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Agra Fort, Agra

Information on Agra Fort
On the western banks of the Yamuna River, Agra fort dominates the centre of the Agra. The site was originally used by the son of Sher Shah, but the present structure owes its origins to Akbar who erected the walls and gates and the first buildings inside. Shah Jahan built the impressive imperial quarters and mosque, while Aurangzeb added the outer ramparts. Akbar, the grandson of Babar built his capital at Agra and laid the foundation of the Agra Fort. He began construction of this

Agra Fort, Agra

majestic fort in 1565 when he was only 23 years old. This imposing red sandstone structure is the finest example of craftsmanship of the Mughal era. After Taj this was one of the most important group of buildings. The construction was started in  1565 and was completed in about eight years at a cost of thirty five lakh of rupees under the superintendence of Qasim Khan Mir Barr-u-Bahr. This fort was just one of the many large fortified residences that the emperor wanted to have at various strategic points of his empire. This fort contained over five hundred buildings.

Architecture of Agra Fort
Agra fort is built in a triangular form and covers an overall area of about 1.5 miles. The outer walls, just over 20 metres high, faced with red sandstone and topped with pointed merlons, tower above the outer moat. The shape of the fort is that of a crescent, flattened on the east to give a long nearly straight wall facing the river, with a total perimeter of 2.4 km. This is punctuated at regular intervals by bastions. The main entrance is in the centre of the western wall, the Delhi Gate, facing the Bazaar. However, in Agra you can only enter from the Amar Singh gate in the south, which is open to the visitors. Although only the southern one third of the fort is open to the public this includes nearly all the buildings of interest. The Jahangir Mahal with its fretwork is the largest private residency within the fort. To the south of Jahangir Mahal are the ruins of the Akbari Mahal, guilded by a pillared hall. The Nagina Mosque lies to the left of the throne room. Beneath this existed the Meena Bazar, from where the ladies of the house watch the merchants who display their silks, brocades and jewellery in the courtyard below. At the Chittor Gates, trophies of Akbar's captures of a Rajput fortress in 1657 are displayed. Towards the riverside is the Diwan-e-Khas, built by Shah Jahan in 1637. Some various other buildings in the fort are the Khas Mahal, the Golden pavilions, Anguri Bagh, Sheesh Mahal, the legendary Gates of Somnath and Jami Masjid.

The sheer scale of the fortifications are immediately impressive. There was a 9 m wide and 10 m deep moat filled with water from the Yamuna, an outer wall on the river side and an imposing 22 m high inner, main wall. It gives a feeling of great defensive power. The route through the Amar Singh Gate is dog-legged. The inner gate is solidly powerful in appearance but has been attractively decorated with tiles. The incline up to this point and beyond was suitable for elephants and as you walk past the last gate and up the broad brick lined and paved ramp, it is easy to imagine arriving on elephant back. Despite its name, the Jahangiri Mahal was built by Akbar in about 1570 as women’s quarters for his palace. Now it is all that survives of his original palace buildings. Almost 75 m square, it is built of stone and simply decorated on the exterior. In front is a large stone bowl which was probably used to contain fragrant rose water. Tillotson has pointed out that the blind arcade of pointed arches inlaid with white marble which decorate the façade are copied from 14th century monuments of the Khilji and Tughluqs in Delhi. He notes that they are complemented by some features derived from Hindu architecture, including the balconies protruding from the central section, the sloping dripstone in place of eaves along the top of the façade, and the domed chattris at its ends. On the south side is Jodha Bai’s Drawing Room (named after one of Jahangir’s wives) while on the east the hall court leads onto a more open yard by the inner wall of the fort. In contrast to other palaces in the fort, this is quite simple. Through the slits in the wall you can see the Taj.

Shah Jahan's Palace Buildings


Shah Jahan’s Khas Mahal
There is an open tower from which you can view the walls and the decorated Mussaman Burj Tower. The extensive use of white marble transforms the atmosphere, contributing to the new sense of grace and light. To the left are the formal gardens of the 85 m square geometric Anguri Bagh. In Shah Jahan’s time the geometric patterns were enhanced by the choice of flowers which decorated the beds. The terrace on which the Khas Mahal stands has three. In the middle of the white marble

