famous Red Fort is known by that name because of the red stone with which it is
built and it is one of the most magnificent palaces in the world. India's
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 its ramparts that the first Prime
Minister of India, Pandit Jawharlal Nehru, announced to the nation that India
was free form colonial rule.
Mughal Emperor Shahjahan started construction of the
massive fort in 1638 and work was completed in 1648. The fort contains all the
expected trappings of the 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. Shah Jahan shifted his capital from Agra to Shahjahanabad
and laid the foundation of Red Fort, or the Lal Quila, on 16th April 1639. It
took nine years to build this mighty citadel and it got completed on 16th April
1648. It is said that about one crore rupees, an astronomical sum in those days,
was spent on its construction. Half of this sum was spent to build the exotic
palaces within the fort. Built of red sandstone, it is octagonal in shape, with
two longer sides on the east and west.
Built during the reign of Shah Jahan, the Lal Qila (or Red
Fort) has been a mute witness to innumerable conspiracies, scandals, battles.
Completed in a span of nine years, it cost about ten million rupees , with about
half the sum going towards the building of palaces. The fort is octagonal in
shape, like most Islamic buildings in India. The north of the fort is connected
to the smaller Salimgarh fort. The Red Fort is an intimidating structure. It
measures 900m by 550m, with its rampart walls covering a perimeter of 2.41km. On
the outside, you can still see the moat that was originally connected with the
Yamuna River. Red Fort rises to a height of 33.5 m on the town side and 18 m
along the river. A wide moat surrounds the fort, which was originally connected
with the river and was always filled with water. The two main gateways, known as
Lahori Gate and Delhi Gate (named so, as they face Lahore and Delhi
respectively), are three storeys high and are flanked by semi-octagonal towers.
They are situated on the centre of the western and southern sides respectively.
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
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. 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
folks. His alcove in the wall was marble-paneled 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 remind us of its former magnificence: "If on Earth be an Eden of bliss,
it is this, it is this, none but this." The other attractions within this
monument are the Royal Baths or hammams, 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 Colours"
housed the Emperor's wives and mistresses. This palace was crowned with gilded
turrets, delicately painted and decorated with an intricate mosaic of mirrors,
and a ceiling overlaid with gold and silver that was reflected in a central pool
in the marble floor.