The Agra Fort, must to see place, is undoubtedly the most popular place visited in Agra after the Taj Mahal. This huge Red Sandstone structure, lies on the Northwest from the Taj Mahal on the banks of river Yamuna. It is a World heritage Site listed under the UNESCO and boasts of some of the most splendid Mughal Architecture along with a history associated with it for more than 500 years and still counting. The Agra Red Fort resembles the might of the Mughal emperors at the time of history, and is indeed a grand heritage in itself.
History of the Agra Fort:
The history of Agra Fort is usually associated with Mughal strongholds in the chapters of Indian history, and rightly so, because it was under the Mughals that it reached its prime glory. But The history of the fort goes back a long time, even before the coming of the first Mughal, Babur in the year 1483 A.D. It is said to be initially under the hold of Sikarwars, Rajput clans who ruled many parts of the North-central region of modern India. It was in 1506 when the Sultanate rule in Agra began when Sikandar Lodi toom over the city. But the Lodi rule was short lived. Sikandar Lodi died in the year 1516 A.D. after which it was his son Ibrahim, who took over. But in the year 1526 A.D. he was defeated by Babur in the first battle of Panipat who then came to the throne; he built a step wall, also known as baoli. Along with the Agra Fort, Babur also captured the famous Koh-i-noor diamond when he took over the fort. After his death, Humayun established himself while at Agra. For a short time, it also fell into the hands of Sher Shah Suri. But the Agra Fort gained much prominence from the year 1558 A.D. during the time of which the reign of Akbar had just started. Due to its central location, Akbar established his empire based from this very fort itself. From here on, and passing through Jahangir to his grandson Shah Jahan, the fort went through significant changes and was developed into a fine piece of Red Walled Sandstone structure and basking in the glory of Mughal Stronghold. Abul Fazl mentions the fort as a brick walled structure named as 'Badalgarh', when Akbar took to the thorne of Agra. Shah Jahan, under whom the famous Taj was built in memory of his beloved wife, was a passionate lover and admirer of art and architecture. It was during his reign that most of the halls and palaces were built inside the fort, making it a fine example of Mughal art and architecture that always came along with its dominant rule. However, at the end of Shah Jahan's reign when he shifted the capital to Shah Jahanabad, the fort lost its political significance, but what remained of it and still exists till today, is its great work of architecture and a strong structure capable of defending itself from external enemies. During the time of Aurangzeb's rule, Shah Jahan spent his last days here at the fort of Agra itself.
Architecture of the Red Fort of Agra:
The Agra fort covers an area of almost 95 acres and is shaped in a semi circle. It has four gates on four sides with the Khizri gate opening towards the river. Two gates which are worth noticing is the Amar Singh Gate also known as Lahori Gate which faces towards the city of Lahore in the west and the other is the Delhi gate facing north towards Delhi. It walls rise as high as seventy feet. The river Yamuna runs parallel to the chord of the semi-circle shaped fort. Most of what has been built of the fort is of Red Sandstone, typical style of architecture during Akbar's reign. But during the later part, many palaces and halls were built by the use of White marble, something well associated with the reign of Shah Jahan. The Delhi Gate is a masterpiece in architecture during Akbar's time. The most noticeable of this is the use of White marble for inlay work. An inner gate known as the 'Hathi Pol' or Elephant gateway lies inside the Delhi Gate. This is guarded by two stone elephants that provided an extra security. These stone elephants were mammoth in size and almost similar to original elephants. But this gate does not allow entry to Tourists in the present day. The only gate from which tourists can enter the fort is the Amar Singh Gate. This gate was previously also known as Akbar Darwazza but renamed as Amar Singh Gate during the time of the British. Both, the Delhi Gate as well as the Amar Singh gate are of Red Sand Stone. What was once built by Akbar as a beautiful and huge fort of Red Sand stone retains the mammoth size till today speaking much of the Mughal strength during a period of the past. It is a formidable structure that stands tall but many halls that one sees inside were later built by Shah Jahan of White Marbles. Much later when the British seized Agra, much of Akbar's buildings inside the fort were destroyed while raising the barracks. Many of the buildings inside the fort built during the time of Akbar consisted of designs from Gujarat and Bengal. One of the prime examples of these which exist even today is the 'Bengali Mahal'- a good example of Akbari buildings. This Mahal or palace is divided onto two sections- the 'Akbari Mahal' and the 'Jahangiri Mahal'. The 'Bengali Mahal' is built of Red Sand stone, a typical of Mughal architecture during the time of Emperor Akbar. The Agra fort is unique in its own way and at the same time special. It is here where one can find architecture created as a result of the blend of Hindu and Islamic works.
