The Red Fort with red sandstone walls, popularly known as the Lal Quila extends for two kms and varies in height from 18 metres on the river side to 33 metres on the city side. Shah Jahan started construction of the massive fort in 1638 and it was completed in 1648. He was deposed and imprisoned in Agra Fort by his son Aurangzeb, before he could move his capital from Agra to Shahjahanabad in Delhi. Entry to the fort is Rs 0.50; free on Friday.
The entry to this splendid fort is from the Lahori Gate or the Chatta Chowk. Lal Quila is now a busy market place called the 'Meena Bazaar'. This bazaar has an excellent collection of antiques, miniature paintings and skillfully crafted fake ivory jewellery. The bazaar also sells some fabulous carpets beautifully woven. Just beyond the Chhata Chowk, is the heart of the fort called Naubat Khana, or the Drum House. Musicians used to play for the emperor from the Naubat Khana, and the arrival of princes and royalty was heralded from here.
The Fort sports all the obvious trappings befitting a vital centre of Mughal governance: halls of public and private audiences, domed and arched marble palaces, plush private apartments, a mosque, and elaborately designed gardens. Even today, the Fort remains an impressive testimony to Mughal grandeur, despite being attacked by the Persian Emperor Nadir Shah in 1739, and by the British soldiers, during the war of independence in 1857.
The Fort also houses the Diwan-i-Am or the Hall of Public Audiences, where the Emperor would sit on a marbled paneled alcove, studded with gems, and hear complaints of the common people. The Diwan-i-Khas is the hall of Private Audiences, where the Emperor held private meetings. This hall is made of marble, and its centre-piece used to be the Peacock Throne, which was studded with rubies and gems and was carried away to Iran by Nadir Shah in 1739. Today, although the Diwan-i-Khas is only a pale shadow of its original glory, yet the verse of Amir Khusro " If there is Paradise on the face of earth, it is here, it is here, it is here" reminds us of its former glory.
The Rang Mahal or the 'Palace of Colours' as it is known, holds a spectacular Lotus shaped fountain, made out of a single piece of marble, and housed the Emperor's wives and mistresses. The palace was decorated with excellent paintings, gold bordered projections, mosaics of mirrors and the ceiling was made with gold and silver which wonderfully reflected in a central pool in the marble floor. The other attractions enclosed within this monument are the hammams or the Royal Baths, the Shahi Burj, which used to be Shahjahan's private working area, and the Moti Masjid or the Pearl Mosque, built by Aurangzeb for his personal use.
Even today, the Lal Quila is an eloquent reminder of the glory of the Mughal era, and its magnificence simply leaves one awestruck. It is still a calm haven of peace, which helps one to break away, from noisy and busy life outside the walls of the Fort, and transports the visitor to another realm of existence. Sound and light shows or son et lumiere as it is better known, highlighting particular phases of history are held here. The shows are in Hindi and English with tickets costing Rs. 20, available at the Fort. The English seasons are from November to January at 7.30 p.m., in January to April and September to October at 8.30 p.m. and from May to August at 9 p.m.
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