India Highlights: Part 2A

AGRA FORT

As soon as you walk towards Agra Fort, regardless of which gate you enter from, you can feel its scale and imposing grandeur even from a distance. The red sandstone – native to the northern parts of India – makes up the majority of the fort’s garrisons . Though the stone slabs are slightly discolored from dust and dirt, the vibrant hues of reds and pinks are captivatingly vibrant, adding some brightness to that overcast early-afternoon.

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Amar Singh Gate – visitor’s entrance into Agra Fort

We walked slowly across the path leading to the entrance of the fort (Amar Singh Gate – one of several gates, but the only one open to the public for entrance) and ticketing booth and stopped briefly to buy tickets. After we made our way to the security checkpoint and finally walked past the fortress’ enormous walls. If the red sandstone that enclosed the inner fort was supposed to provide any indication of what was to be revealed, it did an excellent job of keeping it a secret. Inside the landscaping and architecture of each structure was astounding. There were structures of complete sandstone inlaid with marble and jewels (at least the remaining jewels that were not stolen over the course of Agra’s imperial, British, and tourist history). Around a corner and through a dark hallway, you would enter bright courtyards of marble with carefully trimmed and decorated gardens filled with lush and fragrant flowers and plants. [Fun Fact: Tulsi, or basil for us common folk, holds special religious and medicinal purpose in the Hindu religion. A garden is often considered to be incomplete without this herb’s presence. Tulsi provides a fresh aroma throughout courtyards when there is a breeze and acts as a natural deterrent against mosquitoes!]

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Examples of red sandstone and marble used in the architecture of the Fort

To really get a sense of the enormity of the fort, you have to spend at least a good 1-2 hours to allow yourself to wander the grounds. I was really impressed by the fine detailing that each craftsman and architect had in creating the fort (not just for Agra Fort but for every other fort and structure scattered throughout India). The carvings, inscriptions, inlays, and designs were impeccable. The symmetry was amazingly exact. To think that so many hundreds of years ago (the fort has had historical significance since at least the 16th century when the Mughal Empire was in power) people were able to make such buildings continues to blow my mind – pretty crazy, I bet most people nowadays can’t even draw a straight line without a ruler, let alone an entire blueprint for a fort!

One of the neat surprises that I really enjoyed while at Agra Fort was getting to look across from several palace towers, past the Yamuna River (or what is left of it), and seeing the Taj Mahal out in the distance. Though it was still a little rainy and the humidity had created a bit of a haze my body filled with excitement – there it was. The Jewel of India. One of the Seven Wonders of the World. Seeing the Taj reminded me of the stories my father, and even some history teachers, would tell me when I was younger.

(ノ◕ヮ◕)ノ*:・゚✧  (Ignore the splotches, those were bugs zipping around in the air. But how cool?!)

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STORY TIME: (abridged version)

So, as we know, the Taj Mahal was ordered to be built by the 5th Mughal emperor Shah Jahan from 1631-1648 to commemorate and inter his most beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal. However, just a few years after the Taj’s completion, one of Shah Jahan’s sons, Aurangzeb, would forcefully takeover the throne and lock his father away in one of the prisons in Agra Fort. It is said that in his cell, Shah Jahan was able to see, in the distance, the splendor of the Taj. In his slowly weakening and worsening condition in prison, the former king became so bedridden that the only thing he requested was a mirror for him to reflect the image of the Taj Mahal on so he could see its beauty and soon be reunited with his wife. He eventually died in his cell and was interred alongside his wife in the Taj Mahal. (Bittersweet, right?)

The other neat surprise, was finding lots of cute critters (chipmunks, birds, and stray dogs to be exact) scampering around certain parts of the fort – particularly outside of the Jahangir Palace. I actually freaked out a little once the chipmunks felt a rush of bravery and started to approach my feet (I was wearing flip-flops). But it was a nice way to step away from the palace, masjid, and other architectural structures and take a closer look at the natural beauty within the fort’s gardens and lawns.

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With that, we began to wrap up our visit at Agra Fort and headed back out the gate to find our driver. Appetites quenched by our touristy excitement, we decided to skip lunch and head to our final stop: the Taj Mahal.

Want to learn more about Agra Fort? Click here!


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