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Agra Fort

Introduction
Agra Fort Agra Fort is counted among most popular and mighty forts of India. Its name is always associated with Mughal dynasty who ruled over India for more than 300 years. It is a historical fort located on the right bank of Yamuna river, in Agra city of North India. It lies in Uttar Pradesh state and major state tourism attraction under Uttar Pradesh Tourism. It was the main residence of the Mughal Emperors of Mughal dynasty till 1638. For more than 200 years, they ruled over India, from the fort, thus it remain an important power-center and trade center of India. After 1638. Mughals shifted their capital from Agra to Delhi. Many generations of Mughal dynasty lived in this fort thus it was considered as their most safe abode in India. During reign of different Mughal emperors, various construction activities, as per convenience, are carried out inside fort Agra Fort. They intensified its strength, security, raised the height to make it invincible fort of India. Considering its history and condition, it was declared as UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is about 2.5 km northwest of its much more famous sister monument, the Taj Mahal. The fort can be more accurately described as a walled palatial city. Agra Fort was built by Rajput king named Raja Badal Singh who named it Badalgarh Fort. Later, Lodi dynasty built many palaces and mosques inside the fort. It was fully renovated during the Mughal dynasty. It was originally constructed by Hindu ruler Badal and thus named as Badalgarh. During that time, fort was made up of bricks and considered as not enough strong to resist any strong attack. The renovation was started by Emperor Akbar when red sandstone was used in construction to strengthen & raise its outer wall. This also enhanced the look of Agra fort. Then Jahangir and Shah Jahan built many other structures inside the fort. It was constructed by the third Mughal emperor Akbar on the remains of an ancient site known as Badalgarh.

Location
Agra Fort is located on the right bank of the river Yamuna at Agra city of Uttar Pradesh in North India. It is UNESCO World Heritage site in Agra city thus considered as an important Agra tourist attraction. Agra fort is approx. 2.5 km north-west of its much more recognized sister monument, the Taj Mahal. As both the monuments are located on the bank of Yamuna river, so one can see Taj Mahal, from Agra fort. Its latitude and longitude are 27.176670 and 78.008075.

History
Agra Fort was constructed by the third Mughal emperor Akbar on the remains of an ancient site known as Badalgarh. Sikandar Lodi (1487-1517) was the first Sultan of Delhi to shift his capital from Delhi to Agra. After Sikandar Lodi who died in 1517, his son Ibrahim Lodi own the fort for 9 years up to he was defeated and killed in the battle of Panipat in 1526. Some of the palaces, wells and a mosque were built in the fort during the Lodi period. When Babur sent his son Humayun to Agra, he apprehends the fort and seized a huge treasure, which included the world famous 'Koh-i-noor' diamond as well. Babur built a baoli (step-wall) here. Humayun was crowned here in 1530. Nazam, a water-carrier (saqqa), who had saved Humayun from drowning, was crowned here as an emperor for half-a-day. Sher Shah of the Sur dynasty occupied Agra fort and garrisoned it when Humayun defeated at Bilgram in 1540. Akbar arrived in Agra in 1558. He ordered to renovate the fort with red sandstone. Some 4000 builders daily worked on it and it was completed in 8 years (1565-1573).

Abul Fazl, who was a court historian of Akbar, mention in his text that 5000 buildings were built here beautifully in Bengali and Gujarati style. Most of these buildings have now disappeared. Shah Jahan himself bulldoze some of these because to make room for his white marble palaces. Later, the British destroyed most of the buildings for raising barracks. Hardly 30 Mughal buildings have survived on the southeastern side. Of these, the Delhi-Gate, Akbari-Gate and ‘Bengali-Mahal’, are representative of buildings raised during the reign of Akbar.

Jahangir mostly resided at Lahore and in Kashmir; however he visited Agra regularly and lived in the fort. Shah Jahan, a great builder, carried out many modifications through construction in Agra fort. During Akbar rule, most the construction work was carried out by using red sandstone where as in reign of Shah Jahan, he used marble in most of his construction work. He was fond of marble construction due to its impressive look, great finishing. He raised many white marble palaces in fort complex. He also built three white marble mosques in it: Moti-Masjid, Nagina-Masjid and Mina-Masjid. Aurangzeb imprisoned his own father Shah Jahan, due to his difference regarding over-expenditure in construction of Taj Mahal complex. Shah Jahan remained under house arrest for for 8 years until he died in 1666. He was kept in Musamman Burj where Mumtaz Mahal lives in his life time. After his death he was also buried in the Taj Mahal, adjoining to Mumtaz Mahal grave. Muasamman Burj was one of the best marble palace with a tower having marble balcony with an excellent view of the Taj Mahal. The observatories around the two gates and on the riverside were built by Aurangzeb to strengthen its defenses.

