This guidebook is a part of the World Heritage Series published by the Archaeological Survey of India with the aim of introducing the visitor to UNESCO World Heritage Monuments in India.
Extensive historical research and a focus on architectural details make this book an invaluable companion for anyone wishing to explore o the Mughal emperor Shad Shah Jahan’s palace in Delhi.
Red Fort or Lal-Qila represents the pinnacle of Mughal place-fort architecture, a process initiated by Babur, the first Mughal emperor, and brought to a stunning refinement by Shah Jahan with a splendid fusion of traditions; Islamic, Persian, Timurid and Hindu.
The guide also includes brief sections on Shahjahanabad, the grand Jami-Masjid, the adjoining Salimgarh Fort and the museums within the two forts.
Specially-commissioned photographs, architectural drawings and easy-to-follow maps make the book a visual delight.
Shah Jahan transferred his capital from Agra
to Delhi in 1638 and laid the foundation of
Shahjahanabad, the seventh city of Delhi, on
the banks of the Yamuna. It was completed in
1649. Prior to this, the Mughal capital was at
Agra, 203 km south-east of Delhi.
The seventeenth century European traveller
Francois Bernier writes in his Travels in the
Mogul Empire, AD 1656-68, that the scorching
heat of the city forced Shah Jahan to shift his
capital to Delhi. There was also a strategic
reason for the shift from Agra since Delhi, due
to its geographic location, was more suitable
for the control of the whole empire.
The city of Shahjahanabad, polygonal in plan,
was provided with houses in blocks, wide roads,
mosques and bazaars, among which Chandni-
Chowk, with a tree-shaded water channel
flowing in its centre, was one of the most
enchanting markets in the contemporary East.
Laid out by the emperor's daughter, Jahanara,
Chandni-Chowk was the main thoroughfare of
the city, running west from the Lahori Gate of
Red Fort to Fatehpuri-Masjid. It was planned as
a series of gardens and chawks. The other main
bazaar of the city, Faiz Bazaar was planned to
be perpendicular to Chandni-Chowk and was
approached from the Delhi Gate of the Red Fort.
With the Red Fort at its northeastern base, the
city was engirdled by rubble-built high walls,
strengthened by bastions, circular as well as
square, and pierced by several gates. Large
portions of the city-walls suffered damage later
during 1857 and were rebuilt. Over some of its
parts the wall has disappeared only in recent
years, but substantial stretches of it still survive.
Of its fourteen gates, apart from wicket-
entrances, only some have escaped demolition.
Among these are Ajmeri Gate on the south-
west, Turkman Gate (approached from
Jawaharlal Nehru Road) on the south, Kashmiri
Gate on the north, Nigambodh Gate on the
north-east and Delhi Gate on the south-east.
These gates, square on plan, are pierced by
high arched openings, except the Nigambodh
Gate, which is low, and the Kashmiri Gate,
which has lateral double openings, one for the
entrance and the other for exit. Delhi Gate, at
the intersection of Asaf Ali Road and Netaji
Subhash Marg. is entered through a pointed
arch opening, flanked on either end with
bastions. Its name comes from the old cities
it faced to the south, which were clubbed
together as 'Delhi'.
After the transfer of the capital, Shah Jahan, on
16 April 1639, laid the foundation of his citadel,
Lal-Qila (Lal-Qal'a) or Red Fort, known also by
other names in contemporary accounts.
Gordon Sanderson and Maulvi Shuaib in their
book, Delhi Fort: A Guide to the Buildings and
Gardens, write, 'In the reigns of Shah Jahan and
Aurangzeb it was styled Qala-i-Mubarak (the
Fortunate Citadel) or Qala-i-Shahjahanabad,
and it is under this latter title that we find
references to it in the historical works of the
period. In the reign of Bahadur Shah II, it was
known as Qala-i-Mu'alla (the Exalted Fort)'.
The fort was completed after nine years on 16
April 1648. The entire fort is said to have cost
about one crore of rupees, half of which was
spent on the palaces.
On the north, the fort is connected by a bridge
with Salimgarh. Outside the ramparts runs a
moat, originally connected with the river.
Most of the buildings in the fort were once
occupied by the British army and bear scars
inflicted by them. In 2004, the Indian Army
which had occupied the fort after 1947, finally
vacated the fort which is now fully under the
protection of the Archaeological Survey of
Two years after the fort was built, in 1650,
Shah Jahan commenced the construction of
Jami-Masjid, the largest mosque in India.
Lying about 500 m west of the Red Fort, it was
completed after six years at a cost of about ten
lakhs of rupees. It was here that the emperor
went for his Friday prayers, going through the
Delhi Gate of his citadel (see p. 90).
Another important mosque in Shahjahanabad
is Fatehpuri-Masjid, at the western end of
Chandni-Chowk. Built in 1650 by Fatehpuri-
Begam, one of the wives of Shah Jahan,
this red sandstone mosque has single and
double-storeyed apartments on the sides. It
is surmounted by a single dome and flanked
by tall minarets. The mosque was aligned
with the seat of the emperor in Diwan-i-Am
in Red Fort. Until the barbican to the Lahori
Gate of Red Fort was added by Aurangzeb, the
mosque could be seen from the Diwan-i-Am
itself, about 2 km away.
Red Fort is one of the most magnificent fort- palaces in India. Declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007, it served as the citadel of Shahjahanabad — the capital of the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan. It derives its name from the massive red sandstone walls.
The fort consists of several palaces — significantly, Diwan-i-Am, Mumtaz-Mahal, Rang-Mahal, Khas-Mahal and Diwan-i- Khas — set amidst sprawling gardens.
The Red Fort stands testimony to Mughal architectural excellence, which reached its zenith under Shah Jahan. Although based on Islamic guidelines, the plan reveals a fusion of Persian, Timurid and Hindu traditions. The Red Fort’s innovative planning and architectural style strongly influenced later structures in Rajasthan, Agra and other places.
The fort has undergone numerous alterations after its original construction, especially under Aurangzeb and later Mughal rulers. It underwent a sea of change during the Uprising of 1857, and the subsequent British occupation. After Independence, the Indian Army continued to be stationed in the complex till 2004. Thereafter, the entire fort has come under the supervision and conservation efforts of the Archaeological Survey of India.
Today, the Mughal and British structures stand together in perfect symphony — a culmination of two distinct phases of Indian history.
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