AGRA, India — It’s not often you get to walk into a 1,000-year-old structure where countless battles took place, yet the Agra Fort in its current incarnation made it significantly easier for tourists than for the scores of armies that sought to control the red sandstone complex on the banks of the Yamuna River.
It’s big, comprising 380,000 square meters (94 acres).
The site is very important in terms of architectural history. Abul Fazal recorded that five hundred buildings in the beautiful designs of Bengal and Gujarat were built in the fort. Some of them were demolished by Shahjahan to make way for his white marble palaces. Most of the others were destroyed by the British between 1803 and 1862 for raising barracks. Hardly thirty Mughal buildings have survived on the south-eastern side, facing the river. Of these, the Delhi Gate and Akbar Gate and one palace — “Bengali Mahal” — are representative Akbari buildings.
More of a royal city — or a palace — than a fort to my untrained eye, the fort presents a no-nonsense, utilitarian exterior while it holds untold beauty on the inside.