The Agra Fort and Its Monuments (Contd.)


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The Khas Mahal

With the beautiful Anguri Bagh outstretched at its feet, the Khas Mahal is the most beautiful palace of Shah Jahan in the Agra Fort. The palace, designed to edge the Yamuna on one side and the Anguri Bagh on the other, displays the meticulous planning of the emperor. The whole building is made of white marble, its interiors housing a spacious hall overlooking the river through marble screens. The palace is lavishly painted in conventional and floral patterns.

The Sheesh Mahal

The Sheesh Mahal (the glass palace) is located on the north-western corner of the Anguri Bagh, just below the Diwan-i-Khas. It has the finest specimens of glass-mosaic decorations in India.

The Musamman Burj

The Musamman Burj (the octagonal tower) was perhaps the earliest of Shah Jahan’s marble palaces. The spacious pavilion surmounts the most projecting circular bastion of the riverside. It was at the Musamman Burj that his son, Aurangzeb, held Shah Jahan as a prisoner. The emperor finally died here in full view of the Taj Mahal.

The Mina Masjid

The Mina Masjid is situated to the south-east of the Diwan-i-Khas, above the Sheesh Mahal apartments. Believed to be constructed by Shah Jahan for "a strictly private use," the palace-mosque is enclosed on all sides by high walls. The most important feature here is the small chhajja (sunshade) above the arcade, which is supported on four exquisitely carved small brackets of white marble.

The Machchhi Bhawan

Originally a water palace, the Machchhi Bhawan has a beautiful pavilion with exquisitely chiselled marble pillars. The Diwan-i-Khas is situated on its south-eastern corner on the first floor.

The Diwan-i-Khas

The Diwan-i-Khas (hall of private audience) was constructed in 1635. The jalis and the inlay work on the borders of the dados (section of a pedestal between base and surbase), with carved plants in the middle, are gracefully designed and executed. The dalan (courtyard) is open on three sides and has double columns with judiciously distributed inlay and carved relief work. There is a Persian inscription on the south wall of the dalan that praises Shah Jahan and the palace: "Sa’adat sarāi wa humayũn asās."

The Nagina Masjid

The Nagina Masjid, situated on the north-western corner of the Machchhi Bhawan, is one of the most beautiful creations of Shah Jahan’s reign. Attached to the harem (royal seraglio), it was a private mosque constructed by the emperor for his own use. The mosque has an open court that spreads on three sides.

The Diwan-i-Aam

The Diwan-i-Aam (hall of public audience) served as the grand assembly hall. Situated in the great quadrangle, the façade is composed of an arcade with nine arches supported on strong double columns. The construction is in red sandstone, but the whole has been overlaid with white shell plaster that gives the effect of white marble.

The Moti Masjid

The Moti Masjid (pearl mosque) is situated to the north of the Diwan-i-Aam. Built on a high plinth, it is a unique mosque in that it faces the Yamuna and the rising sun. The mosque measures 234.3 feet (71.40 metres) from east to west and 187.8 feet (57.20 metres) from north to south. The exterior of the mosque, made of red sandstone, looks plain and unimpressive. But it was designed to be so—the architect reserved his skills for the white-marbled interior, which is richly decorated.

The Moti Masjid has the conventional plan of an Indian mosque, comprising a central court with cloisters on its three sides and the sanctuary on the west. Three bulbous domes, of pure white marble, crown the sanctuary.

The Water System of the Fort

The water system at the Agra Fort was divided into two sections. The Khas Mahal tank, along with its thirty-two fountains, and the Anguri Bagh ponds received their supply of water from the tanks located overhead the water pavilion to the north of the Jahangiri Mahal. The second section of the water system took its supply from the Yamuna River. The latter was, in fact, the main water system, the neglect of which the emperor Shah Jahan had to pay with a heavy price.

After the decisive battle of Samugarh in 1658 (fought between Aurangzeb and Murad Bakhsh, third and fourth sons of the emperor, on the one side, and the eldest son and heir apparent, Dara Shikoh, on the other), Aurangzeb rushed to Agra and besieged the fort. When all negotiations with the emperor failed, and when Aurangzeb realized that the fort was impregnable, he hit upon a clever stratagem and cut off the water supply to the fort. Forced in his old age and sickness to quench his thirst with well water, Shah Jahan wrote a touching letter to his son:

My Son, my hero!
Why should I complain of the unkindness of Fortune,
Seeing that not a leaf is shed by a tree without God’s will?
Only yesterday I was the master of nine hundred thousand troopers and today
I am in need of a pitcher of water!
Praised be the Hindus in all cases,
As they ever offer water to their dead,
And thou, my Son, art a marvellous Musalman,
As thou causest me in life to lament for (lack of) water!

The letter, however, failed to melt the heart of Aurangzeb. After holding for three more days, Shah Jahan was compelled to open the gates of the fort to the forces of Aurangzeb.

The Hammam-i-Shahi

The Hammam-i-Shahi or the Shah Burj, situated on the other side of the Diwan-i-Khas terrace, was not a Turkish bathroom as is generally supposed. Although it had all the paraphernalia associated with a bathroom, including an intricate water system with a complex of miniature tanks sunk into the wall, it was actually an ‘air-conditioned’ apartment used as a summer retreat. It is believed that business of a very confidential nature was conducted in this quarter.

Agra Fort

Agra, India

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