Forts & Palaces


Agra FortThe high red sandstone ramparts of Agra Fort, the great monument stretch for almost 2.5 kilometres, dominating a bend in the river Yamuna, northwest of the Taj Mahal. The foundation of this majestic citadel was laid by the Emperor Akbar, and it developed as a stronghold of the Mughal Empire under successive generations.

The curved bastions of the huge walls are interrupted by impressive gates, of which only the Amar Singh gate is now open to the public. The original and grandest entrance was through the Delhi Gate, which leads to the inner portal called the Hathi Pol or Elephant Gate.

The graceful Diwan-i-Am or the Hall of Public Audiences, made of red sandstone, was constructed by Shahjahan in 1628. Three rows of white polished stucco pillars topped by peacock arches support the flat roof. Today, this Hall is bereft of brocade decorations, silk carpets and satin canopies which would have enhanced the elegance of the settings, when the Emperor sat down with his subjects to hear their complaints.

Within the Fort complex is the perfectly proportioned Moti Masjid, or Pearl Mosque, built by Shahjahan between 1646 and 1653. A Persian inscription within the mosque likens it to a perfect pearl. A marble tank stands at the centre of its spacious courtyard.

The Agra Fort houses the Royal Pavilions, which were designed to catch the cool breeze wafting across the river. Other attractions comprise of the Macchi Bhawan, or the Fish Palace, the Hammam-i-Shahi, or the Royal Bath, the Nagina Masjid, or the Gem Mosque, made entirely of marble and the Zenana Meena Bazaar, where the ladies of the court would browse through goods like silk, jewellery and brocade.

Past the Chittor gate, installed in 1568, is the Diwan-i-Khas, or the Hall of Private Audience, built by Shahjahan in 1636 - 37. Here, the emperor would receive kings, important dignitaries and ambassadors. The famous Peacock Throne is said to have been kept here, before being shifted to Delhi by Aurangzeb. Tucked away by the west wall of the hall is the Mina Masjid or the Heavenly mosque, where Shahjahan prayed when he was imprisoned in the Fort by his son Aurangzeb.

A doorway from the rear of the Diwan-i-Khas leads to the Mussaman Burj, or Octagonal Tower, a two-storeyed pavilion, where Shahjahan caught his last glimpse of the Taj Mahal before he died. Built for his beloved Mumtaz Mahal, this is another example of Shahjahan's immense creativity. Surrounded by a verandah, the elegant chamber has a lattice-screen balustrade with ornamental niches; exquisite inlay covers almost every surface and a marble chhatri (umbrella) on top adds the finishing touch.

The Khas Mahal, or the Private Palace, was used by the emperor as a sleeping chamber, and is designed for comfort, with cavities in the room to insulate against the heat. The Mahal is flanked by two golden pavilions. Other ornate palaces within the Fort are the Sheesh Mahal (Palace of Mirrors), the Shah Jahani Mahal (Shahjahan's Palace), Jehangiri Mahal (Jehangir's Palace) and the Akbari Mahal (Akbar's Mahal). These palaces are hybrid in design, some are distinctly Mughal in style, while others like the Jahangiri Mahal are almost entirely Hindu in their interior design.

A monument steeped in history, the Agra Fort is a fitting tribute to the genius of the three generations of emperors, who used it as their stronghold.

How to Get There

By air: Agra is on the popular regular tourist route Delhi/Agra/Khajuraho/Varanasi and return. Flights connect Agra to Delhi, Khajuraho and Varanasi.

By rail: Agra lies on the Delhi to Mumbai broad - gauge railway line. Express trains from Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta, and Chennai halt at Agra.

By road: Agra is connected to Delhi, Rajasthan and other cities of Uttar Pradesh by an excellent bus service.

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