Lal Quila or Red Fort is one of the prime examples of Mughal Architecture which has survived many eons’ to remind us about its past glory. This citadel carved in red sandstone was built on the western banks of river Yamuna by Emperor Shah Jahan (circa 1628-1658).
Delhi had been established as its capital by the first Mughal emperor Babar in 1526 and subsequently his son established the capital as Din Panah (the present site of Purana Quila) which was over-run by Sher Shah Suri in 1540, who razed the same to ground and established his Capital known as Sher Shahi at the same site. Although the Mughals regained their ascendancy after a short while but they shifted their capital to Agra. However, in 1639 Shah Jahan commissioned the construction of the fort city in Delhi, which was to be known as the Shahjahanabad and was completed in 1649. It was to be one of the grandest constructions which brought in best crafts men from all over the world and main halls were draped with silk tapestry from China. The details will reflect the care & craftsmanship of the building which was inlaid with both precious & semi-precious stones.
The fort is irregular octagonal in plan and surrounded by river front on its western front with deep moats all around. The main features of the fort which are visible today are –
Lahore Gate – This is used as the main entrance and the main national event of Independence Day is hosted from its parapet;
Chatta Chowk - This is the main gate from where the access to the Chatta Chowk a market place, which is inhabited by shopkeepers & traders, can be gained;
Naubat Khana – Just where the Chatta Chowk ends is the main entrance to the inner courtyard or palace precincts. Musicians were housed in this complex, who played for the Emperors from their lofts here;
Diawan-e-aam – The Palace of Public audience wherefrom the Emperor used to hold public court and meet the foreign dignitaries & emissaries. It consists of a huge hall, an elevated place for emperor’s throne below which is the seat of the Wazir or Prime Minister. Behind the Diwan-i-aam is the main courtyard which houses the important personal & other structures;
Rang Mahal – When panning from right to left facing the artefacts, the Rang Mahal or ‘Palace of Colours’ appears on the extreme right. It housed the Emperors main wife. A beautiful water way which runs across the entire length of the private Palaces also known as Nahar-e-Bhist passed through this palace with central ornately decorated lotus shaped fountain whose water ultimately poured out into the garden and the niches were lighted with candles to provide light as well as spectacle to the structure;
Khwabgah - The structure was made up of Khwabgah or ‘World of Dreams’ , next to it is theTashbish Khana or Place for counting beads during private prayers and the Mussaman Burj which was used by the Emperor to greet the Sun and grant audience to his vassals;
Diwan-e-Khas – The Palace of Private Audience is to the left of the Khwabgah. It is the most ornately decorated structures inlaid with gold during its heydays and housed the Palace of Private audience for his Ministers etc.;
Scale of Justice – On the partition of Tashbish Khana as well as the Khwabgah is engraved the Scale of Justice with the moon & stars to remind the Emperor of being just;
Hammam – On the extreme right of this complex is the Royal Baths which are closed and cannot be accessed by the public;
Moti Masjid – Right opposite the Hammam is the Moti or Pearl Masjid which was built by Auragzeb in 1659 for private royal mosque;
Sawan-Bhadon & Hyat Baksh – Sawan & Bhadon are two ornately crafted marble pavilions which are connected by the Nahar-i-Bahist with the Zafar or Jal Mahal situated in between them. On the right side is laid the garden known as the Hyat Baksh Garden or Life Bestowing gardens;
Hira Mahal – This is a small marble structure on an elevated platform which was built by the last emperor to sit and watch the river scenes and also described as Hawa Mahal or Palace of Winds by some;
Shah Burj – Placed at the extreme eastern corner of the Fort complex is a small well crafted complex which was used by Aurangzeb to hold secret meetings with his ministers in attendance;
Museums – There are two museums within the precincts of the Fort. The first one is the Indian War Memorial which is housed on the top floor of the Naubat Khana. The second one is dedicated to the Mughal period which in turn is housed (on the right or Rang Mahal or the western end of the complex) in a block known as the Mumtaz Mahal.