A day in the historic Red Fort – Shahjahanabad, the Seventh city of Delhi

“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?”

Red Fort

A symbol of Independence and national pride

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

Babar hailo abar jhar sarilo asude

When we were in class V or VI, we learned the simplest way to remember the rulers in Moghul dynasty in chronological order:

Babar (Babur) hailo (Humayon) abar (Akbar) jhar (Jahangir) sarilo (Shajahan) asude (Auranzeb).

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’.

Lahore Gate

Lahore Gate

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.

The Red Fort

The Red Fort

Walking through the Lahori Gate, you’ll come to the Chatta Chowk.

Chhatta 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.

Chhatta Chowk - The covered bazar

Chhatta Chowk – The covered bazar

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.

Swatantra Sangram Sanghralaya

Swatantra Sangram Sanghralaya

Swatantra Sangram Sanghralaya

Swatantra Sangram Sanghralaya

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.

Naubat Khana

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.

Naubat Khana

Naubat Khana

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.

Floral designs on its red stone walls

Floral designs on its red stone walls

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).





Mumtaz Mahal

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.

Rang Mahal

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.

Rang Mahal

Rang Mahal

Khas Mahal

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

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.

Moti Mosjid

Moti Mosjid


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.

Hayat Baksh

Hayat Baksh

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.

Bhadon Pavilion

Bhadon Pavilion

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.

Zafar Mahal

Zafar Mahal



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 light & sound show - Sitting arrangement

The light & sound show – Sitting arrangement

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.

A symbol of Independence and national pride.

A symbol of Independence and national pride.

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.


  • ashok sharma says:

    nice and informative post.very good photographs.

    • Thank you Ashok for liking the post.

      Red Fort doesn’t require any introduction. However, at times, we take this place for granted. It was just an attempt to capture some moments in the Fort. I went there numerous times in the past, but never tried to understand the importance of this place before…and today, after spending almost a day in the fort, personally I know the difference.

  • Rakesh Bawa says:

    Very nice post Amitava Ji. Long ago visited Lal Qilla. It happens that one is attracted to faraway places more so is the case with me. Sorry Delhi.

  • Thank you Prof.
    True. It’s same for almost everyone. The same was written by Rabindranath Tagore long time back. In one of his verses, he wrote:

    Bohu din dhore, bohu krosh dure,
    bohu byay kori, bohu desh ghure,
    Dekhite giyachhi parbotmala, dekhite giyachhi sindhu,
    Dekha hoy nai chokkhu meliya,
    Ghar hote shudhu dui pa feliya,
    Ekti dhaner shisher upore ekti shishir bindu.

    Translated into English:
    I traveled miles, for many a year,
    I spent a lot in lands a far,
    Ive gone to see the mountains, the oceans Ive been to view.
    But I havent seen with these eyes
    Just two steps from my home lies
    On a sheaf of paddy grain, a glistening drop of dew.

    Whenever you will visit Delhi next, you may plan your day to visit this Historic place once again.

  • Vipin says:

    Hi Amitava da, it’s great to see ghumakkars exploring their cities and enlightening others about it…we would love to hear it from ghumakkars from other cities too to write about their own cities so that we get to know about it…

    Great to go back in the history and see the different facets of this marvel through your writing and wonderful visuals…the fort & its history really amaze you while you pass through each & every historical evidences in the form of these silent structures which keep the tales of the past alive…i would always image how magnificent the fort would look when all the water channels in the premises would be filled with water including the fountains, zafar mahal etc…have you ever seen it so? I actually did not enjoy the sound & light show here when i visited it (except the story of the fort which it was focused to) as i had seen the one at Old Fort which already raised the bar so high with wonderful lighting picturization & lovely commentary…

    Did you get to see the baoli (stepwell) at the fort? If not i would highly recommend it…it is one of the best & unique (with steps coming down from two sides) in Delhi…also if you missed Salimgarh Fort just ahead of baoli crossing the bridge…do try to visit it next time…though nothing remains of the fort now, but some exhibitions in the premises are outstanding & brings back the memories of Netaji & INA & other freedom fighters while you pass through them…also did you get to go inside Moti Masjid?

    Thank you for this wonderful work…do let us know when you plan something in Delhi next time, may be we can catch up & explore together…:)

    • Amitava Chatterjee says:

      Thank you Vipin…definitely, we would love to hear it from everyone about their cities. You will come across a few on West Bengal in few days time…and you may love them to read.

      I thought exactly what you just mentioned here. It’d perhaps beyond our imagination to visualize how it would look…may be an artist like Sanjay Leela Bansali or few other great directors can reconstruct the fort and present it for all of us.

