If you thought that the Taj Mahal was the only monument worth visiting in the city of Agra then you are mistaken. There is more to Agra then just the Taj Mahal. There’s another interesting monument called the Agra Fort (2.5 km north of Taj Mahal) which is the second most visited place in Agra and rightly so, the fort is a UNESCO World Heritage site. After you’ve seen the Taj Mahal then make a point to Visit the Agra Fort.
The History of Agra Fort
The history of Agra Fort is quite fascinating. The fort used to be a Hindu fortress until it fell into the hands of the Muslim rulers. One of the rulers called Sikandar Lodhi shifted his capital to Agra from Delhi and actually lived in the fort. And when he died in 1517, his son Ibrahim Lodi too lived in the fort for about 9 years. He was killed in a fierce battle in Panipat in 1526 by the army of Babur, the first Mughal Emperor of India. It is said that the famous Indian diamond the Koh-i-Noor (one of the largest diamond in the world) used to be housed here which was seized by the Mughals. Currently, the Koh-i-Noor diamond is part of the crown of Queen Elizabeth and is on display at the Tower of London.
The Agra Fort was rebuilt to what it looks like today by Akbar’s grandson, Shah Jahan (who also built the Taj Mahal). The irony is that, he was imprisoned (along with his daughter Jahanara) by his despot son Aurangzeb. By the way, Aurangzeb had his elder brother Dara Shikoh beheaded and sent the head to his father Shah Jahan and become the ruler of India. Now that Shah Jahan was under captivity, his favourite son and heir to the Mughal throne dead, his beautiful buried in the Taj Mahal – he died a broken heart and it is said that he kept looking at the Taj Mahal in his last days of his life with his beautiful daughter Jahanara (daughter of Mumtaj for whom the Taj was built) at his side.
Anyway, the fort then changed hands again back to the Hindu rulers, the Marathas. But Ahmad Shah Abdali from Afghanistan seized the fort in 1761. He also declared Jihad against the Maratha rulers. A powerful Maratha ruler called, Mahadji Shinde took back the fort in 1785 but to lose it again to the British in 1803.
Structures within the Agra Fort
Anyone interested in History will find this place very fascinating. It is a mix of Hindu and Islamic architecture. It is also considered as one of the five wonders of Indian civilisation. You may not be able to see all sections of the fort as it is still used by the Indian army but you should be able to have access to most of the buildings in the fort complex. The Diwan-i-Am or the Hall of Public Audience erected by Shah Jahan in 1628 is my favourite. There’s a small chamber overlooking the Diwan-i-Am which is where Shah Jahan was imprisoned. There are little stories of the whole place which you can learn if you hire a guide.
Some of the other structures that you should not miss within the Agra fort include mosques such as the Nagina and Mina Masjid, palaces such as the Macchi Bhavan, Khas Mahal and Shah Jahani Mahal and the Zenana Mina Bazaar.
Other structures of Agra Fort
Amar Singh Gate, The second gateway, Shah Jahani Gate, Akbari Mahal, Akbar’s Baoli, Hauz-i-Jahangiri (Jahangir’s Bath), Jahangiri Mahal, Khan Mahal, Anguri Bagh, Mussamman Burg, Sheesh Mahal (Turkish Bath) and Moti Masjid (Pear mosque). Now you get the drift! The place is very big therefore one of the best ways to enjoy this place is to hire a guide. You will find them as soon as you enter the place. You can’t miss them as they will be touting for business. But make sure you hire an approved guide and photographer if you need one by checking their identity cards.
Getting to Agra Fort
The best way to get to Agra is via tourist coaches from Delhi. Your hotel can also organise you a taxi for the day but I would not recommend this as it takes about 4 hours to get to Agra from Delhi and you need time to see these magnificent places. In addition, if you have hired a taxi for the day then you will need to get back to Delhi and most likely you will get there close to midnight. I would recommend staying in Agra. There are excellent 5 star hotels in Agra. A good place to check hotels in Agra is here https://www.hotelsinagra.net/.
You can always take a train from New Delhi Railway Station to Agra. The one I think is good is the Bhopal Shatabadi that runs all day of the week except Sundays at 6’O clock in the morning and arrives in Agra Station at 8 am. The other one you can take is the Taj Express at 7:10 am and runs every day including Sundays. Your hotel will have timings. There is an Agra Fort Railway Station and some trains from Delhi such as the Udyan Abha Toofan Express do stop at this station.
Things to remember
Eating and smoking is not allowed and you will be checked at entry gate. So if you have cigarettes on you then it is best you leave it at your hotel or taxi. If you did have them in your bag then you will have to convince the security guards that you will not consume them. But mind you, they might try to extort money out of you. Yep…EXTORT money. Welcome to the state of Uttar Pradesh, one of the most corrupt states of India after Bihar which is where I come from.
Best time to visit Agra
The best time to visit this place is between the months of November and March, when the temperature is moderate. Don’t forget to take some bottled water with you. Here’s a water buying guide in India. You will need a good few hours to explore the place so do make sure you have something to eat before you come. There are excellent restaurants around the complex, just asks your driver to take you there. But mind you, since it’s a tourist area, you might have to pay a slightly higher premium.
Address of Agra Fort
Rakabganj, Agra, Uttar Pradesh 282001, India (10 minutes drive from the Taj Mahal)
Phone: +91 562 296 0457
If you have bought a ticket to Taj Mahal, you can enter the fort using the same ticket at an extra cost of about 200 Rupees. If you haven’t bought tickets to Agra then it will cost about 300 Rupees (Indians only pay 20 Rupees). Children of any nationality below the age of 15 years do not have to pay anything at all.
If are travelling to Agra then here’s some facts about the Taj Mahal and how to get there. Here’s a personal experience of my friend at the Taj. So if you are in Agra, don’t forget to visit Agra Fort.
If you are considering Agra on your trip to India then you might be interested in my Travel Guide to the Taj Mahal.