Though Shah Jahan had formally transferred his capital to Delhi, in 1638, he continued to live here. But after his death, Agra lost its grandeur. Aurangzeb remained busy in the regional conflicts and wars. Yet, time and again, he lived here and held the durbar. Shivaji came to Agra fort in 1666 and met Aurangzeb in the Diwan-i-Khas. Aurangzeb died in 1707 and 18th century history of Agra Fort is a saga of sieges and plunder during which it was held by the Jats and the Marathas and finally the British captured it from the latter in 1803. The fort of Agra was an important site of battle during the Indian rebellion of 1857 Which was the reason of the end of the British East India Company’s rule in India.

Architecture
Area of the Agra Fort is spreacd over94 acres of land and it has a ear or semicircle plan. It’s chord lies parellels to the river and walls of fort is 70 feet tall. Double ramparts have been provided here with broad massive circular bastions at regular intervals. There are four gates on its four sides; one of the gates was called “khizri-gate” (the water gate) which opens to the river front, where ghats were provided. “The Delhi Gate” and “Lahore Gate” are notable. The Lahore gate is also popularly known as “Amar Singh Gate” for Amar Singh Rathore. The Delhi Gate is on the western side of Fort. It faces the city. It recognize as a largest of the four gates and a masterpiece of Akbar’s time. It was built about 1568 both to enhance security and as the king’s formal gate. The gate is decorated with inlay work in white marble. A wooden drawbridge was used to cross trench and reach the gate from mainland. Inside it there was a second layer of security called Hathi pol or elephant Gate, guarded by two life-sized stone elephants with their riders. The drawbridge, slight ascent, and 90-degree turn between the outer and inner gates make the entrance secure. The Delhi Gate can‘t be used by public because Indian Military is still using the northern portion of Agra Fort.

Abul Fazl, who was a court historian of Akbar, mention in his text that 5000 buildings were built here beautifully in Bengali and Gujarati style. Most of these buildings have now disappeared. Shah Jahan himself bulldoze some of these because to make room for his white marble palaces. Later, the British destroyed most of the buildings for raising barracks. Hardly 30 Mughal buildings have survived on the southeastern side, facing river. Of these, the Delhi-Gate, Akbari-Gate and ‘Bengali-Mahal’, are representative of buildings raised during the reign of Akbar. The most eminent of these remaining buildings is the Jahangiri Mahal; a multi-storied palace built by Akbar for his Begum, Jodha Bai. Among the other important structures that still remain are the Mausam Burj, the Diwan-i-khas, and the Shaha Burj. The Bengali Mahal built by red sandstone and is now split in to Akbar Mahal and Jahangiri Mahal.

Attractions
As we know that Agra fort was the main residence of most of the powerful Mughal emperors, thus it is obvious that they have made it in best way. It was the epicenter of all major political decisions and served as Mughal capital for more than 200 years. Their are many Agra fort attractions which we can see, during our Agra city tour or fort visit.
Anguri Bagh - 85 square, geometrically arranged gardens.
Diwan-i-Am (Hall of Public Audience) - used to as an assembly place to hear petitioners, once housed the Peacock Throne.
Diwan-i-Khas (Hall of Private Audience) - used to receive kings and dignitary, features black throne of Jehangir.
Golden Pavilions - beautiful pavilions with roofs shaped like the roofs of Bengali huts.
Jehangiri 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)- a tiny mosque; closed to the public.
Moti Masjid (Pearl Mosque) - a private mosque of Shah Jahan.
Musamman Burj - a large, octagonal tower with a balcony facing the Taj Mahal. It was built by Shah Jahan, for Mumtaz Mahal.
Nagina Masjid (Gem Mosque) - mosque designed for the ladies of the court, featuring the Zenana Mina Bazaar (Ladies Bazaar) right next to the balcony, where only female merchants sold wares.
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 (Glass Palace) - royal dressing room featuring tiny mirror-like glass-mosaic decorations on the walls.

Best time to visit
The Agra Fort in Agra city, remains open for visitors, from sunrise till sunset. The climate of Agra is generally hot and dry throughout the year. Here Winter season prevails from November to February. In this period, average temperature remains 7°C in morning hours and daytime temperature is around 15°C. Majority of tourists prefers to undertake Agra tour in this period. Here summer prevails from April to July month when morning temperature of morning hours is a28°C and daytime temperature reached 40°C. Here monsoon season can be experienced from July end to October beginning. Majority of tourists prefers to visit from October to April month thus it is the best time to visit Agra. It is a heritage tourism destination thus climatic condition plays important role in tourism movement. Tourists have to roam around in open sunlight so post monsoon period, winters and autumn seasons are best time to visit. Peak summers is challenging period. Many tourists decides their timing according to maintenance work that often going on at Taj Mahal. Both the World Heritage sites are often visited together.

