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Built in : 156571
Built by : Akbar, Jahangir, and Shahjahan
Location : Agra (Uttar Pradesh)
The city of Agra is world famous for the Taj Mahal, built
by the Mughal emperor Shahjahan in memory of his beloved wife.
However, it is also famous for the Agra Fort, which is a veritable
treasure trove of the Mughal architectural tradition. The various
buildings within this sprawling fort complex represent the assimilation
of different cultures, which was the mark of the Mughal period.
A MIXED STYLE
Most of the buildings within the Agra Fort are a mixture of
different architectural styles. The assimilation of these different
styles has given the buildings within the fort a distinctive look.
For instance, the Jahangiri Palace built by Akbar is a good blend
of Islamic (Persian) and different local Hindu styles. Other buildings
either have a mixed style or conform predominantly to the Islamic
Akbar was the third Mughal emperor and undoubtedly the greatest.
He was crowned the Mughal ruler in 1556 at the tender age of 14,
when his father Humayun died suddenly. After Akbar consolidated
his rule, he began constructing the Agra Fort, which coincided
with the building of Humayuns tomb in Delhi. Akbar began
the construction of this massive fort made of red sandstone on
the banks of the Yamuna in 1565. The fort was ready by 1571, though
additions were made up until the rule of Shahjahan, who was Akbars
grandson. During the time of Akbar, the fort mainly served military
purpose, while by the time of Shahjahan it also served as a palace
The forts colossal double walls rise 20 m in height and
measure 2.5 km in circumference. The fort is surrounded by a moat.
The lofty battlements of the Agra fort cast its protective shadow
over the far stretching mansions of nobles and princes built along
the riverfront. The magnificent towers, bastions and ramparts
and majestic gateways symbolized the confidence and power of the
third Mughal emperor. The fort contains splendid palaces both
in red sandstone and white marble built by two generations of
prolific builders, Akbar and later on by Jahangir and Shahjahan.
Of the nearly 500 Akbari buildings built in the Bengal and Gujarati
traditions, only a few have survived, arrayed in a band on the
MONUMENTS WITHIN THE FORT
The most noteworthy building of that period is the Jahangiri
Mahal (Jahangirs Palace), which was the principal zenana
palace (palace for women belonging to the royal household), used
mainly by the Rajput wives of Akbar. A splendid gateway leads
to an interior courtyard surrounded by grand halls covered with
profuse carvings on stone, heavily fashioned brackets, piers,
and crossbeams. One can still spot remnants of decoration in gold
and blue done in the prevalent Persian style. Jahangiri Mahal
mixes Transoxanian (Central Asian) features, such as the verandah
on the east front with its high slender columns (a translation
into stone of the timber iwan of vernacular Transoxanian architecture),
with courtyard halls styled in the broader GujaratMalwaRajasthan
tradition as it had been passed onto the Mughals by the early
16th-century architecture of Raja Man Singh of Gwalior. This exotic
medley and adventurous eclecticism suggests a daring approach
in architecture. The typically Gujarati bracketsfabulously
carved animal and floral motifsregister a dominating effect
on the few Islamic features such as the verandah on the eastern
front with exquisitely slender pillars facing the riverfront.
Jahangiri Mahal is the most important building of the Akbari period
in the Agra Fort.
Both Jahangir (Akbars son) and Shahjahan (Akbars
grandson) were enamored of the sensuous effect of white marble;
in their quest to make buildings of marble, they demolished many
of Akbars red sandstone structures. In the Khas Mahal enclosure
(built by Shahjahan), later Mughal architecture comes of age.
The Khas Mahal is an airy edifice, overlooking the specially laid
Angoori Bagh (grape garden; a simple formal Mughal garden). Windows
closed with jali (intricately perforated decorative stone screens)
present fabulous view of the riverfront. The two copper-roofed
pavilions built in the Bengali traditions were meant for prominent
ladies of the harem. On three sides of this garden are residential
quarters of women. Sheesh Mahal (mirror palace) or the royal hammam
(bath) is decorated with myriad glass pieces and a central fountain.
Musamman Burj (an octagonal tower) within the Agra fort is the
most romantic, ornamental pavilion wherein lived two beautiful
and powerful Mughal queensNurjahan (Jahangirs chief
queen) and Mumtaz Mahal (Shahjahans chief queen). The quality
of pietra dura (stone inlay work) decoration is fabulous and perfect.
Here Shahjahan spent his last few years as a captive held by Aurangzeb
(Shahjahans son). Shahjahan languished and died looking
at the Taj Mahal.
Diwan-I-Khas (hall of private audience) was built by Shahjahan
in 163637. It is a small hall with double marble columns
inlaid with pietra dura decoration. Here the Mughal emperor received
important dignitaries or foreign ambassadors. On the terrace,
in front of this hall, are two marble thrones. The black throne
belongs to Jahangir who, as Prince Salim in rebellion against
Akbar at Allahabad, had ordered it for himself. Below this terrace
lies the grand courtyard of Machchi Bhawan, meant for harem functions.
On another side stands a small mosque built for Shahjahan by Aurangzeb.
Concealed steps lead to the Diwan-I-Aam (hall of public audience).
The arches are covered with white lime polished to a smooth finish.
The triple arched royal canopy has lavish pietra dura ornamentation.
Here was kept the famous Peacock Throne ordered by Shahjahan.
He met officials and commoners and listened to the petitioners
in the Diwan-I-Aam. Further north stands the Moti Masjid (pearl
mosque), its three domes in white marble raising their heads over
the red sandstone wall. Moti Masjid is known for its sheer grandeur
and perfect proportions.
HOW TO REACH
Agra Fort is located on the banks of the Yamuna near the railway
station. Agra is well connected by air with Khajuraho, Varanasi,
and Delhi. It has good rail and bus connections with major Indian
cities. From the city, there are taxis, tempos, auto-rickshaws,
and cycle rickshaws to carry one to the fort. Prepaid taxis and
autos from the railway station are also available. Bicycles can
also be hired on hourly basis.