DELHI is said to have been the site of seven cities and whenever a new city came up, protection had to be provided to it mostly in the form of a fort. Delhi thus abounds with forts, sorine of which are visible in their remnanrts some having mere jWalls, and hardly any in its original shape. Lai Kot, Rai Pithora and Siri exist in the ruins of their walls; the inside of Tughlaqabad and Kotia Feroze Shah are in slightly better shape and Purana Qila is better preserved. Lai Qila or Red Fort is the only fort that has withstood ravages but, more than time, when the Mughuls grew weak, plunderers and vandals played havoc with its precious posses¬ sions as well as with its inmates, includ¬ ing royalty.

By: Poonam Sharma

Posted on: 26/10/2020 View : 43


DELHI is said to have been the site of seven cities and whenever a new city came up, protection had to be provided to it mostly in the form of a fort. Delhi thus abounds with forts, sorine of which are visible in their remnanrts some having mere jWalls, and hardly any in its original shape. Lai Kot, Rai Pithora and Siri exist in the ruins of their walls; the inside of Tughlaqabad and Kotia Feroze Shah are in slightly better shape and Purana Qila is better preserved. Lai Qila or Red Fort is the only fort that has withstood ravages but, more than time, when the Mughuls grew weak, plunderers and vandals played havoc with its precious possessions as well as with its inmates, including royalty.

The excavations conducted by the Archaeological Survey of India some time back in Purana Qila have unearthed a cultural sequence ranging in date from circa 1000 B.C. to the Mughul period. Perhaps Indraprastha founded by the Pandavas at the site where part of Delhi now exists, had no fort, and if at all it had some fortifications their traces are extinct. It is said, but there is no historical proof, that the Purana Qila was built In some other name by the Pandava brothers This is perhaps more of a myth.

Lai Kot, Rai Pithora, Siri

The earliest remains of a fort in Delhi are those of Lai Kot which is said to have been built by the Tomar King Anangpal in the year 1060. It extends from Adham Khan's tomb north west wards.

Lai Kot was followed by the Qila Rai Pithora. The former was engulfed by the latter which was built by Rai Pithora better known as Prithvi Raj Chauhan, It is rectangular and covers a vast area—its south wail crosses the Gurgaon road close to Adham Khan's tomb, the north wall cuts the Delhi road near the tenth milestone from Delhi, half of the western wall is formed by the west wall of the inner citadel (Lai Kot) and the eastern wall cuts the Tughlaqabad road about one mile from the Qutb Minar. It was inside Rai Pithora that Qutb-ud-din Aibak built Jami or Quwwat-ul-lslam mosque to celebrate his conquest of Delhi.

The Muslim rulers of Delhi after Aibak were fond of founding cities and forts. Ala-ud-din Khaiji built the fort of Siri in 1303. Siri had practically lost all its glory and even its name sounded unfamiliar to the residents of Delhi till the Asian Games resurrected it. The residential quarters built for foreign participants in the Asian Games at Siri have familiarised them with the name of Siri ; and to those interested in history, with its glorious past. Famous as Koshak-in-Siri or Alai Fort, it was circular in shape, its walls were made of stone, brick and lime, and it had seven gates.


Ghiyas-ud-din Tughluq, shortly after ascending the throne in 1320, selected for his capital a new site on the edge of a rocky outcrop, about five miles from Qutb Minar and for strategic reasons built a massive fort around the city, which was named Tughlaqabad. Its scarped sides, sloping bastions, upper line of battlements to a height of 90 feet, vast size, strength and solidarity give it an air of stern and massive grandeur.

The fort of Tughlaqabad built of massive blocks of stone is half hexagon in shape. Its three faces are about three quarters of a mile in length each. The base is one and a half miles and the whole circuit about four miles. The wall has a circuit of four miles and encloses a large area, much of which is taken by the inner citadel and palace. The walls of ramparts are pierced with loop¬ holes which command the foot of the walls. Made of plainly dressed stones, the walls are rugged, slope inwards and are crowned with a line of battlements of solid stone and these too are provided with loopholes. The fort had 13 gates and three inner gates to the citadel and seven tanks for water.

