In 1565, Akbar tore down the old fort of Badalgarh to construct in its place a massive citadel-palace in dressed red sandstone, which is today known as the Agra Fort. It is believed that Akbar constructed 50 buildings in the Gujarati, Bengali and Rajput styles of architecture within the massive walls of the Agra Fort. Most of these were demolished, first by his grandson, Shah Jahan who had a passion for white marble and didn't find Akbar's red sandstone buildings opulent enough and later by the rebellious Jats and the British. Shaped like a bow, with the flat side facing the river Yamuna, the fort has four gates of which only the north-western Hathi Pol Gate, so called because of the two life-size elephants that once flanked it, and the Amar Singh Gate to the south, are still in use. Of Akbar's buildings only the Jahangiri Mahal, the Naqqar Khana or the Drum Houses, placed high on top of the gates and meant to announce the arrival and departure of the emperor with the beating of drums, survive along with a few other ruins. The more well known among the buildings put up by Shah Jahan are the Diwan-i-Aam, or the Hall of Public Audience, where the emperor would transact public business; the exquisitely decorated Diwan-i-Khas or the Hall of Private Audience, here the emperor would attend to matters of state; the Mussamman Burj, an octagonal tower overlooking the river; the Sheesh Mahal or the Hall of Mirrors which reflects back the illusion of an illusion and two perfect little mosques, the Moti Masjid and the tiny Nagina Masjid.
The Daulat-Khana-i-Khas, a special parlour for the use of Shah Jahan in the Agra Fort, has a sunken marble pool to keep the place cool in summer. The Mughals were wizards with water and could use it to great effect, both for decoration and comfort.
History of Agra Fort: Agra Fort is one of the two UNESCO World Heritage sites of Agra. Agra Fort holds prime prominence in the tourist map of Agra & India. Its history dates back well above thousand years.
It was to Agra Fort that Humayun was dispatched by his victorious father, Babur, immediately following the defeat of Ibrahim Lodi at Panipat, 80 Kms north of Delhi, in 1526. Babur understood that the Lodi jewels were kept in the Agra Fort and Humayun was instructed to secure them. An unexpected bonus was that members of the Maharaja of the Gwalior's family were discovered sheltering in the Agra Fort, guarding their own jewels. In order to gain Humayun's favour, they presented him with an enormous diamond, believed by some to have been the Koh-i-Noor which is now (in cut down form) one of the Crown Jewels of England.
Two years later, Babur defeated Rana Sanga and celebrated his newly-won status as ruler of Delhi at Agra Fort. Babur had little interest in buildings and preferred to lay out Persian-style gardens. In any case, he spent so much time fighting to establishing his dynasty during his short reign that little opportunities of building palatial buildings or fortress occurred. Within 4 years, Humayun had succeeded his father as ruler of Delhi and appears to have carried out some construction work at the Agra Fort, none of which have survived. On Humayun's death in 1556, his son Akbar, then aged 14, inherited the throne, which he immediately and successfully defended against Shah Adli, the nephew of his father's conqueror Sher Shah Suri. From 1565, Akbar began to rebuild Sikandar Lodi's Agra Fort in an enlarged from, a task which took 16 years to complete. The walls, gates and one important pavilion are all that survive with certainly, from Akbar's period; almost all the remainder is the work of Shah Jahan.
Agra Fort & Red Fort Delhi: The layout of the building is much more confusing than at Delhi's Red Fort. After the Taj Mahal, the Agra Fort is the most important of Agra city's sights. Most of the visitors would have seen the Red Fort at Delhi a few days before, and it must be admitted that, superficially at least, the two great complexes have much in common, even through Delhi's Red Fort is twice the size. Both are orientated north/south and occupy the west bank of the river Yamuna, they are surrounded by similar castellated walls of dressed red sandstone, and the most important pavilions are built of marble in the distinctive style of Shah Jahan period. Historically, however, there are great differences. No earlier defensive structure occupied the site of Shah Jahan's Red Fort, where Agra Fort owes its present appearance to two emperors, Akbar and Shah Jahan, and was built over an earlier fort, constructed of brick by Rajputs & Sikandra Lodi.
Structure of Agra Fort: The walls of Agra Fort were built as a double structure. The inner and outer defenses had been separated by a moat which
used to get continuous water supply from river Yamuna. Quasim Khan, Akbar's surveyor, was in charge of the project. As at Red Fort Delhi, three gateways punctuate the
wall, on the west, south and east sides. The most important was the west gate of Agra Fort and is called Delhi Gate. The Delhi Gate leads directly to a second,
inner gateway, the Hathi Pol (Elephant Gate). Unfortunately, neither may be inspected closely, as the entire western section of the Agra Fort is now occupied by
the military. Within the inner arch of the Delhi Gate is inscribed the date 1600, indicating that it was rebuilt soon after Akbar's return to Agra in 1599.
