A short car journey away from the mighty Taj Mahal is the splendid Red Fort. We were told that the Emperor Shah Jahan was imprisoned here by his son. Apparently the Emperor had plans to build a second mausoleum in black marble to the rear of the Taj Mahal. This was to be his final resting place and the vision was that it would seem to be the perfect shadow of the magnificent Taj Mahal. The son was not happy with this proposed extravagance and built an elaborate room in which to accommodate his father, the emperor. From here Shah Jahan had a perfect view of the mausoleum and it is rumoured, happily saw out his days reflecting on the love of his life.
The fort was originally constructed in 1565 by Emperor Akbar (Shah Jahan’s grandfather) as a military fortification, but Shah Jahan changed its use to that of a Royal Palace (I guess he felt more secure than his granddad). Inevitably he introduced white marble into the construct and nowadays the contrast between the red sandstone, Jahan’s marble and the weathered copper roofing makes for a stunning sight.
The entrance to the fort is quite awe inspiring and its steep climb would have been most off-putting for any unwanted visitors. When in the fort there are some terrific views over the Yamuna River across to the magnificent Taj Mahal, that looes non of its splendour even from this distance. It’s difficult to understand why Emperor Jahan picked the spot to build his shrine to his beloved.
The Hall of Public Audiences (Diwan-I-Am) is an impressive feature with its multi-columned roofed building for the emperor (who sat in the "peacock room") and his high officials whilst invited members of the public sat in the main open-air auditorium. Apparently the acoustics were so poor that the speeches had to be relayed by a series of "interpreters"—it’s anyone’s guess how many of these speeches were distorted as they passed from one messenger to another. It certainly would slow down the process of government. In front of the building is the lone grave of John Calvin (an influential British Governor who died in 1857 and had always asked to be buried in his favourite town of Agra. He must have had some respect to be granted his final request.
The small Mirror Palace (Shish Mahal) was closed to the public but it is possible to get an impact of this room, with the walls and ceilings covered in mirrors, by peering through the heavy doors. It would have been an incredible sight as the candle lights were reflected to infinity.
There’s a magnificent garden, overlooked by the harem, and real attempts have been made to restore this to its former glory. In truth it is not too difficult to imagine life in this palace under the autocratic leadership of the mighty Indian Emperors. Control and power positively exude from the very fabric of the building.