The fort contained the famous Qasr- i-Hazar (Palace of a Thousand Pillars) of marble. Ibn Batuta describes the hall of audience as an immense chamber of 'a thousand columns. These pillars are of varnished wood, and support a wooden roof, painted in the most admirable style'.* *

Of the Tughlaqabad fort nothing now remains except the bastioned walls, some underground chambers, lofty gateways, triple storeyed towers and a few of the massive ramparts. But whatever remains 'gives an idea of its sturdy vigour and impressive grandeur',* though its seeming impregnability has been questioned on the ground that it consisted of loose rubble with a facing of ashlar granite put together in great haste, owing perhaps to some imminent peril from the Mongols.


Mohammed bin Tughluq, the son-in- law of Ghiyas-ud-din, founded in the very first two years of his reign the small fortress of Adilabad and the city of Jahanpanah (the World Refuge), the latter by linking up the walls of old Delhi on the one side and Siri on the other, enclosing the suburbs that had grown between them. Its fortifications  36 feet in thickness and built of rough rubble in lime are now level with the ground and in some places barely traceable.

Feroze Shah Kotia

he third of the Tughluq kings, Feroze Shah built the palace-fort of Firuzabad, known as Feroze Shah Kotia. Note  worthy features of its fortifications are the machicoulis and the absence of any raised beam or gallery to give access to the double lines of loopholes.The palace and the citadel were provided with strong and massive 60 feet high ramparts. The citadel forming an irregular polygon on plain is now in ruinous condition. Little in the fort is left save some of the palace walls, the remains of a mosque and Ashoka's pillar which was brought from Topra, near Ambala.

Purana Qila

The Purana Qila was constructed on the site of Indraprastha partly by Humayun, who named it Dinpanah, and partly by Sher Shah who named it Shergarh. It is believed that the walls and gates were built by Humayun while the buildings within, viz. the Sher Mandal, a two storeyed octogonal tower, and the Qila-i-Khona, a beautiful mosque, are the work of Sher Shah. Sher Shah strengthened the citadel and his son Salim Shah further improved it. Humayun died from a slip from the stairs of Sher Mandal.

The Purana Qila has a perimeter of a mile and is circular in shape. Its east and west sides are larger. Its walls are 12 feet 6 inches thick and terminate with massive bastions at each corner. The walls of Purana Qila are not provided with frequent bastions and it is only the west wall which possesses any intermediate bastion at all, the curtain between them averaging 240 feet. This was probably for the reason that water on the remaining sides hindered assault as the river then washed the eastern side of the fort and gave strength to the defence of the bastioned ramparts. In its gates the Purana Qila has a unique synthesis of Hindu and Muslim styles of architecture the pointed arch of the Muslims harmonises with the Hindu c/7/?afr/s while Hindu brackets support pavilions. The Tallaqi Darwaza has a representation of solar orb. Its roof is crowned by three chhatris and supported on columns of red sandstone originally its top had been covered with dazzling white chunam and coloured tiles.


The ruins of the Salimgarh Fort are found near the old railway bridge connecting Delhi with Shahdara. It was built in 1546 by Salim Shah, son and successor of Sher Shah, as a bulwark against the return of Humayun. This Salim is sometimes confused with Salim, son of Akbar.In 1622 Jahangir built a bridge to connect the south gate of the Red Fort with Salimgarh. Later the bridge was removed to make way for the railway bridge. In later Mughul times Salimgarh was chiefly used as a prison.

Red Fort

Red Fort or Lai Qila as it is popularly known is one of the most exquisite forts of the world.Emperor Shahjahan had reigned for eleven years at Agra, which he found very warm and its fort too small to accommodate the army, when he decided to transfer the capital to Delhi. There also lurked an aspiration to found a city in his own name Shahjahanabad. A site not far from Humayun's tomb on the bank of Jamuna was selected and the emperor ordered engineers and architects to prepare a plan for a palace similar to that of Agra and Lahore. Construction of buildings started in 1638 under the supervision of Izzat Khan, later of Ali Vardi Khan, followed by Markamat Khan, Ahmad and Hamid, reputed engineers. The fort was completed in 1648 at a cost of ten crore rupees.

The fort was inaugurated with great fanfare. Brocaded velvet from Turkey and silk from China were hung on the roof, walls and colonnades of the Diwan-i-Am. A gorgeous canopy 210 feet by 135 feet was supported by silver columns while another splendid canopy for the throne was supported by golden pillars, wreathed with bands of studded gems.

