when it was known as Akbarabad. It served as the capital of the Delhi Sultanate in the early 16th century.

The government of Uttar Pradesh may be planning to change the name of Agra to Agravan. The Department of History at the Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar University in Agra has been asked to examine whether the city was known by any other name in ancient times.

University Vice-Chancellor Arvind Dixit said that a committee “comprising local research scholars, research students, and myself” would “delve into the archival and documented records in history to see if Agra ever had an ancient name,” PTI reported.

The Yogi Adityanath government has changed the name of Allahabad to Prayagraj, of Mughalsarai Junction railway station to Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Junction, and of Faizabad district to Ayodhya.

When did this start?

The move was initiated after some local people wrote a post on UP government’s Stamp and Registration website demanding to rename Agra. The demand was referred to the Agra administration, which approached the university.

Jagan Prasad Garg, a multi-term BJP MLA in Uttar Pradesh who passed away in this year, had earlier written to the Adityanath government requesting to rename Agra as ‘Agravan’. There is no well known documented evidence that Agra was known by a different name in the past.

Agra and Agravan

The Greek astronomer, mathematician and geographer Claudius Ptolemy who lived in the 2nd century AD in the city of Alexandria in the Roman province of Egypt, is believed to be the first person to refer to the city of “Agra”.

“In this it is easy to recognise the Yamuna, the river which after passing Delhi, Mathura, Agra, and other places, joins the Ganges, of which it is the largest affluent at Allahabad,” Ptolemy wrote in his well known work ‘Geographia’ (The Geography), according to an 1885 translation by JW McCrindle titled, ‘Ancient India as Described by Ptolemy’.

According to a thesis titled ‘City of Agra Under the Mughals From 1526-1707’ which was submitted to the Department of History at Aligarh Muslim University by Zeba Siddiqi in 2006, the earliest reference to Agra appears in the Mahabharata, where it is referred to as ”Agravana”. The thesis argued that in sources predating the Mahabharata, the city has been referred to as Arya Griha, or the home of the Aryans.

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Some historians, Siddiqi said, were of the view that Agra derived its name from the Hindi word ‘agar’, which means ‘salt pan’. The city is a part of Brijbhoomi, Siddiqi wrote — “the land associated with the birth and legendary activities of lord Krishna”.

Ptolemy might have thought that Agra was named after a Hindu king Agramesh or Agrameshwar, the thesis argued. An alternative view holds that Agra was founded by Maharaja Agrasen or Ugrasen, the great grandfather of Krishna.

A UP government website says: “It is generally accepted that Agra was both an ancient city from the times of the Mahabharata and yet nevertheless Sultan Sikandar Lodi, the Muslim ruler of the Delhi Sultanate, founded Agra in the year 1504.”

The website says that the “golden age” of the city began with the Mughals, when it was known as Akbarabad. It served as the capital of the Delhi Sultanate in the early 16th century.

After the decline of the Mughal Empire, the city came under the influence of the Marathas, and began to be called Agra, according to the website. “Agra has historic linkages with Shauripur of Jainism and Runukta of Hinduism, of 1000 BC,” it says.

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