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Shahjahan, started the construction of this massive fort in 1638, when he shifted the capital from Agra to Delhi. The fort was completed along with the huge city of Shajahanabad after nine years on 16th April 1648. The city was laid out with wide roads, residential quarters, bazars, mosques and enclosed in a rubble built wall with 14 gates, some of which still exists. The main street was Chandni Chouk with a tree lined canal flowing down its centre and the remarkable buildings which showed off the magnificence of Mughal style architecture were the Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India and the Red fort. Now Chandni Chowk is a crowded colourful market bustling with shops, craftsmen's workshops, hotels, mosques and temples.
The fort got its name from the ample use of red sandstone walls and is octagon in shape. The two main gateways are the Lahore Gate and the Delhi Gate. The entrance is through the Lahore Gate which forms a part of a massive stone fortification and is made up of dull pink sandstone. The path leads to the vaulted shopping arcade known as Chatta Chowk, lined with shops originally where the royal household used to shop for silks, brocades, velvets, gold and silver ware jewellery, gems etc. The arcade was also known as Meena bazar which offered exclusive shopping, just for ladies of the court on Thursdays. Today the shops cater to tourists with souvenirs, antiques etc and the upper levels are the quarters of Indian Army families.
At the end of the Chatta Chowk is the Naubat Khana
(Drum house) where ceremonial music was played by the musicians to
glorify the emperor and special tunes were played to announce the arrival
of the royalty and important dignitaries. The drum house has four floors
and it also served as a gate house 'Hathi Pol' where the visiting dignitaries
had to leave their horses and elephants. The red sandstone walls are beautifully
decorated with floral designs originally painted in gold with an inner
courtyard surrounded by galleries. But the galleries were removed as the
fort underwent a number of changes when it became the British Army Headquarters.
Just above the Naubat Khana is the Indian War Memorial Museum which
has a collection of armours, guns, swords and other items related to war.
There is the Swatantra Sangrama Sangrahalaya (Museum of the
Independence movement) displaying letters, photos, newspaper cuttings
located amongst the army buildings just before Naubat Khana.
There is a large formal garden and a row of five small palaces along the east wall of the fort, behind the Diwan-i-Am. The palaces were beautifully decorated with silver ceilings ornamented with golden flowers and crowned with gilded turrets, delicately painted and decorated with intricate pieces of mirrors. Between the garden and the palaces there was a stream flowing Nahr-i-Bihisht (Stream of Paradise) with a network of lotus shaped marble fountains. The palace on the extreme south is the Mumtaz Mahal (Palace of Jewels), now the Red Fort Museum of Archaeology, (Open daily except Fri 9am-5pm) with six apartments displaying relics from the Mughal Period including numerous paintings, weapons, textiles, carpets, ornate chess sets, hookahs and metal work.
Close to the Mumtaz Mahal is the Rang Mahal ('Palace of Colors') once elaborately painted, where the emperors main wife resided and where the emperor ate most of his meals. The stream ran through the palace and ended in the lotus shaped central pool in the marble floor originally with an ivory fountain in the center. Hundreds of small mirrors were set into the ceilings of apartments on either sides known as the Sheesh Mahal (Palace of Mirrors).
On the northern side of Rang Mahal,is the Khas Mahal,
the exclusive three roomed palace of the emperor. The southern chamber
is the Tosh Khana (robe room), has a beautiful marble filigree screen
on its north wall, carved with the scales of justice. Viewing the screen
from the north you'll see suns surrounding the scales, but from the south
these look more like moons. In the center is the Khwabgah (Palace of dreams)
with an octagonal tower projecting over the east wall of the Khas Mahal
where the emperor used to appear daily before throngs gathered on the
riverbanks below. In 1911, when Delhi was declared capital, King George
V and Queen Mary sat in the balcony here as the Durbar celebrated their
coronation. The north chamber is the Tasbih Khana where the emperor used
to worship privately.
Close to the Diwan-i-Khas is the Hammams or the Royal
Baths with three apartments surmounted by domes, where royalty took
hot saunas and perfumed baths. The apartments on either side had hot and
cold baths and are separated by corridors with canals to carry water to
each room. The room in the centre has three fountain basins which emitted
rose water and it is reputed that four tonnes of wood were required to
heat the water. The floors of these apartments are built with marble and
were inlaid with floral patterns of multicoloured stones. The baths are
closed to the public.
Shahi Burj (Royal Pavilion) the three storied octagonal tower, situated on the northeastern edge of the fort was the emperor's private working place. It was from the pavilion next to the tower that the stream begins flowing south along the royal terrace to the royal baths and the palaces. The tower is closed to the public. The Yamuna river used to lap the walls of the tower but now has retreated some distance away.
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