When the great Mughal Emperors made Agra their capital in the 16th century, India’s most important fortress became seat of government, royal city and strategic stronghold all in one. Art and commerce flourished, initiating a golden age which lasted for several generations. Akbar the Great, Red Fort Agra Ascending the throne at the age of 14, Akbar the Great soon proved an enlightened ruler. His policy of conciliation towards Hindu chiefs and commoners ensured loyalty and growing prosperity, filling the Treasury’s coffers beyond expectations. In 1565, he set upon rebuilding the fort so it would be worthy of his empire. The work took eight years to complete, majestic ramparts, sturdy gates and some 500 buildings. The walls still stand but little remains of the early buildings, except the red sandstone palace built for his son Jahangir in a blend of Hindu and Islamic styles, later remodeled. An upmarket bazaar was set up for the harem and a grape garden laid with Kashmir soil. Emperor Jahangir in Agra Overshadowed by his father’s achievements, Emperor Jahangir showed little interest in building or politics, turning his attention to sumptuous living and miniature paintings of animals and flowers. Far more influential was a pretty lady of Persian descent whom he married in 1611. Nur Jahan, the Light of the World, became the true ruler and a keen patron of the arts from painting and poetry to architecture, gardens and interior design. She set the fashion at the Red Fort Court and built a beautiful tomb for her father across the river. This was the first Mughal structure of white marble and is often regarded as the precursor of the Taj Mahal.
Shah Jahan and the Red Fort of Agra
Emperor Shah Jahan, later the architect of Old Delhi, was the greatest builder of them all. Unlike previous emperors who worked with sandstone, he loved marble, enhanced with floral patterns and inlaid carvings. Redesigning or replacing many of the old buildings, he gave the interior of the Red Fort a palatial appearance, satisfying his lavish taste for elegance, refinement and space. Shah Jahan’s finest buildings in Agra’s Red Fort include the Halls of Public and Private Audience, once home to his magnificent Peacock Throne, the Pearl Mosque and the lovely airy pavilions of the Khas Mahal. He also remodeled the Jasmine Tower where he would end his life under house arrest, gazing at his most celebrated masterpiece, the Taj Mahal mirrored in the river beyond the red walls.