Looking at the Red Fort or Lal Quila, as it is popularly known as, I was taken aback by its grandeur. This massive and impressive structure is the largest monument in Delhi, national capital of India. I had read a little about the Red Fort and was curious to see it in real life as it has been a witness to a lot of historical moments.
If you are wondering, Why is Red Fort famous and why you should not miss to visit it? Read on…
Red Fort, also known as Lal Quila is the place where Indian flag was hoisted at the time of independence of India by Jawahar Lal Nehru above the Lahore Gate on 15th August 1947. Since then this has become a tradition to hoist the national flag at the Red Fort on every 15th August (India’s Independence Day) . But there is more to why you should visit the Red Fort and I am covering the same in this post.
Red Fort played an important role in the revolt of 1857 when Bahadur Shah Zafar supported the revolt against the British.
Lal Quila or the Red Fort silently witnessed the trials of the members of the Indian National Army (Azad Hind Fauj) by the British in 1945 and 1946.
In addition to being the largest monument in Delhi, Red Fort or Lal Quila is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a beautiful amalgamation of Mughal, Persian and Indo-Islamic architecture.
Red Fort has always been this iconic structure in Old Delhi.
But after reading the book, “Red Fort: Remembering the Magnificent Mughals” by Debasish Das , I realized that the Red Fort is much more than this red wall and the platform where the prime minister delivers his speech.
The beauty of the fort can only be understood and best appreciated from a string of apartments that once lined the river Yamuna on its opposite side.
Really, it must have been beautiful indeed to glide down the Yamuna on a boat and appreciate all the buildings that housed the emperor’s private quarters.
Now the river has receded afar, but in olden times the various private apartments such as the Rang mahal, Khwabgah (‘abode of dreams’) or the emperor’s bed-chamber as well as the famous Diwan-e-Khas where the Mughal Emperor sat on the Peacock Throne were lined along the river front.
But more than the buildings, I came to know the intricacies of life, culture, arts, games and pastime, food and drinks and many other things from the Mughal days. I would highly recommend reading this book but more on it at the end of the blog post.
Why was the Red Fort built?
When the Mughal Emperor Shahjahan decided to shift his capital from Agra to Delhi, he commissioned construction of this magnificent fort. It was to be used as the residence of the Mughal Emperor.
The construction of the Lal Quila started during 1639 and it took about 9 years to complete it. The Red Fort was originally known as ‘Quila-e-Mubarak’, meaning ‘the blessed fort’. Ustad Ahmad and Ustad Hamid were the main architects of the Red Fort.
This octagonal shaped walled structure covers over 256 acres of land. Red Fort had been a part of the Mughal Empire for around 200 years.
What is inside the Red Fort?
Red Fort complex houses many magnificent structures inside namely-
Chhata Chowk (Meena Bazar Market) – This place was used as a market that catered exclusively to the women living in the fort. It is a covered street with arched cells that used to house shops selling jewelry, precious stones, silks and brocades etc.
Royal women used to visit this place for shopping and hanging out. The place is obviously not as charmful now as it would have been in its older times but shops selling jewelry, decorative items, trinkets etc are there to lure the visitors.
Naubat Khana or Nakkar Khana (the Drum House) – For the entertainment of the royals, top musicians used to play music from this place five times a day.
Beautiful carving adorns the walls of this structure. Looking around, I try to imagine the ambience of this place when it would have been beautifully lit in the evening and soulful music filled the air.
What glorious days those would have been for the people living here and this fort. Announcements about the arrival of the Emperor and royals were made from here. The upper storey of Naubat Khana now houses Indian War Memorial Museum.
Diwan-e-Aam (Public Audience Hall) – The hall of public audience or Diwan-e-Aam is the place where the Emperor used to meet his pupils and hear their grievances.
Beautifully symmetric arches, finely carved marble stones and the colorful stone work gives a glimpse of the beauty of this hall. There is a marble canopy in the middle of the hall where the Emperor’s throne was placed.
This canopy is a masterpiece in itself, embellished with mosaic work that displays flowers’, leaves’ and birds’ motifs.
