Red Fort in Agra

The large fortress, built from 1566 under Akbar the Great and expanded under Shah Jahan, is one of the most important architectural testimonies of the Mughal Empire in India. According to aristmarketing, the complex is surrounded by a 2.5 km long wall of red sandstone. Inside there are representative palaces of fairytale elegance as well as mosques and gardens.

Red Fort in Agra: facts

Official title: Agra, Red Fort
Cultural monument: Fortification made of red sandstone, surrounded by a 2.5 km long fortress wall and a 10 m wide moat; partly fairytale palace complex with the Dschahangir Palace, the Khas Mahal built from white marble and the audience hall Diwan-i-Khas
Continent: Asia
Country: India, Uttar Pradesh
Location: Agra, west bank of the Yamuna River, south of Delhi
Appointment: 1983
Meaning: one of the most important buildings from the time of the Mughal rule

Red Fort in Agra: history

1565 Construction under the Mughal ruler Akbar the Great (1556-1605)
1566 until the death of Akbar the Great as the residence of the Mughal ruler
1632-37 Residence of Shah Jahan
1636-37 Construction of the audience hall, Diwan-i-Khas
1646-53 Construction of the marble pearl mosque
1648 Relocation of the capital of the Mughal Empire to Delhi
1803 British troops captured Agra

Peacock throne in the fortress mantle

For the vast majority of visitors, Agra is synonymous with the Taj Mahal. Only when they are on site are they surprised to find that the city is home to other great buildings from almost 200 years of Muslim rule. The Red Fort, a huge fortress, was a separate, self-contained imperial city with thousands of servants. The fortress is enclosed over a length of 2.5 kilometers by a twelve meter thick double wall surrounded by a moat. The gigantic fortress is a mirror of its time, a time when Akbar was the most important of all Mughal rulers. He arranged for the fort to be built when his power was far from being unrestricted.

While the Taj Mahal enchants all visitors at first glance, the fortress seems rather confusing at first. In contrast to the Taj Mahal, which was built within a comparatively short period of time under a single ruler, the ideas of several rulers were incorporated into the construction of the Red Fort over the course of more than a century. The architectural style of the buildings erected on an artificial hill on the south bank of the Yamuna River is as different as the attitudes of the individual Mughals. During Akbar’s time, who was extremely tolerant of religious issues, Christian, Hindu, Islamic and Jain style elements merged in the buildings. His successors clearly showed the handwriting of Islamic dogmatists.

From today’s perspective, it may come as a surprise that the huge palaces, assembly halls, pavilions and mosques were built using prefabricated structures. The relatively soft red sandstone was cut to size in the quarry. Then the individual parts were transported on ox carts to Agra, where they were put together in a kind of modular system to form a harmonious whole.

After Akbar the Great had expanded the borders of the empire many times over with military toughness and diplomatic skill and state revenues had skyrocketed, his successors could indulge in luxury. Shah Jahan had most of the buildings erected by his grandfather Akbar demolished because, as his chroniclers noted, they “seemed too modest” to him. Magnificent palaces made of marble were built in their place. The sinfully expensive marble slabs were embellished with gold painting and inlays made of semi-precious stones, open spaces and inner courtyards were covered with awnings made of white silk interwoven with gold threads and the floors were covered with silk carpets. Pleasantly scented rose water sprayed continuously from silver fountains. The jewel of fairytale splendor in the private audience hall was the two-by-one-and-a-half meter peacock throne made of pure gold, completely set with diamonds, the cushions of which were embroidered with 18,000 pearls and rubies. For the solemn inauguration of the precious piece of furniture, the Mughal ruler wore a robe so richly interspersed with jewels and diamonds that two servants had to support him.

But pride and decadence come before the fall: Shah Dschahan was chased from the throne by his son Aurangzeb because of his extravagance and placed under house arrest in the Red Fort. Often the distance to the Taj Mahal, which is barely a kilometer away, which cannot be bridged despite the proximity, must have been unbearable for him. “So close and yet so far” may be the opinion of many of the thousands of tourists who jostle their way into the Saman Burj, a small, octagonal tower, in which Shah Dschahan spent most of his eight-year imprisonment until his death.

Red Fort in Agra