The City of Shah Jahan

With the Taj Mahal as the main attraction, it is easy to forget that Agra is home to one of India’s finest Mughal forts. Overlooking the bank of the Yamuna, construction of the fort began in 1565 under the Mughal Emperor Akbar. It was only during the reign of Akbar’s grandson Shah Jahan that the fort took its current state. Shah Jahan transformed the military structure in to a palace, making extensive use of white marble on the red-sandstone fortress.  The fort would go on to serve as Shah Jahan’s prison after being deposed by his son, Aurangzeb.  

The fort itself is more like a walled city. Its enormous double walls rise to a height of 20m and measure 2.5km in circumference. It contains a maze of buildings along with vast underground sections. Many structures were destroyed over the course of time as the fort was used as garrison by Nadir Shah, the Marathas, Jats and finally, the British. The efficiency of the structure is highlighted by the fact that much of the fort is still under the use of the Indian Army, and as result, not open to the public.

Tickets can be purchased from the Amar Singh Gate. Its design was meant to confuse attackers who had gone past the first line of defence; the crocodile infested moat. From here you can go straight to the Moti Masjid (Pearl Mosque). Just before the Masjid, to the right is the Diwan-i-Am (Hall of Public Audiences). This was used by the emperor for listening to petitions and dealing with other domestic issues. In the large courtyard next to the hall is the Nagina Masjid (Gem Mosque), built in 1635 for the ladies in court. On the far side of the courtyard, along the eastern wall of the fort is the Diwan-i-Khas (Hall of Private Audiences).This was reserved for meeting important dignitaries and foreign representatives. It was also home to the famous and magnificent Peacock Throne, inset with precious stones including the Koh-i-noor diamond. The river originally flowed across this eastern side of the fort and you can still get a good view of the Taj Mahal along the river from here.

Further along the eastern edge, you will find the Mausamman Burj. This white-marble octagonal tower served as Shah Jahan’s prison in his final years. It is rumoured he died at the balcony of the tower, from where he had an excellent view of the Taj.

The Agra Fort is open 7 days a week, from sunrise to sunset. The entrance fee for foreigners is Rs. 520 and Rs. 20 for locals. It is less than 2 kilometres away from the Taj and can reached by cabs or rickshaws from the train station.


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