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Agra Fort of Delhi | A Marvel of the Past

Written by Architecture Student.

Introduction

Agra Fort is located on the right bank of the river Yamuna in the city of Agra in Uttar Pradesh. It is one of the most important and robustly built stronghold of the Mughals, which encompasses many decorated buildings featuring Mughal-style art and architecture. It was constructed by the third Mughal emperor Akbar on the remains of an ancient site known as Badalgarh.



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 Palace-city. It is the second most visited monument in Agra after the famous Taj mahal.

Timeline

Akbar started the work on building the Agra Fort in 1565. More than 4000 builders worked on it and it was finished in 1573, in a span of 8 years.

Structure Details

Agra Fort is not a single structure, but a large complex of different buildings like Moti Mahal, Diwan-e-Aam, Diwan-e-Khass, Nagina Mosque and others like it. In all, there are 30 monuments left in the Fort. At the heights of its glory, it had more than 500 beautifully designed buildings. Some of the most historically interesting mixing of Hindu and Islamic architecture is found here.

The fort has a semicircular plan. It has an area of 94 acres or 380,000 Square Meters. Its flatter side, the diameter of the semi-circle, is parallel to the river. The fort is surrounded by a 70 feet high fortification wall.
Fortification

Double ramparts have been provided with broad massive circular bastions at regular intervals. A wooden drawbridge was used to cross the moat and reach the gate from the mainland; inside, an inner gateway called Hathi Pol ("Elephant Gate") - guarded by two life-sized stone elephants with their riders - added another layer of security. The drawbridge, slight ascent, and 90-degree turn between the outer and inner gates make the entrance impregnable. During a siege, attackers would employ elephants to crush a fort's gates. Without a level, straight run-up to gather speed, however, something prevented by this layout, elephants are ineffective.

The 4 Gates of Agra Fort

There are four gates on its four sides. The largest one is the Delhi Gate, which is the grandest of all Gates. The other three gates are Amar Singh Gate (earlier known as Lahore Gate), Akbar Gate and Water Gate. The “khizri-gate” (Water Gate) opens to the river front, where ghats were provided.

Materials Used

Red Sandstone is widely used in the exterior of the Agra Fort. The inner core of the fort is built of bricks. Lime was used as a cementing material in those days. White marble was also widely used in the interior decoration of the Agra fort. In addition to it, golden inscriptions and stone carvings were used for decoration.

Other important buildings in Agra Fort

Jahangiri Mahal

Jahangiri Mahal is the most important building of the Akbari period in the Agra Fort Complex. It was the principal zenana palace (palace for women belonging to the royal household), used mainly by the Rajput wives of Akbar. A splendid gateway leads to an interior courtyard surrounded by grand halls covered with profuse carvings on stone, heavily fashioned brackets, piers, and crossbeams.

Khas Mahal and Sheesh Mahal

Khas Mahal was built by Shahjahan. It is an airy edifice, overlooking the specially laid Angoori Bagh. Windows closed with Stone Jali present fabulous view of the river front. The two copper-roofed pavilions built in the Bengali traditions were meant for prominent ladies of the harem. On three sides of this garden are residential quarters of women. Sheesh Mahal (mirror palace) or the royal hammam (bath) is decorated with myriad glass pieces and a central fountain.

Diwan-I-khas

Diwan-I-khas (Hall of Private audience) is a small hall with double marble columns inlaid with pietra dura decoration. Shahjahan built the structure between 1636 and 1637 and it is where the emperor used to receive the important dignitaries.

Diwan-I-Aam

Diwan-I-Aam (Hall of Public audience) was again a building constructed by Shahjahan who replaced an earlier wooden structure. The arches are covered with white lime polished to a smooth finish. The triple arched royal canopy has lavish pietra dura ornamentation Here was kept the famous Peacock Throne ordered by Shahjahan. He met officials and commoners and listened to the petitioners in the Diwan-I-Aam.

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Tags: Agra, Delhi, India, architecture, fort

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Comment by Jack Bid on April 27, 2010 at 2:59pm
@Tyson,

i am glad you liked the post, Tyson. Agra fort is beautiful. It is designed in a semi-circle layout, with 3 sides facing land, and the chord of the semi-circle facing the river. The 4 gates add to the beauty.

I believe these ancient forts were the best way to control a region in those days. They are nothing but walled towns, fortified on all sides, capable of withstanding siege and garrisoning a large number of soldiers. I believe similar hill forts and castles were built in Europe during that time...

Cheers!
Comment by Tyson on April 26, 2010 at 7:09pm
Great post Jack. I've actually visited Agra fort and many other similar forts in cities throughout India. It's a really interesting typology in terms of Indian urbanism. You have to wonder what type of societal context would cause those forts to be built. But regardless, amazing structurally and architecturally.

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