– By Eshna Gupta.
The Red Fort :
Once the heart of the Mughal Sultanate, the Red Fort now tops the bucket list of every tourist up for a heritage tour of Delhi. It earns the name red fort due to the outer fort wall made entirely of red sandstone. It was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in 2007. And yes, they were damn right in doing so!
How To Reach :
You can board a metro till the Chandni Chowk metro station and take a rickshaw ride to the fort. Ask the local vendors if you are having a trouble finding the main road to catch a rickshaw.
The Visit :
Upon arriving at the Red Fort, one is greeted by the expansive outer wall of the fort and the familiar site of the PM’s annual speech.
The entrance to the fort is the massive Lahauri Gate which opens up into the ancient Chawari bazaar.
The ancient street market leading up to the interiors of the Red fort which once housed the most exquisite textiles and jewelry now has a series of shops selling fake antiquities and other souvenirs to tourists. Yet, the ancient vibe is still there, giving the passage a rather delightful charm.
The bazaar leads up to the Diwan-i-Aam. Though it was built with red sandstone and it what is pretty much left of it, this part of the Red Fort originally had a fine layer of limestone on it adorned with colorful designs.
The rear wall of Diwan-i-Aam was once the physical periphery between the royal world and that of the commoners; now the periphery is marked more subtly by the immaterial yet very pronounced aesthetic difference that one can’t help noticing between the outer structures and the interiors.
But that boundary doesn’t matter anymore—for the space that once had streams of water running over the paved pathways with carved fountains now seats commoners who use it as a picnic spot their humble delight. The Mughals must have been enraged at the mere thought of this back then!
The Red Fort must have been a luxury to live in indeed. It housed an expansive zenana, a tea house, a hot steam room, a cool bathing room, and dressing room that had perfume dispensers attached to the floor to start with.
All the important buildings such as the Rang Mahal, Khas Mahal, Diwan-i-khas and the Moti Masjid overlooked the river and there was a serene stream of water running throughout the entire plan of the fort, known as the Nahar-i-Bisht or “the stream of paradise”.
The Diwan-i-Khas, though highly damaged, is still an artistic and architectural spectacle!
This building once had fully gilded pillars, a ceiling of silver, walls adorned with colorful and detailed mosaic and housed the famous Takht-i-Tauz (the peacock throne). This is where the emperor would receive his most important guests.
Entry inside the important structures is prohibited to the visitors. Yet, most of the structures of the Red Fort are open structures, thus allowing us a good look despite the restrictions.
The Red Fort suffered serious damage when the British army occupied it during the revolt of 1857. They demolished most of the buildings inside the fort and built British-style quarters without the slightest effort to match them to the aesthetic sense that the other buildings around boasted of (yes, the spirits of Shah Jahan and Ustad Ahmad Lahauri must have haunted them for the rest of their lives!).
I am definitely in love with the fort. Though the visit left me awestruck, it had an undertone of disappointment because at the back of my head, visualizing what the fort must have looked like back in the 17th century.
The disappointment was not associated with the visit itself but rather at our failure to restore and preserve our rich heritage.
The Red Fort is definitely worth a visit. Make sure you either hire a guide/audio-guide or have done your research beforehand; otherwise the visit would lose its charm for you.
A visit to Old Delhi is never complete without trying out the street food that it boasts of, which literally has flavors of a rich cultural past to offer you.
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