Palaces And Pavilions In Agra Fort

Between the Delhi Gate and the Jama Masjid stood the Tripulia Court, in which stood the Naubat Khana, from where musicians played to announce the arrival of important guests. Both the courtyard and the Naubat Khana were demolished by the British when they constructed the railway line.

To the right, at the end of the ramp linking the southern gateways with the royal pavilion, stands the red sandstone Jahangiri Mahal. It is believed to have been built by Akbar in 1570. Salim, Akbar's son and successor, adopted the name Jahangir (seizer of the world) on ascending the throne in 1605. The change of the name was evidently made to avoid confusion with Sultan Salim of Turkey. In view of this, the building could not have been called the Jahangiri Mahal in Akbar's time. Its name appears to reflect that Jahangir, shortly after becoming emperor, added a new fa?ade to his father's palace. Most probably, Jahangir enlarged the palace made by Akbar. Perhaps, this is why the exterior and interior of the building are completely different in style. Due to its location and single access point from the west side, the palace is believed to have formed part of the female quarters. A tradition that Jahangir remodeled the building specifically for his adored wife, Nur Jahan, might well be true. Fronting the building is Huaz-i-Jangiri, an enormous tank of red porphyry rock, believed to have been built in 1611. Its inscription refers to Jahangir.

The facade of the Jahangir Mahal is Islamic in form, although Hindu jharokhas, chhatris (cenotaphs) and chhajjas (balconies) are incorporated, as was normal in Mughal buildings. Here, the Hindu niceties of architecture have been incorporated and instead of fusion, it is a combination in stricter terms. White marble architecture delineates the blind arcades flanking the central iwan. A fringe of lotus buds decorates the arches, echoing the fourteenth century work of the Khalji sultans.

Within, the vestibule is basically Hindu in style, although its exquisite carving is saracenic. A gloomy domed hall follows and then Akbar's extraordinary courtyard is reached. Apart from the pointed arches of its gallery, this is entirely Hindu in style. Sumptuously carved columns and brackets, square-headed apertures and the general design appear to be inspired by Gwalior Fort. At Agra Fort, for the first time since the Muslims had ruled in India, they commissioned building in the Hindu architecture style, with very limited Islamic detail, rather than the other way round. Akbar, of course, may have built other similar structure at Agar Fort which preceded this example, but his later work, at Fatehpur Sikri, still survives to demonstrate effectively the strong influence that Hindu architecture traditions held on him in the middle of the region.

Seemingly Akbar was the least religiously bigoted of the great Moguls. He studied the religions of Hindus, Buddhists and even Christians. As a result, he eventually evolved his own philosophy. The philosophy came to be known as Din-e-Ilahi (God's Religion). It was a synthesis of basics of all the then prevailing philosophy. He tried to impose the same on his people but could not achieve much success. It appears that Akbar's views were genuinely held and only incidentally provided a way of uniting the subjects of his newly-formed empire. However, Akbar may have had this unifying aspect in mind when he gave precedence to Hindu architectural styles over Islamic. Alternatively, it may have been simply a question of local craftsmen better understanding the former. There is no conclusive evidence to support either view. And the experts disagree.

To the left lies the north hall. Its roof is supported by stone crossbeams which are sinuously carved with dragons. An opposite, the south hall, similar in the style, is much narrower. The east hall which retains some original stucco work (restored by the British) leads to an open quadrangle, from where its pillared face may be admired. From here also is the first of Agra Fort's viewpoints of the river Yamuna and the distant Taj Mahal sited on its bend. The slender columns of the rooftop chhatri, approached right, frame the scene even more attractively (beware the dangerously low balcony rail). The northward route continues, leading, via an archway, to a small, walled courtyard, which announces Shah Jahan's marble rebuilding of his grandfather's work. It is generally considered that Shah Jahan's buildings at Agra are even finer than those at Delhi, particularly with regard to their decorative inlay.

On the east side of the courtyard, right, is the 'Gold Pavilion', named from its gilded copper roofs. It is one of the pair which flanks the larger pavilion ahead all make up the Khas Mahal (House Palace), built by Shah Jahan for his private relaxation in 1636. It is representative of the mature Mughal architecture. In Khas Mahal both Islamic and Hindu forms are simplified and merged into a synthesized but distinct style. Makrana marble has been utilized as the dominant building material in Khas Mahal.

The roof of this side pavilions is in three parts, the central, curved sections being known as Bangalghar, as it imitates the roofs of Bengali huts. There is a fanciful tale that Shah Jahan intended the side pavilions to serve as quarters, respectively, for his two favorite daughters, however, it was uncommon for areas to be set aside for an exclusive use in this way.

The central pavilion ahead is approached from the courtyard, and it will probably be apparent immediately to those who have visited Delhi that this was the inspiration for the Red Fort's Diwan-i-Khas. The interiors of the Khas Mahal were partly restored in 1895. Dampened the heat, in winter, thick curtains protected occupants from the chill evening air.

As has been, Agra Fort combines work by Akbar, Jahangir and Shah Jahan, built at different periods, and therefore lacks the homogeneity of planning and design of Delhi's Red Fort. However, the British demolished far less here than at Delhi, and it therefore remains more pristine.

From the east side of the pavilions, as at Delhi, animal fights and other spectacles could be observed below on the then narrow piece of land between the fort and the river. At Agra, the Yamuna is only a trickle compared to the wide, fast-flowing river that it formerly was: Delhi now taken so much of the water upstream for its vastly increased populations.

To the north of this, three chambers comprise the gloomy Sheesh Mahal (Glass Palace), so-named from the mirror work decorations of its rooms. Originally, illuminations fountains and cascades were fitted within.

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