The Red Fort is famous in the Delhi urban lexicon by its local name, "Lal Quila". The 17th century fort is one of the most iconic landmarks in the city.
The Red Fort is considered an important symbol of India’s national aspirations. It was commissioned by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, the builder of the Taj Mahal, in the year 1638. The ramparts of the Red Fort served as the birthplace of the modern Republic of India as the Indian Declaration of Independence was made at the Fort.
The Red Fort according to many historians represents the acme of military constructs by the Mughals and has also been termed the creative zenith of Shah Jahan’s rule. The Fort inspired many other similar military installations built by the Mughals across India. The Red Fort was named as such due to the use of Red Sandstone in its construction. It took an army of laborers and elephants over ten years under the guidance of the famous architect Ustad Ahmad Lahauri, the architect of the Taj Mahal, to complete the massive project.
The fortress was built as Shah Jahan wanted to move his capital from Agra to Delhi. For this purpose a site was located on the banks of the Yamuna River which could feed the water supply as well as the defensive moats of the fortress. The site was also adjacent to the ancient Salimgarh Fort that was built by the King Islam Shah Suri of the short-lived Pashtun Dynasty that had usurped power for 16 years from Shah Jahan’s Great Grandfather Humayun. The remnants of the Salimgarh Fort, its mosque and ancillary buildings to this day form part of the Red Fort Complex.
The Red Fort is listed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list since 2007 and is a major draw for tourists coming to Delhi. It encompasses the walled city of Shahjahanabad which was intended to be a purpose-built capital for the Mughals in their impregnable fortress and is said to be the 7th incarnation of the ancient city of Delhi. Shahjahanabad today is referred to as Old Delhi and along with the British built New Delhi forms the Greater Delhi National Capital Territory of India.
While the Red Fort prospered under subsequent Mughal Emperors such as Aurangzeb, it fell on harder times as Mughal power waned in later years. The Fort was repeatedly sacked by the Marathas, the Sikhs, the Afghans as well as the Persians to great cost in terms of material as well as populace. However the single biggest destruction came in the aftermath of the 1857 War of Indian Independence after which the British razed two-thirds of the fort, including the furniture, servant quarters, harem and official apartments, to build their stone barracks for the Delhi Garrison inside the fort.
Only a row of buildings built of pristine marble, deemed the most important Mughal constructs, were left standing. These were later subject to various restoration exercises by the British.
Today the remnants of these buildings of the former Mughal Imperial enclosure form the bulk of the sights of any tour to the Red Fort in Delhi. The Red Fort has three principal gates each named for the direction that it points towards. The first, with the most imposing ramparts, is called the Lahore Gate which points north-west towards the city of Lahore, now in Pakistan. The second is called the Kashmiri Gate that points northwards and the last one opens into the old city and hence is called the Delhi Gate.
The Red Fort of Delhi was greatly influenced by the architectural stylization of Indian, European, Arabic and Persian design elements and that clearly shows in its attractions. Many historians claim that the Red Fort of Delhi would have been a contender for the title of the 8th wonder of the world in its original form due to its sheer magnificence and majesty.
Inside the Fort there is a commercial area called Chhatta Chowk, which is a covered area that was the traditional market for the Mughal imperial family and still serves as a commercial market today.
Similarly near the Chhatta Chowk is the Naubat Khana which was the traditional entertainment area of the fort with live musical performances. Today, it is the site of the Indian War Memorial Museum that has an interesting array of martial exhibits from India’s eventful history.
The Diwan-e-Aam Hall in the Red Fort is the picturesque Hall of General Audience where Mughal Emperors would hold court over their citizenry. The hall was originally laid with precious stones which were plundered but since then has been restored to its former glory in some measure.
Alternatively near the Diwan-i-Aam is the luxurious Diwan-e-Khaas which was the Hall of Private Audience with the Emperor, reserved usually for the landed gentry and officials. The Diwan-e-Khaas used to hold the legendary solid gold Mughal Peacock Throne as well as had a ceiling made of solid silver. Both these artefacts were taken away by invading marauders over the centuries. Next to the Diwan-e-Khaas is the Royal Tower or the Shahi Burj which served as the personal office of the Emperor.
Another interesting part of the Red Fort popular with visitors is the Royal Baths. The Royal Baths included a series of Hammams and a Sauna that was fed by the Nehr-e-Behisht (Stream of Paradise), a water channel that ran across many important parts of the fort. The Royal Baths had an ingenious way of illuminating the insides through the use of stain glass windows and roof panes which would be augmented by the glimmer of precious stones inlaid with Pietra Dura inside.
The Moti Masjid or Pearl Mosque was the private mosque of the Emperor in the Red Fort. The mosque is unique in its design as its exterior walls match the symmetry of the fort while the insides are a little askew to make it perfectly aligned toward Mecca.
A collection of intricately designed living quarters of the royal family that survived decimation at the eastern end of the fort, complete any tour of the Red Fort in Delhi. These include the Khaas Mahal or Prime Palace which was the private residence of the Emperor and has living, praying and sleeping quarters for the King. Adjacent to this, Rang Mahal (Palace of Colors),was the living quarters of the Emperor’s principal wife and is famous for a massive marble lotus carved on its floor. Nearby is the Mumtaz Mahal which served as the women’s quarters and is now home to the Indian Archaeological Museum, which coupled with the Museum of the Indian Struggle for Freedom in the nearby British Stone Barracks building has great exhibits of India’s fascinating history.
The period between October to March is undoubtedly the best time to visit the Red Fort in Delhi. The city has seen both its searing summers as well as water-logged monsoons pass on and visitors can enjoy the pleasant weather as they tour the Red Fort and the many other historic attractions of the city.
The Red Fort in Delhi is open between 9 am to 6 pm every day of the week and attracts hordes of both domestic as well as foreign visitors. The fort may be restricted to entry at special times of the year including national holidays when its gates and ramparts are used for national addresses and official functions such as the Republic Day and the Independence Day of India.
There is a sound and light show at the Red Fort in the evenings which is popular with visitors. The show is a great opportunity to see the Red Fort lit up after dark. The show includes not just sound and light effects but also a narrated history of major events at the fort.
The Red Fort is one of the most iconic monuments in the Indian Federal Capital of Delhi. The Red Fort complexencompasses most of Old Delhi, which is the walled city of Shahjahanabad built by the Mughals. Delhi is a major gateway to India and along with Jaipur and Agra forms the Golden Triangle of tourism in India.
The city is serviced by the Indira Gandhi International Airport, the largest aviation hub of India. The airport is modern and connects Delhi to over 100 international destinations conveniently through a number of international airlines.
The Red Fort is a must-see attraction on any itinerary of Delhi and is included in all of our tours to the city. The Red Fort and its walled complex encompass the historic quarter of Delhi and have a number of attractions in its periphery.
Enthusiasts of history, culture, politics and architecture will find a visit to the Red Fort very rewarding. The fort and its surrounding area not only provide a unique window of insight to life in Old Delhi but also is the best place to sample authentic old style Delhi food as well as shopping.
For fans of Photography the richly intricate interiors as well as the imposing exteriors and ramparts of the Red Fort offer amazing opportunities to indulge their appetite for great shots.
Appropriate Attire :
Since Delhi has a tropical climate for most of the year apart from the October to January winter months, loose cotton clothing is the best sartorial choice when exploring the city. Most guests visit the Red Fort as part of a greater tour of the old quarter of the city which includes walks in public spaces as well as visits to national monuments and various temples and houses of worship.
It is therefore advisable that guests wear clothes that cover the arms, legs and shoulders and women travelers carry a headscarf as many temples and mosques may require women to cover their hair.