Red Fort, also known by all as the Lal Qila, lies on the Netaji Subhash Marg in New Delhi stretching towards Old Delhi next to Chandni Chowk and can be reached by Metro Link with Kashmiri Gate as the nearest Metro Station. It is the seventh fort of Delhi and was constructed in 1639 that took ten years to complete in 1648 over the ‘Mughal city’ and ‘seventh city of Delhi’ named ‘Shahjahanabad’ or the ‘Walled City’ by Mughal Emperor ShahJahan. It was named as the Quila-i-Mubarak which means the ‘Blessed Fort’ that would be a home to the Mughal Royal Family and also serve as the Capital of the Mughal Empire. In 1857, Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar was exiled by the British who then used the fort as their Military camp up till the Independence of India in 1947. During the Mughal reign, the fort saw numerous changes, alterations and additions by Emperor ShahJahan, Emperor Aurangzeb and the British Government.
The walls of the Red Fort stretches over 2.5 km in length with a height that varies between 16 metres and 33 meters cascading along the banks of the Yamuna River and surrounded by a canal or trench that was once fed by the River. These aspects act as a formidable structure against unwarranted attacks from the enemies. This fort homes various monuments like the Diwan-E-Aam made in the shape of a huge pavilion where the Emperor sat for public audience and to listen to the petitions of his commoners. The eastern side of the pavilion has a beautiful ornate balcony throne that imitates the Throne of King Solomon also used by the Emperor and behind this throne one can see a well decorated private chamber that belonged to the Emperor flanked with a row of pavilions that offered a commanding view of the serene Yamuna River.
The Nahrr-i-Behisht or the ‘Stream of Paradise’ is seen running through the centres of all the pavilions constructed in the fort and connected to each other and fed by the Yamuna River through the Shah Burj or Shah Tower that stands in the north eastern corner of the Red Fort. On the southern most end of the fort lies two pavilions named ‘Zenanas’ that served as the private quarters of the Royal Ladies. One of these pavilions named ‘Mumtaaz Mahal’ was converted into an archaeological museum while the larger one named ‘Rang Mahal’ or ‘Pleasure Palace’ is seen with a luxuriously carved ceiling and a pool made of marble also fed by the ‘Nahrr-i-Behisht’ stream.
The ‘Khas Mahal’, also a third pavilion lies on the south of the fort that houses the Royal chambers of the Royal families. It can be seen with a series of apartments or bedrooms, a prayer hall, a veranda or balcony and the Musamman Burj or Tower from where the Emperor would stand every morning to greet his people. Close by is the ‘Diwan-i-Khas’ beautifully decorated and considered as one of the most beautiful pavilion ever constructed studded with stones and elaborate carvings seen on its ceiling made of pure silver with a gold inlay but now is seen covered with a painted wooden inlay and beautiful patterns carved on its columns is where the Emperor used to organise Private meetings with his courtiers. The next pavilion has the ‘Hammam’ or the ‘Turkish Style designed Bath’ made in marble covered with coloured stones. The ‘Pearl Mosque’ or ‘Moti Masjid’ built of white marble in 1659 was constructed as the Private Mosque of Emperor Aurangzeb, the son of Emperor ShahJahan is situated on the western end of the ‘Hammam’ and seen with three domes and three arched openings with exquisite carvings.
The Naubat Khaana also known as the ‘Naqqar Khaana’ which means the ‘Drum House’ made of red sandstone and in the shape of a rectangular painted originally with Gold and now covered with wooden paint is where the Mughal Emperors would listen to music played by their musicians constituting of the Cymbal, ‘Shehnai’ or ‘Hautboy’, Kettledrums and other instruments still preserved here. This place was also known as the ‘Hathi Pol’ or ‘Elephant Pole’ as all commoners except the Royalties had to use only this place to dismount from the elephants. The first floor of this building has been converted into a ‘War Memorial Museum’ that houses a huge collection of armouries used by the Mughal Emperors.
The Red Fort was made to align with the Salimgarh Fort situated adjacent to it near the Yamuna River. Persian, Mughal, Indian and European architecture reflects in this Fort with two main gates named the ‘Delhi Gate’ and the ‘Lahore Gate’. The main entrance to the Fort is from Lahore Gate which welcomes you with a string of street markets named Chatta Chowk also known as the famous ‘Meena Bazaar’ during the 17th century and located on the upper and lower arcades where the Ladies of the Courtiers would view silk saris, Jewellery, Silverware, Gems and various beautiful ornaments. Today, the Chowk lies only on the lower arcades selling only artificial souvenirs and food. This Chowk leads to a space within the Red Fort where the western side was used for military functions and the eastern side houses beautiful Palaces.
The Red Fort has become one of the most visited and popular tourist spots in Old Delhi. On the 15th of August, which is the Indian Independence Day, every year, the Indian Prime Minister hoists the Indian Flag and a sound and light show is organised for tourists every evening. It has been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage protected site and also named as the largest Fort in Delhi. The main attraction of the Red Fort is the Sound and Light Show that tells tales of its historical past and narrated in Hindi and English for foreign tourists. The fort is opened for public viewing from Sunday to Tuesday and closed on Mondays.