The Red Fort, Agra
This large hypostyle hall was the Diwan-i-Am, or the "Hall of Public Audience." It is where the Emperor received his ministers and administered the affairs of the Mughal Empire. The large rectangular structure was built in 1628 by Shah Jahan in red sandstone but it was plastered over and decorated in stucco to look like white marble. Its series of columns and polyfoil arches have a dazzling effect in the interior, which also contains the throne on which the Emperor sat. Diwan-i-Am lies on the eastern end of the large landscaped courtyard surrounded by arcaded red sandstone porticoes. The courtyard has two monumental entrances on the northern and southern sides. Originally, the public entered through the northern entrance which connected directly to the Delhi Gate, while the southern entrance was a private one. Nowadays, visitors enter through the southern gate, while the northern gate is restricted.
Named after the brother of the Maharaja of Jodhpur who was executed here in 1644, the Amar Singh Gate is the southern entrance of the Agra Fort. It is nowadays the visitors' entrance as well, and consists of three successive defensive gateways intended to deter any invader. Each gateway is beautifully decorated, but the most exquisite is the third one, whose two polygonal bastions are partly covered in colourful decorative glazed tiles, albeit badly preserved.
One of the oldest surviving structures in the Agra Fort, Jehangiri Mahal was built by Emperor Akbar in 1565. Its architecture thus reflects the earlier imperial style which was a synthesis between Islamic and Hindu designs, constructed in red sandstone and decorated with intricate carvings and white marble inlay. The exterior of Jehangiri Mahal is somewhat more Mughal-Islamic in style with a monumental gateway decorated with pointed arches and geometric designs, similar to structures seen in Delhi. In contrast, the inner courtyard exhibits the Hindu architectural features of Akbar's taste and is highly reminiscent of the imperial palaces of Fatehpur Sikri, another Akbar-era project. The back of the palace opens to another courtyard-terrace with views over the River Yamuna. South of Jehangiri Mahal was another Akbar-era palace, known as Akbari Mahal, but nowadays it is in ruins.
For photos of the architectural details of this palace, take a look at the travelogue: "Agra Fort - Jehangiri Mahal."
The open and barren terrace just outside Diwan-i-Khas was once covered in what was perhaps the most richly decorated pavilion in the entire Agra Fort. The reason for this extravagance was that it contained the emperors' thrones. Unfortunately, this pavilion was destroyed when the Agra Fort was invaded and pillaged by the Jat Kingdom in 1761, and its decorations were removed and transported to the palace of the Jat ruler, Surajmal, in Bharatpur, Rajasthan. Although the pavilion is long gone, two imperial thrones remain on the terrace: a white marble one facing the Machchhi Bhavan courtyard and a black onyx one facing River Yamuna. The latter is known as Takht-i-Jehangir (Jehangir's Throne). From this terrace, one could enjoy the best views across the River Yamuna to the Taj Mahal.
Located north of the courtyard of Diwan-i-Am, Moti Masjid was the grand mosque of the Agra Fort. The white marble that covers the structure in its entirety earned it the name "Pearl Mosque" (moti = pearl, masjid = mosque). It was built in 1646 by Shah Jahan, and follows the typical Mughal-period design, with three onion shaped domes crowning the long rectangular prayer hall, which is preceded by an arcaded courtyard. However, the white marble that covers the structure is a deviation from the typical red sandstone seen at most other Mughal-period mosques. This mosque is said to be one of the most beautiful Mughal-period mosques in India, but unfortunately, it lies in the restricted area of the Agra Fort and is thus not open to visitors (at least when I visited in Feb 2009). A glance at its majestic domes and chhatris from the courtyard of Diwan-i-Am had to suffice.
Situated at the westernmost end of the half circular shaped Agra Fort, facing the old city, the Delhi Gate was once the main public entrance into the fort. It consists of an imposing gate flanked by two octagonal towers crowned by chhatris (domed pavilions). This gate is nowadays closed to the public as it is used exclusively by the Indian military which occupies a large section of the Agra Fort. The Delhi Gate is best seen from downtown Agra, near the main mosque, Jami Masjid.
