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Feroz Shah Kotla Fort

Located between Old Delhi and New Delhi, the Feroz Shah Kotla Fort was built in 1354 by Sultan Feroz Shah Tughlaq under his rule, and later rebuilt in the time of the Tughlaq Empire from 1351 to 1384. Erected by the Tughlaq king, the fort is also one of the oldest structures in Delhi. According to historical records, the Tughlaqs built this fort when they decided to move their capital from Tughlakabad to Firozabad due to water shortage in the region. Built along the Yamuna River, the fort was believed to have solved the water crisis. Madrasas, palaces, beautiful gardens, and mosques were built inside the fort, which served as the symbol of the rule of the third Tughlaq king. The Feroz Shah Kotla Fort can be found between Old Delhi and New Delhi. The city of Firozabad with its main citadel in the Feroz Shah Kotla Fort used to stretch from Pir Ghaib all the way to the Old Fort with a population of around 150,000.

History of the Feroz Shah Kotla Fort

Feroz Shah Tughlaq (1351–1388), the Sultan of Delhi, established the fortified city of Firuzabad in 1354 as the new capital of the Delhi Sultanate, and included in it the site of the present Feroz Shah Kotla. Kotla literally means a ‘fortress’ or a ‘citadel’. The pillar, also called obelisk or Lat, is called the Ashoka Column, attributed to Mauryan ruler Ashoka. The 13.1-meters-high column, made of polished sandstone and dated back to the 3rd century BC, was brought from Ambala in the 14th century under the orders of Feroz Shah. It was installed in a three-tiered arcaded pavilion near a congregational mosque, inside the Sultanate's fort. Over the centuries that followed, much of the structure and buildings nearby were destroyed as subsequent rulers dismantled them and reused the spolia as building materials. In the pre-independence era, due to lack of auditoriums in the capital, most classical music performances were staged here or in the Qutub complex. Later, Ebrahim Alkazi, then head of NSD, staged his landmark production of Dharamvir Bharati's Andha Yug here; its premiere in 1964 was attended by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. (more in the History section)

The Fort as it is today

This 14th-century fort has stood the test of time; a reason why people still hold onto their beliefs strongly to this day and continue to visit it regularly. The jinns aside, there are several other reasons why the Kotla Fort attracts numerous tourists. This sprawling and grand fort will amaze you with all its intricacies and abundant peculiarities. There is a Baoli (step well), a majestic Ashoka-era stone pillar, and secret cells beneath the buildings. Moreover, this place also offers one some alone time far from the hustle and bustle of the city. A pristine polished sandstone Topra Ashokan pillar from the 3rd century BC rises from the palace's crumbling remains, one of many pillars of Ashoka left by the Mauryan emperor; it was moved from Topra Kalan in Pong Ghati of Yamunanagar district in Haryana to Delhi under the orders of Firoz Shah Tughlaq of Delhi Sultanate, and re-erected in its present location in 1356. Although the original inscription on the obelisk is primarily in Brahmi script, the language is Prakrit, with some Pali and Sanskrit added later. The inscription was successfully translated in 1837 by James Prinsep. This and other ancient lats (pillars, obelisks) have earned Firoz Shah Tughlaq and the Delhi Sultanate fame for its architectural patronage.

Jami Masjid inside the fort complex is one of the most ancient and largest mosques that have been preserved to this day in Delhi, and it is still operating. Architecturally, it was built on a series of underground cells made of quartzite stone, covered with limestone. It is surrounded by a large courtyard with cloisters and a Prayer Hall. Now in complete ruins, the Prayer Hall used to serve for the ladies of the court. The Masjid is an example of the Tughlaq architectural style.

Another great attraction of Kotla is the circular Baoli (a 'stepwell') that lies towards the north-western side of the Ashokan Pillar. It is situated in the heart of a large garden constructed in the form of subterranean apartments and a large underground canal built on its eastern side through which the water runs into the well. This is the only circular Baoli in Delhi, and also one of the 4 Baolis, where the tank is not separated from the well. It once has a roof on it, which collapsed long ago, exposing the tank at the second level.

Tourist Information

The Fort complex is open for visitors from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., all days of the week except for public holidays.

Text by Sammik C Basuu