Sunday, 18 September 2016

Delhi Diaries:Red Fort

Red Fort also known as Lal Quila is a century old monument giving us the glimpses of the majestic Mughal rule and their magnificent architectures. Red Fort is considered one of the most iconic monument of Delhi telling the stories of the dynasties who ruled the city through centuries. 'At the stroke of midnight, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom.....', the remarkable speech which embarked the Independence of India as free nation was made at the Red Fort, a politically significant monument.

Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan moved his empire capital from Agra to newly constructed city in Delhi which he called Shahjahanabad in 1638.As he constructed the new capital.he laid foundation for his palace, the great Red Fort. The massive walled citadel with red sandstone walls took almost a decade to complete to its present grandeur.  For almost 22 years, the Mughals ruled their kingdom from this fort after which it fell into the hands of the Britishers. It is said that the last Mughal ruler Bahadur Shah Zafar was corona ted in this palace in 1837, but during those times his powers did not exceed beyond the palace boundaries. The Britishers occupied the fort till August 1947

Red Fort was originally called 'Qila-e-Mubharak' . The architecture of the fort gives us a glimpse of the cultural intermingling which the Mughals brought into India. It depicts the amalgamation of The Mughal style of architecture and also traces of Persian, Timurid and Hindu traditions.The fort is built along side the Yamuna river, with a massive wall around it for protection. The of the fort is in octagon shape, covering a land of 256 acres of land. There are two entrances to this magnificent fort namely the Delhi gate and Lahori gate. The Lahori gate faces the Chandni Chowk, one of the most crowded markets that identify old Delhi. Walking through the Lahori gate, one enters covered two storey passage, flanked by arcade apartments on both sides. There are 32 arched bays which served as shops during Mughal period as it does today. The compound of the Red Fort houses a number of beautiful buildings, among which the most well known are Diwan-i-Aam(The Hall of Public Audiences), Diwan-i-Khas(Hall of Private Audience), Rang Mahal,(Palace of Colors), Moti Masjid(Pearl Mosque), Mumtaz Mahal, The Khaz Mahal and the Hammam(the royal bath).

The Naubat Khana(Drum House) stands at the entrance to the palatial complex. In its days of glory musicians announced the arrival of the Emperor or other prominent dignitaries from here. Faced with red sandstone it is a large three storeyed building, rectangular on plan with carved floral designs. The later Mughal kings Jahandar Shah and Farrukhisyar are said to be assassinated here.  Diwan-i-Khas also known as Shah Mahal was the Hall of Private Audience used by the Emperor for receiving selected courtiers and visitors. It consists of a rectangular central chamber, surrounded by series of arches rising from piers.The lower parts of the piers are inlaid with floral designs, while the upper portions are gilded and painted. The four corners of its roof are surmounted by pillared chhatris.Over the marble pedestal in its center stood the famous 'Peacock Throne' which was removed  in 1739 by Nadir Shah. Through the center of the hall flowed the Nahar-i-Bihisht called 'Stream of Paradise'. Over the corner arches of the northern and southern walls below the cornice is inscribed the famous verse of Amir Khushro exclaiming "If there is paradise on the earth, it is this, it is this, it is this". 'Diwan-i-Aam' or the 'Hall of Audience' was the place were Shah Jahan recieved the general publicand heard their grievances. With an impressive facade of nine arch openings, the hall was ornamented with gilded stucco work. In the center of the eastern wall, stands a marble canopy covered by a 'Bengal roof' under which was the Emperors throne. A marble dais below the throne, inlaid with semiprecious stones was used by wazir.

Nahr-i-Bihisht or the 'Canal of Paradise' was an important feature of the fort in providing a continuous supply of water distributed throughout the gardens and interiors which served as air conditioner.The 'Rang Mahal' or 'Palace of Colors' consists of a large hall, originally painted on the interior from which it derived its name. This was the largest of the royal apartments, and hence was also called as 'Imtiyaz Mahal' or 'Palace of Distinction'. It is divided into six apartments by en-railed arches set on its piers. The northern and southern ends of the palace are known as 'Shish Mahal'(Palace of Mirrors). Over the walls and ceilings are embedded tiny pieces of mirrors, which reflect light creating a picturesque effect.Through the center along its length flows the Nahr-i-Bihsht, in the center lays a marble basin, which is believed to be provided with ivory fountain.

The Khas Mahal was the emperors private palace wherein underneath they organized the animal fights. The palace consists of three parts, the set of three rooms facing the Diwan-i-Khas was called "Tashib-Khana"(Chamber of telling Beads), used for Emperors private worship. The three rooms behind it were called 'Khwabgah'(sleeping chamber). To its south was a long hall with its painted walls and ceilings and a perforated screen on to its west was known as 'Tosh Khana' (robe chamber). A beautiful perforated marble screen carved with 'Scale of Justice' adorns its northern walls. The projecting tower to the east of the Khas Mahalis called 'Muthamman Burj'(octagonal tower) from where the emperor appeared to greet crowd. Moti Masjid or the Pearl Palace was build by Aurangzeb for his personal use, built over a raised plinth and is entered through an eastern arched gateway with a copper plated door. Its interiors have been entirely composed of pure white marbles. 'Hayat Baksh' or 'life bestowing garden' laid in Char Bagh Mughal pattern with causeways and channels, was the most beautiful and well planned garden in the entire palace.

It was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in 2007. On Independence Day, the prime minister hoists the national flag at the main gate of the fort and delivers his independence day speech from its ramparts.