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The Mighty Agra Fort

Once the Imperial Palace of the Mughals and their glorious lifestyles, today it stands on the banks of Yamuna river stretching across 2.5 km as a testimony to its past. The fort was built by Akbar in 1565 in red sandstone and it took eight years to complete the construction of the fort.  Later further changes were made to the fort by his son Jahangir and later by his grandson Shah Jahan.  I began my walk into the Agra Fort through the Elephant Gate. In olden days elephants used to enter through this gate.  I walked along with my guide Noor Mohammed on the wide passages into the fort.

Jahangir Mahal : The Jahangiri Palace was built by Akbar in red sandstone with Hindu and Islamic carvings on the wall.  The building has very few openings and hence it is believed that it was built as a residential palace for royal women.  Mughal Empress Noor Jahan used this as her residence.

Hauz-i-Jahangiri : A huge bowl with internal and external stairs, carved out of single stone was seen in the middle of the garden while entering the Jahangir Mahal. It was designed as a portable bath basin for Jahangir so that it could be carried from his harem to his military camps. There is also an alternate theory that it was presented to his wife as a wedding gift which she used as a container for fragrant rose water. Looking at the big tub, both the theories looked grandiose and pompous to me 😀

The blend of red sandstone design and construction of marble gives us information about the ruler.  As Shah Jahan had an appreciation for white marble, several buildings within the fort were built with rich floral patterns and gold inlay in white marble similar to Taj Mahal.

Anguri Bagh : As the name states, the gardens were used for harvesting grapes and flowers throughout the year.  The garden was compartmentalized with rich geometrical patterns. On the other side of the garden, there were bath houses decorated with fine wall paintings.  This section was strictly meant for relaxation and was designed to be a pleasant retreat for royal ladies.

Macchi Bhawan, Mina Bazar & Treasury House : Rectangular ground where they held the market for the royal ladies. Gems, Jewelries, Embroidery clothes were sold during the celebration days. The queen and the princess would then bargain and purchase those items.  The upper floor with marble pavilions is on level with Diwan-e-Khas so that the Emperor could witness the activities of the Mina Bazar. This was also a place used for rearing fishes to the Emperor’s amusement, hence the name Macchi Bhawan.  The lower floor was used as a treasury.

Diwan-i-Khas & Takht-i-Jahangir : Diwan-i-Khas was the hall of private audience where the emperor received state guests or important nobles, kings to discuss stately affairs. Its a gigantic hall from where you can also see Taj Mahal.  Takht-i-Jahangir or the throne of Jahangir is kept at one end of Diwan-i-Khas.  The shining black marble throne on a raised white marble platform was a center of attraction for the visitors.  The black onyx throne was built by Jahangir at Allahabad when he had rebelled against his father Akbar.  Persian inscriptions in the praise of Jahangir as Shah and Sultan were carved on its sides. Akbar who was still ruling Agra was furious at this defiance. When the throne was finally brought to Agra, Jahangir again had two inscriptions carved on its pedestals stating that he had been only the heir to the throne and he had assumed the title of Nuruddin Muhammed Jahangir Badshah,  only after his righteous accession. Today people were not ready to get off that black onyx throne. Too much defiance!

Diwan-i-aam : Diwan-i-aam is a hall where the emperor used to address the public. The emperor used to hear the grievances of the common people and accordingly work on a solution.

Roshanara & Jahanara Pavilion: A beautiful pavilion built by Shah Jahan for his younger daughter Roshanara.  She was the second daughter of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal. She was known for her intelligence.  Apparently Roshanara was the mastermind behind her brother Aurganzeb’s accession to the throne. The pavilion is in the shape of a palanquin.

Jahanara was the eldest daughter of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal and apparently she was the only one who stood with her father till his last days. Shah Jahan had built both his daughters’ pavilions side by side.

Shah Jahan’s Prison : Shah Jahan spend his last seven years of life here under house arrest by his son Aurangzeb.  From his room he could see the Yamuna river and the Taj Mahal he built for his beloved. A small mosque called Mina Masjid was build by Shah Jahan for his personal use. The mosque was adjacent to Musamman Burj, his prison cell. Poppy florals were inscribed on the columns of his palace symbolizing the emperor’s addiction for opium.

Moti Masjid : Moti Masjid, also known as Pearl Mosque was built by Shah Jahan.  The mosque is visible from Diwan-i-Aam complex.

The guide also showed me Sheesh Mahal and Hawa Mahal which was the summer palace and winter palace of the fort.

With these my tour to Agra Fort ended and Noor Mohammed turned and smiled at me. There was one moment when I was taken aback during his explanation.  While standing near the prison cell of Shah Jahan, he quoted a couplet which summarized Shah Jahan’s tenure in the fort as well as the state of the fort itself.

Naaz e turbat pe haar abhi baaki hain

 Chaman ujad gaya lekin bahar abhi baaki hain”

Translation : On my beloved’s tomb, the garlands still loom. The garden has withered,but the flowers still bloom.

The once glorious Agra fort is now merely viewed as a building made of stones and bricks but it still maintains its stately grace.

 

Copyright ©2009, Lakshmi Nair . This article may not be reproduced in its entirety without permission. A link to this URL, instead, would be appreciated.

 

 

 

 

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