Dr Sanobar Haider is Assistant Professor, Department of History, MBP Government PG College, Lucknow
This travelogue deals with one of the most majestic monuments of India, the awesome Red Fort. This Diwali vacation we planned to visit Delhi and make this one an enriching one academically by going to the glorious Red Fort built primarily in red sand stone by the Mughal Emperor Shahjahan. The grandiose of the fort is simply breath taking and transfers the admirer into the era gone by.
The Mughals have left behind a great legacy in the form of tangible and intangible heritage which forms a part of our rich cultural heritage and glorious past. The Empire lasted for more than 200 years, 1526 to 1858, till the British gained control over India. This empire bequeathed our country with a rich legacy, ranging from art and designs, architecture to cuisine, and a very distinctive artistic style that mixed European influences with those from Persia and India. Relics of this empire still remain, and India still upholds its inheritance with pride.
The Mughal period of Indian history marked a striking revival of Indo Islamic architecture in northern India. Under the patronage of the Mughal emperors, Persian, Indian, and various provincial styles were fused to produce works of unusual quality and refinement. Many beautiful pieces of architecture were produced during the said period. Mughal architecture reached its zenith during the reign of the emperor Shah Jahan (1628–58), its crowning achievement being the magnificent Taj Mahal. However, the most spectacular of the monuments is the monumental Red Fort which was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2007.
After purchasing tickets for entry at the counter we entered the palatial premises and walked along what remains of the moat surrounding the fort. The huge walls of the palace fort offered a peep into the past which was nothing short of being defined as splendour. The Lahori gate which was guarded by two canons provided entry to the main fort. We then entered the bazaar area also known as the Chatta Chowk or the Bazr-e-Musaqqaf, the idea for the bazaar was stimulated by Shah Jahan by the one he saw in Peshawar in 1646.This historical market place was lined with many stalls adorned with mementoes, Kashmiri shawls, toy shops and shops selling miniatures of the Red Fort and the Taj Mahal. The colorful view provided joy to the passersby leading us to an open area which led to the Naqqar Khana or the place from where announcements were made about the arrival of the Emperor in the most regal manner.
The fort’s massive red sandstone walls, which stand 75 feet (23 metres) high, enclose a complex of palaces and entertainment halls, projecting balconies, baths and indoor canals, and geometrical gardens, as well as an ornate mosque. Among the most famous structures of the complex are the Hall of Public Audience (Diwan-i-Aam), which has many red sandstone pillars supporting a flat roof, and the Hall of Private Audience (Diwan-i-Khaas), which is smaller and has a pavilion of white marble. The Diwan-e-Aam which appeared to be a huge hall in red sand stone was supported by pillars and the royal throne in white marble from where the Emperor addressed the gatherings. The magnificent hall gives a glimpse of the original extravagance and supremely high quality of all the fort decoration. Built of white Makrana marble quarried near Jaipur, the platform walls are carved in relief with clumps of flowers set in decorative borders. The Emperor sat on the throne whose columns and canopy were entirely inlaid with delicate pietra dura flowers, while his ministers stood on the similarly inlaid dias. The Emperor arrived and left through the marble-panelled doors set into a marble wall coated with a great pietra dura inlay design of bird and flower panels, set among blossoming trees and floral arabesques.
This detail of the arch between Shah Jahan's throne and the back wall of the Diwan-i-Aam reveals the precision of workmanship for which Indian craftsmen are still known. The marble work which included cutting and shaping of the stone, the lattice-work and pietra dura craftsmanship all speak of the spectacular architectural achievements of the reign of Shah Jahan. Next we reached the Diwan-i-Khaas after visiting the twin structures called the ‘Sawan Bhado’ which used to be the sitting pavilion of the royalty during the rains. The guide explained how the rain water was used here to automatically flow as a part of the fountains and artificial water falls. The Moti Masjid built by Aurangzeb in the precincts was closed but looking through the jharokhas one could not help getting enchanted by the purity of the building in white. The next structure was the shahi hamam or the modern-day rest room which was strikingly unique with its amazing water arrangements. There were different types of washes available in floral fragrances, steam-sauna and hair washing areas all for tickling the imagination of the visitor. The very imagination of the regality was absolutely incredible. The Diwan-i-Khaas appeared like poetry in stone. Though much of its original ornamentation has been stripped, yet the awesomeness of the grand Mughal edifice does not fail to impress upon the admirer. The beautiful ceilings with engravings from the Quran, the pillars, windows, jharokhas, water inlets and outlets, fountains all transporting the visitor into the world of the grand Mughals.
The most exciting being the bedroom of Emperor Shah Jahan which was surprisingly not very big but was of two parts- the summer bedroom facing the Yamuna and the winter bedroom opposite to it. The spectacle touching the soul of someone who loves studying and exploring Indian history. The jaali work and the intricate decorative work on the walls of the room was mesmerizing enough. Moving ahead we walked past some other parts of the fort including the structure made in the name of Mumtaz Mahal and the other women members of the royal family. It consists of six apartments with its pillars done in marble. The guide who accompanied us on the tour told us how the British plundered this fort and even plucked away the gold, silver and other precious items embedded within the walls and ceilings of the structures.
Walking out of the precincts of the splendid fort we felt overawed and academically enriched with a peep into the history of India.