Side Trips from Delhi Sights

Agra Fort

  • Yamuna Kinara Rd. Map It
  • Agra
  • Military Site
  • Fodor's Choice

Published 04/07/2016

Fodor's Review

The architecture of this fort reflects the collective creative brilliance of Akbar, his son Jahangir, and grandson Shah Jahan. The structure was built by Akbar on the site of an earlier fort. A succession of Mughal emperors lived here, including Humayun, Akbar, Jehangir, Shah Jahan, and Aurangzeb. It was from here that the country was governed, and the fort contained the largest state treasury and mint. As with similar Mughal facilities in Delhi and Lahore, the word "fort" is misleading: the complex is really a fortified palace, containing royal apartments, mosques, assembly halls, and a dungeon—the entire cityscape of an imperial capital. A massive wall 2½ km (1½ miles) long and 69 feet high surrounds the fort's roughly triangular shape. With the Yamuna River running at its base, the fort was also protected by a moat and another wall, presenting a daunting barrier to anyone hoping to access the treasures within.

This was originally a brick fort, and Ibrahim Lodi held it for

nine years until he was defeated and killed in the battle of Panipat in 1526. The Mughals captured the fort along with masses of treasure, which included one of the most famous gems in the world, the Koh-i-Noor diamond. The emperor Babur stayed in the fort in the palace of Ibrahim, while Humayun was crowned here in 1530. Emperor Akbar decided to make it his capital when he arrived in Agra in 1558. He rebuilt it with red sandstone from the Barauli area in Rajasthan, and the whole process took eight years.

The fort's entrance is accessible through the Amar Singh Gate (also called the Lahore Gate, for the city in modern-day Pakistan that it faces). It was named for Amar Singh Rathore, a legendary general who served the Mughals. North of this entrance sits the fort's largest private residence, the Jahangiri Mahal, built by Jahangir as a harem, mainly for his Rajput wives. (Akbar's own palace, closer to the entrance, is in ruins.) Measuring 250 feet by 300 feet, the Jahangiri Mahal juxtaposes jarokhas (balconies) and other elements of Hindu architecture with pointed arches and other Central Asian influences imported by the Mughals. The palace's central court is lined with two-story facades bearing remnants of the rich, gilded decoration that once covered much of the structure.

After Jahangir's death in 1628, Shah Jahan assumed the throne and started his own buildings inside the fort, often tearing down those built by his father and grandfather and adding marble decorations (it is said that he was partial to the material). The Anguri Bagh (Grape Arbor) shows the outlines of a geometric garden built around delicate water channels and chutes. The 1637 Khas Mahal (Private Palace) is an early masterpiece of Shah Jahan's craftsmen. The central pavilion, made of white marble, follows the classic Mughal pattern: three arches on each side, five in front, and two turrets rising out of the roof. Of the two flanking pavilions where Shah Jahan's two daughters resided, one is of white marble and was supposedly decorated with gold leaf; the other is made of red stone. The arched roofs of all three pavilions are stone interpretations of the bamboo architecture of Bengal. In one part of the Khas Mahal a staircase leads down to the palace's "air-conditioned" quarters—cool underground rooms that were used in summer. It's famous for its paintings on marble.

The octagonal tower of the Mussaman Burj has fine inlay work and a splendid view down the river to the Taj Mahal. This is where Shah Jahan is said to have spent the last seven years of his life, imprisoned by his son Aurangzeb but still able to look out on his greatest monument, the Taj Mahal. He may have built the tower for his wife Mumtaz Mahal (for whom he also built the Taj Mahal). On the northeastern end of the Khas Mahal courtyard stands the Sheesh Mahal (Palace of Mirrors), built in 1637 as a bath for the private palace and dressing room for the harem. Each of the two chambers contained a bathing tank fed by marble channels.

The emperor received foreign ambassadors and other dignitaries in the Diwan-i-Khas (Hall of Private Audience), built by Shah Jahan in 1636–37. Outside, the marble throne terrace holds a pair of black and white thrones. The black throne, carved from a single block of marble, overlooks the Yamuna and, according to the inscription, was used by Shah Jahan; the white throne is made of several marble blocks and was his father's seat of power. Both thrones face the Machhi Bhavan, an enclosure of fountains and shallow pools, and a number of imperial offices.

To the empire's citizens and to the European emissaries who came to see these powerful monarchs, the most impressive part of the fort was the Diwan-i-Am (Hall of Public Audience), set within a large quadrangle. This huge, low structure rests on a 4-foot platform, its nine cusped Mughal arches held up by rows of slender supporting pillars. Here the emperor sat and dispensed justice to his subjects, sitting on the legendary Peacock Throne, now lost.

Northeast of the Diwan-i-Khas is the Nagina Masjid, a private mosque raised by Shah Jahan for the women of his harem. Made of white marble and walled in on three sides, it has typical cusped arches, a marble courtyard, and three graceful domes. While in the Nagina Masjid, royal ladies could buy beautiful items from tradesmen who set up a temporary bazaar for them in front of its balcony. Nearby is the lovely Moti Masjid, a perfectly proportioned pearl mosque (moti means pearl) built in white marble by Shah Jahan. The Agra Fort is one of the area's seven World Heritage Sites (and India's 32), along with the Taj Mahal and Fatehpur Sikri.

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Sight Information


Yamuna Kinara Rd., Agra, Uttar Pradesh, 282003, India

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Sight Details:

  • Rs. 300 (Rs. 250 with a ticket to Taj Mahal)
  • Daily sunrise–sunset

Published 04/07/2016


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