March 3rd - 12:30 PM - The Red Fort

March 3rd - 12:30 PM - The Red Fort

A Chapter by Jim Parson

Agra...The Red Fort


March 3rd (?) - 12:30 PM - Delhi (The Red Fort)

[Still the 4th]

After lunch, we went to the Agra Fort, also known as the Red Fort because it is made from red sandstone block.

It was equally (well, almost) as impressive as the Taj Mahal.  Its construction is credited to Emperor Akbar the Great.  It was huge and exactly what you’d expect of an emperor’s fort.  Evidently, in his day, 11,000 people lived in it, 4,000 of them his concubines.  All were not kept for sex - some were perhaps good dancers or other types of entertainers.

In actuality, the fort existed for centuries before Akbar made it his capital in 1558.  Its earliest mention was in 1080 AD.  When the Mughals captured it in the early 1500s, it housed a huge treasure, including the diamond that would later be known as the Koh-i-Nor diamond.  When Akbar arrived in Agra, it was made of brick and in ruined condition.  He had it rebuilt with red sandstone, which is probably why he is credited with its construction.

There were two moats surrounding the fort, the outer filled with alligators (no water in it now) and the inner filled with wild animals - lions, tigers, etc.

All the paths through it were wide and made of heavy stone so elephants could pass through it.

The fort evolved into its current state when Akbar’s grandson, Shah Jahan, became Emperor.  Shah Jahan was partial to white marble, so he destroyed some of the sandstone buildings inside the fort and made his own.

Just as with the Taj Mahal, the marble is inlaid with precious and semi-precious stones.  The carving is ornate and the overall effect is spectacular.

Carved marble window…


There were so many rooms in it that I could not begin to describe them all, but there were a few notable ones.

One of the more interesting rooms was his favorite wife’s bath.  It had no windows and was pitch black.  There was a very deep pit in the middle of the floor with no inside ledges, so I can’t quite figure out how one bathed in it unless it wasn’t filled very full.  If it were filled, you’d have to tread water for your entire bath.  The wall on one side had various sized stones set in it with a hollow behind them.  When you hit them with your hands, they would sound different tones.  Evidently, while the woman bathed, musicians would strike these stones to create music.  Inset in the ceilings were tiny reflective stones (maybe mother-of-pearl?).  Candlelight would be reflected by these thousands of stones, creating a beautiful light spectrum.


Above the bath were shelves over which the water would be poured into the tub.  Below the shelves were many niches where candles would be placed.  The flames from the candles would heat up the stone shelves and as the water ran down the shelves into the tub, it would be heated.  Amazing process.

Like the Taj Mahal, the fort was also built on the Yamuna River, evidently a river of some importance.  There was a large balcony built to overlook the river - the perfect spot for enjoying your morning coffee - high above the ground.  We’re talking really high.  The shah would sit here to watch elephant fights below.

Looking left off the balcony…

Looking right off the balcony...

Although it was built before the Taj Mahal, this balcony now overlooks the Taj across the river.  It was the most spectacular view of my entire trip.  I took a couple of pictures - I hope they come out okay.

Another interesting thing about the fort…it was built so water from the river could be run between the walls, serving as insulation and keeping the fort cool.  Primitive yet effective technology.


Judy did not go to Agra with us - she has been before.  She said the Red Fort was boring, so not wanting to get back on that bus anyway and have my organs rearranged any further, I decided to check on a taxi back to Delhi after we left the Taj Mahal.  5,500 rupees or about $120.  I decided to stay and am glad I did.  I found the fort fascinating.


The bus ride back was uneventful.  I moved up closer to the front, which was less bone-jarring, and sat with Vern Miller from the Conejo Valley club.  I knew Vern before the trip - my wife and I and he and his wife sat together when the Ronald Reagan Freedom Award was given to Rudy Giuliani a couple of years ago in Beverly Hills.  I tried to sleep but never did.  With ninety kilometers left, we stopped for a restroom break and all placed bets on what time we would arrive back at the Hyatt.  I took 10:20.  Jay won with 10:45 PM.


Speaking of restrooms, this might be a good place to write down some thoughts on the Indian facilities.  They suck big time!  In the large hotels, they are okay, but we haven’t spent much time in large hotels.  The typical public restroom is a hole in the ground and a bucket.  Fortunately, I was never in a dire position where I needed to use one.  Evidently, one squats over the hole and does one’s business.  Oh, there is no toilet paper either, so if you don’t have your own, you’ve got trouble.  When you’ve finished, you fill the bucket with water and use it to wash down any mess you’ve made.



If you are lucky enough to find a toilet in the restroom, you will still not find toilet paper.  What they have instead is a metal tube coming out of the back of the toilet, just below the seat.  When you have finished, you turn on the faucet on the wall behind you and water will shoot out of the tube, washing off your backside.  Sometimes, but rarely, there is a fan mounted above and behind you that will act as a dryer.  I must confess I was forced to use this system once without the benefit of the fan.  At the Rotary Club of Aligarh City meeting, which was held at a very nice hotel, I found myself in great discomfort.  I used the hotel facilities and was happy to see it had a toilet.  After completing my business, I looked around for toilet paper and of course, there was none.  My travel supply was in my Rotary bag in our car.  Fortunately, I was carrying my handkerchief.  Okay, this is completely disgusting!  Why am I even talking about this?


One final word on defecation before changing the subject.  It is not unusual at any time anywhere to see people (the indigent mostly) squatting with their pants down doing their business.  Particularly in the country.  Because we left so early in the morning for Agra yesterday, many people were just rising in the countryside as we drove along.  Passing one field, I counted ten people squatting.  Very strange.  I have no idea what they use for toilet paper unless they are grabbing a handful of grass and I had no desire to get close enough to find out.  Maybe that’s why they hug a lot here instead of shaking hands.

© 2011 Jim Parson

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LMAO!!!! I'm not sure why you are talking about this! Some things your readers DON'T need to know! ;)

Very cool pictures of this fort. That bath sounds amazing. I think I want one. I like the idea of those little twinkling stars and all that candlelight. Only the favourite wife huh? Well, if I ever end up in a harem situation, I'm going for top billing, that's for damn sure!

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Added on April 10, 2011
Last Updated on April 11, 2011
Tags: India, Rotary, polio, Red Fort, travel, immunizations, Agra


Jim Parson
Jim Parson

Los Angeles, CA

I have been a banker for the past 28 years, but my dream has always been to write. I thought maybe it was time to give it a try. I don't think I'm the greatest writer, but I think I can tell a prett.. more..

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