“Kindly leave the place”.
I came back to my senses and turned to the Security Guard.
“Why? What happened?”
“Sir, it’s 7:00 p.m. and you will have to leave the place.”
It’s just like a time machine. A wonderful journey through the history lanes since morning. I sat there in the lawn for some countless hours on a sunny and breezy summer day remembering those bygone days. An unforgettable journey through Moghul period, when Mughal architecture was at its peak during the seventeenth century; to the British rule in India, the history of the freedom struggle towards our Independence.
Saturday, 1st June, 2013
It was the first day of a weekend. My weekends aren’t about relaxing. When it comes to weekends, I find myself far more often on the road and when no one is at home, what else I can do either…though enjoying my forced bachelor life, which comes every year for few weeks! For me, at least, it has always turned out to be the best use of my time.
After finishing breakfast to survive for the next few hours and washing clothes for the entire week, I still have a ton of time to get other stuff done for the day. The big question was what to do next and where to go. Unfortunately, I am neither a movie lover nor a shopaholic; otherwise, there are plenty of options in Gurgaon to spend time to escape from the heat.
I left home around 10 in the morning, though there was no specific plan in mind but wanted to explore some places in Delhi. For a long time, wanted to buy some equipment for my camera like UV Filter, another tripod, as well as to buy a bi-cycle for me. Our last attempt to go to Chandni Chowk in car was a complete waste of time. Hence parked the car in my office and boarded the Metro. It doesn’t take long to buy the desired items and after a hurried lunch at McDonalds, was looking for options for the rest of the day.
“Why don’t you do a photo shoot of Red Fort?”
Yeah, it’s not a bad option either. I am standing in front of a World Heritage Site with my camera and looking for an option!
“What a stupid I am!”
So, without wasting any more time, started walking towards the Red Fort, a symbol of Independence and national pride.
From Netaji Subhash Marg, enter the Red Fort through Lahore Gate, the main gateway to the fort and so named because its orientation is towards Lahore.
Shahjahanabad, the Seventh city of Delhi
When we were in class V or VI, we learned the simplest way to remember the rulers in Moghul dynasty in chronological order:
The word Mogul or Mughal was derived from the Arabic word for Mongol. Zahir-ud-din-Muhammad Babur or Babar, the founder of the Mughal Empire in India was a descendant of Tamerlane and Genghis Khan. Born in Ferghana, (now a part of Afghanistan) in 1483, Babur tried unsuccessfully to conquer Samarkand and spent several years in Afganistan after that. The last Lodi Sultan, Ibrahim’s misdemeanours lead Babur into India with the first battle of Panipat in 1526. Babur defeated Ibrahim Lodhi, the Sultan of Delhi, assumed the title of Emperor and thus established the rule of the Mughals.
Mughal architecture was at its peak during the early seventeenth century. The 5th Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahan, ascends the throne in A.D.1628. It was also the time when strict orthodox Islam replaced Akbar’s tolerance. The Emperor shifted his capital from Agra to Delhi in A.D. 1638 and established Shahjahanabad, the seventh city of Delhi.
He commenced the construction of his bastion ‘Qila-i-Mubarak’ on 12th May, 1639 which took 9 years and 3 months to complete, under the supervision of master builder Hamid and Ahmed. The fort is now known as ‘Lal Quila’ or ‘the Red Fort’.
The fort is built using red sandstone and in octagonal on plan with the rampant surrounded by a moat originally connected with river Yamuna. This highly fortified bastion has two main gateways, the Lahori Gate on the west and the Delhi Gate or the Hathi Gate on the south. There were fourteen Gates, the important ones are the Mori, Lahori, Ajmeri, Turkman, Kashmiri and Delhi gates, some of which have already been demolished. While the walls, gates and a few other structures in the fort are constructed of red sandstone, marble has been largely used in the palaces.
Walking through the Lahori Gate, you’ll come to the Chatta Chowk.
