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Agra Fort
 
Agra Fort
 

Agra Fort is a UNESCO World Heritage site located in Agra, India. The fort is also known as Lal Qila, Fort Rouge and Red Fort of Agra. It is about 2.5 km northwest of its more famous sister monument, the Taj Mahal. The fort can be more accurately described as a walled city.

It is the most important fort in India. The great Mugals, Humayun, Akbar, Jehangir, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb lived here, and the country was governed from here. It contained the largest state treasury and mint. It was visited by foreign ambassadors, travelers and dignitaries.

Layout

The 94-acre fort has a semicircular plan, its chord lies parallel to the river and its walls are seventy feet high. Double ramparts have massive circular bastions at intervals, with battlements, embrasures, machicolations and string courses. Four gates were provided on its four sides, one Khizri gate opening on to the river.

Two of the fort's gates are notable: the "Delhi Gate" and the "Lahore Gate." The Lahore Gate is also popularly also known as the Amar Singh Gate, for Amar Singh Rathore.

The monumental Delhi Gate, which faces the city on the western side of the fort, is considered the grandest of the four gates and a masterpiece of Akbar's time. It was built circa 1568 both to enhance security and as the king's formal gate, and includes features related to both. It is embellished with inlay work in white marble, proof to the richness and power of the Great Mughals. A wooden drawbridge was used to cross the moat and reach the gate from the mainland; inside, an inner gateway called Hathi Pol ("Elephant Gate") - guarded by two life-sized stone elephants with their riders - added another layer of security. The drawbridge, slight ascent, and 90-degree turn between the outer and inner gates make the entrance impregnable. During a siege, attackers would employ elephants to crush a fort's gates. Without a level, straight run-up to gather speed, however, something prevented by this layout, elephants are ineffective.

Because the Indian military (the Parachute Brigade in particular) is still using the northern portion of the Agra Fort, the Delhi Gate cannot be used by the public. Tourists enter via the Amar Singh Gate.

The site is very important in terms of architectural history. Abul Fazal recorded that five hundred buildings in the beautiful designs of Bengal and Gujarat were built in the fort. Some of them were demolished to make way for his white marble palaces. Most of the others were destroyed by the British between 1803 and 1862 for raising barracks. Hardly thirty Mughal buildings have survived on the south-eastern side, facing the river. Of these, the Delhi Gate and Akbar Gate and one palace - "Bengali Mahal" - are representative Akbari buildings.

Akbar Darwazza (Akbar Gate) was renamed Amar Singh Gate by the British. The gate is similar in design to the Delhi Gate. Both are built of red sandstone.

The Bengali Mahal is built of red sandstone and is now split into Akbari Mahal and Jahangiri mahal.

Some of the most historically interesting mixing of Hindu and Islamic architecture are found here. In fact, some of the Islamic decorations feature haraam (forbidden) images of living creatures - dragons, elephants and birds, instead of the usual patterns and calligraphy seen in Islamic surface decoration.

Sites and structures

Anguri Bagh (Grape Garden)- 85 square, geometrically arranged gardens

Diwan-i-Am (Hall of Public Audience) - was used to speak to the people and listen to petitioners and once housed the Peacock Throne

Diwan-i-Khas (Hall of Private Audience) - was used to receive kings and dignitary, features black throne of Jehangir

Golden Pavilions - beautiful pavilions with roofs shaped like the roofs of Bengali huts

Jahangiri Mahal - built by Akbar for his son Jehangir

Khas Mahal - white marble palace, one of the best examples of painting on marble

Macchi Bhawan (Fish Enclosure) - grand enclosure for harem functions, once had pools and fountains

Mina Masjid (Heavenly Mosque) - private mosque used by mujahara

Moti Masjid (Pearl Mosque) - mosque built for use by members of royal court

Musamman Burj - a large, octagonal tower with a balcony facing the Taj Mahal

Nagina Masjid (Gem Mosque) - mosque designed for the ladies of the court

Naubat Khana (Drum House) - a place where the king's musicians played

Rang Mahal - where the king's wives and mistresses lived

Shahi Burj - Shah Jahan's private work area

Shah Jahani Mahal - Shah Jahan's first attempt at modification of the red sandstone palace

Sheesh Mahal or Shish Mahal (Mirror Palace) - royal dressing room featuring tiny mirror-like glass-mosaic decorations, and drums built into the walls.

Zenana Mina Bazaar (Ladies Bazaar) - right next to the balcony, where only female merchants sold wares

 
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    Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agra_Fort
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