I am a Juan de la Cruz in the land where Mughal emperors like Babur, Akbar, Humayun, Jahangir, Aurangzeb and Shah Jahan once walked and built eye-popping fortresses and palaces. So it was inevitable to remember the great men of my land as I finally made my way inside Agra Fort, imagining Dr. Jose Rizal shaking hands with Shah Jahan, while Mumtaz was nearby bashfully peeping from her boudoir curtains. But that couldn’t be possible as Rizal was born 269 years too late. So I shifted my reverie to a ruler of Mactan, Lapu Lapu, who was born 1491 – 101 years ahead of the “King of the World” himself – Shah Jahan. Would Jahan and Lapu Lapu shake hands over a plate of samosa and a bowl of sinigang?
“Two fifty rupees,” remarked the mustached man at the ticket counter. Distracted from my day dream, I handed my entrance fee to Agra Fort, another UNESCO World Heritage site situated in the back roads of Agra, a mere 2.5 kilometers from Taj Mahal. Agra Fort was home to the aforementioned emperors. In fact, Shah Jahan spent his last 8 years within these red stone halls, incarcerated by his son Aurangzeb who succeeded him.
The exact construction of Agra Fort is unknown although 1080 A.D. had references to this fort, once made of bricks, during its capture by the Ghaznavide force. It was called Badalgarh then. Prior to the mughals, the Hindu Sikarwar Rajputs held it. Delhi’s first sultan, Sikandar Lodhi (after whom the immaculate Lodhi Gardens in Delhi was named) lived here.
It is a walled city really, more than a fort, sitting on a 94-acre land, with the Yamuna River flowing freely behind it. The walls are 70 feet high. It has 2 main gates: the monumental Delhi Gate and the Amar Singh Gate (aka Lahore Gate) used by tourists. The intricate design in every nook and cranny impressed me, it felt like walking into a dream. I would eventually get ushered into interior gates designed in curvaceous arches which lead to the gardens. One garden – the Anguri Bagh (Grape Garden) has geometrically arranged structures. For some reason, there was a part of the garden that was off limits. I am not exactly sure which part, or maybe I stepped into something I shouldn’t have because I was told not to. Doing what, exactly? I wasn’t sure. I just left.
The Khas Mahal, a white marble palace, stood out from most of the structures mostly made of red sandstone. I navigated to check out “Diwan-I-Am” – the Hall of Public Audience – where the emperor used to listen to public appeals. There were round 500 more structures within the complex but many of them have been ravaged by historical conflicts.
The lawns and the halls are mostly serene these days, although greater portions of the royal palaces have been secured and tourists have been restricted further. But what was being offered for public viewing was impressive enough, and I was just a happy Filipino visitor.
This is the Eye in the Sky!