If one wants to see the world famous monument dedicated to love, the Taj Mahal, in all its splendour, then one must make it a point to visit this towering walled area in the historic city of Agra. It is said that Shah Jahan, who was imprisoned for eight long years by his son Aurangzeb in one of the turrets here, would console himself by looking at Taj Mahal where his beloved wife was buried, from this walled complex.
A shimmering facade of red sandstone, the Agra Fort is massive, enormous and considered an architectural marvel from the medieval times. It is as big as a city by itself. Be prepared to walk quite a bit and do wear a comfortable pair of footwear as one has to climb a lot, up and down minars and mahals.
Encompassing an area of three kilometres, it is bordered by a 70-foot double wall and was converted from a brick structure to a stone structure by Emperor Akbar. After his reign, the Agra or the Red Fort also saw many additions either by Jahangir or Shah Jahan with most of the buildings intricately designed by Persian craftsmanship.
One has to enter this fort through the Amar Singh gate which with its sheer size and enormity gives you an idea of the maze of buildings that this walled city houses. This imperial city of the Mughal rulers is considered as one of the most obvious symbols of Indo-Islamic architecture. The citadel comprises a large number of marble palaces. The Khas Mahal, the Sheesh Mahal, the octagonal tower of Muhammam Burj, as well as reception rooms like the Diwan-i-Khas, and the many pillared Diwan-i-Am (Hall of Public Audience) were built under the reign of the luxury-loving Shah Jahan.
Within the palatial complex, there are two very beautiful mosques of white marble, the Moti Masjid or the Pearl Mosque, constructed by Shah Jahan, and the Nagina Masjid built during the reign of Aurangzeb. Apart from this, the massive columns are so exquisitely decorated and the dome-shaped ceilings so beautifully patterned in the Akbari Mahal that one wonders at the skill and craftsmanship of people in those days. Many walls even have paintings and carvings of living beings like elephants, camels, dragons, birds instead of the usual Islamic patterns or calligraphy which demonstrated Akbar’s fascination for other religions.
With the main entrance to the fort, the Delhi Gate closed because of the presence of the military, one has to enter the fort only through Amar Singh gate. According to historians, there were once more than 5,000 buildings built in the Gujarati and Bengali style but today only 30 odd remain as most of them were destroyed by the British to make way for barracks. Added to the list of World Heritage Sites, the Agra Fort is a mute witness to a time that was rampant with plunder, sieges, regional conflicts, romantic interludes and of course, the golden period of the Mughal dynasty that left behind a plethora of monuments.