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Salimgarh Fort

Built by the Sur Emperors, the Salimgarh Fort stands today inside the Red Fort complex, lending the complex an irregular shape. Salimgarh is situated in the middle of the present-day city of Delhi, its walls standing witness to ages of history: the old charm of the Yamuna river before it dried up into today’s course, conspiracies that were concocted from the medieval times to the end of the British era, tales that give goose bumps to visitors and history lovers. To this day, it remains one of the most intriguing sight-seeing gems owing to its location, as well as the stories and legends related to it.

History of Salimgarh Fort

Lying at a distant flank of the Red Fort, the deserted, desolate Salimgarh Fort provides a curious study of history and legends. The Red Fort has always been enshrined in mainstream historical discourse in luminous terms, as a feature that cannot be missed. The Salimgarh Fort has languished largely as a footnote or a mere incidental mention. It has been referred to as a site of activities rather than as a monument in its own right, unlike the Red Fort, which has infinite reams devoted to its symbolism, and is a photographer’s delight owing to the majestic beauty of its architecture.

The Red Fort has been the royal residence, the site of kingly grandeur, the enduring symbol of our nationhood, the pulpit for eloquent speeches about out independent, democratic selves. The Salimgarh Fort, on the other hand, has been a space of death, torture, and incarceration. As a structure and a symbol, it is relegated to the ante-chambers of historical imagination and memory. (more in the History section)

Salimgarh today

The Salimgarh Fort is triangular in shape. Its walls were built using rubble masonry techniques and are topped with circular bastions. From the time it was built, the fort structure has undergone several stages of repairs over the centuries. An arch bridge links it with the Red Fort on the northeastern side, which was constructed during Bahadur Shah Zafar's reign and hence the gate is named Bahadur Shah Gate. The gate is built of brick masonry with selective use of red sandstone. During the British rule, a railway line was constructed, after an old bridge had been demolished, dividing the Salimgarh Fort and chipping part of the Red Fort as a result; later, this was considered an uncaring action, as the railway line has truncated the fort.

The narrow jail literally sends a chill down a visitor’s spine. The cells with hardly any ventilation make you imagine vicious scenes of torture and pain. The visitor literally shudders at the memories concealed within these walls - the screams, silence, solitude of prisoners, their lives and deaths.

One realizes that the formation of the fort’s history is as much about glory and construction as it is about death and destruction. The Salimgarh Fort is about death, about endings. It is about annihilations against which there were victorious accomplishments; it is about stories of defeat that set into relief instances of ascendance to power, which shaped history as we know it today.

The Swatantra Sangram Museum, which opened to the public on 2 October 1995, is located in the precincts of the Red Fort Complex within the Salimgarh Fort as it was a prison where the INA prisoners were incarcerated by the British from 1945 until India became independent of the British rule on 15 August 1947. Many of the prisoners died within the jail premises. The place was chosen as the site for the Museum based on provided by Colonel Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon’s initial identification of the location where the British had held trial of the Indian National Army prisoners for treason in 1945. Since then, he retracted (after the present museum was completed) his selection of the site and identified a new building adjoining the existing museum as the site where the trial was held.

To encourage tourists to visit this place, ASI has also introduced guides at the Red Fort gate to give directions to this fort vis-à-vis the famous Red Fort, as it has been hardly known to the public until recently. Also, the long walk from the Red Fort gate to this place discouraged people from visiting the fort and the museum.

Tourist Information

The Salimgarh Fort is situated in Delhi which is connected to all parts of India through air, rail, and road transport. The air transport connects Delhi to all parts of India and many cities in the world. It is open from sunrise to sunset, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on all days of the week other than Monday. No entry fee is charged for visiting the fort; however, as the fort is situated inside the Red Fort, a fee for visiting the Red Fort is obligatory. For Indians, the cost of the ticket per person is Rs. 30 and for foreigners, it is Rs. 500 per person. The museum inside the fort gives a glimpse to the torrid past of Delhi of which Salimgarh is a standing witness.