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Reminiscing the grandeur and luxurious history of Agra Fort

Reminiscing the grandeur and luxurious history of Agra Fort

Reminiscing the grandeur and luxurious history of Agra Fort
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By Sanhita Baruah  Nov 25, 2022 10:30:16 PM IST (Published)

Two kilometres to the north of the Taj Mahal, the massive red sandstone walls of Agra Fort command a curve in the Yamuna River. Build on the ruins of ancient Rajput defences, Akbar constructed this magnificent castle in the shape of a half-moon between 1565 and 1573. Akbar ordered the gates and walls

Agra, India's Mughal capital, has lost none of its lustre over the centuries, with its huge fort and majestic Taj Mahal. India's most famous tourist route, known as the "Golden Triangle," begins and ends in Delhi, 204 kilometres to the northwest, and in Jaipur, Rajasthan. You may easily spend several days seeing Agra and its environs, including the nearby UNESCO World Heritage Site of Fatehpur Sikri, but a day's journey from Delhi isn't quite enough time to do justice to the Taj Mahal.

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Along the Yamuna River, which forms the city's eastern border, you'll find the majority of the city's most famous Mughal structures, including the Taj Mahal. They represent the ever-increasing luxury that, by Shah Jahan's time, had already started to drain the royal coffers and plant the seeds of military and political downfall during the latter phase of Mughal authority and throughout the realms of Akbar, Jahangir, and Shah Jahan.
Agra Fort
Two kilometres to the north of the Taj Mahal, the massive red sandstone walls of Agra Fort command a curve in the Yamuna River. Build on the ruins of ancient Rajput defences, Akbar constructed this magnificent castle in the shape of a half-moon between 1565 and 1573. Akbar ordered the gates and walls. his grandson Shah Jahan had most of the important structures completed, and Aurangzeb, the final great emperor, was accountable for the ramparts as the edifice evolved into the capital and bulwark of the Mughal Empire over many generations.
The curving sandstone bastions span around 2.5 kilometres at a height of about 20 meters and are separated by a series of huge gates. Delhi Gate with Hathi Pol or "Elephant Gate" (restricted to the public) on the western side was the original and greatest entrance, flanked by different coloured towers covered in marble but previously defended by an enormous stone elephant with riders that were demolished by Aurangzeb around 1668. This and most of the fort are off-limits to visitors, therefore this guide will only be covering the areas that are accessible to the general public.
Musical light and sound show
At Agra Fort, in front of Diwan-i-Am, there is a nightly sound and light display that begins at sunset (in English, this is at 7 pm in the winter and 8:15 or 8:30 pm in the summer). Lights play throughout the citadel as a narrator tells you about the magnificent Mughals' history; the presentation lasts an hour. Have fun with it, but don't expect anything too remarkable. There will be ticket booths at the entrance.
The magnificent courtyard and elegant Diwan-i-Am
The Amar Singh Pole is the entrance of the fort, and it consists of three different gates set at sharp angles to one another in order to confuse any attackers and leave them with no room to deploy battering rams or other such weapons. From here, a slope leads gradually upward, through another gate, and into the vast courtyard with tree-studded grounds that surround the elegant Diwan-i-Am ("Hall of Public Audience"). In 1628, Shah Jahan ordered the construction of a pillared hall to replace a wooden one. For meetings with the Emperor, the introduction of brocade, carpets, and satin canopies would have completed the scene with a touch of opulence.
Palace pavilions
The top level of the Fish Palace, a big but very simple two-story edifice facing a vast, grassy courtyard, may be reached by entering the Diwan-i-Am via the little entrance towards the left of the royal alcove and ascending the steps beyond. The shah of Bharatpur took some of the marble fittings to his palace at Deeg, and Governor General William Bentinck auctioned off most of the original murals and fretwork from the palace between 1828 and 1835. However, the grounds were previously dotted with ponds and flower gardens, interspersed with ponds and water channels supplied with fish.
We worship at the Nagina Masjid.
The lovely tiny Nagina Masjid, built completely of marble, can be found on the northern side of the plaza. It has a marble courtyard and is topped with three domes that Shah Jahan had built for the zenana's women (harem). Towards the right of the building's exit, a little balcony with intricately carved lattice screens provides a covert vantage point from which the harem's female residents could see the silks, jewellery, and brocade displayed for purchase by traders in the courtyard below without being noticed.
Two thrones, one made of black slate and the other of white marble, sit atop the elevated terrace on the opposite side of Macchi Bhavan. Shah Jahan watched elephant bouts from the white one, while Jahangir, the future emperor, utilised the black one. It's current, less illustrious use is as a picture spot for lovebirds with the Taj Mahal in the background.
As you approach the Yamuna, glance to your right to see a row of sumptuous royal residences built on a rooftop terrace to take advantage of the river winds. The Diwan-i-Khas was built in 1635 and is among the most elaborately designed structures in the fort, featuring matched marble columns and peacock arch inlaid with precious stones and jasper, where the king would have met monarchs, nobles, and diplomats.
Mina Masjid
The modest Mina Masjid, a basic white marble mosque erected for Shah Jahan and historically thought to have been utilised by him during his captivity here, may be accessed by a corridor behind the Diwan-i-Khas.
Musamman Burj Past this door lies the most ornately built building in the fort, a two-story pavilion called the Musamman Burj, where he is supposed to have received his last view of the beautiful Taj Mahal before his death. Magnificent pietra dura inlay covers almost every inch of its lattice-screen balustrade. In the courtyard adjacent to the tower, which is tiled with octagonal marble, the emperor played pachisi using dancing females as pieces, much as his father had done before him at Fatehpur Sikri.
The Jahangiri Mahal
South of the Khas Mahal stands the massive Jahangiri Mahal (Jahangir’s Residence), but the name is deceptive because it was really constructed for Jahangir’s sire, Akbar, and presumably operated not as an imperial court, but as a harem. Compared to the conventional Mughal architecture of the neighbouring structures, this sturdy sandstone construction has well only a few Hindu features mixed together with typical Mughal and Islamic patterns.
The palace's spectacular front displays a typical blend of Mughal with Indian forms, with vaulted ceilings and inlaid mosaics typical of Islamic architecture juxtaposed with overhanging eaves typical of Hindu architecture, all supported by intricately carved brackets. Jahangir's Hauz (Jahangir's Cistern) is a huge bowl with stairs inside and out, carved in 1611 from one single piece of porphyry, and located directly next to the palace. It is said that the emperor filled it with rosewater and used it as a bathtub throughout his journeys around the empire, however, it is hard to think that the emperor really did this given the size and weight of the bath.
How to choose a good place to stay near Agra
Taj Ganj, the maze of winding alleyways just to the south of the Taj, is where most tourists on a tight budget find up staying. Although most of the small guesthouses here require guests to check out by 10 am despite their stunning rooftop views and relaxed cafes, a stay here might be well worth it. South of Taj Ganj, along Fatehabad Rd, you'll find more contemporary and upscale hotels, while the leafier Military barracks area and the neighbouring Sadar Bazaar provide options for travellers of all budgets.
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