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Travelling To Red Fort (Lal Quila), Agra
From Taj Mahal to the Red Fort (Lal Quila)
At 2:44 pm we left for Agra Fort near the Taj Mahal after a mediocre lunch at the rather expensive Priya Hotel. Begun by Emperor Akbar, the fort was completed during the time of Jehangir, father of Shah Jahan. In my opinion, the beauty and elegance of the Red Fort is often underestimated due to the proximity of the Taj Mahal. The imposing structure has a 70 ft. tall enclosing wall and only 20% of the monument is open to visitors now, the rest taken up by the army. Clap your hands just after you enter and the sound echoes, no doubt a useful security feature at the time. It's called the Red Fort because of the red sandstone with which it is built.
Inside you’ll find the palaces of Akbar and Jehangir and a great granite tub said to have been Jehangir’s bathtub. It was gifted by Raja Man Singh and had been inlaid with precious stones which were later looted by the Rajputs.
Royal Quarters for the Daughters of Shah Jahan
Shah Jahan built gorgeous abodes for his daughters – Roshanara and his favourite Jahanara. The walls and ceilings and even the floors are ornamented with inlay work with vast balconies that offer views of the Taj Mahal in the near distance. There is a beautiful martble fountain in Jahanara’s bedroom where it is said, Shah Jahan drowned one of Jahanara’s lovers.
One can see Shah Jahan’s bedroom where there is no doorway. According to our guide, only curtains afforded privacy and one can still see the curtain runs slung across iron cables running along the perimeter of the roof. There is a central courtyard where the ladies of the harem shopped, danced and celebrated.
Shah Jahan's Prison, Red Fort, Agra
Here is also the room where Shah Jahan was imprisoned and from where he was said to gaze at the tomb of his beloved Mumtaz Mahal. It’s walls, ceiling and floor are also highly ornamental. One almost feels weighed down by the bloody and tragic history of the place, yet the Red Fort is a magnificent monument with its domes and turrets and filigreed windows and balconies.
Where Emperor Akbar Gave Audience
The Diwani-i-am or Hall of Private Audience is interesting with its many pillared hall and the seat where the emperor would sit, with his advisor seated a level below him. Our guide mentioned Akbar and his advisor Birbal seated in this very hall.
In the courtyard lies the tomb of the British Civil Servant, John Russel Colvin who died by food poisoning in 1857.
Shopping in Delhi
My favourite place for buying cheap and pretty good quality clothes is the famous Janpath where you will also find a bunch of Tibetan handicraft stores. The clothes are a delight. I got myself a wardrobe for a little over Rs. 1000.
Shopping in Agra
The U.P. Handicrafts Development Centre has some great traditional stuff at wholesale prices and it’s tax-free. My pashmina double weave shawl in midnight blue and silver-grey cost Rs. 2000. It’s reversible, with a darker hue on the other side. I was grateful for my shawl on the way back to Delhi.
Banarasi Silk Sarees and Marble Handicraft
The famous Banarasi silk sarees in vibrant colours, some double-hued cost Rs. 2000. Marble handicrafts such as jewellery boxes, plates, vases, ashtrays, miniature replicas of the Taj Mahal, etc. abound. The charming salesman took us into the handicraft section where we were shown how the marble objects are made using traditional methods. Sand is used to shape tiny semi-precious stones to embed in the marble. A single tiny leaf in the inlay can have four to five stones. I was grateful for my shawl on the way back to Delhi.
© 2015 Anita Saran