As you look around standing in the streets of Old Delhi, you will witness remains of history strewn everywhere.Whether it’s the famous Chandni Chowk, the Fatehpur Mosque, or the magnificent Jama Mosque.
Even the ground beneath your feet was laid more than 350 years back, as the seventh city of Delhi. Built by the celebrated Mughal emperor Shahjahan whose lineage ruled over Hindustan for more than 200 years from the majestic Red Sandstone Citadel.
In 1638, emperor Shahjahan decided to shift his capital from Agra to Delhi, and his search concluded right here at the western banks of river Yamuna.
The Red Fort the palace was built as the heart of his new planned city of Shahjahanabad.
The construction of the Citadel started in the month of April in 1639 and was completed within 9 years on 18th April 1648 at a cost of rupees 1 crore.
Master architects Ahmed and Hameed planned this fort over an area of 124 acres, surrounded by river Yamuna in the ease, and a moat 23 meters wide and 9 meters deep on remaining sides.
Its 2.4 km long imposing red sandstone ramparts concealed a world of enchantment, a city within a city.
Protected and conserved by the Archaeological Survey of India, this complex was declared as a world heritage site by UNESCO in 2007, and has been recently listed as one of the25 Adarsh Smaraks of India.
Lahori Gate- Red Fort Delhi
As we enter the fort, the Lahori Gate welcomes us. Perhaps the most significant of the five gateways of the fort.
Topped with beautiful white domes and sandstone arches, it was originally built as a ceremonial gateway leading towards Lahore. These barbicans were added later by emperor Aurangzeb to protect the fort from any direct foreign invasion. It was from here that the first Prime Minister of Independent India unfurled the Tri-colour and the tradition is proudly followed till date.
A similar Delhi Gate leading towards Old Delhi Believed to be used by Shahjahan for his Friday prayers at the Jama Mosque.
While a third gateway on the north leads to an older Salimgarh fort and the Khizri Gate was used by the emperor to reach the Yamuna.
Beyond the iconic Lahori Gate lies the Chatta Chowk, also known as Meena Baazar, built on the concept of Persian Bazaars, these shops used to sell exquisite items from across the world to showcase the wealth of the empire. And today the handicrafts and jewelry shops serve to allure the tourist as they walk towards the Naqqar Khana.
Naqqar Khana – Red Fort Delhi
Naqqar Khana was used to formally announce the arrival of the emperor and other dignitaries in the fort. Music was played five times a day from its galleries. Built out of red sandstone, the three-storeyed building has carved floral designs on its facade.
Diwan-i-Aam – Red Fort Delhi
The striking Diwan-i-Aam, The Hall of Public Audience, placed where the emperor used to hear the complaints and requests of his people. Initially covered with lime plaster and guided stucco work, the nine engrailed arches make the façade of the Diwan-i-Aam was grand and imposing. In the center, stands an impressive marble canopy with a marble dias at its base as Prime Minister’s seat. The canopy was known as Nasheman – I – Zille – Ilahi The seat of the shadow of a god. the wall behind the emperor’s canopy has one of the finest inlays works in Pietra Dura by European jeweler Austin De Bordeaux, with the figure of greek god Orpheus along with varieties of birds and animals.
Diwan–I–Khas Red Fort – Delhi
The astounding Diwan–I–Khas as the emperor’s private audience hall. It was the original home of the famed peacock throne or Takht-i-Tawoos, containing the famous Kohinoor diamond, which was later stolen by Nadir shah in 1739.
Made entirely of white marble, it showcases some of the most astonishing Pietra Dura work. The embellishments on the ceiling, initially made of silver and inlaid with gold, were melted and looted. The current painted wooden ceiling was installed in 1911.
For emperor Shahjahan this was his earthly paradise. Here inscribed are the words by Persian poet Amir Khusrau for “ Agar Firdaus bar rue zamin ast, Hamin ast Hamin ast Hamin ast”, meaning if there is paradise on earth it is here, it is here, it is here.
