The Agra Fort also known as the Lal –Qila, Fort Rouge or Qila-i-Akbari stands tall and mighty today – a symbol of power and resilience. This 16th century Mughal structure was built near the gardens of the Taj Mahal and is a fortress built out of red standstone. As you walk through the long courtyards gazing at red sandstone and marble built at palatial scale, you begin to realize the beauty, grandness and opulence that surrounds you.
The construction of the fort was started by Mughal Emperor Akbar in 1565 along the banks of the River Yamuna. Later Shah Jahan added to the construction. As with the Taj Mahal, Shah Jahan added white marble to the construction – his favorite building material. As fate would have it, it was this very fort that became a prison for him when restrained by his son Aurangazeb. It then eventually passed into the hands of the Jats, the Marathas, their enemies and then the British.
With walls 20m tall and 2.5km in circumference, the fort has a maze of buildings and encompasses a city with in a city. A visitor to the Agra Fort enters through the dogleg shaped Amar Singh Gate. The unusual shape was a tactic to puzzle attackers who made it past the moat, which was said to have been infested with crocodiles as a first line of defense. The Fort also houses the Diwan-i-Am or the Hall of Public Audience. This was where the emperor heard grievances and settled public disputes. A staircase heind the Emperor’s throne in the Diwan-i-Am leads up to the Nagina Masjid or Gem Mosque which was built for the court’s ladies. The Fort also houses the Diwan-i-Khas or the Hall of Private Audience which was where the Emperor met foreign dignitaries. It was also where Shah Jahan’s famed Peacock Throne stood, laid with precious stones including the famed Koh-i-noor diamond. The fort walls also include the Sheesh Mahal or Hall of Mirrors whose walls are laid with tiny, sparkling mirrors.
The Delhi Gate to the Fort is a testimony to the incredible Mughal architecture of Akbar and may be the grandest of the four gates. It is closed to the public since it is still being used by the Indian military. The fort itself is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a must-visit in Delhi. Visitors can spend hours together at the Fort exploring and can also get audio guides at the entrance at an additional charge.