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Agra Fort

 
The high red sandstone ramparts of this great monument stretch for almost 2.5 kilometres, dominating a bend in the river Yamuna, northwest of the Taj Mahal. The foundation of this majestic citadel was laid by the Emperor Akbar and it developed as a stronghold of the Mughal Empire under successive generations.

The curved bastions of the huge walls are interrupted by impressive gates of which only the Amar Singh gate is now open to the public. The original and grandest entrance was through the Delhi Gate, which leads to the inner portal called the Hathi Pol or Elephant Gate.

The graceful Diwan-i-Am or the Hall of Public Audiences, made of red sandstone, was constructed by Shahjahan in 1628. Three rows of white polished stucco pillars topped by peacock arches support the flat roof. Today, this Hall is bereft of brocade decorations, silk carpets and satin canopies which would have enhanced the elegance of the settings when the Emperor sat down with his subjects to hear their complaints.

The Agra Fort houses the Royal Pavilions, which were designed to catch the cool breeze wafting across the river. Other attractions comprise the Macchi Bhawan or the Fish Palace, the Hammam-i-Shahi or the Royal Bath, the Nagina Masjid or the Gem Mosque, and the Zenana Meena Bazaar, where the ladies of the court would browse through goods like silk, jewellery and brocade.

Past the Chitor gate, installed in 1568, is the Diwan-i-Khas, or the Hall of Private Audience. Here, the emperor would receive kings, dignitaries and ambassadors. Tucked away by the west wall of the hall is the Mina Masjid or the Heavenly mosque, where Shahjahan prayed when he was imprisoned in the Fort by his son Aurangzeb.

A doorway from the rear of the Diwan-i-Khas leads to the Mussaman Burj, a two-storeyed pavilion, where Shahjahan caught the last glimpse of the Taj Mahal before he died. Surrounded by a verandah, the elegant chamber has a lattice-screen balustrade with ornamental niches; exquisite inlay covers almost every surface and a marble chhatri (umbrella) on top adds the finishing touch.

The Khas Mahal or the Private Palace was used by the emperor as a sleeping chamber and is designed for comfort, with cavities in the room to insulate against the heat. The Mahal is flanked by two golden pavilions. Other ornate palaces within the Fort are the Sheesh Mahal (Palace of Mirrors), the Shah Jahani Mahal (Shahjahan's Palace), Jahangiri Mahal (Jahangir's Palace) and the Akbari Mahal (Akbar's Mahal). These palaces are hybrid in design and some are distinctly Mughal in style while others like the Jahangiri Mahal are almost entirely Hindu in their interior design. 
 

 
 
 

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