With the Taj Mahal overshadowing it, it is easy to forget that Agra has one of the finest Mughal forts in India. Just 2.5 kilometres apart, it is a UNESCO World Heritage monument and is frequently referred to as a walled city.
It was built in 1573 under the reign of Akbar – and it took more than 4000 workers and eight years of hardship to complete the fort. Walking through courtyard after courtyard of this palatial red-sandstone and marble fortress, your amazement will escalate as the scale of what was built here begins to sink in with you. Agra Fort lost its prominence as the Mughal kings' primary home when the Mughal dynasty's capital was transferred from Agra to Delhi in 1638.
Shah Jahan converted it into a palace, and after his son Aurangzeb usurped power in 1658, it later served as his gilded prison for eight years.
The Khas Mahal, a stunning marble pavilion and pool that served as Shah Jahan's residence, is located further along the fort's eastern flank. The elaborate marble grills frame views of the Taj.
The expansive courtyard at this location is Anguri Bagh, a garden that has just been revitalised. Akbar used to keep his 500-person harem in this rather innocent-looking gateway in the courtyard that now leads down a flight of stairs into a two-story maze of underground rooms and corridors. The Mathamman (Shah) Burj, a magnificent white-marble octagonal tower and palace, is next to the Khas Mahal. The Diwan-i-Khas (Hall of Private Audiences) is located along the fort's eastern wall as you enter the spacious courtyard and are intended for prominent dignitaries or foreign officials.
The hall previously hosted the fabled Peacock Throne of Shah Jahan, studded with priceless gems, including the renowned Koh-i-Noor diamond. When Jehangir was still Prince Salim, he had this throne built for him. The fort still maintains a maze of structures that constitute a city within a city and includes substantial underground portions as the fort's 2.5km-long, enormous double walls rise. The only entrance to the fort these days is through the Amar Singh Gate to the south, whose dogleg shape was intended to throw off attackers who managed to get past the crocodile-infested moat, the first line of defence.
Agra Fort Rakabgani, Agra 282003 India