Chini ka Rauza Agra

platform wall in front of the Khas Mahal is a decorative water slide. From the pool with its bays for seating and its fountains, water would drain off along channels decorated to mimic a stream. The surface might be scalloped to produce a rippling waterfall, or inlaid to create a shimmering stream bed. Behind vertical water drops there are little cusped arch alcoves into which flowers would be placed during the day and lamps at night. The effect was magical. The open pavilion on you right has a splendid and photogenic view across to the Taj. The curved roofs of the small pavilions are based on the roof shape of Bengali village huts designed to keep off heavy rain and constructed out of bamboo, curved to give its distinctive form. Such huts can still be seen in West Bengal and Bangladesh today, although the shape was first expressed in stone building by the Sultans of Bengal. Originally they were gilded. It is believed that these were ladies bedrooms with deep holes in the walls that were so small that only a woman’s hand could reach in to retrieve jewels stored there. The Khas Mahal has some of the original interior decoration restored and gives an impression of how splendid the painted ceiling must have been. The Diwan-i-Khas at the Red fort in Delhi was modeled on this. Underneath are rooms used to escape the summer heat. The Khas Mahal illustrates Shah Jahan’s original architectural contribution. These buildings retain some distinctively Islamic Persian features – the geometrical planning of the pavilions and the formation layout of the gardens. They are matched by the normal range of Hindu features such as chattris.

The Mussaman Burj
On the left of the Khas Mahal is the Mussaman Burj or Octagonal Tower, also known as the Saman Burj, Jasmine Tower. It is a beautiful octagonal tower with an open pavilion. With its openness, elevation and the benefit of cooling evening breezes blowing in off the Yamuna river, this could well have been used as the emperor’s bedroom. It has been suggested that this is where Shah Jahan lay on his deathbed, gazing at the Taj. Access to this tower is through a magnificently decorated and intimate apartment with a scalloped fountain in the centre. The inlay work here is exquisite, especially above the pillars. In front of the fountain is a sunken courtyard which could be flooded and in the Shish Mahal (Mirror Palace) opposite are further examples of decorative water engineering. From the tower you can appreciate the defensive qualities of the site of the fort and the fortifications erected to take advantage of it. In the area between the outer rampart and the inner wall gladiatorial battles between man and tiger, or elephants were staged. The tower was the emperor’s grandstand seat.

Next to the Mussaman Burj is the Diwan-i-Khas (Hall of Private Audience) which is approached by a staircase which brings you out at the side. On the wall is a plaque to commemorate the fact that the British undertook some restoration work. The interior of the Diwan-i-Khas which is really a pavilion open on three sides is closed but the fine proportions of the building can still easily be appreciated. The interior was richly decorated with tapestries and carpets. The marble pillars are inlaid with semi-precious stones in delightful floral patterns in pietra dura, relieved by carving.


The Diwan-i-Aam
The Diwan-i-Aam is situated downwards. The clever positioning of the pillars gives the visitor arriving through the gate in the right hand hall of the courtyard an uninterrupted view of the throne. On the back wall of the pavilion are jails, screens to enable the women of the court to watch the proceedings. The hall has three aisles of nine bays and is 64 m long and 23 m deep. The throne alcove is of richly decorated white marble. It used to house the extraordinary Peacock Throne, completed

Diwan-i-Aam Agra Fort

after seven years work in 1634. It was built on the usual Mughal pattern, with a cushioned cradle shaded by a canopy. But in this case, the canopy was carved in enamel work and studded with individual gems, its interior was thickly encrusted with rubies, garnets and diamonds, and it was supported on twelve emerald covered columns. When Shah Jahan moved his capital to Delhi he took the throne with him to the Red Fort, only for it to be taken back to Persia as loot by Nadir Shah in 1739.

To the right of the Diwan-i-Aam are the domes of the Moti Masjid (Pearl Mosque), an extremely fine building closed to visitors because of structural problems. Opposite the Diwan-i-Aam are the barracks and Mina Bazaar, also closed to the public. In the paved area in front of the Diwan-i-Aam is the tomb of Mr. John Russell Colvin, the Lieutenant Governor of the NW Provinces who died here during the 1857 Mutiny.

The Macchi Bhavan
On the terrace in front of the Diwan-i-Khas are two throne platforms. The Emperor sat on the white marble platform facing the Macchi Bhavan (Fish building) waiting to meet visiting dignitaries. There was often a certain amount of one-upmanship in this exercise, the emperor wishing to be deified, the visitor not wanting to be too obsequious. The black marble throne at the rear of the terrace is the one used by Salim or Jahangir when claiming to be emperor at Allahabad. If you go to the corner opposite the Diwan-i-Khas you can go through two doorways and have a view over the small courtyards of the zenana (harem). Further round in the next corner is the Nagina Mazjid. This was the private mosque of the ladies of the court and was built by Shah Jahan. Beneath this was a bazaar where merchants were invited to display their goods to the women.


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