      I also heard a lot about “Ishq-E-Dilli” through Auro’s post/Nandan comments and just suggested the same to Mukesh, as he is planning to visit next Saturday for few hours, if time permits for him. No, I haven’t seen it yet and I am planning to see it next.

      I think the Baoli is towards Salimgarh fort, which I am planning sometime in August…I know the way – it is ~ 1 Km from Chhatta Chowk (Red Fort). This time the door of Moti Mosjid was locked, so couldn’t go inside. However, I went inside in all my earlier trips.

      It will be good to meet you too and travelled together to some place. Let’s see – ‘ll plan something.

  • Mukesh Bhalse says:

    An enjoyable write up weaved by beautiful words and adorned by captivating pictures. Enjoyed this post thoroughly. Thanks for sharing.

    Amitava ji,

    I have an official tour to Manesar (Gurgaon) on 13th this month. I’ll come by Bandra-Nizamuddin Garib Rath which reaches H. Nizamuddin at 9.40 AM. I have to reach Manesar at 11.30 and around 3.00 PM I will be free. My return ticket (same day) is in H. Nizamuddin-Indore Intercity express which leaves Nizamuddin at 10.15 PM. Based on above description, I have some queries to ask you.

    1. What will be the best way to reach Manesar from H. nizamuddin? I have never traveled in Delhi Metro and am desirous to. Can you suggest me the best route so that I can reach there in time? and possibly can travel in Metro.

    2. I think I’ll have some 5-6 hours in my hand in Delhi, Can I explore some significant places in this time? What it could be? Please suggest me how should I utilize this small time to see one or some of the tourist places of Delhi.

    Waiting for your reply.


    • Amitava Chatterjee says:

      Thank you Mukesh for your appreciation.

      I have already sent you a mail. Have you seen it?
      The distance from H Nizamuddin Station to Manesar would be ~50-55 KM, depending on which site/office you would be visiting. Unfortunately, there is no direct connectivity and the travel hours would be at least an hour and a half if you are traveling in a cab.

      As Nandan suggested, you can either come to Jorbagh or AIIMS (~8 KM from the Rly Station) and take a Metro from there to Gurgaon. Get down at MG Road Metro Station (~35 to 40 mins). From there hire an Auto would be ideal (15-20 KM). Even if you are coming on Saturday, there would be a bit morning rush. I may go to Manesar on Saturday, so I can drop you there – give me a call, it will be less than 5 mins for me to reach there – I stay very close to MG Road Metro Station. It’ll be my pleasure.

      Look forward to hear from you.

      Though, there are many attarctions in Delhi – since time is too short, I would suggest you to visit Humayun Tomb and see Light & Sound Show at Purana Qilla…”Ishq-E-Dilli” is excellent – do visit Auro’s post on this…these two places are a stone’s throw away distance from the Rly Station and show timing (7:30 to 8:30 p.m.) would also be just fine…or even meeting friends would also be an ideal option.

  • Nandan Jha says:

    @ Amitava – Great story. Very meticulously logged and a very step-by-step account of what one may encounter inside. The photos have come out so well. I was there in that area two weeks back, had some work in Chandni Chowk. :-)

    @ Mukesh – Welcome to Delhi. Amitava would be able to help you better since he lives in Gurgaon but here is what I know.

    1. If you want to travel in ‘Delhi Metro’ then the closest station would be ‘Jorbagh’ on ‘Yellow Line’. ‘Yellow Line’ goes all the way to HUDA City Centre in Gurgaon. You may not need to go all the way to city centre, may be there is a better stop before which would connect you to Manesar. You do not have a lot of time in the morning. It would take at least an hour and a half to reach Manesar, if not more.

    2. It depends on what you want to cover. Monuments / Temples / Night Life / Food / Parks / Meet People. Call me as your time permits. Wishes and welcome to Delhi.

    • Thank you Nandan.

      It was just an attempt…I went there numerous times, whenever we have guests at home almost every year; but never gave it due importance which it deserves.

      After a very long time, I sat almost 3 hours in the lawn till evening and did exactly nothing…children were playing in the lawn…many many years ago one small kid must be playing with his father in the same field and became the 6th Emperor of Mughal dynasty….and the father spent the rest of his life far away from this fort, which he built…

      Nice to note that you like this post and pictures…most probably ‘the story of Shahjahanabad’ – the Seventh city of Delhi – is already cooking somewhere in the oven of Nirdesh and will present it in a better way than this post.

  • Mukesh Bhalse says:

    Amitava & Nandan,

    Thanks a lot to both of you for providing me such helpful guideline that too in such a detailed manner. I’ll definitely try to meet you people in Delhi.

    Thanks again.

