Fort Agra

    The morning after we visited the Taj Mahal, we went to Fort Agra, or "Agra Fort" as it is called there. The day was bring and sunny, although still quite hazy, and we got a favorable impression of this beautiful place. Here is some information that was provided on a poster inside the fort.

    "Agra Fort is the most important fort of India. The great Mughals Babur, Humayun, Akbar, Ahangir, Shah Jehan, 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, travelers, and the highest dignitaries, who participated in the making of the medieval history of India. No other fort of India had this honor.
    Agra Fort stands on an ancient site just by the River Jamuna. It was a brick fort, and chauman rajputs held it. It is mentioned for the first time in 1080 A.D., 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 prominence of a second capital. He died in the fort in 1517, and his son Ibrahim Lodi held it for 9 years, until he was defeated and killed at Panipat in 1526. Several palaces, wells, and a mosque were built in the fort during the Lodi period.
    After Panipat, Mughals captured Agra Fort and a vast treasure—which included the diamond later named "Koh-I-Noor"—was seized. Babur stayed in the firt, in the palace of Ibrahim. He built a baoli (step-well) in it. Humayun was crowned here in 1530. After his defeat at Chausa in 1539, he returned to Agra. Nizan Water-Carrier (Saqqa), who had saved Humayun from drowning, was crowned here for half a day, and he issued a menial currency. Humayun was defeated at Bilgram in 1540; Sher Shah held it for 5 years. The Mughals defeated the Afghans finally at Panipat in 156.
    Realizing the importance of its central situation, Akbar (1556–1605) decided to make Agra his capital. He arrived here in 1556. His historian Abul Fazl recorded that this was a brick fort known as "Badalgarh." It was in ruined condition, and Akbar ordered it to be rebuilt with red sandstone. Foundations were laid by expert architects, and it was massively built, with bricks in inner core and stone on external surfaces. Some 4000 builders daily worked on it, and it was completed in 8 years (1565–1573).
    The fort has a semicircular plan, its chord lying parallel to the river. Its walls are 70 feet high. Double ramparts have massive circular bastions at regular intervals, battlements, embrasures, machicolations, and string-courses. Four gates were provided on its four sides, one "Khizri-gate" opening on the river, where a series of ghats (quays) was also built.
    Abul Fazl recorded that 500 buildings in the beautiful designs of Bengal and Gujarat were built. Some of these were demolished by Shah Jahan to make room for his white marble palaces, but they were mostly destroyed by the British between 1803 and 1862, for raising barracks. Hardly 30 Mughal buildings have survived, on the southeastern 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 drawbridge and crooked entrance made it impregnable. Two life-size 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. This gate is similar to the Delhi-Gate. Both are built of red stone. The Bengali-Mahal is also built of red stone, and is not split into "Akbar-Mahal" and "Jahangiri-Mahal."
    Akbar died, and Jahangir was crowned in the firt in 1605. The latter mostly resided at Lahore and Kashmir, though he visited Agra regularly and lived in the fort. Agra continued to be the capital of the Mughal Empire. Shah Jahan was also crowned in the fort in 1628. He was a great builder, and its white marble palaces belong to him. He built three white marble mosques in it: Moti-Masjid, Nagina-Masjid, and Mina-Masjid.
    After the Battle of Samogarh in 1658, Aurangzeb besieged the fort and stopped its water supply from teh river. Shah Jahan could not drink the well water, and surrendered. Aurangzeb imprisoned him, his own father, in the fort, where he lived as a prisoner for 8 years. He died in 1666 and was buried in the Taj Mahal. The Barbicans around the two gates and on the rider-side were built by Aurangzeb to strengthen its defenses.
    Though Shah Jahan had transferred his capital to Delhi formally in 1638, he continued to live here. But after his death, Agra lost its grandeur, and Aurangzeb remained busy in the Deccan conflict. Yet, time and again, he lived here and held the Durbar. Shivaji came to Agra in 1666 and met Aurangzeb om Diwan-Khas. He was betrayed and imprisoned, though the brave Maratha ultimately escaped. Aurangzeb's death in 1707 threw the affairs of the Mughal Empire into chaos. The 18th century history of Agra Fort is a saga of sieges and plunder. It was held by Jats and Marathas. The British captured it from the Marathas in 1803. The garrisoned it and converted it into an arsenal.
    The Mughal palaces have remained in a small, southeastern portion of the fort, and only this area is protected and conserved by the Archaeological Survey of India. Agra Fort is a UNESCO World Heritage Site."

Fort Agra 1
Fort Agra 2
Fort Agra 3
Fort Agra 4
Fort Agra 5
Fort Agra 6
Fort Agra 7
Fort Agra 8
Fort Agra 9
Fort Agra 10

Back to India December 2005