Agra Fort


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Agra which lies on the west bank of river Jamuna became one of the principal cities of the Mughal Empire after the death of Ibrahim Lodi at Panipat in 1526. When Akbar choose Agra as his capital he laid the foundation of the fort of Agra. After Taj this was one of the most important group of buildings. The construction was started in 1565 and was completed in about eight years at a cost of thirty five lakhs of rupees under the superintendence of Qasim Khan Mir Barr-u-Bahr. This fort was just one of the many large fortified residences that the emperor wanted to have at various strategic points of his empire. According to contemporary chroniclers like Abul Fazal the fort contained over five hundred buildings. But later on Akbar's descendants added new buildings, mainly in marble to the fort and demolished the old ones.

During Akbar's time Jamuna was a mighty river and it touched the fort. A large number of ghats were built during Akbar's period. Some of the ghats were meant for handling goods and some particularly reserved for use by the harem inmates. Covered passages were specifically built for this purpose.

Diwan-i-Khas Diwan-i-Khas or Private Audience Hall stands on a well carved plinth, about 3’ high, and is entered from the Throne Terrace (two marble thrones are placed in front of each other). As per Lahauri the Diwan-i-Khas was constructed in 1635 A.D. He has designated the interior hall as Tambi khana and particularly mentions the wooden flat ceiling which was covered with silver leaves in relief. This room was used by the emperor for reception of kings, ambassadors and nobles in private and also for dealing with important affairs of the state.

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The Moti Masjid or Pearl Mosque is situated on the northern side of the Diwan-i-Am quadrangle. This mosque was constructed between 1648-54. The mosque stands on a high ground sloping from east to west. From outside the structure appears to be made of brick, but inside it is completely made of marble. This mosque was completed at a cost of three lakhs of rupees.

Externally the mosque measures 243’ x 187’. The main courtyard which is nearly a square is about 154’ x 158’ and is paved with marble. In the centre of the court is a marble tank which is about 37’7” square and near the south-eastern corner is a sun-dial comprising an octagonal marble pillar. The courtyard is surrounded by cloisters on its three sides (north, east and south) which is about 11’ deep. The western side is occupied by the prayer chamber. The arcaded cloister is composed of twelve sided pillars and cusped arches. The cloister is protected by a chhajja on its three sides.

The main entrance to the mosque was provided on the eastern side, which is larger and beautiful than the subsidiary gates. This was approached by two staircases. Externally this gateway is made of red sandstone, but internally it is made of marble. Two more subsidiary gates were provided in the middle of the southern and northern cloister. Both gateways have an arched entrance and they were crowned by three square chhatris.

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The marble prayer chamber on the western side is about 159’ x 56’ and is three aisles deep with an arcade of seven arches. Out of the twenty-one bays of the chamber only three have vaulted soffits whereas others are spanned by horizontal beams. In the interior a beautifully carved and inlaid mihrab has been provided on the western wall. Six niches have also been provided on the western wall corresponding to the arches of the façade. The pulpit has four steps, instead of the usual three. On either side’s chambers for the women worshippers was provided. They were connected to the main hall by screen of marble lattice work. The arcade was protected by a chhajja and above the parapet seven beautiful square chhatris was provided. At each corner of the prayer chamber an octagonal tower crowned by a marble cupola was provided. Similar towers were also provided on the north-eastern and south-eastern corners of the open marble courtyard in front of the mosque. Three graceful bulbous domes crown the prayer chamber. The central dome was a little larger and higher than the other two. The entablature over the front row of arches bears a long Persian inscription in Nastaliq inlaid in black slate.