  • Nirdesh Singh says:

    Hi Amitava,

    I had visited Red Fort for the first time (dont remember going there as a child) last December. Dont know if the weather was gloomy and smoggy but I found Red Fort forlorn and sad. Only the Lahori Gate with the tricolour fluttering was imposing. I think it is a combination of what the angry, revengeful British did to it after 1857 uprising. And then the subsequent Army occupation. Now the ugly blue tarpaulin of the security post at the entrance kills the ambience.

    ASI who gets tonnes of revenues from visitors should be doing more for its restoration. The place was packed when I visited, though it seems it wasnt much crowded when you visited. They can at least get the water channels flowing like they have partially done at Humayun Tomb. The marble structures are greying; the empty sockets which were filled with gems and rubies look tragic.

    Few write-ups I read about Red Fort, all have the same story about how sad it looks. Maybe I will go again on a sunny day. Also, I missed seeing the baoli; Vipin will not forgive me for that!

    The Sound and Light Show was okay since I had no expectations as i am yet to see the one at Purana Qila. But then the system conked off and we had to walk away in the middle of the show.

    Moti Masjid is locked. It is supposed to be pretty inside one of the few monuments built by Aurangzeb.

    It took me about seven visits to Mehrauli to write about Mehrauli. Writing about Shahjahanabad could take a months worth of visits to the walled city. South Delhi and all its tombs are taking a long time!

    The post is nice and breezy with description of all structures inside. Photos look good. You were lucky to get blue skies in Delhi. It is rare these days in Delhi.

    For my information, what does the UV filter do (or maybe Sushantji has explained in one of his posts)? Why a new tripod? And why a bicycle maybe you want to follow Vipin?!

    • Amitava Chatterjee says:

      Hi Nirdesh,
      I lost count of my trips to this Fort. We receive guests every year from home, sometimes even someone known to our family…and it is the same story to travel with them to show some important places in Delhi & around…and there were numerous trips to all these places including Taj Mahal. It was always a hurried tour, spending 1 or 2 hours at each places and never thought much about the importance of the place.

      I had a specific purpose this time to spend time at the fort only. It would be really great if ASI restore some of the water channels. I haven’t visited Humayun Tomb in last two years…so, need to plan for a visit. It is good to know.

      Even on that day, there were lots of tourists…though not in pictures…I had to wait for a long time before taking each shots. I was really fortunate for the blue sky and it was not too hot on that day. It was the same when we went to Safdarjung Tomb in January…there was no sun and it’s foggy.

      UV filter is used in photography as a protection for the lenses’ glass and coating. It reduces the level of ultraviolet light that strikes the recording medium.

      There are some disadvantages of my previous tripod, height was an issue and if we buy another lense, it may not support the weight.

      Lastly, bi-cycle – I am planning to buy it for the last few years, so it’s not new obsession for me. I’m an impulsive buyer…if I want to buy something…it’s now and I don’t wait…unfortunately, only for this, which I love the most – due to some unknown reason, not able to buy the same yet…I love cycling and since my office is very nearby, I am thinking to pedalling the distance for a long time…it will also help you to stay fit.

  • Saurabh Gupta says:

    After spending 7 years in Delhi still I have not visited Red Fort.

    It’s really nice to see through your eyes. Information given by you is really useful.

    Now I can hope that through your & Nirdesh Ji eye’s I can see whole Delhi.


    • Amitava Chatterjee says:

      Hi Saurabh,
      You must visit the place…’m not suggesting you to go there in summer, but if you go there during winter with sometime in your hand, you will definitely enjoy this place.

      Since you are staying in Delhi, don’t club it with any other places…just spend the time at the fort.

      Thank you,

  • AUROJIT says:

    Hi Amitava,

    “enjoying my forced bachelor life ………always turned out to be the best use of my time.” – bold statement indeed, that is, depending on whether M has vetted this or not -)

    My memory of Lal Qila is hazy enough to be re-imprinted by so many other versions, including that of my daughter’s ‘itihas walk’ impressions. Thanks for putting it up afresh, covering interesting details of Shajahanabad in a chronological order.

    LnS show of Lal Qila – you may perhaps think of presenting it in a separate article since very limited practical info is available on that.


    • Amitava Chatterjee says:

      Hi Auro, Thank you.
      :-)…’M’ is 100% aware of the fact…no ruleset for me…no fixed time to reach home/roam around the city, sometimes aimlessly hours after hours whenever time permits even at night…things which I want to do on my own way

      LnS show of Lal Qila – let me see – we will be going to see both the show (Purana Qila) along with everyone soon and will post after that…

      Your post on Ishq-E-Dilli is a fantastic piece of work.

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