Agra Fort also called Red Fort Agra, Walled City is a UNESCO world heritage site; located in the city of Agra, Uttar Pradesh. The fort has been there from many centuries, but it really got a defining timeline after Mughal Emperor Akbar had arrived here. Agra Fort’s main repair and reconstruction project was initiated by Emperor Akbar in the 16th century.
Agra Fort as it is today was built in the 16th century (in the year 1573) during the rule of Emperor Akbar. Due to its geographical importance, Akbar decided to make it the official residence of Mughals. It remained the official residence of Mughals until the capital was shifted to Delhi in 1638. As capital moved to Delhi, Agra Fort lost its status of the official residence of Mughals.
Agra Fort is built in 380000 sq meters. It took about 8 years and 4000 workers to build this fort. Agra Fort is truly a masterpiece that has remarkable structures such as Khas Mahal, Jahangir Mahal, Diwan-i-Am Diwan-i-Khass, Moti Masjid, and Machchhi Bhawan.
Its sister monument the Taj Mahal is just about 2.5 km from Agra Fort. Agra Fort is a famous tourist spot, visited by a number of tourists every year.
Having been in the old capital Agra Fort was desired by many emperors; it was won and lost by many. As the emperors changed; each made alterations to the monument according to their preferences.
History of Agra Fort:
Agra Fort is standing strong from many centuries it has a significant amount of history associated with its self. However, its association with Mughals began in 1526 after the first battle of Panipat which was fought in 1526; where Babur defeated Ibrahim Lodi.
With this win, Babur took over the fort and the Palace replacing Ibrahim Lodi. Babur made some alterations to the fort by adding a baoli (a step well) to the Agra Fort. Babur’s son Humayun was crowned emperor in the year 1530 in the Agra Fort.
In 1540 Sher Shah Suri defeated Humayun at Bilgram and took over the Fort. Until the year 1555 the fort remained with the Suri dynasty, Suris made some changes to the fort as per their taste. Later Humayun won and recaptured Agra.
But the following year Hemu Vikramaditya, military commander and general of Adil Shah Suri captured Agra. He pursued the fleeing army to Delhi and the Battle of Tughlaqabad followed between Hemu and Mughal’s the military commander, Tardi Beg Khan. Hemu Vikramaditya defeated Tardi Beg Khan and established himself as the King. Soon after, Akbar defeated Hemu and won over Agra, bringing Agra Fort back in the hands of Mughals.
Agra Fort – ownership Timeline:
- Remained with the Lodhi Dynasty from 1504-1526
- Babur’s Arrival and Humayun’s stint from 1526-40
- Stint Suri Dynasty from 1540-1555
- Rule of Mughal Empire from 1556-1785
- Rule of Maratha Empire from 1785-1803
- Control of the British Empire from 1803-1947
- Government of India 1947 onward
Red Fort, Agra under Akbar and later:
Agra fort was in pretty bad shape by this time; it was made of bricks and was called Badalgarh. Akbar thought of rebuilding this fort after realizing its geographical and historical significance. He ordered the rebuilding of the Fort; it was rebuilt with red sandstone which was sourced from Barauli, Dhaulpur district, of Rajasthan. Agra Fort was rebuilt with red sandstone on exterior surfaces and with bricks in the inner cores. It took about 8 years and 4000 workers to build this fort, it was completed in 1573.
During Akbar’s grandson, Shah Jahan’s stint Agra Fort went under major architectural changes. Unlike Akbar who apparently liked red sandstone structures, Shah Jahan was fond architecture made of white marble. He destroyed and rebuilt some parts of the fort with White marble.
Shah Jahan spent his last days in the Fort imprisoned by his son Aurangzeb. The palace where he was captured is called the world’s most beautiful jail. In this period of house arrest, he spent his days looking at Taj Mahal the burial place of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal.
In the early 18th century, Maratha’s captured the fort. In this period the ownership of fort changed from Maratha and their enemies.
In the Third battle of Panipat Maratha’s faced massive defeat at the hand of Ahmad Shah Durrani. The fort was under control of Durrani Dynasty until 1785. During Mahadji Shinde’s stint in 1785, the possession of the fort came back in the hand of Marathas. But they lost its possession again in 1803 to the British in the Second Anglo-Maratha War; the British had their claim on the Fort until it was handed to government of India in 1947.
Architecture and Layout:
The majestic Agra Fort is built a huge area of 94 acres (380000 sq meters), because is spread in such vast area it is called Walled City. Talking about its structure Agra Fort has a semicircular plan, the walls of the fort are as high as 70 feet, the fort’s base faces the bank of Yamuna River. The Agra Fort is secured by a massive double battlemented wall of red sandstone; its perimeter is about two kilometers.
The fort has 4 gates. Of these 4, most prominent ones are the Delhi gate and Lahore Gate. Lahore gate is also known as Amar Singh Gate. Akbar mainly used the Delhi gate as his main entrance and the gate also guarded against the invaders.
An inner gateway known as Hathi Pol (Elephant Gate) is part of the fort which is built in such a manner that it provides security to the fort; by making it difficult for the invaders to enter the fort even with the help of war elephants.
Some part of Agra Fort is still used by the Indian military for security purposes; Delhi gate being part of military access is not accessible to the general public. Visitors enter through the Amar Singh Gate.
The fort holds significant importance architecturally. Akbar’s historian Abul Fazal had recorded five hundred buildings in the stunning designs inspired from Bengal and Gujarat were built in the fort. Some of them were destroyed by Shah Jahan so he could reconstruct his white marble palaces.
Alterations in the Red Fort of Agra by the British:
Between 1803 and 1862 Most of the other buildings were demolished by the British for raising barracks. Barely thirty Mughal buildings of the complex have survived that are on the south-eastern side facing the river. Some of the remaining Akbari buildings include Akbar gate, Delhi gate, and Bengali Mahal.
The British renamed Akbar Gate as Amar Singh Gate. The gate has a similar design as Delhi gate. Both these gates are built of red sandstone. The Bengali Mahal which is built of red sandstone; is now split into Jahangiri Mahal and Akbari Mahal.
The fort has a variety of palaces and halls. Some of the most important ones are Khas Mahal Shah Jahani Mahal and Macchi Bhavan. The Amar Sigh gate takes to the courtyard, Diwan- I-am is located on the right-hand side. The fort has magnificent royal baths which are made out of marbles; these were used by princesses. The fort had a private market (bazaar) built in for the women. The fort also has a secret passage that could be used in the event of emergency.
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