Chhatta Chowk means covered bazar, which in 17th Century India was extremely unusual and this one is especially in unique in Mughal Architecture. The notion of a covered bazaar was stimulated by the one Shah Jahan saw in Peshawar in 1646. This bazaar was earlier known as ‘Bazzar-i-Musaqqaf.
This covered two storeyed passage, flanked by arcaded apartments on both sides. On each side it contains 32 arched bays that served as shops, just as they do today. In Shah Jahan’s time, there were shops on both the upper and lower levels. They catered to the luxury trade of the imperial household as they specialized in silk, brocades, velvets, gold and silverware, jewelry and gems.
Swatantra Sangram Sanghralaya
After passing through the Chhatta-Chowk, you will notice a sign board ‘Swatantrata Senani Smarak” on your left, just before Naubat. Just a few steps from that spot, there is one museum “Swatantra Sangram Sanghralaya”. The museum provides a glimpse of major phases of India’s struggle for freedom. The museum was set up in one of the double storeyed army barracks in 1995. Swatantra Sangram Sanghralaya takes us down memory lane depicting the long, arduous & torturous period of the freedom struggle. The museum traces the entire journey of our freedom struggle in phases, starting from Sepoy Mutiny to Indian National Army. You can see a full–size depictions of the Jallianwala Bagh firing, as well as a replica of Court Martial of Shah Nawaz Khan, P.K. Sehgal and G.S. Dhillon of INA in Red Fort during 1945-46. The entire first floor is dedicated to Indian National Army and there are numerous portraits of “Netaji, Subhash Chandra Bose”. This museum has very carefully preserved all objects including photographs, documents from the different eras of freedom struggle.
A must visit place for all of us. Unfortunately, photography is not allowed inside the museum.
From the western gateway after passing through the Chhatta-Chowk, you will reach the Naubat- or Naqqar-Khana (‘Drum-house’), where ceremonial music was played and which also served as the entrance to the Diwan-i-’Am.
The Naubat or Naqqar Khana (Drum House) stands at the entrance to the palatial complex. In its days of glory, musicians from the Naubat Khana announced the arrival of the Emperor or other prominent dignitaries at the court of the public audience. Music was also played five times a day at chosen hours. Most of the royal palaces in India have essentially the Naubat Khana at the entrance.
Faced with Red Sandstone, it is a large three storied building, rectangular on plan. Richly carved floral designs on its red stone walls appear to have been originally painted with gold, while the interior was painted in other colours. Several layers of these paintings can be traced, even now on the entrance chamber.
The later Mughal Kings Jahadhar Shar (A.D. 1712-13) and Farrukhsiyar (A.D. 1713-19) are said to be assassinated here.
Diwan-i-am or the Hall of Public audience was the place where Shah Jahan (A.D. 1628-58) received the general public and heard their grievances.
With a courtyard in the front, it was originally surrounded by arcaded apartments used by Chiefs (Umaras) on duty. With an impressive facade of nine engrailed arch opening, the hall was ornamented with gilded stucco work. In the centre of the eastern wall, stands a marble canopy covered by a Bengal roof’ under which was placed the Emperor throne. A marble dais below the throne, inlaid with semi-precious stones, was used by the Wazir (Prime Minister) for receiving petitions.
Behind the canopy, the wall is decorated with beautiful panels inlaid with multi-coloured stones (pietra dura work), representing flowers and birds, said to have been executed by Austine de Bordeaux, a Florentine Jeweller.
Nadir Shah, the Persian invader plundered the city of Delhi in A.D. 1739 and took away the palace booty including the Takht-i-Taus (Peacock Throne) with the Kohinoor (World’s largest diamond).
To the southeast is the Mumtaz Mahal, formerly the women’s quarters but now an archaeological museum. The museum contains a series of galleries with exhibits from the Mughal era including old manuscripts, miniature paintings, textiles, daggers, glazed tiles, portraits, lithographs, porcelain items, and carpets.
