The Shish Mahal (the Glass Palace)

Shish Mahal (Turkish Bath). To the north-east corner of the court in the lower storey is situated the illustrious building Shish Mahal (Palace of Mirror) which is so named because of the fine profuse embellishment of mirror on the arches, walls and the ceilings with irregular geometric and floral patterns in thick stucco relief work covering the walls and ceilings. Most of the glass work was missing but were restored by the Agra Circle of the Archaeological Survey of India in 1978-81. This creates a picturesque scene when lighted with candles. It was constructed in 1637 and served as the luxurious bath of Khas Mahal.

The bath comprises of two chambers, each about 12 m. by 7 m. The inner chamber has apsidal ends and a marble tank with a fountain and the second chamber has also a similar tank in the east wall. Originally the stucco reliefs were painted artistically with mirror and gold. The floor of the chambers was of white marble.

As mentioned in contemporary histories the Emperor used to hold Ghusul-Khana, secret meetings in which only a few selected nobles attended with the permission of the Emperor.

The glass mosaic ornamentation was executed in the Khas Mahal complexes of Shah Jahan in Agra Fort. Abdul Hamid particularly mentioned the use of mirror work in the Shah Burj, Hammams, Sard Khana, Garm Khana and the Shish Mahal. He further informs its decoration in the Hammam-i-Shahi, "opposite to the hall of the Daulat Khana-i-Khas there is a Hall, adjacent to which is a Hammam consisting of several buildings which overlook the river Jamuna, the garden at the foot of the Jharoka-Darshan and all other gardens on the river side. The artisans have so well executed, on its interior and exterior, inlay relief, glass mosaics and other wonderful works. The arches and the doors of the Hammam having Aleppo glasses added to the beauty of the edifice.

The glass work in the Agra Fort has survived in the Shish Mahal and that too, fortunately, on the grandest and the most sumptuous scale. The mural glass ornamentation in its interior (ainabandi) in the words of Abdul Hamid, is undoubtedly the best of its kind in India.

The Shish-Mahal is composed of two large halls of equal 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 emitting magnificently out of the typically Indian kalasa with or without glass work, producing a gorgeously superb effect.

Its production has been done with lakhauri bricks skeleton with a layer of fine lime plaster in mixture with gypsum which rendered extra-ordinary strength and shine.

the shish mahal (the glass palace)