Magnificent fort Shahjahans Prison!

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by garymarsh6 on April 4, 2010

The Red Fort Agra.

The red fort which is known as Lil Qila can be found about a mile away from the Taj Mahal. It is also a UNESCO listed world heritage site. It is here that Shahjahan was to spend his final days in captivity. He was imprisoned there by his son Aurangzeb who ousted him from power because it is said due to his exuberant spending which if it continued would bankrupt the country. Shahjahan was kept in quarters on the Eastern side of the fort where he could gaze at the wonderful Taj Mahal where his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal was interred however he was never to set foot in the tomb again until of course he died where he was buried beside his wife. The quarters where Shahjahan was imprisoned were particularly ostentatious with lots of marble inlaid with jewels and gold and other precious stones. It was in the library where he is said to have fallen which caused his eventual death.

The Red fort is a massive magnificent fort made out of red sandstone and marble earliest mentions of the fort date back to around 1080. In total it covers 94 acres some of which is off limits to the public. It was added to over the years by successive rulers and if was from here that the great Mogul rulers ruled India namely Akbar, Humayun, Shahjahan and Aurangzeb. Akbar had nearly one and a half million labourers working on it and enlarging the fort which was completed after 8 hard years in 1573. Shahjahan completed even more work on it to make it even more luxurious.

The design of the fort is quite interesting in that there are three massive great gateways to enter the fort all built at angles to confuse the enemy as the entrances are off to the side. So they would charge through each gateway only to be met by another door to the side and yet another one on the opposite side. The massive gates did not really give that much room to manoeuvre and charge the gates full on. Halfway down the gates were vicious studs and hooks which would deter elephants being used to ram and knock the gates open. There was also a wooden draw bridge as well before you even got to the gates which made the fort practically impregnable. Having got through these gates which entered into courtyards soldiers would have been stationed high above and out of reach so that the enemy would have been easy targets. The outer walls are about 40 meters high and the inner walls are over 70 meters high.
Finally getting through the third main gateway there was a ramp way that is about 200 metres long that leads up to the palace grounds with very high sided walls which were ideal for the soldiers to remain in safety unlike the enemy well below and at their mercy. All kinds of things could have been dropped on them, Boulders, hot oils etc.
If you finally got to the top of this ramp then you were met by yet another gateway but to the right hand side there is the magnificent palace which actually consists of many different buildings within the fort. There are records that indicated that there were about 500 differnt buildings within the palace complex.
Entering the palace there are many doorways that you have to bend your head to enter the next set of rooms. This was so that if the enemy did manage to impregnate the palace soldiers would be ready to lop of the intruders head. Inside the actual palace there are private gardens used by the Emperor and his harem which were strictly off limits to men and guarded extremely harshly. The quarters of Shahjahan were particularly comfortable with ornate water features and beautiful gardens and lawns. Ornate dressing rooms covered in glass works and small mirrors all intricately designed in flowers birds and all kinds of beautiful things. Surprisingly looking at these quarters I certainly would not have minded being held prisoner here. The tops of these quarters are covered in gold and inside the palace it is marble clad encrusted with jewels and semi precious stones with views out over the Yamuna river and out to the Taj Mahal. Shahjahan also had his own private mosque for his own use and servants were on hand to meet his every demand. There were also several other mosques within the grounds for the royal family to use and also for members of the household.
There is a hall of private audience with a black marble throne where dignitaries and Royalty would have been received by the Mogul rulers. The harem in the palace was enclosed with covered walkways where the women could look out and watch what was going on in the court so that they were not seen by male visitors and remained in purdah.
There is also the hall of public audience where the Mogul Emperor would hold public audience and the women were discreetly kept behind intricately carved screens but could take part in proceedings often advising the Emperor when he was making decisions. The hall of public audience is very grand and is covered with intricately carved arches. It opens up into a massive square where 1000’s of people would be gathered to witness the justice meted out by the Emperor.

Some of the buildings are built of pure white marble and are wonderful to look at. Some are covered with copulas and others with domes. It truly is a remarkable place to visit.
This really is a magnificent place to visit and I would highly recommend spending an afternoon or morning here to explore this beautiful palace and fort. It certainly is very beautiful and also completes the picture of how things might have been in those days long gone and you can relate quite easily to the Story of Shahjahan and Mumtaz Mahal as the two historical buildings go hand in hand.

During British rule the British army used this fort for their base and today the Indian army still occupy the northern part of the fort such is the strong security of the place. The british army and subsequent occupiers have destroyed some of the buildings that were previously inside the fort to make way for barracks for the garrisons stationed within the grounds of the fort. However I would definitely say this place is a must place visit if you visit Agra.

Times of opening are from Sunrise to Sunset and Entry fees are 250 Rupees for a foreigner which is about £3.50. They also open late on the two nights either side of the full moon so that people can view the Taj Mahal during the early evening however this must be booked in advance.
Agra Fort

Agra, India

© LP 2000-2009