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Agra, the historic city of Uttar Pradesh is famous for its buildings and monuments. While some are representative of typical Mughal architecture, others display comparatively modern usage of stones and marble. Also few buildings display an interesting mix of both. Agra fort is one such structure.
History of Agra Fort
Agra Fort is a world famous monument which has been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is around 2.5 km northwards of world renowned Taj Mahal. The Fort is more of a walled city in itself. Agra Fort originally was made as a brick fort that was under Hindu Rajputs since eleventh century. Its first mention appears in 1080 AD when the force of Ghanavide captured it. Afterwards, Sikander Lodi who reigned in between 1488 and 1517 became the first Sultan who shifted his capital from Delhi to Agra and made it his residence. During his reign, Agra assumed the status of second capital as he governed the country from this fort until his death in 1517. His son Ibrahim Lodi resided here for nine years before he lost the battle of Panipat to Babar and was killed there in 1526. He added a mosque, several palaces and wells to the fort.
After defeating Lodi in first battle of Panipat in 1526, the fort came under the vicinity of Mughals who seized its vast treasure including the very precious diamond which was later known as Koh-i-Noor. Babar lived in the palace built by Ibrahim and added a Baori to the palace. His successor Humayun was crowned in 1530. Later, Sher Shah Suri defeated Humayun in 1940 and presided the fort but it was again captured by Humayun in 1555. The Hindu King Hemchandra Vikramaditya ended Mughal reign over this fort by defeating Humayun’s army and capturing huge Booty from Agra. He then went ahead to capture Delhi from Mughals, but later on was defeated by Mughals under Akbar in the Second Battle of Panipat in 1556.
Akbar, realizing its central position, made this fort his capital and arrived in Agra to stay here in 1558. At that time, it was totally ruined but Akbar had it reconstructed with red sandstone, typical of Mughal architecture, brought from Barauli area of Rajasthan. The inner core was constructed with bricks while external surfaces were built with sandstone. Around 4,000 builders and laborers worked on it for eight years and it was completed in 1573. However, it was Akbar’s grandson, Shah Jahan who converted the fort to its present state. Shah Jahan had a strong attraction towards white marble and he often inlaid his buildings with semi precious stones or gold. He destroyed few old buildings and substituted them with his own buildings.
Shah Jahan was restrained and deposed by his son in this fort. He died in Muassamman Burj, the place where he was kept as a captive having a tower and a marble balcony from where Taj can be viewed. This historic fort was also the site of a battle during the rebellion of 1857 which led to the end of rule of East India Company and initiated the rule of British Government.
Layout of Agra Fort
The huge fort is spread in 94 acres or 380,000 square meters area. The fort is built in a semicircular pattern with its chord at the parallel with the river. Its walls are upto seventy feet high. There are four gates at four sides with one gate ‘Khizri gate’ opening towards the river. Out of these, two gates namely the ‘Delhi Gate’ and the “Lahore Gate’ are notable. The Lahore Gate is also known as ‘Amar Singh Gate’ on the name of Amar Singh Rathore.
The most renowned Delhi Gate is a masterpiece of Akbar’s time and is the grandest of four gates. It faces the city on the west direction. It was constructed in 1568 to enhance security and to be used as the king's formal gate and so it includes features relevant to both. It is engraved with intricate work in done on white marble. There was a wooden bridge drawn from strings to clear the moat and approach the gate. Once inside, there is an inner gateway known as “Hathi Pol’ which was guarded by two giant stone elephants with their riders, adding another layer of security. The bridge was slight ascent and it turned 90-degrees between the outer and inner gates making the entry impossible. The northern part of the Agra Fort is still used by Indian Military, so the Delhi Gate cannot be used by the public. Tourists have to enter through the Amar Singh Gate.
This fort is very important in relation to architectural history. Abul Fazal, the historian of Mughal Darbar mentioned that almost five hundred buildings in the various designs from Bengal and Gujarat were built in the fort. Some of them were destroyed by Shah Jahan to built his white marble palaces while most of the others were demolished by the Britishers between the period of 1803 and 1862 for constructing barracks. Not more than thirty Mughal buildings survived at the south-east side, facing the river Yamuna. Out of these buildings, the Delhi Gate and the Akbar Gate and only one palace called Bengali Mahal are representative of Mughal architecture.
How to Reach Agra Fort
The fort represents an interesting mix of Hindu and Islamic architecture. Some of the Islamic decorations here feature sinful images of creatures like dragons, birds and elephants, instead of the usual patterns and calligraphy that are seen in Islamic surface decoration in other monuments.
The main station of Agra is Agra Cantt Railway station at Idgah. From here, the distance to Agra fort is around 4.6 kms. To reach here, one should head towards station road and take 1st left. After some distance, at first roundabout turn towards right and driving for 650 m, turn left towards SH-69. Further turn towards right passing Hari Om TandoorWala at around 1.1. km distance, then turn left at Namner Cross after 1.3 km. Here while driving for around 1.7 km, passing Jeevan Rekha Hospital in between , there is a roundabout where driver should take 3rd exit and after driving for a short distance, one can see the destination towards the left.
Cabs, auto and taxi are easily available to reach here. Hotels also arrange for conveyance to this place. The fort is open for tourists from 7:00 in the morning to 6:00 in the evening. There is an entry fee of Rs. 20 per person for Indians and Rs.300 for residents of other countries. No entry fee is charged for children under 15 years of age. Be prepared for security checkup and avoid taking big bags or books inside as it will increase security check up time.