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
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
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
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
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