Agra Fort Part I

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Koentje3000 on November 23, 2006

The Red Fort (Hindi: लाल किला or Lal Qila) of Agra is slightly smaller than its counterpart in Delhi but at least as interesting and beautiful. It is Agra's second sight to be included on the UNESCO World Heritage list, next to the city's main claim to fame, the Taj Mahal. Although the beauty of the white marble mausoleum is unrivalled, the fort is definitely an edifice that should not be missed when you are visiting Agra, even if you are only here for a day.

The probable founder of Agra, the Afghan ruler Sikander Lodhi, built a mud and brick fort at the site of the present-day fort. His son Ibrahim was defeated by the first Mughal ruler in India, Babur, and his son and future emperor Humayun, who soon took Delhi and Agra. After the death of Humayun, his 13-year old son Akbar, later named "The Great," became an emperor who extended the Mughal empire as far as Kabul in the west and the Bengal in the east. He rebuilt and fortified the Lodhi fort with the present-day almost impregnable red sandstone walls. He beautified the interior of the fort with many palaces and mosques, most notably the dark red palace with marble inlay for his son and successor Salim, named Jehangiri Mahal after his offspring's nickname.

Jehangir's son Prince Khurram, better known as Shah Jahan or "Lord of the World" in the Persian language of the Mughal court, extended the fort to its current grandeur and splendour. The Shah is regarded as the greatest builder of the Mughal empire, with the Taj Mahal, the Red Fort of Delhi or the Moti Masjid in Lahore, only to name the most famous, accredited to him. The next emperor Aurangzeb, son of Shah Jahan, was a harsh and strict ruler, leading to lots of local resentment. This ultimately resulted to the crumbling of the Mughal empire under his weak successor and son Bahadur. Agra was then ruled by the Marathas, a group of Hindu warriors, and afterwards by the British. Under these last rulers the fort was used as a military base, leading to decay or even destruction of many buildings inside the fort. It was only at the end of the colonial rule and the start of Indian self-governance that large restoration plans were finally put in place. Even now a portion of the fort is still under Indian military occupation.

The fort is 2km west of Agra's world-famous Taj Mahal and a visit is easy to combine. The boulevard between the two monuments is completely free of fuel-powered vehicles because exhaust fumes were damaging the white marble. However, many alternatives are available to get to the fort, including walking, battery-powered buses, bicycle rickshaws and even camel-drawn carts.

(continued in part II)
Agra Fort

Agra, India

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