Declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007, the Red Fort (Lal Qila) is the one tourist attraction in Delhi that never fails to attract international & local tourists alike. Moreover, every year on Independence Day, the 15th of August, the Prime Minister of India hoists the National Flag at the Red Fort & addresses the nation, thus anointing great national & emotional significance to the monument.
It is located on Netaji Subhash Marg, right next to Chandni Chowk in Old Delhi. The closest metro station is Chandni Chowk on the Yellow Line.
This red sandstone complex is one of the largest forts in the city, spanning over 250 whopping acres. Built in the 17th century by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan by the banks of River Yamuna, the structure was built by the Mughal emperor to serve as his palace and the royal family’s residence in his newly instated capital city of Shahjahanabad, which was the seventh city to have been established at the site of the present day Old Delhi. The place was opened as a tourist attraction only after 2003, until then it was under the Indian National Army’s control.
At the north-eastern end is the Salimgarh Fort built by Salim Shah Suri in 1546 which was later captured by the Mughals. It is known to have been used by Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb to imprison his brother apparently for ‘abandoning the fundamental tenets of Islam’ and later his own beloved daughter for being a Sufi poetess and musician.
Post-1857, the fort became an Army camp for the British and was used for holding prisoners of the Indian National Army (INA) during 1945-47. Salimgarh Fort is known today as the Swatantrata Senani Smarak (freedom fighters memorial) in memory of the soldiers who were imprisoned & tortured here. Stories about the Red Fort still being haunted by ghosts stay afloat, with reports of the hapless poetess having been seen around the fort singing poems on moonlit nights and of the moans of the soldiers having been heard in the vicinity of the fort.
The Red Fort complex was known at one time to house 3,000 people. Most of the residential palaces were destroyed by the British. However a few important structures of Shah Jahan’s court - like the Diwan-i-Khas (hall of private audience), Diwan-i-Am (hall of public audience), Naubat Khana (drum house), Rang Mahal (palace of colours), Moti Masjid (pearl mosque) & Hammam (Royal baths) - are still intact.
It draws its perfect architectural style and planning from Persian, Islamic, Timurid & Hindu traditions. The main entrance to the complex is through Lahori Gate in the West, which leads to the inner palaces through a roofed street flanked by shops on both sides known in ancient times as the Chhatta Chowk (covered market). Souvenirs, wood/brass statues, bags & various artifacts are currently sold here.
There are a number of museums within the complex chronicling the Indian freedom struggle, Mughal history, culture & archaeological facts about the site. A novel initiative in the form of an Audio Tour has also been introduced to provide audio guidance to tourists throughout the site, eliminating the need for local guides. The monument remains closed on Mondays and a nominal entry fee is charged. The historical events related to the fort are reflected through the Sound & Light Shows held in both English & Hindi which are real crowd-pullers and should not be given a miss.
If you’re a true-blue Delhiite or just a visitor to our shores, it’ll be a sin if you miss witnessing this breathtaking sight!