The Red Fort dates back to the 10th century when it started as a simple mud and brick fortress on the banks of the River Yamuna. When Akbar – who was to become known as Akbar the Great (1564-1570) chose Agra as the capital of the Mughal empire, he set about rebuilding the fortress and followed the lines of its original layout, something that accounts for the irregular semi-circle shape of the outer bastioned walls. Started in 1565, it took eight years to build and was one of the largest fortified residences of the Mughal Empire, with over 500 buildings.
Surrounded by a double wall of red sandstone it consisted of battlements, towers and bastions and a wide moat. The outer wall is 40 feet high while the inner one is 70 feet high, all of which make it a formidable fortress. It was the use of red sandstone, which led to it being known as the Red Fort. Entry was gained by four gateways, the Delhi Gate, to the west, was the main entrance to the fort, this lead to the inner gate called the Hathi Pol or Elephant Gate. The gate to the south, the Amar Singh Gate or Akbar Darwazah is used by visitors to the fort today. These gates have drawbridges and are flanked by twin towers with entry being diagonally, requiring visitors to negotiate several right-angled turns before reaching the gate, a design that was intended to make it difficult for attackers to gain entry. The other two gates are no longer used, one on the north east side of the fortress and the Jal Darwazah or Water Gate, which was a private gate for the women facing the river.
Although the complex was originally designed as a fortress; it was partially converted into a palace (mahal) during the reign of Shah Jahan (1627-58). Shah Jahan, who was renowned for his construction work, built many of the residential buildings. Although the earliest of these dwellings, the Jahangiri Mahal, was built by Akbar as a palace for his women. The fortress in fact contains a number of palaces, mainly constructed during the reign of Shah Jehan, which was the golden period of Mughal architecture. It was during his reign that red sandstone was replaced by marble and Persian architecture became prominent in India. The Khas Mahal, the palace of Shah Jehan was the private rooms of the emperor. It overlooked the Anguri Bagh or the garden of grapes which he built in 1637. This was designed as a pleasant retreat for the royal ladies and to ensure their privacy. Surrounding the garden were the rooms of red sandstone built by Akbar for the imperial women attendants. Jehangiri Mahal built from 1565 to 1569, is a beautiful example of Mughal architecture. It has an impressive façade with an arched portal, a series of ornamental arches and an octagonal tower on each side.
Other buildings to be seen are the Diwan-I-Am or Hall of Public Audience which was constructed between the years of 1631 and 1640, as the place where the emperor addressed his subjects. The large assembly hall measures 201 feet by 67 feet having a flat roof and two arched red sandstone gateways to the north and south. The façade has an arcade with nine arches while the hall is divided into three aisles. It gives the appearance of being constructed in white marble although it is actually constructed in red sandstone and plastered with white shell plaster to resemble marble. The Machchi Bhawan or the Fish Chamber is believed to have been used to house gold fish for the emperor, with the rooms of the lower floor serving as the treasury. The stucco relief work is beautifully executed with the space between the stone brackets of the upper storey forming exquisitely moulded designs giving it the appearance of chiselled marble.
The Diwan-i-Khas or Hall of Private Audience was constructed in 1635 to be used by the emperor as a reception hall for important guests and for affairs the state. Open on three sides, with five arched openings which are supported on double columns. The chambers were decorated with exquisite inlay work in floral patterns on the borders of the dados and with relief carvings.
The antechamber of the Shish Mahal or the Chamber of Mirrors has steps leading to the Muthamman Burj, the double storied octagonal tower built by Shah Jehan for his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal. Musamman Burj is believed to have been built as the palace of Mumtaz Mahal. Built between the years of 1631 to 1640 it offers views of the Taj Mahal, which he built as the mausoleum for Mumtaz Mahal. It was the only view he was allowed of the Taj after he was imprisoned in the fort by his son Aurungzeb and it was here where he was to remain until his death.
To see more photographs and take a virtual tour of the site click on the photoshow below.