Agra Fort, the sister structure to the Taj Mahal only two miles away, has played an important role in the introduction of Mogul architecture and culture in India. Designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site like the Taj Mahal and the Tomb of Humanyun, both nearby, the fort displays a combination of impregnable fortification, religious sanctification, and Islamic architecture. Considered the most important fort in India, the foremost Mogul leaders Babur, Humayun, Akbar, Jehangir, Shah Jahan (builder of the Taj Mahal), and Aurangzeb governed from the stronghold.
Prior to remodeling by the Moguls in the late fifteenth century, the fort had been constructed of brick around 1000 C.E. The fort served Indian leaders between 1000 C.E. to 1487, when the first Sultan of Delhi, Sikandar Lodi, moved his government to the location. After losing control of the fort, the Moguls recaptured the stronghold with enormous treasure. Humayun, defeated by Sher Shah, sought help from Persia and regained the fort; his son Akbar ruling the kingdom from there. Damaged from ongoing warfare, Akbar restored the fort, rebuilding it with the trademark red sandstone brick. To give a sense of the enormity of the building project, Akbar employed 4,000 workmen for eight years restoring the fort. That constituted a small army of workers. They completed the task in 1573.
Akbar's grandson, Shah Jahan, who built the Taj Mahal for his wife, remodeled many mosques and structures within the fort using his trademark white marble during his rule. Among the many legends of that historic fort, Shah Jahan's son, Aurangzeb, imprisoned his own father in Muasamman Burj, a tower that had a view of the Taj Mahal just two miles away.
The magnitude of the building complex at its height staggers the imagination. Within the walls of the fort, 500 buildings stood. They displayed the peak of Islamic architecture at the time and, arguably, in history. When the British occupied the fort between 1800 and 1860, they destroyed many of the original buildings. Fortunately, the Delhi Gate, Akbar Gate, and the Bengali Mahal palace remained to give evidence of the original grandeur of the building.
Agra Fort, as it now stands, presents an interesting mix of Hindu and Islamic architecture. In a sense, the current architecture mirror's modern India. Proud of the contributions from all the religions in India, one of the most outstanding constituting the Islamic Taj Mahal, the nation celebrates the beauty of every dynasty regardless of the religion that created it. Throughout India, that characteristic presents itself. Unlike many nations, in which the religion and architecture of the conquered are annihilated, destroyed or prohibited, India celebrates their contribution as part of the national culture, preserving and displaying them.