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Red Fort (Lal Qila)

The Red Fort is a historic fort in the city of Delhi (in Old Delhi), India, that served as the main residence of the Mughal Emperors. Emperor Shah Jahan commissioned construction of the Red Fort on 12th of May 1638, when he decided to move his capital from Agra to Delhi. Originally red and white, its design is credited to architect Ustad Ahmad Lahori, who also constructed the Taj Mahal. It was built between May 1639 and April 1648. On 15th of August 1947, the first prime minister of India Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru raised the Indian national flag above the Lahori Gate. Every year on India's Independence Day (the 15th of August), the Prime Minister hoists the Indian "tri-colour flag" at the fort's main gate and delivers a nationally broadcast speech from its ramparts. This makes the citadel a monument of huge national importance alongside its glorious and significant history.

History of the Red Fort or Lal Qila

“At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom…” This historic speech marked India’s independence from the British rule and simultaneously made the Red Fort in Delhi a politically significant monument, which now acts as the setting for annual celebrations of the Independence Day. However, the Red Fort has been a strategically important structure through the ages, due to Delhi being the capital city for a good part of the Mughal rule in India.

In 1638, the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan moved the capital of his empire from Agra to a newly constructed city in Delhi that he called Shahjahanabad. Along with the construction of this new city, he laid the foundations of his palace, the Red Fort or Lal Qila. This massive citadel with red sandstone walls took nearly a decade to complete. It is considered better planned than the Agra Fort, as Shah Jahan learned from his experience when living there. This fort was the seat of the Mughal empire for around 200 years, until it fell to the British. The Red Fort is named for its massive enclosing walls of red sandstone. The imperial apartments consist of a row of pavilions, connected by a water channel known as the Stream of Paradise (Nahr-i-Bihisht). The fort complex is "considered to represent the zenith of Mughal creativity under Shah Jahan", and although the palace was planned according to Islamic prototypes, each pavilion contains architectural elements typical of Mughal buildings that reflect a fusion of Persian, Timurid and Hindu traditions. The Red Fort's innovative architectural style, including its garden design, influenced later buildings and gardens in Delhi, Rajasthan, Punjab, Kashmir, Braj, Rohilkhand and elsewhere. (more in the History section)

The Fort as we see today

The architecture of the Red Fort is a representation of the cultural intermingling that the Mughals brought to India. It is the culmination of the Mughal style of architecture that began with the first Emperor and that involves a fusion of Persian, Timurid and Hindu traditions. Like in most Mughal forts, among the key rooms to visit are the Diwan-i-‘Am (Hall of public audience) and the Diwan-i-Khas (Hall of private audience). The entrance to the Diwan-i-‘Am has the Naubat-Khana (Drum house), from where musicians played during ceremonies. The Diwan-i-‘Am is a large hall with a nine-arch façade. This hall also has an ornamented alcove where the royal throne would be placed. The Diwan-i-Khas is said to have hosted Shah Jahan’s famous peacock throne, before it was taken by the Persian Nadir Shah. Other places of note in the Red Fort are the Rang Mahal (Painted palace), the Mumtaz Mahal (which has now been converted to a Museum), the Khas Mahal (a private house with a chamber for telling beads or Tasbih Khana, a sleeping chamber or Khwabgah, a robe chamber or Tosh Khana) and the Hammam (the ornately decorated royal bathing area, located to the north of the Diwan-i-Khas). Mughal architecture is famous for its beautiful gardens, which is the Hayat-Baksh-Bagh (life giving garden) with its pavilions in the case of the Red Fort.

Tourist Information

Opening Hours: 7:00 AM - 5:30 PM, Except Mondays.

Entry Fee: Indian citizens, citizens of SAARC and BIMSTEC nations: INR 10, Other foreigners: INR 250, No fees for children below the age of 15 years.

Text by Sammik C Basuu