Agra Fort is a UNESCO World Heritage site located in Agra, India. The fort is also known as Lal Qila, Fort Rouge and Red Fort of Agra. It is about 2.5 km northwest of its much more famous sister monument, the Taj Mahal. The fort can be more accurately described as a walled palatial city.
It is the most important fort in India. The great Mughals Babur, Humayun, Akbar, Jehangir, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb lived here, and the country was governed from here. It contained the largest state treasury and mint. It was visited by foreign ambassadors, travellers and the highest dignitaries who participated in the making of history in India.
This was originally a brick fort and the Chauhan Rajputs held it. It was mentioned for the first time in 1080 AD when a Ghaznavide force captured it. Sikandar Lodi (1487-1517) was the first Sultan of Delhi who shifted to Agra and lived in the fort. He governed the country from here and Agra assumed the importance of the 2nd capital. He died in the fort in 1517 and his son, Ibrahim Lodi, held it for nine years until he was defeated and killed at Panipat in 1526. Several palaces, wells and a mosque were built by him in the fort during his period.
After Panipat,captured the fort and a vast treasure - which included a diamond that was later named as the Kohinoor diamond - was seized. Babur stayed in the fort in the palace of Ibrahim. He built a baoli (step well) in it. Humayun was coronated here in 1530. Humayun was defeated in Bilgram in 1530. Sher Shah held the fort for five years. The Mughals defeated the Afghans finally at Panipat in 1556.
Realizing the importance of its central situation, Akbar decided to make it his capital and arrived in Agra in 1558. His historian, Abdul Fazal, recorded that this was a brick fort known as 'Badalgarh' . It was in a ruined condition and Akbar had it rebuilt with red sandstone. Architects laid the foundation and it was built with bricks in the inner core with sandstone on external surfaces. Some 4000 builders worked on it for eight years, completing it in 1573.
It was only during the reign of Akbar's grandson, Shah Jahan, that the site finally took on its current state. The legend is that Shah Jahan built the beautiful Taj Mahal for his wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Unlike his grandfather, Shah Jahan tended to have buildings made from white marble, often inlaid with gold or semi-precious gems. He destroyed some of the earlier buildings inside the fort in order to make his own.
At the end of his life, Shah Jahan was imprisoned by his son, Aurangzeb, in the fort, a punishment which might not seem so harsh, considering the luxury of the fort. It is rumored that Shah Jahan died in Muasamman Burj, a tower with a marble balcony with an excellent view of the Taj Mahal.
This was also a site of one of the battles during the Indian rebellion of 1857, which caused the end of the British East India Company's rule in India, and led to a century of direct rule of India by Britain.
The Agra Fort has won the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in the year 2004 and India Post has issued a Stamp to commemorate this prestigious award on 28.11.2004.
The fort has a semi-circular plan, its chord lying parallel to the river. Its walls are seventy feet high. Double ramparts have massive circular bastions are regular intervals as also battlements, embrasures, machicolations and string courses. Four gates were provided on its four sides, one Khizri gate" opening on to the river.
Two of the gates are called the 'Delhi Gate' and the 'Lahore Gate' (sometimes called Amar Singh Gate).
The Delhi Gate is considered the grandest of the gates and leads into an inner gate called the Hathi Pol (Elephant Gate). Due to the fact that the Indian military (the Parachute Brigade in particular) is still using the northern portion of the Agra Fort, the Delhi Gate cannot be used by the public. Tourists enter via the Lahore Gate. Lahore Gate is named so because it faces Lahore, now in Pakistan.
The site is very important in terms of architectural history. Abul Fazal recorded that five hundred buildings in the beautiful designs of Bengal and Gujarat were built in the fort. Some of them were demolished to make way for his white marble palaces. Most of the others were destroyed by the British between 1803 and 1862 for raising barracks. Hardly thirty Mughal buildings have survived on the south-eastern side, facing the river. Of these, the Delhi Gate and Akbar Gate and one palace - "Bengali Mahal" - are representative Akbari buildings.
The Delhi gate faces the city. A draw-bridge and a crooked entrance make it impregnable. Two life sized stone elephants with their riders were placed on its inner gate which was called "Hathi Pol". The Delhi gate was monumentally built as the king's formal gate.
Akbar Gate was renamed "Amar Singh Gate" by the British. The gate is similar in design to the Delhi gate. Both are built of red sandstone.
The Bengali Mahal is also built of red sandstone and is now split into "Akbari Mahal" and "Jehagiri Mahal".
Some of the most historically interesting mixing of Hindu and Islamic architecture reside there. In fact, some of the decorations are Islamic and yet feature dragons, elephants and birds, instead of the patterns and calligraphy, very much unheard of.
Sites and structures within Agra Fort
- Anguri Bagh - 85 square, geometrically arranged gardens
- Diwan-i-Am (Hall of Public Audience) - was used to speak to the people and listen to petitioners and once housed the Peacock Throne
- Diwan-i-Khas (Hall of Private Audience) - was used to receive kings and dignitary, features black throne of Jehangir
- Golden Pavilions - beautiful pavilions with roofs shaped like the roofs of Bengali huts
- Jehangiri Mahal - built by Akbar for his son Jehangir
- Khas Mahal - white marble palace, one of the best examples of painting on marble
- Macchi Bhawan (Fish Enclosure) - grand enclosure for harem functions, once had pools and fountains
- Mina Masjid (Heavenly Mosque)- a tiny mosque; closed to the public
- Moti Masjid (Pearl Mosque) - a private mosque of Shah Jahan
- Musamman Burj - a large, octagonal tower with a balcony facing the Taj Mahal
- Nagina Masjid (Gem Mosque) - mosque designed for the ladies of the court, featuring the Zenana Mina Bazaar (Ladies Bazaar) right next to the balcony, where only female merchants sold wares
- Naubat Khana (Drum House) - a place where the king's musicians played
- Rang Mahal - where the king's wives and mistresses lived
- Shahi Burj - Shah Jahan's private work area
- Shah Jahani Mahal - Shah Jahan's first attempt at modification of the red sandstone palace
- Sheesh Mahal (Glass Palace) or Shish Mahal - royal dressing room featuring tiny mirror-like glass-mosaic decorations on the walls
Other notable facts
Agra Fort should not be confused with the much smaller Red Fort at Delhi. The Mughals never referred the Red Fort as a fort; rather, it was referred as the 'Lal Haveli', or the Red Bungalow. The Prime Minister of India addresses the nation from Delhi's Red Fort on August 15, India's Independence Day.
UNESCO designated the Fort a World Heritage Site in 1983.
The Agra Fort plays a key role in the Sherlock Holmes mystery, The Sign of the Four, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
The Agra Fort was featured in the music video for Habibi Da, a hit song of Egyptian pop star Hisham Abbas.
Shivaji came to Agra in 1666 as per "Purandar Treaty" entered into with Mirza Raje Jaisingh and met Aurangzeb in Diwan-i-khas. He was betrayed and imprisoned on 12th May 1666 but managed to escape on 17th August 1666. A statue of Shivaji on a horse has been erected outside the fort.