Perhaps the second most popular tourist attraction in the city of Agra after the world famous Taj Mahal, the Agra Fort or the Red Fort of Agra is a UNESCO World heritage Site. It is located 2.5 kms away from its more famous sister monument. The fort is spread in an area of 2.5 kms with a height of 70 feet. A moat which in earlier times had crocodiles in it, surrounds the fort. Another moat, a dry, one used to be filled with wild animals. There are a number of interesting structures within the premises that unravel a lot about the history and significance of the fort. However, a majority of the fort is off limits to visitors as it is under the Indian army. Still, the area open for tourists is vast enough to explore.
The Lodhi dynasty initially controlled the fort. In 1526, after the First Battle of Panipat was fought between Babur and the Lodhis, the fort came under the Mughals. A few years later, in 1530, Babur’s son, Humayun was crowned here. A decade later, Humayun suffered a defeat fighting against Sher Shah Suri at Bilgram. For the next fifteen years, the fort stayed with Suris. Humayun yet again took control of the fort in 1555 only to lose it to Hemu, the general of Adil Shah Suri in 1556. Hemu’s conquer was just short-lived as just a month later, in the Second Battle of Panipat, Akbar defeated him to capture Agra and Delhi.
Akbar very well judged the strategic importance of Agra and decided to rebuild the fort with red sandstone. It was earlier a brick structure and was known as Badalgarh. It took nearly eight years and the hard work of some 4000 workers to complete the fort. The reign of Shah Jahan, Akbar’s grandson, saw Agra fort becoming much of what it is today. He admired white marble and thus had structures built of white marbles in the fort.
In the early 18th century, the Marathas seized the fort. The subsequent period saw the fort being occupied by different powers. The Marathas first lost it to Ahmad Shah Abdali after the third battle of Panipat in 1761, recaptured it in 1785 and then again lost it to the British in 1803 in the Second Anglo Maratha War.
Places to See Inside Agra Fort
The Agra fort has four gates. The most impressive of all the gates of the fort is the Delhi Gate which was the original entrance; however, today visitors can enter through the Amar Singh Gate only.
Jahangir’s Mahal & Hauz – Perhaps the first structure that you will explore while in the fort. Jahangir Mahal is built of red sandstone and used to house the wives of Akbar. Later on, it served as the palace for Nur Jahan. The palaces within surround a courtyard and the pillars and walls are beautifully carved.
Right in front of the Jehangir Mahal is the Jahangir’s Hauz, a huge monolithic tank used for bathing. There is a Persian inscription on its exterior.
Khaas Mahal – Khaas Mahal was built by Shah Jahan with white marble and served as his bedroom. It is beautifully carved. It has river Yamuna on one side and Anguri Bagh on the other.
Anguri Bagh – Anguri Bagh or the Garden of grapes is segregated into sections and has a fountain in the centre. As the name suggests, grapes were grown here that were used to make wine. All around the garden are apartments for royal ladies.
Sheesh Mahal – The Palace of Mirrors or the Mirror Palace is not open for visitors. Its walls and ceilings are inlaid with thousands of beautiful tiny mirrors that together create a beautiful effect. It was used as a bath or a dressing room for royal ladies.
Diwan-e-Khas – It is where Jehangir and Shah Jahan held meetings with important peoples and foreign dignitaries. It is a beautiful structure with decorated pillars. The meetings were held both inside and outside.
Takhti-i-Jehangir – The black onyx throne, built byJehangir, was where the emperor sat while conducting meeting outside. It suffered damage when it was struck by an artillery during an attack by the British East India Company. The strike also created a hole in the wall of Diwan-e-Khas.
Musamman Burj – Closeby is Musamman Burj, the octagonal tower where Shah Jahan spent his last years, gazing at the beautiful Taj Mahal, after being imprisoned by his son Aurengzeb. Mina Masjid, which is closed for visitors, served as his private mosque.
Diwan-e-Aam – Thepublichall wherethe emperor met with the common people. All public functions were held here. It was built of red sandstone and later plastered to give an appearance of a marble structure. There is a grave of John Colvin, a British lieutenant governor of the erstwhile North West Provinces who died here during the revolt of 1857,
Moti Masjid – The Pearl Mosqueis situated to the north of the hall of Public audience and is not open for visitors. It is made entirely of white marble and has pillared galleries inside and seven beautiful arches in the front.
Nagina Masjid – Also known as the Gem Mosque or the Jewel Mosque, it is close to the Moti Masjid and is a small mosque meant for the women.
Roshanara and Jahanara Palace – The two palaces were built in the shape of palanquins and were meant for the daughters of Shah Jahan – Jahan Ara and Roshan Ara.
Meena Bazaar – Since the ladies could not go outside the Agra Fort, this was the place where markets selling a variety of items was set up for them.