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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrOne of the finest Mughal forts in India, the Agra Fort lies about 1.2 miles from the legendary Taj Mahal on the bank of the River Jamuna in the city of Agra in Uttar Pradesh. The ambiguous term Lal Qila or Red Fort is used to denote the Mughal palaces in both Delhi and Agra and so, the Agra Fort is also known as the “Lal Qila” or “Red Fort of Agra”. Stretching over an area of more than 1.0 square miles, this fort, which can be aptly described as a walled city, has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
The fort also plays an important role in the Sherlock Holmes novel The Sign of the Four by Arthur Conan Doyle.
HistoryAgra Fort dates back to the 11th century ADE, though the present day structure was constructed by the Mughal Emperor, Akbar, in 1573. The fort used to be a rudimentary brick fort under the control of the Rajputs and has been mentioned in an 11th century document when a military force under Mahmud of Ghazni attacked the city of Agra. One of the first rulers to dwell in Agra Fort was the Delhi Sultan, Sikandar Lodi . He ruled the country from this fort and died there in 1517. His son, Ibrahim Lodi, successfully held Agra Fort for another 9 years before succumbing to death in the First Battle of Panipat in 1526 ADE.
It was then that the Mughals under Babur, took control of the fort and confiscated vast treasures including the much talked about Koh-i-Noor diamond from the fortress. Babur is said to have constructed a step, well-known as a Baoli, within the fort's compound. The coronation ceremony of Humayun, the son and successor of Babur, took place in the fort in the year 1530 ADE.
Agra Fort was then passed on to the hand of Sher Shah Suri, who defeated the Mughal Emperor in the Battle of Bilgram and held the fort until his death in 1555, when it was again recaptured by Humayun.
Hem Chandra Vikramaditya, also known as Hemu, who was a Hindu king, in an attempt to oust the Muslims from the country went to war and defeated Humayun and took control of the fort. After seizing a large booty from Agra Fort, Hemu went on to capture the Mughal empire's next capital township which was then situated in Delhi. However, he was defeated by Akbar in the Second Battle of Panipat in 1556 and the fort, once again, went under the command of the Mughals.
Because of its strategic location, Akbar shifted his capital from Delhi to Agra in 1558. Akbar’s court historian, Abul Fazal, recounts that the Agra Fort used to be a simple brick fort in ruins commonly referred to as ‘Badalgarh’. It was Akbar who undertook the task of the reconstruction of the fort and he rebuilt it with red sandstones which also gave the fort its present name. The famous fort was built by nearly 4,000 masons and it took 8 years to complete the construction.
Shah Jahan, the grandson of Akbar, is said to have demolished some structures inside the fort to replace them with his favorite style of constructions made out of white marble. During his last days, the Emperor was imprisoned by his son, Aurangzeb, within Agra fort and it is said that Shah Jahan breathed his last breath in the Muasamman Burj which is a tower with a balcony which commands an excellent view of the Taj Mahal.
After the decline of the Mughal Empire, the fort passed on to the hands of the Maratha Empire. Ahmad Shah Abdali, who defeated the Marathas in the Third Battle of Panipat in 1761, took control of the fort.
In 1785, Mahadji Shinde wrested control of the fort and finally, the British took control of this fortress after defeating the Marathas in the Second Anglo Maratha War in the year 1803.
Agra fort was an important site of battle during the Seepoy Mutiny or the Indian Rebellion of 1857 ADE.
ArchitectureThe majestic fort which sprawls over an area of 94 acres has a semicircular plan. It houses a labyrinth of structures with many underground constructions, several of which have been destroyed over the years by successful invasions.
Presently, the Indian Army is stationed in the northern side of the fort and much of the area is not accessible to the tourists.
The fort has four gates on four sides with one gate leading to the Jamuna River.
The four entrances to Agra Fort are called the Delhi Gate, The Lahore Gate, the Amar Singh Gate and the Khizri Gate.
The Delhi Gate is the most majestic of all the gates in Agra Fort and is embellished with intricate marble works. A drawbridge made of wood was used in the earlier days to cross the surrounding moat across these gates. A second inner entrance known as Hathi Pol or Elephant Gate is flanked by two huge stone elephants, lies beyond the primary entrance gateways of the fort.
In his Ain I Akbari, Abul Fazal mentions that the fort used to house more than 500 buildings modeled on the architectural style of Gujarat and Bengal. However, most of these structures were erased by Shah Jahan to accommodate new buildings made of white marbles. Thereafter rest of the older buildings in this fort were also demolished by the British to make way for their new barracks inside thes fortress.
Of the extinct Mughal buildings from Akbar’s time, the Bengali Mahal, the Delhi Gate and the Akbar Gate are worth mentioning over here.
The Akbar Gate was later renamed by the British as Amar Singh Gate.
The Agra Fort constitutes a unique blend of Islamic and Hindu architecture. The Hall of Public Audience called Diwan-i-Am was constructed here by Shah Jahan in 1628.
The small but exquisite mosque known as Nagina Masjid was also built by Shah Jahan for the women of the imperial household living inside Agra Fort.
The Hall of Private Audience in this fort, or the Diwan-i-khas, once contained the legendary 'Peacock Throne' over here which was inlaid with expensive stones of all colors and displayed the famous diamond known as Koh-i-Noor. This throne was carried to Delhi by Aurangzeb and then it was subsequently looted from Delhi and carried to Iran by Nadir Shah.
The Sheesh Mahal or Palace of Mirrors lies on the river side of the fortress and from the eastern side of the fort, one can see the splendid octagonal tower of white marble called Khas Mahal or the Musamman Burj where Emperor Shah Jahan spent his last days.
The expansive courtyard known as Anguri Bagh has an entrance which leads to the underground rooms and hallways which used to house the Harem of Emperor Akbar. However, this part is not accessible to the visitors nowadays.
Further south one can see the Jahangir’s Palace made of red sandstone which blends the architectural style of Central Asia and India inside this fort.
How to get thereArga is one of the touristic city of India and is easily reachable by train from all important cities in India. The visitor can also choose to spend a few days at New Delhi and then travel to Agra which is only 129 miles from the capital city. The Agra Airport connects flights from Agra to other important Indian cities like Jaipur, Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta, Varanasi and others.
Similar Places of InterestVisitors to Agra must visit the Taj Mahal, which is one of the wonders of the world and the Mughal walled city of Fatehpur Sikri which are also UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
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Author: SubhasishMitra. Last updated: Feb 23, 2015