Mumtaz Mahal – This palace used to be the zanana area (women quarters) of the fort. The splendour and beauty of this place is evident from the remains of mirror inlaid work in its chamber. Currently it is being used as the Red Fort Archaeological Museum. It showcases objects associated with the mughal era.
Rang Mahal – Rang Mahal was the place of residence for the emperor’s mistresses and wives. Literally translated, it means ‘Palace of Colors’. The walls and ceilings of this palace were once richly decorated.
Khas Mahal – Khas Mahal was the name given to the private residence of the emperor. It consists of many sections that include a sitting room, dressing room and a place for prayer. There is a tower that can be seen while walking towards this palace, which was called ‘Muthamman Burj’.
It was used by the emperor when he wanted to appear in front of the public.
Diwan-e-Khas (Private Audience Hall) – Meetings between the Emperor, distinguished people and selected guests were held at this private audience hall.
One look at this place and you can imagine how opulent this place would have been centuries ago.
The famous Peacock Throne (Takht e Taus), containing the precious Kohinoor diamond, adorned this place once. It was made up of gold and lots of precious stones like diamonds, emeralds, rubies and pearls.
It is believed that the cost of this throne was twice the money spent on construction of the Taj Mahal. Now, that is indeed some good amount of money! When the Persian invader, Nadir Shah attacked Delhi in 1739, he took away the Peacock throne from here along with many other valuable items.
Moti Masjid – Son and successor of Shah Jahan, Aurangzeb built Moti Masjid inside the Red Fort.
Hayat Bakhsh Bagh – A garden that was partially destroyed by the british during 1857 rebellion. It has been restored now. At the two ends of this garden stand two pavilions that are named ‘Sawan’ and ‘Bhadon’.
It seems like this garden provided respite to the people living in the fort and flourished during the rainy season.
Nahr-e-Bihist (River of the Paradise) – It is an Islamic belief that there are rivers in paradise. Probably based on that belief, this stream of water, known as Nahr-e-Bihist was constructed. Water from the river Yamuna was used to feed this water stream that ran through various forts and areas within the fort.
It added to the beauty of the fort and also helped in keeping the palaces cool.
A major part of the fort was destroyed by the British after the revolt of 1857. Bahadur Shah Zafar was leading this revolt in Delhi from the Red Fort.
Bahadur Shah Zafar lost this revolt and the fort became the property of the British. It felt so disturbing to me to think that they destroyed, looted, and then used this amazingly beautiful monument as a military establishment. They erected barracks for their men here and used the palaces as kitchens and mess.
Why is the Red Fort red?
The Red fort is made up of red sandstone which is also used in many other famous monuments constructed by the Mughals.
Due to its red color, it came to be known as the Red Fort or Lal Quila (in hindi).
It is believed that red and white were Shahjahan’s favourite colors. The tall walls enclosing the Red Fort complex are completely made up of red sandstone and that is what one gets to see first on arrival.
Best time to visit Red fort
Visiting the Red Fort during November to March would save you from the scorching heat of Delhi. December and January can be quite cold. If you want to visit it during pleasant cool weather, the months of November, February and March are suitable.
How to reach Red Fort?
Red Fort is located in the national capital Delhi which is well connected with all the major cities of India.
The nearest airport is Indira Gandhi National Airport which is located 20 kms away from the Red Fort. Delhi is well connected to other major cities by road and rail.
Hence, travelling to Delhi by bus or train is also a good option. Chandni Chowk Metro station is the nearest metro station, located at a distance of about 1.5 Km from Lal Quila. When in Delhi, taxis, auto-rickshaws or local buses can also be taken to reach Lal Quila.
How many gates does the Red Fort have?
The Red Fort has two main gates – Lahori Gate and Delhi Gate. Lahori Gate was named so because it faces the city of Lahore (now in Pakistan). Located on the western wall of Lal Quila, it is used as the main entrance of the fort. Delhi Gate opens towards Old Delhi and it is also known as Dilli Darwaza. It is located on the southern wall of the Red Fort.
