Red Fort

Red Fort

Derives it's name as it has been made of red sand stone, the Red Fort is one of the most magnificent palaces in the world. Indian history is also closely linked with this fort. It was from here that the British deposed the last Mughal ruler, Bhadur Shah Zafar, marking the end of the three century long Mughal rule. It was also from this virtuous place that the first Prime Minister of India, Pandit Jawharlal Nehru, delivered the famous speech "Tryst with destiny" at the stroke of midnight hour when India achieved freedom on 15 Aug 1947.

The mughal emperor, Shah Jahan, after ruling from Agra for eleven years, decided to shift to Delhi and laid the foundation stone of the Red Fort in 1618. For its inauguration in 1647, the main halls of the palace were draped in rich tapestry and covered with the royal silk from china and velvet from Turkey. With a circumference of almost one and a half miles, the fort is an irregular octagon and has two entrances, the Lahore and Delhi Gates.

The grand architecture
It is surrounded by a wall of about 2.4 Kilometers in circumference and is built of Red Sandstone. The Mughal King Shah Jahan transferred his capital from Agra to Delhi and the fort was completed in 1648, nine years after the king shifted to this city. The fort has two main entrances, the Delhi Gate and the Lahori Gate, which faces the famed Chandni Chowk market Incidentally, Shah Jahan was the king who built Taj Mahal.

The entrance
Entrance to the fort is through the imposing Lahore Gate, which takes its name from the fact that it faces Lahore, now in Pakistan. This gate has a special significance for India since the first war of independence and important speeches have been made here by freedom fighters and national leaders of India.

The main entrance opens on to the Chatta Chowk, a covered street flanked with arched cells that used to house Delhi's most talented jewellers, carpet makers, weavers and goldsmiths. This arcade was also known as the Meena Bazaar, the shopping centre for the ladies of the court. Just beyond the Chhata Chowk is the heart of the fort called Naubat Khana or the Drum House. The musicians used to play for the emperor from the Naubat Khana and the arrival of princes and royalty was heralded from here.

Special features of the fort
The fort has the Diwan-e-am, where the king would grant audience to the public to listen to their problems. The other feature is the Diwan-e-Khas (khas means special) where the king would grant audience to important people. Besides this, is the Rang Mahal, the water-cooled apartment for the royal ladies. In the basement of the fort is a market where several traditional Indian goods can be purchased at nominal rates. Another attraction is the Light and Sound Show held in the evenings.

Areal architectural wonder
The apartments are assured privacy by intricately carved screens which do not hinder the free flow of fresh air and light. The stream of paradise flows through the main hall, and is marked in the centre by a huge lotus shaped marble basin with an ivory fountain. Constructed by Emperor Aurangzeb in 1662 as his private mosque Moti Masjid (pearl mosque) is built with highly polished marble. The mosque is a good example of the Mughal fetish for symmetry with cusped arches, sinuous decorative designs, carved cornices and bulbous domes. Other building of interest in the Red Fort complex are the Musamman Burg (Octagonal tower), Khwabgah (bedroom) and the Hammam (royal baths).

A relic of the glorious past
Even today, the Red Fort is a splendid reminder of the glory of the Mughal era and its magnificence leaves many bedazzled and breathless. It is still an abode of peace which helps one to break away from the fast pace of life outside the walls of the Fort and transports the visitor to another era of time.

Location: Chandni Chowk in Old Delhi.