In Agra, ambling about the Red Fort

Red Fort
Entrance of the Red Fort

The first day of my trip to India was spent in Agra, and the very first monument I’ve visited in the muslim-populated city was the huge Red Fort, the country’s most important fortress.

Most Mughal kings have lived there, and from here they also used to rule the country. This fort was started during the era of emperor Akbar the Great and is an impressive collaboration of palaces added by the following generations of kings, such as Jahangir, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb, covering taste, mood, personality of every emperor who commissioned each piece.

The building is massive, very likely it was built in place of the old Badalgarh Fort, stronghold of Rajput rulers. Surrounded by a double wall, of which the outer one is 40 ft high and the inner one 70 ft, the fort was started in 1565 and completed in eight years, matching the different tastes of each of the Mughal kings that contributed in its creation.

Red Fort
Jahangir’s Palace

I loved ambling along the alleys and the many palaces inside the Fort, while my guide Danish slowly unfolded the tales and legends behind every wall of the fort.

One of the greatest buildings is the red-sand-stone Jahangir’s Palace, built by Akbar the Great. History here is a little confused, the palace is believed to have been built by the king for his son, then later emperor Jahangir built another palace after demolishing one of the areas that Akbar had devoted to his Hindu wife Jodha Bai.

Stories of rivalry, love, passion, diversity are all entangled and brought to our times through the many styles present in this red fort.

Wandering from one palace to the other, I passed by the gardens inside the fort. When I entered Anguri Bagh, or the Grape Garden, I was completely alone, not even my guide had already reached the spot as he was buying my ticket. Only one of the gardeners was having rest sitting in a corner of his green creation, certainly enjoying one of the rare moments of peace.

I shared that feeling of tranquility and loved contemplating the perfectly trimmed greenery. Unfortunately that was just that, a fleeting moment before a horde of yelling tourists came and broke the spell. No move, nor reaction came from the gardener, very likely used to such sudden change of atmosphere.

Red Fort
Samman Burj, where Shah Jahan took his last breath

As I kept crossing the different palaces, listening to the pearls of knowledge Danish was giving me, I felt I could actually see the emperors, their wives, busy (or not-so-busy) in their daily routine, and the myriads of workers sweating under the pitiless Indian sun while building or readjusting the different parts of the mansion according to the rulers’ ever-changing demands.

The last block I visited in the Red Fort was Samman Burj (or Musamman Burj) where Mughal emperor Shah Jahan was confined by his son, just opposite the Taj Mahal, magnificent building he himself had commissioned in honor of his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died after giving birth to their fourteenth child.

A view of the Taj Mahal from Samman Burj

The death of his wife, brought to his mind every single day by the view of the Taj, literally drove him crazy.  He slowly dragged himself to death, after torturing his last years with the view that reminded him of the most tragic moment of his life.

That was my first encounter with the Taj Mahal, a masterpiece built out of grief and love.

  1. Grief and love! Quite a story to be told about Shah Jahan and the Taj Mahal.

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen a photo of the Taj Mahal from the perspective of your photo. For me, it’s beautiful and unusual.

  2. Interessante descrizione del sito, con belle fotorafie…..

  3. De très belles photos pour une description pleine de charme pour un site magnifique et romantique!

  4. Reply
    Jack - eyeflare travel tips April 5, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    Amazing photos as usual! I really want to see this myself, hopefully a trip to India is on the cars for this year.

    • Fantastic, you will love it or hate it or both! India is one of those countries that leave you speechless and at the same time it will make you want to go back!

  5. so beautiful, I’m sure it’s amazing at sunset.

    • Unfortunately I wasn’t there during sunset, but the guide told me that both Red Fort and Taj Mahal are gorgeous at sunset and sunrise.

  6. A beautiful piece. I really enjoyed my visit to the Red Fort – I was lucky when I went as there were hardly any crowds (unlike the Taj Mahal.)

    • True, the Red Fort was not as crowded as the Taj, in fact I could enjoy a bit of peace, but still there were quite a few tourists. It was very nice though, I really enjoyed listening all the stories behind every palace, this is what I usually want to to know when visiting historic buildings, their “human side”.

  7. This is just beyond beautiful. And that view of the Taj Mahal–so unusual and dreamy. Congratulations. You are the first person who has actually tempted me to go to India!

    • Aww Vera thank you very much for your kind words! India is very fascinating, if you love culture and history, it’s one of the best travel destinations, you can literally soak in culture. It can be difficult at times though, the level of poverty is one of the highest I have ever seen, and I can’t deny this spoiled my mood when I went to very tourist areas. Unfortunately, Agra is one of those places, where better than anywhere else you can see how India is a country full of contrasts.

  8. J’aime beaucoup lire tes réponses aux commentaires. Je les trouve aussi interessantes que les articles et photos! Continue commeça!!!!

  9. I did a similar trip in ’94 – I thought the Taj was spectacular – looking forward to your perpsective

  10. Beautiful pics. I still find it hard to fathom that the Taj Mahal is actually a tomb. It’s not hard to imagine it as a palace because of its grandeur.

  11. Just read through the other comments, too. Such a shame you didn’t get to see the sunset while you were there – or the sunrise. Great photos again, Angela.

  12. Ah a post about my country :) Main Attractions is its architecture i hope u enjoyed it looking forward for your next post about Taj mahal

    • Thanks a lot Sheril, and welcome! I loved not only the architecture but the people, the culture all quirky aspects that make India such a captivating country. I just published my post on the Taj Mahal, hope you like it :)

  13. The Red Fort was my highlight of Agra. I’m afraid to say that I was far more impressed with the beauty of the Red Fort than even the Taj, which is no small feat. Great photos!

    • I liked both to be honest, you’re right, the Red Fort is pretty impressive. What fascinated me was the story behind both buildings, I always look at the human side of the attractions I visit.

  14. And the post reminds when I was visiting Agra Fort few weeks back. Thanks for sharing.

  15. Samman Burj – What a photo. Thanks for sharing.

  16. Great pics! Isn’t the Red Fort located in Delhi ?

    • Hi Ric, yes, there is one in Delhi, which I haven’t visited, and one in Agra, which is a Fort and obviously red :P It’s known also as simply “Agra Fort”, but my tour guides called it Red Fort, so this is how I called in my post. Very beautiful, I really enjoyed the visit, almost more than the Taj itself…

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