- Open days : Tuesday to Sunday (Closed on Monday)
- Timings: 9.30 A.M to 4.30 P.M
- Entry Fee: INR 90 for Indians, INR 950 for foreigners
- Photography charges: Nil for photography, INR 25 for video filming
Frequently Asked Questions about Red Fort
Chandni Chowk Metro Station is the nearest metro station to the Red Fort. Taxis and auto-rickshaws are easily available from here to Lal Quila.
There was quite an outrage on social media when it came into public notice that the Red Fort had been ‘sold’. Actually, the Red Fort has been adopted by Dalmia Bharat Group for the period of five years under ‘Adopt a Heritage Project’ for INR 25 crore.
Dalmia Bharat group has been entrusted with the responsibility of taking care and preserving this heritage monument during this period.
In return, they get a chance to gain visibility through this famous heritage monument.
Delhi’s Red Fort is more than double the size of the Agra Fort.
Yes. The Red Fort is open for visitors.
The Red Fort or Lal Quila is located on Netaji Subhash Marg, Chandni Chowk in New Delhi.
The Red Fort or Lal Quila of Delhi and the Agra Fort (which is also red in color).
Yes, Red Fort is wheelchair friendly. It is quite convenient to move around in the premises with a wheelchair.
Toilet facilities are there inside the Red Fort.
Drinking water facilities are available inside the Red Fort.
Light and sound show is conducted during the evening at the Red Fort which lasts for around one hour. Tickets for the show can be bought from the ticket counter an hour before the show.
This is worth mentioning that Red Fort has also found a place on the Indian currency note (new) of denomination 500.
Lal Quila has been plundered and damaged many times but still it stands with its head held high. On one hand, it was once a place of power, celebration and luxury and on the other hand, it also bore the brunt of plundering and destruction. Despite all this, it still tells the stories of the past quite clearly.
Conversations with History Buffs always lead to interesting revelations.
Not long back, I was talking to a friend who mentioned a book she was reading on the ‘Tawaifs of Shahjahanbad’.
The book, “Red Fort: Remembering the Magnificent Mughals” by Debasish Das, that she had been reading, had an interesting take on the subject of tawaifs, who, like the Geishas of Japan, were forebearers of culture in Mughal India.
When I looked up, I found some interesting reviews on Amazon.
A review in Amazon read, “The little stories and vivid descriptions add colour and bring alive an era that has passed.
The reader is virtually taken on a drive through the alleys and streets of Shahajahanabad, its bazaars and mandis, the ramparts of the fort, the magnificent hallways and the customs of Mughal noblemen…
Studded with little anecdotes and details, the book explores the various aspects of Mughal life, within and beyond the Red Fort, creating a complete picture of life in Shahajanabad.”
Having piqued my curiosity, I bought a kindle version of the book.
I particularly liked the tone of the book where the author says on Delhi: “Delhi however lived up to its reputation of slipping through the very fingers of those who attempted to raise a new city here: starting with Prithvi Raj Chauhan’s Lal Kot; Allauddin Khilji’s Siri; the Tughluq trio’s troika of Tughluqabad, Jahanpanah & Kotla Firuz Shah; Humayun’s Dinpanah and later Lutyen’s Delhi of the British; Shah Jahan’s majestic offering to the city of his choice was soon to be destroyed by fate.”
On the chapter of zenana that deals with Mughal royal women, the author writes:
“Interesting to note that with the passage of time, as the Mughal Empire started fall apart, the stranglehold on women’s behaviour loosened up.
A new libertarian outlook reflected the popular culture catching up with that of the Mughal zenana.
It was as if a ‘letting up of steam’ of years of pent up emotions was happening right inside the Empire’s heart.
Three examples of such a bottoms-up cultural manifestation were: popularity of Urdu, tradition of mushaira and sexuality.
In the eighteenth century, Urdu was elevated to a court language, mushairas started to be held with common people as regular audiences, and sexuality became explicit in Mughal miniatures.
Muhhamad Shah Rangeela’s famous depiction of love making is one such example, with the Emperor in the act shown with his solar halo!
Women were depicted with cups of wine, revealing dresses or holding Narcissus flowers – all symbols of sensuality.”
If this has piqued your interest then here is the Amazon link to read more.