The Red Fort is an irregular octagon, its two long sides are on the east and west while six smaller sides are on the north and south. It is 3000 feet long and 1800 feet broad and has a circumference of one and a half miles. The walls made of red sandstone for which reason it is known as Red Fort- are covered with a succession ofiturrets, kiosks, domes, balconies, windows and perforated screens. The walls facing the river are 60 feet high while else where they are 110 feet high. The towers and kiosks lend charm and grace to the walls which glow in soft rays of the setting sun. A ditch 75 feet wide and 30 feet deep, filled with v'vater and stocked with fish, ran round the walls of the fort except on the river face.

The Red Fort has two entrances, Lahorl Gate and Delhi Gate. The Lahori Gate, 41 feet by 24 feet, faces the famous Chandni Chowk and with its towers and central arch is imposing. It is protected by a barbican which was built by Aurangazeb, and its drawbridge was replaced by bridges built by Akbar II. A garden was planned in front of the Lahori Gate. A square adjacent to it was the hub of activity. Mughul officials gathered here to mount guard or to attend the Diwan-i-Am or Diwan-i-Khas.

The Lahori Gate gives access to the Chhatta Chowk (the vaulted arcade) 230 feet long and 27 feet wide and an uncovered central octagonal court. On each side of the arcade are 32 arched rooms which were originally shops. Here sat the court jewelljers, goldsmiths, picture painters, workers in enamel, carpet manufacturers, weavers of silk and other artisans with costly luxuries.

Diwan-i-Am: The arcade leads into a square which had in its centre Naubat or IMaqqarkhanathe royal band. This was a gateway to the Diwan-i-Am or Hall of Public Audienc a colonnaded hall open on three sides and enclosed at the back. Though built of sandstone, it was covered with shell plaster.' It is divided into three aisles each 7 feet apart by columns which support arches. In the recess of the back wall stood the peacock throne valued at '6 million sterling'. It was later removed to Diwan- i-Khas and subsequently taken by Nadir Shah in 1739. The hall is now shorn of its splendour and glory all its decorations have been removed.

Audience a pavilion of white marble, supported by pillars of marble and mosaic work of cornelian and other stones is more majestic. Engrailed arches on square marble piers divide the hall into 15 bays. Inlaid flowers on the piers, elegant perforated tracery and graceful multifoil arches picked out in gold and colours added to its beauty. It had a silver ceiling decorated with gold and inlay work.

Diwan-i-Khas mirrors not only the glory of the Mughuls but their tragedy also, particularly when they had lost their vigour. Here in 1739 Emperor Mohammed Shah made his submission to Nadir Shah who robbed him of his most valuable treasures ; in 1757 Ahmad Shah Abdali looted and inter alia took back with him a Mughul princess as consort; in 1787 the Rohilla Ghulam Qadir blinded Emperor Shah Alam; in 1857-58 the last emperor Bahadur Shah fought, lost, was tried and exiled to Rangoon.

Rang Mahal : The Rang Mahal, Shajahan's seraglio, is remarkable for its architecture and decoration. Its central hall with small compartments at each end, is divided into 15 bays by ornamental piers. Its ceiling was of silver and walls of gilt and colour. In the reign of Farrukhsiyar, the silver was taken off to meet pressing needs and was replaced by copper which too was removed during the time of Akbar 11 and replaced by a wooden ceiling. Little of the metal painting is visible The eastern wall of the building has fine windows overlooking Jamuna where from ladies of the zenana watched elephants fight near the foot of the walls. There is a marble fountain in the centre of the hall which was fed water from a branch of AM Mardan's canal brought from the Jamuna some six miles above Delhi. The stream cascaded down the marble chute in the Shah Bur], and traversed through a number of edifices.

Between the Diwan-i-Am and Rang Mahal there was a garden.Other Buildings: Other notable buildings in the Red Fort are Musamman Burj, Khwabgah, Hammam, Sawan-Bhadon, Moti Masjid (built by Aurangazeb) and Hira Manzil (built by Bahadur Shah).

The Red Fort is symbol of India's independence. In its military barracks took place the famous trial of the three INA (Indian National Army) officers- Sahgal, Shah Nawaz and Dhillon who had actively associated themselves with the army set up by Subhas Chandra Bose and who fought against the British forces.

Every year on the country's Indepen¬ dence Day, 15th August, the Prime Minister unfurls from the ramparts of Red Fort the national flag and sends out a message to the people of India a reminder of their heroic struggle against an imperial power and the need of unity for making concerted efforts for the strength and prosperity of India.

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