Mughal Marvel & Museum: Red Fort, New Delhi
Located on Netaji Subhash Marg, Chandni Chowk Red Fort is accessible from all parts of Delhi due to its central location. There are local buses which go directly to Red Fort from ISBT Kashmiri Gate, the New Delhi airport and railway station. The monument is also easily accessible by Delhi Metro which connects the old and new cities of Delhi well.
There are also cycle rickshaws which take one to Red Fort but bargaining with them is a handy art. The fort was the residence of the Mughal Emperor as well as the political and cultural centre for 200 years till 1857. The fort was also called Blessed Fort since it housed the royal family.
The fort was built by Shah Jahan in 1648 as the palace to guard Old Delhi then known as Shahjahanabad. The Red Fort gets its name for the red sandstone walls that it is built with. The sandstone is coated with white limestone since Shah Jehan had a fascination for white. The fort is adjacent to Salimgarh Fort, built by Islam Shah Suri in 1546. Today there are many museums in the Red Fort campus.
There is an entrance fee that has to be paid to enter the fort and there are large crowds of tourists both Indian as well as foreign who come to see this architectural marvel. The fort has a guided audio tour which is handy for those who don’t want a guide and still want knowledge of the authentic Mughal history.
Once inside the fort which is host to India’s Independence Day festivities is the main fort gate which now houses shops selling various modern Mughal souvenirs called Chhatta Chowk (Covered Market). From earrings to bead jewellery to lampshades there are many for tourists to choose from. Bargaining is a useful skill while shopping in the complex.
As one proceeds inside, there are the royal apartments which are a series of pavilions that are connected by a water channel known as the Stream of Paradise (Nahr-i-Behisht). The fort complex and the palace are according to Islamic prototypes with each pavilion containing architectural elements that reflect a fusion of Timurid and Persian traditions that highlight the Mughal architecture. Along with the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort, this is one of the brilliant examples of Mughal architectural brilliance.
The Red Fort was designed by Ustad Ahmad Lahauri, the same architect who designed the Taj Mahal in Agra. The fort was built along the River Yamuna, which has since changed its course and has boundary walls that are asymmetrical and contain the older Salimgarh Fort. It was Aurangzeb who added the Pearl Mosque to the emperor’s private quarters. If one whispers facing a corner pillar of the room, one can hear it loud and clear in the other three.
Large parts of the Red Fort were damaged during the Mughal wars, it was Lord Curzon, the Viceroy of India from 1899–1905 who ordered repairs to the fort including reconstruction of the walls and the restoration of the gardens complete with a watering system.
One of the museums in the fort, the Red Fort Archaeological Museum located in the Mumtaz Mahal wing, one of the six main palaces. There are exhibits of the Mughal period like paintings, artifacts, calligraphy, fabrics and other objects. There are also objects used during the Uprising of 1857 that are on display here. There is also a museum of blood painting that depict young 20th-century Indian martyrs and their stories and an Indian war-memorial museum. The fort is maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India. There is a sound and light show describing the Mughal history which is a tourist attraction in the evenings.
The fort has well maintained gardens where a number of birds and insects roam around. The concept of the garden is seen in almost all Mughal buildings as it was a famous place of leisure in the palace for the royal family. Squirrels are found in plenty and may even be spotted in pictures of tourists who sit on the grass in the gardens for rest and snap some photographs. The outside of the fort, the gardens and the marble latticed durbars are favourite photography spots for tourists.
It takes about three hours to explore the fort properly as it is a huge complex with an area of 254.67 acres which is more than two kilometers. The Chawari Bazar, Lahori Gate, Delhi Gate, Water Gate, Chhatta Chowk, Naubat Khana, Diwan-i-Aam, Nahr-i-Behisht, Mumtaz Mahal, Rang Mahal, Khas Mahal, Diwan-i-Khas, Hammam, Baoli, Moti Masjid, Hira Mahal, Shahi Burj, Hayat Bakhsh Bagh, Princes’ quarter and Freedom Struggle Museum are some of the buildings that are worth a visit.
A walk through the fort is a journey through the past of India where the Mughals built their great empire. The walls of Red Fort speak to tourists of the glorious past which is not golden but red here.
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