Named after its octagonal shape, Muthamman Burj (or Mussamman) juts out of the walls of the Agra Fort towards the River Yamuna (muthamman = octagonal, burj = tower). Shah Jahan built it in 1631 for his wife, Mumtaz Mahal, and he spared no expense in it decorating with white marble, pointed arches, intricate jali screens and precious stones. It was in this palace that Emperor Shah Jahan himself was imprisoned when he was deposed by his son Aurangzeb in 1658, and from its veranda he was able to gaze at the mausoleum of his late wife, the Taj Mahal, until his death in 1666.
The formidable red sandstone Agra Fort was built by the Mughal Emperor Akbar in 1565 while Agra served as the capital of his empire. Construction continued until 1573, by which time Akbar had already moved the capital to nearby Fatehpur Sikri, then to Lahore, before once again making Agra the capital in 1599. Two other emperors, Jehangir and Shah Jahan, ruled from the Agra Fort, until the latter built the Red Fort and Shahjahanabad (now known as Old Delhi), and moved the capital there in 1648. The interior of the Agra Fort contains a collection of sumptuous palaces and pavilions, in a variety of architectural styles depending on the taste of the emperor who built them, all overlooking the majestic River Yamuna. The British later used the Agra Fort as a military base and added a few of their own structures, which continue to be used by the Indian military to the present day and are closed to the public. The rest of the Agra Fort, where the imperial palaces lie, is open to the public.
Agra Fort is one of the most important fort in India because the country was governed from here. The Mugals, Humayun, Akbar, Jehangir, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb lived here.
The fort is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is located 2 km northwest of famous Taj Mahal.
NB If you visit the Fort & the Taj on the same day you can get a Rs50 reduction ticket price (I didn't know this until I got home!).
The fort is enormous, made of sandstone and was built in 1565... or at least that is when it was started - additions were made after this time. It was built by Akbar on the banks of the Yamuna River as a fortress but was later turned into a palace, by Shaj Jahan who was later imprisoned here. Later history saw it used as a garrison, by the British.
You enter the fort at the Amar Singh Gate which is also where you purchase your entrance ticket.
Even if you have already been to the Red Fort in Delhi - this one is different & is definitely worth visiting.
There are fantastic views of the Taj from the fort.
The Najina Masjid (Gem or Jewel Mosque) was built for Shah Jahan between 1631-40 northwestern corner of the Machchhi Bhawan, for his personal use. It is constructed entirely of white marble, and consists of a small open court in front of a three-arched prayer chamber.
Shoes must be left outside.
The Hall of Public Audiences is a large rectangular assembly hall, open on three sides to the courtyard - now lawned gardens. Though built of red sandstone, it is covered with white shell plaster to resemble marble. In the eastern wall is a 'jharokha' known as the Takht-i-Murassa (Throne room - 3rd photo), which consists of a three-arched opening inlaid with precious stones.
It is connected to the royal apartments by a staircase to the left of the dais.
This quadrangle, known as the Fish Enclosure, is a spacious courtyard lined on three sides by a two-storey arched gallery. Situated in front of the Diwan-i-Khas, it is believed to once have had marble fountains and tanks, for the purpose of raising gold fish. On the southern side is a marble balcony, thought to have held the emperor's Golden Throne, from which he watched court functions in the court below.
The Diwan-i-Khas, or Hall of Private Audiences is situated to the north of Musamman Burj, and was built in 1635 for Shah Jahan. Constructed of white marble, it consists of two large halls; an outer pillared hall and an inner closed hall, connected by archways. The inner hall has alcoves with raised seats on the sides. Durbar was held in the outer hall, with the inner reserved for confidential business.
The famous Peacock Throne, made in 1634, was placed here, until it was removed to the Red Fort in Delhi in 1648 (from where it was plundered by Nadir Shah in 1739 and probably taken to Iran).
On the terrace outside are two simple benches - the white marble one was for the emperor, while the one made of black slate was for visitors (although it is said that the black 'throne' belonged to Jehangir).
Below the terrace lies the Machchhi Bhawan....
The Shish Mahal (Glass or Mirror Palace) was built, again from 1631-40, on the western side of Musamman Burj, above the Diwan-i-Khas. It was thought to be rooms for bathing or dressing, but is most likely to be a summer palace, with two fountains and a waterfall provided to keep it cool and comfortable in the scorching heat of Agra. The distinctive feature of this palace is the glass-mosaic work which lends it its name - as the building is made up of thick walls with only a few openings, it required artificial lighting, which was provided by candlelight reflecting from the myriad pieces of glass.