In 1639, Emperor Shah Jahan, the fifth Great Mughal, commissioned a new fort in Delhi and founded the city of Shahjahanabad. Over the coming centuries, Shahjahanabad became a vibrant cultured city that its locals – such as Mirza Ghalib – called “Dilli” – and for which the poet Zauk said, kaun Jaaye Zauk par Dilli ki galliyan chhor kar. Vengefully decimated by the British after the Rebellion of 1857, it now only offers us some glimpses into its heyday. The Red Fort is the most eloquent of these sights, even though the British had destroyed many of its buildings and had placed an army barracks here.
A UNESCO designated World Heritage Site, the ‘LAL QILA’ may have been named for its thick red sandstone walls and impressive battlements, but once you enter from the main Lahore Gate and walk through the high Nakkar Khana (Where musician played regularly), you are in a world of profuse and elegant marble. Not to mention gilded pillars, intricately carved and painted surfaces, and artistic pietra dura.
At time, an effort of the imagination is needed to recreate the Mughal splendour. For instance, the DIWAN-I-KHAS (Hall of Private Audience) is where the emperor would sit on his legendry jeweled Peacock Throne, which was looted by Nadir Shah in 1739. The hall had walls and a silver ceiling inlaid with precious gems; today, gilded pillars may still give some idea of the richness. The Diwan-i-aam ( Hall of Public Audience) has 60 Pillars, a raised, carved canopied throne for the emperor to sit on and some pretty, painted panels behind the throne.
The elegant Khas Mahal, with its delicate carving, was the emperor’s sleeping quarters though khwab gah or dream chamber is so much better a description! The Rang Mahal was for the ladies. The hamams or royal baths had enclosures for hot, cold and rose-scented water. The Moti Masjid is a delicate and gently lustrous marble mosque, made by Aurangzeb in 1659. Then there are the Saawan and Bhadon Pavillions, for the pleasures of enjoying the easterlies and monsoon showers. Notice the lawns below at the back – this was once riverbed, where the Yamuna met the fort in the monsoons.
The Archaeological Survey of India runs a museum in the RED FORT, and while the place is lackluster, its exhibits are wonderful and bring 200 years of Mughal eras in Delhi much closer. You can see the clothes that Bahadur Shah Zafar wore, and marvel at how good Prince Dara Shikoh was at calligraphy, Paintings give an idea of the times and several letters are eloquent about the political conditions.
You might enjoy the evening SOUND and LIGHT SHOW (1.5 Hrs, Hindi or English version), in which time peaks and tragedies of Mughal times.