To the north is the Rang Mahal (“Palace of Colors”), which derived its name from the beautiful interior paintwork Fortunately, the lotus-shaped marble carving on the central floor still remains. The Rang Mahal was the home of the Emperor’s principal wife.
Next door is the Khas Mahal, which used to be the Emperor’s personal palace. The palace was divided into separate sections including a prayer room and bedroom.
Diwan-i-Khas also known as ‘Shah Mahal’ was the ‘Hall of Private Audience’ used by the Emperor for receiving selected courtiers and visitors.
It consists of a rectangular central chamber,surrounded by series of arches rising from piers. The lower parts of the piers are inlaid with floral designs while the upper protions are gilded and painted.
The four corners of its roof are surmounted by pillared chattries. Over the marble pedestal in its centre stood the famous ‘Peacock Throne’ which was removed in 1739 by Nadir Shah. Through the centre of the hall flowed the Nahar-i-Bihisht (‘Stream of Paradise’).
Over the corner-arches of the northern and southern walls below the cornice is inscribed the famous verse of Amir Khusraw exclaiming “If there be a paradise on the earth, it is this, it is this, it is this.”
Moti Masjid or the Pearl Mosque was built by Aurangzeb for his personal use. It would take him a short walk from his bed chamber to reach the sacred place of warship at several of the day or night. The mosque was used by the ladies of the seraglio (Harem) who entered through a passage in the northern wall of the enclosure.
The Mosque was built over a raised plinth and entered through an eastern arched gateway with a copper plated door. The courtyard of this mosque in enclosed by high walls. Though red sand stone has been used externally, its interior is composed entirely of pure white marble. The prayer hall of the mosque is inlaid with outlines if ‘Musallas’ (small carpets of prayer) in black marble and it stands at a higher level than the courtyard. The hall is surrounded by three bulbous domes, originally copper platted. A tank is there in the courtyard, with a fountain used for ablution.
Walk north to the Royal Baths, comprised of three spacious hammams (Turkish-style baths) with a central fountain. These baths originally sported sublime pietra dura (marble inlay work) floors and pretty colored glass roof panels.
Hayat Bakhsh (Gardens & Pavilions)
Hayat Baksh, or ‘life bestowing garden’ laid in the ‘Char Bagh’ Mughal pattern with causeways and channels, was the most beautiful and well planned garden in the entire palace area and has been considerably reconstructed.
Two marble pavilions in the southern and northern sides of the garden are respectively known as Sawan and Bhadon, which are two rainy months in the Hindu calendar. Water was intended to flow from them over candle niches into the water causeway of the garden thus creating a picturesque effect.
Between Sawan and Bhadon, a red sandstone pavilion lies in the center of the large tank, known as Zafar Mahal, named after Bahadur Shah II, by whom it was built in about 1842.
Finally, the day ended with the Light & Sound show. I heard a lot about the same but never been there. The show is a one hour spectacle shown in Hindi & English language with a half an hour gap in between the two shows in an evening. It was an amazing experience. However, I still feel that the major distraction was the urban yellow light, otherwise you can very well travel back to those days during the show.
The Red Fort of Delhi has witnessed so many rulers and an important link between the past and the present. It had witnessed the downfall of Mughal dynasty, as well as pains and sufferings throughout our freedom struggle. It has also witnessed the day when Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, unfurled the national flag from the ramparts of the Red Fort on 15th of August, 1947. Every year on 15 August, the Prime Minister hoists the national flag at the Red Fort.
I was tired, but happy for the days’ outcome. There was very few people in the last Metro to Gurgaon, which gave me the freedom to stretch my legs, as well as the time to reconstruct the entire days’ experience, thread by thread. A weekend well spend.
Entry Ticket to the Fort:
Rs. 10/- and Rs. 5/- for the Museum.
Light & Sound Show:
Weekdays: Rs. 60/ & Rs.20/- for adults and children respectively.
Weekends / Public Holidays: Rs. 80/- and Rs. 30/- for adults and children respectively.