The only public entry to Agra Fort is now from the south via the Amar Singh Gate. The name of the gate commemorates Rao Amar Singh, originally destined to become Maharajah of Jodhpur, but disinherited by his father in favour of his younger brother Jaswant Singh. Apparently, Rao suffered from an uncontrollable temper which led to unacceptably rash deeds. His rashest and last took place in the Diwan-i-Aam of the Agra Fort. He took exception to the statements made by the court treasurer and killed him, all this in the presence of Emperor Shah Jahan, who was not impressed. Allegedly, Rao, sensing that this time he might have gone too far, mounted his horse and attempted to leap the wall of the ramp and escape from Agra Fort. The horse fell and threw Rao to the ground where he was set upon the guards and put to death. The Amar singh Gate was stormed by General Lake in 1803.
Tickets are purchased to the left of the public entrance, the first of three structures that make up the gate. The path curves right to the second archway, but further on, location at right angle to the path, is the most impressive part of the Amar Singh Gate. Great domed tower, connected by an open gallery, flank a relatively small archway. Apart from the stylized, floral patterns of the blue tiles, the appearance of the structure is entirely Hindu, and typical of the early period of Akbar's region, when his architect departed from the Muslim architectural tradition which has been long-established in India. Similarities between the Amar Singh Gate and the main entrance of the Rajput Fort at Gwalior have been noted. It was near this point that Amar Singh was slain, hence the gateway's name.
Palaces and Pavilions in Agra Fort: Between the Delhi Gate and the Jama Masjid stood the Tripulia Court, in which stood the Naubat Khana , from where
musicians played to announce the arrival of important guests. Both the courtyard and the Naubat Khana were demolished by the British when they constructed the railway
line. To the right, at the end of the ramp linking the southern gateways with the royal pavilion, stands the red sandstone Jahangiri Mahal . It is believed to have been
built by Akbar in 1570. Salim, Akbar's son and successor, adopted the name Jahangir (seizer of the world) on ascending the throne in 1605. The change of the name was
evidently made to avoid confusion with Sultan Salim of Turkey. In view of this, the building could not have been called the Jahangiri Mahal in Akbar's time. Its name
appears to reflect that Jahangir, shortly after becoming emperor, added a new fa?ade to his father's palace. Most probably, Jahangir enlarged the palace made by Akbar.
Perhaps, this is why the exterior and interior of the building are completely different in style. Due to its location and single access point from the west side,
the palace is believed to have formed part of the female quarters. A tradition that Jahangir remodeled the building specifically for his adored wife, Nur Jahan,
might well be true. Fronting the building is Huaz-i-Jangiri, an enormous tank of red porphyry rock, believed to have been built in 1611. Its inscription refers to
The facade of the Jahangir Mahal is Islamic in form, although Hindu jharokhas, chhatris (cenotaphs) and chhajjas (balconies) are incorporated, as was normal in Mughal buildings. Here, the Hindu niceties of architecture have been incorporated and instead of fusion, it is a combination in stricter terms. White marble architecture delineates the blind arcades flanking the central iwan. A fringe of lotus buds decorates the arches, echoing the fourteenth century work of the Khalji sultans.
Within, the vestibule is basically Hindu in style, although its exquisite carving is saracenic. A gloomy domed hall follows and then Akbar's extraordinary courtyard is reached. Apart from the pointed arches of its gallery, this is entirely Hindu in style. Sumptuously carved columns and brackets, square-headed apertures and the general design appear to be inspired by Gwalior Fort. At Agra Fort, for the first time since the Muslims had ruled in India, they commissioned building in the Hindu architecture style, with very limited Islamic detail, rather than the other way round. Akbar, of course, may have built other similar structure at Agar Fort which preceded this example, but his later work, at Fatehpur Sikri, still survives to demonstrate effectively the strong influence that Hindu architecture traditions held on him in the middle of the region.
Seemingly Akbar was the least religiously bigoted of the great Moguls. He studied the religions of Hindus, Buddhists and even Christians. As a result, he eventually evolved his own philosophy. The philosophy came to be known as Din-e-Ilahi (God's Religion). It was a synthesis of basics of all the then prevailing philosophy. He tried to impose the same on his people but could not achieve much success. It appears that Akbar's views were genuinely held and only incidentally provided a way of uniting the subjects of his newly-formed empire. However, Akbar may have had this unifying aspect in mind when he gave precedence to Hindu architectural styles over Islamic. Alternatively, it may have been simply a question of local craftsmen better understanding the former. There is no conclusive evidence to support either view. And the experts disagree.
