Sheesh Mahal

Sheesh Mahal

The Splendid Beauty within Agra Fort – The Sheesh Mahal

The Agra Fort is a historical fortress located in Agra, India. The place was resided by the Mughal Emperors until 1638, after which the capital was shifted from Agra to Delhi. The Agra Fort is a ‘UNESCO’ certified ‘World Heritage Site’. The Fort has an area of about 94 acres (380000 square-meter) including Sheesh Mahal and coordinated at 27.179542°N 78.021101°E. The walls surrounding the fort are 70 feet high. It had been provided with four gates namely Khizri Gate, Delhi Gate, Lahore gate,and the Amar Singh gate. Delhi Gate being the largest among the four.

Sheesh Mahal – history and architecture

Towards the north-east corner of the Fort in the lower area is located the marvelous architecture, Sheesh Mahal or Palace of Mirrors. It is so named because of its fine prolific adornment of mirrors on the arches, ceilings and walls with asymmetrical geometric and flower patterns in broad‘stucco relief’ work coating the ceilings and walls. Most of the ‘glass work’ wasbrought into place by the Department of Archaeological Survey of India in 1978-81. This creates a visually attractive scene when the candles are lighted. It was established in 1637 and served the purpose of a palatial bath of Khas Mahal. It comprised of two chambers. The inner chamber has a marble tank with a fountain and apsidal ends and the second chamber has also a similar tank. Originally the ‘stucco reliefs’ were painted with gold and mirror. The chamber floor had white marble.The glass mosaic decoration was done in the Khas Mahal buildings of Shah Jahan. Abdul Hamid throughhis work “Shah Burj”, has mentioned the use of mirror work in Hammams,GarmKhana, Sardkhana and the Shish Mahal. Further mention of its decoration is in the Hammam-i-Shahi. Right opposite to the hall of the ‘DaulatKhana-i-Khas’ there is another Hall, adjacent to which there is a Hammam consisting of buildings which overlook the river Jamuna. There is garden at the base of the ‘Jharoka-Darshan’ and many more on the river side. The artisans have executed their work, on its interior and exterior, inlay relief, glass mosaics and other wonderful works. The arches and the doors having Aleppo glasses added to the beauty. The glass work in the Agra Fort has fortunately survived in the Shish Mahal on the most sumptuous scale. The mural glass decoration in its interior (ainabandi) is undoubtedly the best of its kind in India.The Shish-Mahal is consists of two enormous halls of similar size, each measuring 11 m. by 6.5 m.The glass mosaic consists of ‘stucco relief’ work in the form of ‘guldastas’ with natural leaves and flowers sculpted magnificently out of the typically Indian ‘kalasa’ with or without glass work, creating a gorgeously superb effect. It has been produced with ‘lakhauri’ bricks with a layer of fine lime-plaster mixed with gypsum which showed extra-ordinary strength and shine.

Popular culture

  • The Fort won the ‘Aga Khan Award’ for its masterpiece architecture in 2004. India Post issued a stamp to celebrate this event.
  • The Agra Fort plays a key role in the story ‘The Sign of the Four’, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
  • The music video for Habibi Da, a hit song of Egyptian pop star Hisham Abbas, features the Agra fort.
  • As per the “Treaty of Purandar (1665)”, Shivaji entered into with MirzaRajeJaisingh to meet Aurangzeb in the Diwan-i-Khas.

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