Khas Mahal Red Fort Delhi
Located next to the Diwan-i-Khas Is the emperor’s privet place, the graceful Khas Mahal. Strategically divided into three parts, Tasbih Khana, the privet worship chamber, Khwabgah, the sleeping chamber, and Baithak, used by the emperor to relax, and connect to the Zenana. Adorning the motif of the scale of Justice, a brilliantly carved marble screen separates the Khwabgah from outside. Adjoining the Khwabgah is the octagonal tower known as the Mussamman-Burj. A domed structure with marble screens and a balcony in the center added later by emperor Akbar Shah 2. The Burj was used for the traditional practice of the public appearance of the emperor. In 1911 during the coronation darbar king, George-V and Queen, Mary too appeared from the balcony of the Burj.
Rang Mahal – Red Fort Delhi
First in the row of Zenan Khana is the Rang Mahal or the Palace of colors. It was used by the emperor and the royal family for entertainment purposes.
The rang Mahal is divided by a marble water channel with an exquisite basin and ivory a fountain carved in the form of a bloomy lotus.
The Rang Mahal has two vaulted chambers, known as Sheesh Mahal, which was once ornamented with cut mirror rooted in the walls and ceiling.
The Mumtaz Mahal is the southernmost of these remaining palaces in the Zenana, it was one of the apartments of the royal princesses.
To the north of Diwan-i-Khas is the Hammam, which was extravagant royal bathhouses for the Emperor and the royal family. The extensive Pietra Dura work on the floor, along with exquisitely carved basins, when combined with flowing water, could have created a magical effect
Moti masjid – Red Fort Delhi
To the west of Hammam lies the picturesque Moti Masjid. it was built by the emperor Aurangzeb for his personal use. Made out of polished white marble, and beautiful Carving, the Moti masjid gleams in bright sunlight like a pearl.
As we go to the Moti Masjid, the Hyat Bakhsh Garden awaits us, based on the concept of Paradise Gardens, this char bagh is divided into squares with pathways and water channels running through it. The garden has several pavilions named, Saawam, Bhadon, and Hira Mahal.
Zafar Mahal Red Fort Delhi
While Zafar Mahal, built by Bahadur Shah Zafar, sands boards in the center of the garden inside a large tank, once completely filled with the water from Nahr-i-Bihisht, or the stream of Paradise.
Brought from the Yamuna through Shah Burj, it flowed through the palaces and gardens with a series of water channels, fountains, and cascades. The stream was the reason that made this palace, a paradise on earth.
A stepwell built out of finely cut Delhi Quartzite stone lies to the west of the gardens. It was believed to built before the Red Fort, as a part of the older Salimgarh Fort.
Naubat Khana Red Fort Delhi
Besides the architectural heritage, there are three museums within the Red Fort complex. Indian War Memorial Museum was set up Naubat Khana 1919 to showcase various artilleries used during the first world war.
The archeological Museum in Mumtaz Mahal was set up in 1909 to display the collection of Mughal Period. While, Swadheenta Sangrm Sanghrahalya, set up in 1995, shows glimpses of the Indian National Freedom Movement.
A Swantantrata Senani Smarak is located in the Salimgarh Fort to commemorate heroes of the Indian National Army.
Apart from this, the story of Red Fort is being played out every evening in the form of a sound and light show in English and Hindi languages.
Once called as the Qila-i-Mubarak, the fortunate citadel it was anything but fortunate for the Mughals looted and attacked many a time, it was finally taken by the British in 1857. Most of the buildings inside the citadel were destroyed, and many barracks were erected in its beautiful garden.
In 1947, Indian Army occupied the fort and made several additions and alterations in it. In 2003 most of the areas of the fort were handed over to the Archaeological Survey of India, to conserve and protect its original significance.
Recently, the remains of Mehtab Bagh were found in excavations carried out by the ASI.
E-rickshaw service has also been launched to make the commute from parking at Delhi Gate to the entry at Lahori Gate to the fort, easier for tourists.
What remains of Red Fort today is only a glimpse of it one-fourth of its true character. The beauty of the fort has been lost to time and history, but it still stands tall, telling compelling tales of its glory days and is still considered as a symbol of power and control over Hindustan.
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