To the left lies the north hall. Its roof is supported by stone crossbeams which are sinuously carved with dragons. An opposite, the south hall, similar in the style, is much narrower. The east hall which retains some original stucco work (restored by the British) leads to an open quadrangle, from where its pillared face may be admired. From here also is the first of Agra Fort's viewpoints of the river Yamuna and the distant Taj Mahal sited on its bend. The slender columns of the rooftop chhatri, approached right, frame the scene even more attractively (beware the dangerously low balcony rail). The northward route continues, leading, via an archway, to a small, walled courtyard, which announces Shah Jahan's marble rebuilding of his grandfather's work. It is generally considered that Shah Jahan's buildings at Agra are even finer than those at Delhi, particularly with regard to their decorative inlay.
On the east side of the courtyard, right, is the 'Gold Pavilion', named from its gilded copper roofs. It is one of the pair which flanks the larger pavilion ahead all make up the Khas Mahal(House Palace), built by Shah Jahan for his private relaxation in 1636. It is representative of the mature Mughal architecture. In Khas Mahal both Islamic and Hindu forms are simplified and merged into a synthesized but distinct style. Makrana marble has been utilized as the dominant building material in Khas Mahal.
The roof of this side pavilions is in three parts, the central, curved sections being known as Bangalghar, as it imitates the roofs of Bengali huts. There is a fanciful tale that Shah Jahan intended the side pavilions to serve as quarters, respectively, for his two favorite daughters, however, it was uncommon for areas to be set aside for an exclusive use in this way.
The central pavilion ahead is approached from the courtyard, and it will probably be apparent immediately to those who have visited Delhi that this was the inspiration for the Red Fort's Diwan-i-Khas. The interiors of the Khas Mahal were partly restored in 1895. Dampened the heat, in winter, thick curtains protected occupants from the chill evening air.
As has been, Agra Fort combines work by Akbar, Jahangir and Shah Jahan, built at different periods, and therefore lacks the homogeneity of planning and design of Delhi's Red Fort. However, the British demolished far less here than at Delhi, and it therefore remains more pristine. From the east side of the pavilions, as at Delhi, animal fights and other spectacles could be observed below on the then narrow piece of land between the fort and the river. At Agra, the Yamuna is only a trickle compared to the wide, fast-flowing river that it formerly was: Delhi now taken so much of the water upstream for its vastly increased populations. To the north of this, three chambers comprise the gloomy Sheesh Mahal (Glass Palace), so-named from the mirror work decorations of its rooms. Originally, illuminations fountains and cascades were fitted within.
Anguri Bagh in Agra Fort: Anguri Bagh in Agra Fort A pool is set in the raised platform on which the Khas Mahal is set; from this, water was channeled to form a cascade falling into the Anguri Bagh (Grape Gardens) below. This may have been a vineyard, but a contemporary traveller recorded that the garden's mane came from red and green jewels set in its marble screens, now lost. The garden is laid out in the usual charbagh styles, its four sections divided by curbs into a jigsaw-puzzle pattern. Originally, is pattern was emphasized by planting flower of different colours in each subdivision; now, most of the planting is of herbs with floral borders. It is said that fertile soil was brought from Kashmir to establish the garden. Immediately north of the Khas Mahal's central Pavilion, the side pavilion precisely matches its twin.
Diwan-i-Khas in Agra Fort: From the small courtyard ahead of Khas Mahal, steps lead up to the Diwan-i-Khas (Hall of private Audiences). Built in 1637, this is a more open structure than its later equivalent at Delhi. Instead of wide piers delicate, twelve-sided columns in pairs, support the roof. The carving and pietra dura work is also superior to that at Delhi. It is said that the royal treasure was housed beneath the buildings. Set on the same terrace, to the north, is a black marble throne, from which, in private audience, the emperor would receive important visitors, who would be seated on the white marble chair facing him. The inscription on the throne refers to rechristening Prince Salim as Emperor Jahangir. A fissure in the throne is said to be damage received during the eighteenth-century. A hall and the royal baths once stood to the north of the terrace.
