An imposing red sandstone wall, which encloses the massive complex of the ‘Red Fort’, forms one of the most famous silhouettes in the world. The fort, which boasts the brilliance of the Mughal architecture, stands as the memorial of pride & glory for the world’s largest democracy- India! Every year on the 15th August, on the occasion of the National Independence Day, the ‘Red Fort’ gets an honor to host the magnificent ‘Flag Hoisting Ceremony’ that demonstrates India’s glory, unity & prowess to the world!
Located right in the heart of the Indian capital city- New Delhi, the magnificent ‘Red Fort’ was built during the reign of the ‘Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan’. At the time of its construction, the ‘Empire of Mughal’ was at the apex of its glory. The architecture of the ‘Red Fort’ represents the climax of the ‘Mughal’ creativity! The ‘Red Fort’ served as the imperial residence of the Mughal Emperors for nearly 200 years, after which, it was sacked by the ‘British Colonial Forces’ following the ‘Sepoy Mutiny of 1857’!
A Peep into the History:
The gargantuan appearance of the ‘Red Fort’ symbolizes the higher esteems of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan! The construction of this fort was commissioned by ‘Shah Jahan’ in 1638 when he decided to relocate his capital from Agra to Delhi. ‘Shah Jahan’ appointed the renowned architect of the Mughal period- Ustad Ahmad Lahauri, the one who designed the great Taj Mahal, to establish all new city called Shahjahanbad & to fortify it using imposing wall that now runs 2.5 km in length & rises 33 meters high! The famous citadel of ‘Shah Jahan’, the Laal Quila or the ‘Red Fort’ is located on the northern part of the walled city, on the right bank of the River Yamuna.
The fort complex took 9 years for the completion & it was inaugurated in 1648! The ‘Red Fort’, which derives its name from the red sandstone walls, then served as the residential palace for the Mughal sovereigns for the next 200 years. Bahadur Shah Jafar II was the last Mughal emperor who used this spectacular fort for his residential purpose.
Although the ‘Emperor Shah Jahan’ played a critical role in the construction of the ‘Red Fort’, he wasn’t fortunate enough to enjoy living in one of the grandest structures built in his reign due to the betrayal of his son Aurangzeb who incarcerate him in order to claim the royal throne! ‘Aurangzeb’ did several altercations & additions into the fort complex during his reign.
After the death of ‘Aurangzeb’, the Mughal dynasty started loosing its dominance & prowess & soon it became a princely state under the command of the Great Maratha Empire! However, the defeat of the Marathas at the hands of the Afghan raider Ahmad Shah Abdali in 1760’s Third Battle of Panipat proved to be devastating & the Red Fort & the surrounding city of Delhi was plundered by Abdali. The debacle of the ‘Great Marathas’ continued from there onwards & in 1803, they received another sucker punch during the Second Anglo-Maratha War when they were defeated by the British Colonial forces! This ended the Maratha dominance over ‘Delhi’ & the ‘Red Fort’ came under the British rule.
Although ‘Bahadur Shah Jafar II’ continued living in the fort, the administration was handed over to the British. However, during the 1857’s unsuccessful uprising against the British East India Company, rebel soldiers put some fierce fight under the command of ‘Bahadur Shah Jafar II’ to banish the British rule. After the failure, Bahadurshah was seized & was exiled to Rangoon for the rest of his life!
The British government vandalized the fort to a great extent by destroying several beautiful buildings in the complex. The British built several barracks to make it a military outpost after destroying almost two-third of the inner structures.
On August 15th, 1947 independent India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru hoisted the national flag above the ‘Lahori gate’. Since then, on every year, the ‘Prime Minister of India’ has raised the flag & delivered the national speech addressing the citizen of India.
A Stroll through the Fort Complex:
The vast defensive walls of the ‘Red Fort’ enclose 254.67 acres of area. The wall features several gates, wickets & bastions which heighten the overall appearance of the wall. The irregular octagonal shaped fort complex once had as many as fourteen grand gates, most of which were demolished by the Britishers. Few noteworthy gates that still stand are Lahori, Ajmeri, Mori, Turkman, Kashmiri & Delhi!
The ‘Red Fort’ boasts the fine blend of architectural elements of the Persian, European & traditional Indian styles of architecture. Rich in artwork & regal in appearance, the walls of the palaces in the fort complex were once adorned using high quality jades, pearls & other precious stones, none of which can be seen today, since everything was plundered earlier by the Afghan invaders & later on by the Britishers!
Most Important Structures:
The Gates: Imposing gates are one of the major attractions of the fort. The main entrance, ‘Lahori Gate’, is the most celebrated of all since on the day of the ‘National Independence’, the flag gets hoisted atop it. Other gates, including ‘Delhi Gate’ & ‘Water Gate’ are also quite famous among the visitors!
Diwan-e-Aam: The inner grand court that spans 540 m X 420 m of the area was the place of state functions. The court, which means ‘The Public Hall’, is adorned with meticulously carved slender colonnades & startling arcades that testify the brilliance of the artists.
Diwan-e-Khas: The building called the ‘Diwan-e-Khas’, constructed using white marble was the court of the royal throne during the fort’s active period. It is said that the court walls were studded with precious gems & its ceiling was sheathed with the silver. Although none of these survive today, the charm & the beauty of this elegant place hasn’t diminished even by a small margin. The ‘Diwan-e-Khas’ is also believed to house the sumptuous ‘Peacock Throne’, which was famous for its stupendous jewel-work beyond the boundaries of the widespread Mughal Empire!
Palaces: The fort complex features several massive palaces dedicated to various purposes & were known by distinctive names. ‘Mumtaz Mahal’- part of ‘Zenanas’ (Querters for royal women), Rang Mahal (Palace of colors) meant for the emperor’s wives & molls, Khas Mahal (Special Palace) served as the royal residence & the Hira Mahal (Diamond Palace) are worth visiting.
Other Structures: Apart from aforementioned buildings, the ‘Red Fort’ complex houses other buildings, including Moti Masjid (Pearl Mosque), Hammam (imperial bath house), the Shahi Burj (Emperor’s Tower), Hayat Baksh Bagh (Life-granting Garden), Chatta Chowk (Vaulted Square) & the residential quarters of the imperial princes. To understand the glory & the opulence of the lost empire of the Mughals, you ought to visit these buildings in the fort complex!
- Since independence, the ‘Red Fort’ has been associated with the nation’s glory & the pride. The phenomenal fort is revered as the place of the ‘National Memorial’ & is considered as an insignia of the ‘Free India’!
- On 22nd December 2000, the fort was attacked by the members of the notorious militant group called Lashkar-e-Toiba during which, two soldiers & a civilian were killed.
- The majority of the jewels & the precious stones, which were looted by the Britishers, are now possessed by the British Museum, British Library & the Victoria & Albert Museum. The world’s most precious & the famous diamond- Koh-I-Noor, the jeweled wine cup of ‘Shah Jahan’, the jeweled crown of ‘Bahadur Shah Jafar’ are some of the priceless articles that were stolen by the Britishers during their tenure in the colonial India.
- Several claims made by the ‘Government of India’ regarding the retrieval of, what are actually the important parts of the Indian heritage, have been rejected by the British government.
- Over the years, the Red Fort has remained the largest & the most famous landmark of India’s capital city- New Delhi. It is also renowned as one of the most popular tourist destinations in the city. No visit to Delhi is complete without making a trip to the magnificent Red Fort!