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Delhi experienced a fall from the time of Humayun's Delhi to the accession of Shahjahan, the great Mughal builder who in 1648 built Shahjahanabad, the seventh city of Delhi. Today, Shahjahan's Delhi stands out from all the Delhi built before it, as one may admire it from the Red Fort and the Jama Masjid overshadowing the rest of the city. The magnificence of the palace (at present, the Red Fort is a World Heritage Monument) is best described in the famous couplet inscribed in the Diwan-i-Khas:

Agar fardos ba rue Zamin ast Hamin ast
a hamin ast a hamin ast…
If there is a heaven on earth, it’s here, it’s here..

In a similar vein, the celebrated poet Mirza Galib writes, “If the world is body, Delhi is the soul.” There can be no better description for this city.

The History of Shahjahanabad

Shahjahanabad was a walled city, and some of its gates and parts of the wall are still standing. The romantic nature of the Delhi bazaars can be experienced at its best in and around Chandni Chowk and in the vicinity. Shahjahanabad was secured and enclosed by walls stretching for about ten kilometres. Ten gates connected the city with the surrounding region. The Lahore Gate was the main entrance for the Red Port, aside from the Delhi Gate. The Kashmere Gate, the Calcutta Gate, the Mori Gate, the Kabul Gate, the Faresh Khana Gate, the Ajmere Gate, and the Turkman Gate were all major links that used to connect the city with the highways. A system of Mohallas and Katras was developed to suit the homogenous community structure. Shahjahanabad serves as a fine example of secularism which distinguishes it from the bazars of many historical buildings and temples: The Lal Jain Mandir from the time of Shahjahan, Appa Gangadhar Mandir (Gauri Shankar mandir), the only temple built during Marathi dominion, Arya Samaj mandir (Dewan Hall), Baptist Chruch, Gurudwara Sisganj, Sunehri Masjid and west end terminus, the Fateh Puri Masjid. On the 9th of March 1739, Nadir Shah defeated Mohammad Shah at Panipat and entered Delhi. He massacred the inhabitants and took over almost the entire wealth of Shahjahanbad accumulated by the Mughals in India: the Peacock Throne, priceless stones such as Koh-i-Nur and Darya-i-Nur, fine pieces of art, thousands of horses, camels, and elephants, and numerous books and manuscripts were all taken away as spoils. (more in the History section)

The Fort City as seen today

Many of the historical shrines and monuments of Delhi can be found in Shahjahanabad even today, including the principal citadel of Lal Qila, the Red Fort, as well as Jama Masjid and Chandni Chowk. Aside from these, from Lal Kuan to Najafganj, the old charm of Shahjahanabad is spread through its lanes, old havelis, colourful market places and mouth-watering mughlai cuisine. The remains of the broken yet majestic Ajmere Gate, Lahore Gate and Kashmiri Gate not only give visitors the idea of the extent of the walled fort city of Shahjahanabad but also take them back to the times of glory of the old Mughal and old Indian Delhi.

Text by Sammik C Basuu