Popularly known as Lal Quila, Red Fort was constructed by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in the 17th century, when he decided to move his capital from Agra to a newly constructed city in Delhi, then called Shahjahanabad. In this essay, we are going to talk about the importance and architectural design of the fort.
Red Fort was designed by the architect Ustad Ahmad Lahauri and Ustad Hamid and served as a residence for Mughal emperors for 200 years, until 1857. Built alongside the Yamuna river in a perimeter of 2.41 km, its construction began in the sacred month of Muharram, on May 13, 1638, and was completed in 1648. The fort is built using red sandstone and is of an oblong octagonal plan. It has two principal gates namely Lahore Drawaza and Delhi Darwaza along its western and southern sides respectively.
The fortress is in the shape of a 900m by 550m rectangle. The ramparts are about 34m tall and are enclosed by a moat. Three-storeyed structures surrounded by octagonal towers are two of the five gateways of the fort. These are the Gate of Lahori and the Gate of Delhi. Figures of two enormous elephants guard the gate of Delhi. The main entrance is through the Lahori Gate to the fort. A covered passage leads to places inside the fort with shops on either side.
The Red Fort has an area of 254.67 acres (103.06 ha) enclosed by defensive walls of 2.41 kilometres (1.50 mi), interrupted by turrets and bastions and ranging in height from 18 meters (59 ft) on the side of the river to 33 meters (108 ft) on the side of the town. With the north-south axis longer than the eastern-western axis, the fort is octagonal. The artwork of the fort infuses Persian, European and Indian art, resulting in a unique style rich in form, expression and hue in Shahjahani. The public used the Lahori and Delhi Gates, and the Khizrabad Gate was for the emperor.
This helmet-like structure also forms part of the fort's defensive architecture, which is often seen alternating with arrow slits. It's referred to as a damaaga (a 'damaaga 'is a' nostril '; the name is probably due to the shape similarity). Damaagas were used to pour burning pitch into enemies attempting to scale the wall.
This architectural element was typically placed high up on the fort's outer walls. Arrow slits or loopholes are known as the vertical slits in the walls because they allowed soldiers inside the fort to shoot arrows from the shelter of the wall at an outside enemy.
The pishtaq, or niche, was another architectural element that had been in use long before the Mughal period. This is a quadrilateral shelf - like a niche let into a wall. These began as a practical element of architecture (like the kanguras and damaagas): Pishtaqs could be used as a shelf, to store items, and to hold lamps to illuminate a chamber. Pishtaqs retained their functionality, particularly as a receptacle for lamps, unlike kanguras or damaagas. Pishtaqs, for example, were very prevalent in pre-Mughal Delhi as a form of decoration in mosques.
Another important characteristic of Mughal architecture, the chadar, was also often incorporated into garden pavilions. A chadar is a stone slope which, when it descends from a higher level to a lower one, acts as the bed for a water channel.
Lahori Gate and Delhi Gate-
The main gate to the Red Fort, named for its orientation towards the city of Lahore, is the Lahori Gate. During the reign of Aurangzeb, the beauty of the gate was spoiled by the addition of bastions. The Delhi Gate is the southern public entrance and is similar to the Lahori Gate in layout and appearance. Two life-size stone elephants face each other on either side of the gate. After their previous demolition by Aurangzeb, these were renewed by Lord Curzon in 1903.
It is adjacent to the Lahori Gate. Silk, jewellery and other items for the imperial household were sold here during the Mughal period. The bazaar leads to an open outer court, where it crosses the large north-south street that originally split the military functions of the fort (to the west) from the palaces(to the east). (to the east). The southern end of the street is the Gate of Delhi.
The now-isolated Naubat Khana (also known as Nakkar Khana), the drum house, stands on the eastern wall of the court. Music was played daily at scheduled times next to a large gate, where everyone except royalty needed to dismount.
It was originally referred to as 'Qila-i-Mubarak' (the blessed fort) because it was the royal family’s residence. Its layout was designed to retain and integrate this site with the Salimgarh Fort. Another similar fort was built facing the Taj Mahal, on the opposite side of the river, known as Agra Fort.
Although more than 50% of the building was damaged, the fort still has many prominent structures, namely-
It is the Public Audience Hall. The columns and engraved arches of the hall exhibit fine craftsmanship, and the hall was initially decorated with white Chunam stucco. The emperor gave his audience in the marble balcony (jharokha) in the back in the elevated recess. It was also used to hold state functions.
Mumtaz Mahal and Rang Mahal-
The two southernmost pavilions of the palace, consisting of the Mumtaz Mahal and the larger Rang Mahal, are zenanas (women's quarters). The Mumtaz Mahal houses the Archaeological Museum of the Red Fort. The Rang Mahal housed the wives and mistresses of the emperor. It was brightly painted and decorated with a mosaic of mirrors and its name means "Palace of Colours".
The Khas Mahal was an apartment for the emperor. The Muthamman Burj, an octagonal tower where he appeared before the people waiting on the riverbank, is connected to it. Most of the kings present at that time did this.
A gate leads to the innermost court of the palace (Jalau Khana) and the Diwan-i-Khas(Hall of Private Audience) on the north side of the Diwan-i-Aam. It is made of white marble, embossed with precious stones. The once-silver ceiling was restored to timber. During the 17th century, François Bernier described seeing the jewelled Peacock Throne here. There is an inscription by the Persian poet Amir Khusrow at either end of the hall, over the two outer arches.
The Imperial Baths were called the Hammam, and consisted of three domed rooms with white marble flooring.
The history of India is closely linked with this fort. It was from here that the last Mughal ruler, Bahadur Shah Zafar, was deposed by the British, marking the end of three centuries of Mughal rule.
The first prime minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru had hoisted the Indian national flag above the Lahori Gate on August 15, 1947. Every year on the Independence Day of India (August 15), at the main gate of the fort, the prime minister hoists the Indian "tricolour flag" and delivers a nationally broadcast speech from its ramparts. It was selected as the UNESCO World Heritage site in 2007.
1. What is the Significance of Red Fort?
Ans. Historically, the fort symbolises the shift and concentration of power to Delhi which was an important era during the Indian History. The Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan, decided to move to Delhi after ruling from Agra for eleven years and laid the foundation stone of the Red Fort in 1618. It is one of Old Delhi's oldest and most famous monuments, known locally as Lal Quila.
It has also become the symbol of India's freedom. On every Independence Day, our prime minister delivers the independence day speech and hoists our national flag here itself. It is also symbolic of the iconic architecture of the Mughal era.
2. Why is the Red Fort Red in Colour?
Ans. In 1648, when the fort was built by the Mughal Emperor Shahjahan, it was initially white, made up of sandstones. Under British rule, the colour of the fort was changed to red and the fort was named ‘Red Fort’. Its original name was ‘Qila-i-Mubarak. The British had to paint it red as the white stones had chipped off.