Elements of the Agra Red Fort:
The Agra Red Fort consists of a number of halls and palaces inside it. All of these make for interesting study of art and architecture, and great photographs. They consist of history dating back to more than 300 years. This huge Fort spreading over 95 acres of land contains elements, each of which forms an integral and significant part of the fort that exist today.
Some of them are mentioned below:
Visit to Khas Mahal: This palace built by Shah Jahan was for his two favourite daughters Roshanara and Jahanara. Another name for the palace is 'Aramgah-i-Muqaddar'. On one side of it is the river and on the other side is the Anguri Bagh. It consists of an open court and pavilions of White marble. In front of the palace is a beautiful tank with fountains.
Trip to Anguri Bagh in Agra Fort: This geometrically shaped garden was famous for bearing grapes.
Must to see Diwan-i-am of Agra Fort: This hall was used for the interaction of the emperor with the common people who gathered to put forward their petitions. At a time in History, it housed the famous peacock throne.
Places to visit in Agra Fort Diwan-i-khas: This hall was used to hold meetings between the kind and his ministers or between kings and other kings or ambassadors of other kingdoms and regions.
Moti Masjid: This mosque was used for prayer by the members of the royal court. It is also known as the Pearl Mosque. This white marbled prayer place was built by the emperor Shah Jahan. It has three rising domes which give it an attractive look that cannot be over looked and is one the prettiest sights inside the Agra Fort.
Visit to Sheesh Mahal: The Sheesh Mahal or the Mirror Palace was the royal dressing room at the time. It contains glass mosaic decorations of tiny mirror glass.
Rang Mahal: This palace is where the king's wives and mistresses resided.
Takht-i-jahangir: This represents the throne of Jahangir.
Jahangiri Mahal: This palace was built by Akbar for his son and prince Jahangir. This palace is built of Red Sand stone and the architectural work on its pillars is all inspired from a blend of Hindu and Central Asian architecture.
Nagina Masjid: This mosque built was built of pure white marble including the prayer place inside the mosque. It was used by the ladies at the court for their prayers.
Naubat Khana: This place was in use when musicians performed for the entertainment of the emperor.
Zenana Mina Bazaar: This market place very close to the balcony was the shopping place for queens and mistresses of the king where only lady merchants were allowed to come in as merchants to sell to the women of the court.
Musamman Burj: This octagonal tower with an open pavilion located on the left of the Khas Mahal is the very place where Shah Jahan's son, Aurangzeb imprisoned him during his last years along with his beloved daughter Jahanara. It was here where Shah Jahan eventually died while in imprisonment. What is worth noticing in the Musamman Burj is the floor which is of white marble but designed to resemble the board of a chess game. On the top of the tower is a gilded copper dome.
Shahi Burj: Very closely situated to the Musamman Burj is the Shahi Burj in the form of a small pavilion. An extremely stylish lotus tank with inlay work carved out of semi precious stones make up the elements of this pavilion, believed to be of Shah Jahan's private work place.
Macchi Bhawan: The Macchi Bhawan is believed to have had pools and fountains during the time of history. Many believed that the emperor used these pools to raise fishes, and that is how the name comes as 'Macchi Bhawan' or 'Fish Enclosure'. It is located on the opposite side of the 'Diwan-i-Khas'. Many records suggest that it was more of a treasury for storing ornaments and precious stone. This double storied structure built around a spacious courtyard consists of a small marble pavilion and a medallion on the ceiling on the upper floor, from which the king would view the court below.
Visit to Mina Masjid: This mosque very close to the Diwan-i-Khas was used by the emperor Shah Jahan along with his royal ladies. This structure though beautiful, is surprisingly simple and consist of high walls to provide privacy to the women at prayer.
The Agra Fort is a marvel in itself, since it not just provided the military cause for the Mughal emperors at the time, but was a city in itself which was planned so fine, that it had place for every category of people serving the Royalty. Its display of art and architecture with splendid blends of influences from different parts of the globe is an inspiration to many modern day Architects, Painters, Engineers and Artists. The Fort is one of a kind and a must see along with the Taj Mahal for people visiting the city of Agra.
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