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AGRA FORT

While most people visit Agra to see the Taj Mahal, Agra, once the capital of all of India, has more to offer. Less than 2 kilometers from the Taj Mahal, on the same river bank, you'll find the impressive Agra Fort.
   Agra which lies on the west bank of river Jamuna became one of the principal cities of the Mughal Empire after the death of Ibrahim Lodi at Panipat in 1526. When Akbar choose Agra as his capital he laid the foundation of the fort of Agra. After Taj this was one of the most important group of buildings. The construction was started in 1565 and was completed in about eight years at a cost of thirty five lakhs of rupees under the superintendence of Qasim Khan Mir Barr-u-Bahr. This fort was just one of the many large fortified residences that the emperor wanted to have at various strategic points of his empire. According to contemporary chroniclers like Abul Fazal the fort contained over five hundred buildings. But later on
Akbar's descendants added new buildings, mainly in marble to the fort and demolished the old ones.
During Akbar's time Jamuna was a mighty river and it touched the fort. A large number of ghats were built during Akbar's period. Some of the ghats were meant for handling goods and some particularly reserved for use by the harem inmates. Covered passages were specifically built for this purpose.

The Red fort at Agra follows the Karmuka type of layout. It is believed that such a town with mighty fortification was meant for kings capital. In plan this great fort takes the form of an irregular semi-circle with its chord some 2700' in length lying parallel to the right bank of river Jamuna. The north-western side is a little smaller than the south-western side which is about half a mile in length. The fort is surrounded by a double wall of red sandstone which is one of its most remarkable feature. The outer wall is 40 high and the inner wall is 70' high. But the walls are crowned by battlements and at fairly regular intervals there are ten flanking towers and bastions. On the river front there are only two bastions called the Shah Burj and the Bengali Burj. The decorative tower in marble called the Muthamman Burj had no military utility and was part of the royal residence.

Even though the ramparts were provided to give strength to the fort but the ornamental aspect was not overlooked. Instead both have been harmoniously blended to give the fort a substantial aesthetic character. A broad deep moat running around the fort separated it from the mainland. Moat was not given on the river side as water line was already there.

The fort had four gateways. The Delhi Gate on the western side was the main entrance to the fort. There was another gateway towards the south which is known as the Amar Singh Gate or Akbar Darwazah. Today the visitors to the fort use this gateway. The gateway on the east was known as the Jal Darwazah. This was a private gate facing the river and was used by the women of the harem to go outside without being seen. There was another fourth gateway on the north-eastern side. Both these gates are closed.

A road from the Amar singh Gate leads to a high ramp. This ramp further leads to the lawns in front of the Jehangiri Mahal. In the middle of the lawns is a large bath-cistern. It is believed that this cistern was presented by Jehangir to Nur Jehan on the occasion of their marriage in 1611. In front of the stone bath is the Jehangiri Mahal. Apart from the Jehangiri Mahal there are ruins of another palace known as the Akbari Mahal. It is believed that originally both these palace were part of the same complex known as the Bengali Mahal, most likely, because of its architectural design which comprised of curved and bent cornices and sloped roofs. Thus the walls, the Delhi Gate, the Amar Singh Gate, the Jehangiri Mahal and the Akbari Mahal are the only surviving building of Akbar's period. Rest of the buildings were demolished by Shah Jehan to make room for his marble palaces.

ShahJehan's reign is known as the golden era of Mughal domination. During this period highest degree of perfection was attained in building art. Sandstone was replaced by marble and numerous new buildings were constructed. During this phase Mughal architecture reverted to purer Persian lines and the buildings were more delicate and elegant.

Just near the Jehangiri Mahal is the Khas Mahal. This part of the palace was meant for exclusive use by the emperor. Shah Jahan also called it the aramgah. In front of the Khas Mahal is the Anguri Bagh or the garden of grapes. The garden is overlooked by the Khas Mahal on the east and is surrounded on the other three sides by continous colonnade and suites of rooms red sandstone. These were built by Akbar as the residences for the women attendants of the imperial household. On the southern side of the Khas Mahal is the Shah Jehani Mahal or the palace of Shah Jehan.

In the north-eastern corner of the Anguri Bagh are the hammams. Adjoining these hammams are the ante-chambers which is known as the Shish Mahal or the Chamber of Mirrors. There are two such chambers and each had a marble reservoir for water. The walls and ceilings of this chamber are covered with pieces of glass.

From the Shish Mahal steps lead to the Muthamman Burj. This small imperial building was built by shah Jehan for his beloved wife Nur Jehan. This was used as a resting place during the summer months. The Muthamman Burj was double storeyed and the floor of the lower storey court looked like a Pachchisi board. So it was known as the Pachchisi Court.

From the courtyard of muthamman burj a flight of steps over the imperial baths lead to the Diwan-i-Khas or the hall of private audience. Diwan-i-Khas which was the first marble palace to be built by shah Jehan stands over the Shish Mahal on a well carved plinth.It was used for both receiving guests and official purpose.

To the west of the Diwan-i-Khas is the Machchhi Bhawan. It is believed that during Aurangzeb's time tanks for keeping gold fish were built in this palace.. It was because of the fish pond that place was known as Machchhi Bhawan. In the north-eastern corner of Machchhi Bhawan are the royal baths which was used by Mumtaz Mahal and her daughters. From the upper floor of the Machchhi one can clearly see the Nagina Masjid which is believed to have been built by Aurangzeb to prevent his father from visiting the Pearl Mosque.

From the Machchhi Bhawan complex a narrow flight of steps lead to the Diwan-i-Am or the hall of Public Audience. This court has two principal gateways one in the north and the other in the south side. From here the northern gateway leads to a much smaller enclosure which had passages to the water gate on the east and a passage to the Delhi Gate to the north-west. From this enclosure two high flight of steps lead to the Moti Masjid which is one of the most beautiful building at Agra. This mosque was built on the highest ground of the fort. 

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