Agra Fort

Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Agra Fort was begun by Akbar between 1565 and 1573. It is situated on the west bank of the Jumna River, about 2km upstream from the Taj Mahal (map). Akbar built the fort of sandstone; his grandson Shah Jahan, the builder of the Taj Mahal, constructed palaces of white marble within the fort itself. Shah Jahan was imprisoned in Agra Fort following the coup of his son, Aurangzeb, and died here in 1657.

Agra Fort is entered today at the south end, through a low outer wall and gate (shown here) built by Aurangzeb. Visitors then pass in succession through two of Akbar's gates, the Amar Singh and the Akbari, before finally gaining admittance to the fort proper. The original entrance to the fort was through the grander Delhi Gate in the west wall.

The behavior of Mogul rulers, towards members of their own family, was appalling by any modern standard. Besides overthrowing and imprisoning his father, Aurangzeb murdered two brothers and a nephew on his way to the throne; his father, Shah Jahan, had similarly killed one brother and two nephews during his own climb to power. In that time there were no fixed laws of succession, and the harem system provided all too many candidates for the throne; it was, literally, kill or be killed for eligible males of the royal family. There are many similar, and equally appalling, examples from places as far apart as ancient China, the Roman and Byzantine Empires, Egypt, the Ottoman Empire, and Medieval and Renaissance Europe.