RED FORT, DELHI
largest of old Delhi's monuments is the Lal Quila, or the
Red Fort, the thick red sandstone walls of which, bulging
with turrets and bastions, have withstood the vagaries of
time, and nature. The Lal Quila rises above a wide dry moat,
in the northeast corner of the original city of Shahjahanabad.
Its walls extend upto two kilometre, and vary in height from
18 metres on the river side to 33 metres on the city side.
Mughal Emperor Shahjahan started the construction of the massive
fort in 1638, and work was completed in 1648. The fort sports
all the obvious trappings, befitting a vital centre of Mughal
government: halls of public and private audience, domed and
arched marble palaces, plush private apartments, a mosque,
and elaborately designed gardens. Even today, the fort remains
an impressive testimony to Mughal grandeur, despite being
attacked by the Persian Emperor Nadir Shah in 1739, and by
the British soldiers, during the war of independence in 1857.
Entrance to the fort is through the imposing Lahore Gate,
which as its name suggests faces Lahore, now in Pakistan.
This gate has a special significance for India, since the
first war of independence, and has been the venue of many
an important speech, delivered 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 skilful 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. Musicians used to play for the emperor from the
Naubat Khana, and the arrival of princes and royalty was heralded
The Fort also houses the Diwan-i-Am or the Hall of Public
Audiences, where the Emperor would sit and hear complaints
of the common folk. His alcove in the wall was marble-panelled,
and was set with precious stones, many of which were looted,
after the Mutiny of 1857. The Diwan-i-Khas is the hall of
private audiences, where the Emperor held private meetings.
This hall is made of marble, and its centre-piece used to
be the Peacock Throne, which was carried away to Iran by Nadir
Shah in 1739. Today, the Diwan-i-Khas is only a pale shadow
of its original glory, yet the famous Persian couplet inscribed
on its wall reminds us of its former magnificence: "If on
earth be an eden on bliss, it is this, it is this, none but
The other attractions enclosed within this monument are the
hammams or the Royal Baths, the Shahi Burj, which used to
be Shahjahan's private working area, and the Moti Masjid or
the Pearl Mosque, built by Aurangzeb for his personal use.
The Rang Mahal or the 'Palace of Colors' housed the Emperor's
wives and mistresses. This palace was crowned with gilded
turrets, delicately painted and decorated with an intricate
mosaics of mirrors, and a ceiling overlaid with gold and silver,
that was wonderfully reflected in a central pool in the marble
Even today, the Lal Quila is an eloquent reminder of the glory
of the Mughal era, and its magnificence simply leaves one
awestruck. It is still a calm haven of peace, which helps
one to break away, from the frantic pace of life outside the
walls of the Fort, and transports the visitor to another realm
How to Get There
Air: Delhi has a extensive network of international
and domestic flights. All the major airlines in the world
fly through Delhi and it is easily accessible from anywhere
in the world. Domestic air links cover Delhi from all the
major cities in the country.
Train: Trains run from all the
parts of the country to Delhi. For nearby places like Chandigarh,
Dehradun, Gwalior, Bhopal, Lucknow and Kanpur, the Shatabdi
Express is recommended.
Bus: Buses from all the major
places in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh,
Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan are available for getting to
Delhi. During summer months air-conditioned coaches are recommended.