Diwan-I Aam in Agra Fort: Return to the west side of Meena Bazaar's courtyard and descent the steps to the Diwan-i-Aam (hall of public Audience), a great hypostyle, built of plastered red sandstone. It is more than twice as long as the similar hall at Delhi but only slightly wider. Shah Jahan was responsible for the present building which, it is alleged, replaced an ancient structure of wood erected by Humayun. Women were permitted to watch the proceeding through screens set in the rear wall. In the centre of the wall is an arched recess decorated with pietra dura work. From here, throughout most morning, Shah Jahan presided over administrative matter, adjudications, sentencing criminals and hearing the pleas of his subjects. On becoming emperor in 1627, Shah Jahan commissioned the Peacock Throne. The Peacock Throne took 7 years to complete. The Peacock Throne was studded with finest jewels and first stood in this recess which was made to accommodate it.
Musamman Burj in Agra Fort: A staircase from the Diwan-i-Khas leads to the octagonal Mussaman Burj tower. Its name refers to the muezzin's call to prayer which could be heard from it. There are, however, alternative appellations: Jessamine (Jasmin) Burj, and its abbreviations, Saman Burj.
Shah Jahan began rebuilding the palaces of Agra in 1628. It is believed that he intended the Musamman Burj to be the private apartments of his adored Mumtaz. But she died shortly before it was ready for occupation. Shah Jahan left Agra for his new fort (Red Fort Delhi) at Shahjahanabad (Old Delhi) in 1648 and probably spent little further time at Agra until his enforced return 10 years later, when, by tradition, he was imprisoned in this tower by Aurangzeb until his death in 1666. Jahanara, who had become 'first lady' on the death of Mumtaz Mahal, cared for her father here throughout his exile but Roshanara, his other daughter, abandoned him and supported her unscrupulous brother. Aurangzeb never met his father again after imprisoning him at Agra. Shah Jahan was permitted a harem but few clothes or writing materials.
If the Mussaman Burj were indeed Shah Jahan's place of exile, it must have been the most splendid prison of all time. The carving of the marble, the pietra
dura work and the pierced screens are unmatched elsewhere in either Agra Fort or the Red Fort at Delhi. The row of niches probably supported lamps and scent
bottles and a pool is carved in the pavements of an outer room. Views from the octagonal gazebo are superb. It is said that Shah Jahan used to gaze sorrowfully
for hours at the distant Taj Mahal where his beloved Mumtaz lay. Beside the tower, the tiny mosque, known as the Mina Masjid,
was allegedly built by Aurangzeb
for the exclusive use of his imprisoned father, in order to restrict his movements within the fort. Marble slabs on the floor of the terrace that faces the tower
are laid out to resemble the board of a game known as 'pachisi'. The surrounding screens show signs of damage from cannon fire, probably dating from the Mutiny.
Meena Bazaar in Agra Fort: Below the Diwan-i-Khas is theMeena Bazaar, a garden courtyard enclosed on three sides by a two-storey cloister, possibly built by Akbar,
who certainly brought the bronze gates, on the north side, from Chittaurgarh Fort. Formerly, pools stood in the centre. The Jats, who defeated Mughals, removed the marble
pools and their fountains in 1761. By traditions, Meena Bazaars had been held in the courtyard before its pools were excavated and the courtesans flirted between the
stalls. It has even been surmised that Jahangir met Nur Jahan and Shah Jahan met Mumtaz for the first time at one of them. The bigot Aurangzeb is reputed to have
commissioned the pools in order to put a stop to such immodest behavior.
Mosques in Agra Fort: Reached from the north-west corner of Meana Bazaar's upper arch is the mosque built of marble by Shah Jahan for the ladies of the court. In spite of its small size, the Nagina Masjid (Gem Mosque) is triple-domed.
Immediately north of the north range of the Diwan-i-Aam's courtyard is the most important of Agra Fort's mosques, the Moti Masjid (Pearl Mosque). Shan Jahan built the Moti Masjid but it was not completed until 1653, 5 years after he had transferred the court to Delhi. Considering that it was only planned to serve the palace, the dimensions are surprisingly large. Red sandstone forms the courtyard's external wall. Its great gate is reached from a double stairway. Inside the mosque,however, all is faced with marble, carefully selected for its whiteness. On three sides of the courtyard, the cloister is supported by fifty eight marble columns. An ancient sundial on an octagonal pillar stands south-east of the central ablutions tank. Chattris decorate the roof line, but, architecturally, the design of the mosque is less successful than most of Shah Jahans's work. The three identical domes fail to provide a focal point above the seven-arched screen. A black marble inscription likens the mosque to an exquisite pearl.
A small mosque near Musamman Burj, where Shah Jahan was incarcerated by his own son Aurangzeb, was built by Aurangzeb for Shah Jahan so that he could not move within the Agra Fort. This mosque is now known as Mina Masjid .