Agra Fort

Located in the city of Agra in northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, Agra Fort is one of the popular tourist attractions in this historic city.

Built by Mughal Emperor Akbar, way back in 16th century, Agra Fort today is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the oldest surviving Mughal monuments in Agra.

Built to flaunt the prowess and glory of the Mughals, Agra Fort established the models for all Mughal forts that followed. Akbar himself built forts at Lahore, Allahabad & Fatehpur Sikri and his grandson, Shah Jahan, erected the Red Fort in his new capital city Shahjahanabad.

Agra Fort was built in a crescent shaped bend of the Yamuna River. The site was so chosen as the Yamuna River could then act as a natural moat. Draw bridges were used to cross over and reach the grand gates of the fort. The moat, alongwith the 21.4 m high red sandstone walls and massive ramparts, provided strong defence and a convenient base for the offensive.

The Fort premises consist of marble pavilions, landscaped gardens and serene mosques.

As per the royal chronicler Abul Fazl, Agra Fort once consisted of over 500 buildings and it took daily hardwork of 4000 workmen for eight long years (1565-1573 AD) to complete the construction of this walled city.

According to the notes in Akbar’s son Jahangir’s memoirs, construction of the fort and the buildings within it cost 3.5 million rupees at the time.

The city of Agra was given the title ‘Akbarabad’, after this new glorious addition by Emperor Akbar.


Later, Akbar’s grandson Shah Jahan demolished many of the sandstone structures, renovated many buildings and constructed marble palaces.

Further destruction took place at the hands of marauding Jats who took away the marble and ‘pietra dura’ pillars for their own palaces.

However final assault was made by the Britishers who sent royal baths to London for display in palaces and replaced other buildings with army barracks.

Today, apart from the walls and gateways, only a few of the original Akbari structures survive. However visitors can still get a flavour of the architectural styles of the olden times. Part of the fort is used by Indian Army and this portion is closed for the public.


Agra Fort Structure

The entry to the Agra Fort is through Amar Singh Gate close to which stands Jahangir Mahal, the only surviving palace built by Akbar the Great. Jahangir Mahal is said to have been built somewhere around 1570 AD by Akbar for his son Jahangir.

However some historians disagree and believe that it could not have been so, as the Emperor’s son was called Salim then and was given the title Jahangir much later.

Jahangir mahal is said to be one of the first few palaces, where Shah Jahan, who was known to be great builder, attempted to blend Hindu motifs with Islamic architectural styles and achieved absolute harmony.

Rest of the existing structures in the fort were built by Shah Jahan. Close to Jahangir Mahal are the ruins of Akbari Mahal, which was once the magnificent palace of the emperor himself.

In 1636 AD, Shah Jahan built his personal palace, Khas Mahal. Called ‘Aramgah-i-Mualla’ or The Exalted Place of Rest, Khas Mahal is an airy palace with typical Mughal arches, fountains and open terraces overlooking river Yamuna.

Khas Mahal is flanked by two pavilions topped with curved ‘bengaldaar’ roofs – so named as the shape resembled village huts of Bengal. A garden called ‘Anguri garden’ or Garden of grapes lies in front of the palace. Unexpectedly, Anguri garden has no grape vines but a garden with flowerbeds, water channels and fountains laid out in traditional Mughal ‘charbagh’ style.

When Shah Jahan was deposed and confined by his son Aurangzeb, his daughter Jahanara stood loyally by him and took care of Shah Jahan till his death. All this while, Jahanara stayed in Khas Mahal.


At the northeast corner of Anguri Garden is an exquisite little building, the Mussaman Burj or Jasmine Tower, which was probably Mumtaz Mahal’s private quarters. An elegant quarter with delicate feminine touch, Mussaman Burj housed a sculpted ornamental pool, fine ‘jaali’ screens and walls covered with beautiful ‘pietra dura’. Placed on a bastion, Mussaman Burj offers panoramic view of the river.

It was in Mussaman Burj that Shah Jahan spent his last days in captivity, gazing at his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal’s mausoleum Taj Mahal, from the balcony.

From Mussaman Burj steps lead one up to Diwan-i-khas, The Hall of Private Audience, where important affairs of the state were conducted. At the other end of the terrace are two thrones, a white and a black throne, the latter was used by Jahangir.

The terrace overlooks Machchi Bhavan or the Palace of fishes, named after the garden in front of it, which once contained ornamental ponds.

Staircase to the west of the Machchi Bhavan leads one down to Diwan-i-aam, The Hall of The Public Audience, where Shah Jahan seated in his world famous Peacock Throne dealt with administrative matters, held public audience and dispensed justice. 

Agra Fort also houses three mosques. Moti Masjid or Pearl Mosque was built by Shah Jahan for his personal use. Nagina Masjid was used by the women of the harem ad Mina Masjid, a tiny mosque located near Mussaman Burj is now closed to the public.                                 

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