How to reach
Agra is well connected to Delhi, Jaipur, Mathura, Bharatpur, Gwalior etc. by the means of air. Railway is another option to reach there. People from faraway places come to visit Agra's Red Fort. It is simply stunning, a mind-blowing experience, the impact of which remains forever.
AGRA DISTANCE CHART
Route Approx. Distance Direction (From Agra)
Agra to Delhi 210 Kms North West
Agra to Mathura 60 Kms North West
Agra to Vrindavan 75 Kms North West
Agra to Fatehpur Sikri 35 Kms West
Agra to Bharatpur 50 Kms West
Agra to Jaipur 250 Kms West
Agra to Ranthambore 290 Kms South West
Agra to Pushkar 390Kms South West
Agra to Lucknow 340 Kms East
Agra to Varanasi 630 Kms South East
Agra to Gwalior 120 Kms South
Agra to Shivpuri 240 Kms South West
Agra to Jhansi 250 Kms South
Agra to Orchha 270 Kms South
Agra to Khajuraho 420 Kms South East
Agra to Sariska National Park 250 Kms North West
Agra to Allahabad 480 Kms South East
One can choose the option of his choice for traveling because it is easy accessible from all the means of transport as by bus, taxi, train or by air too.

By Air - Service to Agra's Kheria Airport is limited due to the airport's primary function as an air force base. Currently the city is served by Air India. Flights are usually on time and provide connection to Delhi and Mumbai. Although one can save time traveling by air to Agra, the limited flight options are a turn off to many who opt to visit the city by train or by car.
By Train - Agra is on the main train line on the Delhi-Mumbai and Delhi-Chennai routes. Many trains are connecting Agra with these cities every day. Some eastbound trains from Delhi stop in Agra so direct connection to points in eastern India as Kolkata are available. There are close to 20 trains to Delhi every day, and at least three or four to both Mumbai and Chennai. Agra and Delhi are infamous for their thick winter fog which reduces visibility to almost zero. If traveling in late December or early January (fog season), travelers should be aware that because of the reduced visibility, all trains travel slowly and thereby increases travel time. There are three stations in Agra: Agra Fort Station, Agra Cantt Station and Raja ki Mandi.
By Road - A number of buses connect Agra with Delhi. It takes around 4-5 hours to reach Agra by bus. There are three main interstate bus stands:
Idgah Bus Stand- is the primary bus stand for traveling towards Rajasthan/Madhya Pradesh, in the heart of the city, 8 km from the Taj. The wells run Rajasthan Government (RSRTC) bus to Jaipur (roughly one bus per hour) departs from Hotel Sakura near Id-gah bus stand.
ISBT- at Transport Nagar, 12 km from the Taj, is an interstate bus terminal. Most intercity buses pass through here, except for buses originating from Idgah Bus Stand going to Rajasthan. For local sightseeing in Agra, it is better to hire a taxi on a full day basis. A reliable way of booking your cab is to do so online. Also, you can book a taxi at your hotel or outside the railway station. There is a government authorized taxi stand. It is best to negotiate price with the driver directly or book trough some online car rental portal.

Other Interesting Facts
Many people confuse the much smaller Red Fort at Delhi with Agra Fort. The Mughals never referred the Delhi Red Fort as a fort; comparatively, they referred Delhi structure as the 'Lal Haveli', or the Red Bungalow. It is the same heritage building on which, Prime Minister of India addresses the nation on Independence Day of India i.e. August 15. So rather than mentioning it as Red Fort, we prefer to call it Agra Fort so as to avoid any confusion among readers.

UNESCO designated the Agra Fort as a World Heritage Site in 1983. The Agra Fort played a key role in the Sherlock Holmes mystery, The Sign of the Four, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Egyptian pop star Hisham Abbas featured the Agra Fort in the hit music video Habibi Da.

Shivaji, founder of the Maratha empire, came to Agra in 1666 C.E. in accord with the terms of "Purandar Treaty" with Mirza Raje Jaisingh. He met Aurangzeb, emperor of the Mughal Empire, in the Diwan-i-khas. In the audience, his host intentionally placed his guest behind men of lower rank. Insulted, Shivaji stormed out of the imperial audience. Arrested and confined to Jai Sing's quarters on May 12, 1666, Shivaji, imagining dungeons and execution, escaped on August 17, 1666, in a famously sweet legend. A heroic equestrian statue of Shivaji has been erected outside the fort. The fort presents a typical example of the Mughal architecture, displaying the North Indian style of fort construction. In South India, officials commonly constructed forts on sea beds like the one at Bekal in Kerala. In the second expansion pack for Age of Empires 3, the Asian Dynasties, the game designers presented Agra fort as one of five wonders of Indian civilization.

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