City Landmark – Red Fort, Old Delhi
The necessary ruin.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
There is nothing inside the imposing ramparts of Red Fort, or Lal Quila, except a few gardens, a couple of crumbling halls, and two museums with spotty paintings and antique knives.
Spread within 2.4 kms, its tour is exhausting and occasionally frustrating –some pavallions are barricaded, some are locked and some later structures are downright ugly. A bazaar inside the principal entrance – Lahori Gate – is a cheap tourist trap selling hippie necklaces and Taj Mahal keepsakes. Why then is the Red Fort necessary?
Noisy and touristy, it was the imperial court of the Mughals. Built in the 17th century by emperor Shah Jahan after he moved his capital from Agra to Delhi, the fort was where the Mughals lived out the rest of their dynasty. The best of Mughal culture – poetry, music and cuisine – was created here. This complex had the wealth of the world. There were the chandeliers, the diamonds, the gold-painted walls, the gold-plated railings, the heavy curtains and the legendary peacock throne.
All that has gone. Persia’s Nadir Shah took the peacock throne.The locals stole the gold and silver from the ceilings. The rest was destroyed by the vengeful British, after they replaced Mughals as India’s rulers. The beautiful pavilions were demolished and military garrisons were built.
Following independence, the Indians, strangely, showed more interest in the British barracks than the Mughal ruins. Wall motifs faded, stone jaalis broke. A canal that carried water through the halls to help the royals survive the Delhi heat went dry.
Yet you must wander in this desolation. There are very few monuments like Red Fort that encapsulate the essence of an entire historic timeline within their walls. Edward Gibbon sat amid the Roman ruins and was inspired to write his majestic The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Who knows what Red Fort may make you do.
Where Opposite Chandni Chowk nearest Metro Stop Chandni Chowk
The Red Fort moment
Where the emperor sat
The canal is dry
Glimpses of beauty
Lost in the complex
Once it was living
The locked mosque
The British contribution
View from the local train
The Red Fort people