Agra Fort is located on the right bank of the river Yamuna in the city of Agra in Uttar Pradesh. It has also been declared as UNESCO World Heritage site. It is one of the most historically important strong-hold of the Mughals, containing a intircately decorated buildings encompassing the imposing Mughal style of art and architecture. It 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 held the fort for 9 years until he was defeated and killed in the battle of Panipat in 1526. Humayun not only captured the fort but also seized a vast treasure, which included the world famous ‘Koh-i-noor’ diamond as well. Humayun was coronated here in 1530. After Humayun’s defeat at Bilgram in 1540 by the hands of Sher Shah of the Suri dynasty occupied Agra fort and garrisoned it.
Akbar arrived in Agra in 1558. He ordered the renovation of the fort with red sandstone and it was completed over a period of 8 years (1565-1573). The fort has been built on a semi-circular plinth plan, which is surrounded by a 21.4 m high fortification wall on all sides. 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 once opened to the Yamuna river front, where ghats (quays) were provided, but as on date the rive has gradually shrunk away from the fort. The fort spreads over an area of about 94 acres of land. Abul Fazl, a court historian of Akbar, had recorded in his memoirs that 5000 buildings had been built in Bengali and Gujarati style. Most of these buildings have now disappeared. Shah Jahan himself demolished some of these in order 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.
After the reign Akbar, his successor Jahangir mostly resided at Lahore and in Kashmir, though he visited Agra regularly and lived in the fort. The next in line of accession to the Mughal throne, Shah Jahan was a great builder and he raised white marble palaces here. He also built three white marble mosques in it: Moti-Masjid, Nagina-Masjid and Mina-Masjid. Built during the reign of Shah Jahan, the Diwan-i-Aam (Hall of Public Audience) was used for durbars, formal receptions in which the emperor would conduct state business while ceremoniously enthroned. 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 in 1666 and met Aurangzeb in the Diwan-i-Khas. As fate would have it, Aurangzeb imprisoned Shah Jahan, his own father, in the fort for 8 years until he died in 1666 and was buried in the Taj Mahal. The barcades around the two gates and on the riverside were built by Aurangzeb to strengthen its defenses. 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, the Marathas and finally the British captured it from the latter in 1803.
Agra Fort is entered today at the south end, through a low outer wall and gate built by Aurangzeb. Visitors then pass in succession through two of Akbar's gates, the Amar Singh and the Akbari, before finally gaining admittance to the fort proper. The original entrance to the fort was through the grander Delhi Gate in the west wall. The details of gates & buildings of Agra fort are detailed as follows –
Amar Singh Gate - The gate was originally tiled. Although the colorful tile has been lost, the inlay patterns remain in the stone into which they were set. For defensive reasons, this gate is placed perpendicular to the walls.
Akbari Gate - is the third and final gate which guards the south entrance to the fort. The gate pierces the fort's massive inner wall between these two protective towers, which still retain some traces of their original tiling.
Jahangiri Mahal - This palace takes its name from Jahangir, but was built by Akbar sometime between 1560 and 1580. Lacking ground-story windows, it might have been used by the royal ladies. The large bowl in front was carved in 1611 from a single block of porphyry; it is variously said to have been used as a cistern, or as Jahangir's bathtub.
Muthamman Burj - On the east side of the fort, this octagonal pavilion looks out across the Jumna River and countryside, and downstream to the Taj Mahal. It is said to be the tower where Shah Jahan was imprisoned.
Courtyard - This is one of two courtyards flanking the Khass Mahal. Its curving Bengali style roof imitates the shape of Bengali marriage palanquin and symbolic of the unmarried status of Jahanara, sister of Shah Jahan. The palace overlooks the Jumna river to the east.
Khass Mahal - or Private Pavilion dates back to 1636. This was probably a multifunction room that could have been used for various kinds of gatherings, or even for sleeping. It has ornate and intricate work on its marble pillars and bases.
Diwan-i-Khass - or Hall of Private Audience was built in 1635 and was used to receive heads of state, ambassadors, and other diplomatic visitors to the Mugal court. The open area below the terrace level constitutes a garden, the Anguri Bagh (Grape Garden). Underneath the terrace is a barrack of rooms and chambers including hot-weather retreats and possibly a dungeon whose entry is now blocked.
Diwan-i-Aam - The Hall of Public Audiences, made of red sandstone, was constructed by Shahjahan. It is here the emperor met officials and commoners and listened to the petitioners. The women of the palace could watch the court without being seen by others from the pavilion through jali (lattice) screens. The open sided, cusped arched hall (64x23m) built of plaster on red stone, is very impressive. The throne alcove of richly decorated white marble completed after 7 years work in 1634 was used to house the famous Peacock Throne, later shifted to Delhi by Aurangazeb and was finally carried away to Iran.
Nagina Masjid - or the gem mosque is a private mosque raised by Shah Jahan with typical cusped arches for ladies of the court. There is Mina bazar for the royal ladies to buy things from the marble balcony beneath the Nagina Masjid.
Moti Masjid - near the Nagina Masjid is a perfectly proportioned pearl mosque built in white marble. This grand mosque has three domes in white marble raising their heads over the red sandstone wall.
Mina Masjid – was a small mosque built inside the fort next to the Diwan-i-Khas and is said to have been used by Shah Jahan during the time he was imprisoned in the fort.