The Red Fort is a 17th century fort complex constructed by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in Delhi. The fort lies along the Yamuna River, which fed the moats that surround most of the wall. The construction of the Red Fort began in 1638 and was completed by 1648. Red Fort, Delhi is one of the important building complexes of India which encapsulates a long period of Indian history and its arts. Its significance has transcended time and space. It is relevant as a symbol of architectural brilliance and power. The fort is also the site from which the Prime Minister of India addresses the nation on 15 August, the day India achieved independence from the British.
History of Red Fort:
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.
Architecture of Red Fort:
The art work in the Fort is a synthesis of Persian, European and Indian art which resulted in the development of unique Shahjahani style which is very rich in form, expression and colour. The walls of the fort are smoothly dressed, articulated by heavy string-courses along the upper section. They open at two major gates, the Delhi and the Lahore gates. The Lahore Gate is the main entrance; it leads to a long covered bazaar street, the Chatta Chowk, whose walls are lined with stalls for shops.
Diwan-i-Am or Hall of Public Audience is situated in the Red Fort of Delhi. It originally had a courtyard on its front to meet dignitaries and foreign emissaries and was richly ornamented with gilded stuccowork. Heavy curtains graced the main hall, which were three bays in depth.. The most imposing feature of the Diwan-e-Aam is the alcove in the back wall where the emperor sat in state on a richly carved and inlaid marble platform. In the recess behind the platform are fine examples of Italian pietra-dura work.
The Diwan-e-Khas was the hall of private audience. The most highly ornamented of all Shah Jahan’s buildings, the 90 x 67 feet Diwan-e-Khas is a pavilion of white marble supported by intricately carved pillars. So enamoured was the emperor by the beauty of this pavilion that he engraved on it the following words: If there is paradise on the face of this earth, it is this, it is this.”
Accompanying the Diwan-i-Khas, or Hall of Selective Audience, the Hamam (bathroom set) consists of three apartments interconnected by corridors. The marble floors and dados are inlaid with beautiful floral patterns of multi-colored stones.
The personal mosque of Aurungzeb, Moti Masjid or Pearl Mosque lies to the west of Hamam. Situated on a higher level than courtyards, the prayer-hall of the mosque has inlaid black-marble outlines of ‘musallas’ (small carpets for prayers) and is surmounted by three bulbous domes.
One of the original six main-palaces situated along the river front, Mumtaz Mahal was also known as ‘Chhoti Baithak’. A beautiful water channel called ‘Nahr-i-Bihisht’ (meaning Stream of Paradise) flew through these palaces. However, this palace has been removed, probably because it was totally in ruins.
Naubat Khana Naubat Khana, or Naqqar Khana (meaning the Drum House), is situated at the entrance of the palace area. Here music was played five times a day at the appointed hours. It housed a gate known as ‘Hathi Pol’ (Elephant Gate), where visitors dismounted from their elephants.
Special Attractions at Red Fort, Delhi
Today, a sound and light show describing Mughal history is a tourist attraction in the evenings. The general condition of the major architectural features is mixed. None of the water features, which are extensive, contain water. Some of the buildings are in fairly good condition and have their decorative elements undisturbed.