History of Red Fort
Mughal emperor Shah Jahan commenced the construction of Red Fort in 1638 and it was completed in 1648. Shah Jahan erected this fort with an aim to shift his capital from Agra to his new city of Shahjahanabad in Delhi, but his dream was never fulfilled as his son Aurangzeb deposed him and imprisoned him in Agra Fort. Aurangzeb was the first and last great Mughal emperor to rule from the Red Fort. In fact, the Red Fort provides a glimpse of the very peak of Mughal power, when the emperors rode out on elephant back into the streets of Old Delhi.
As you reach old walled city of Shahjahanabad (Old Delhi), the imposing Red Fort on the east will fascinate you with its grandeur. Red Fort or Lal Quila is a historic fort where the national flag of independent India was hoisted on 15th August 1947. Originally, this fort was built by fifth Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, but later British captured the fort and finally 300 years later, this historical fort came under the control of a democratic Government after India’s independence.
Built in red sandstone, the Red Fort extends over two kms and varies in height from 18 mts on the Yamuna river side to 33 mts on the city side. Initially, there were 14 gates to the fort, but now there are two main entrances namely – Delhi Gate to the south and Lahore Gate to the west. Today, the Red Fort is typically an Indian tourist attraction, here you will find guides leaping forth to offer their services as soon as you reach close to the fort. But above all, if you leave the frantic streets of Old Delhi for Red Fort, you will surely get a feel of calm.
Today Red Fort
The Red Fort is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Old Delhi, attracting thousands of visitors every year. The fort is also the site from which the Prime Minister of India addresses the nation on 15 August, the day India achieved independence from the British. It also happens to be the largest monument in Old Delhi.
At one point in time, more than 3,000 people lived within the premises of the Delhi Fort complex. But after the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, the fort was captured by Britain and the residential palaces destroyed. It was made the headquarters of the British Indian Army. Immediately after the mutiny, Bahadur Shah Zafar was tried at the Red Fort. It was also here in November 1945, that the most famous courts-martial of three officers of the Indian National Army were held. After India gained independence in 1947, the Indian Army took control over the fort. In December 2003, the Indian Army handed the fort over to the Indian tourist authorities.
Today, a sound and light show describing Mughal history is a tourist attraction in the evenings. The general condition of the major architectural features is mixed. None of the water features, which are extensive, contain water. Some of the buildings are in fairly good condition and have their decorative elements undisturbed. In others, the marble inlay flowers have been removed by looters and vandals. The tea house, though not in its historical state, is a functioning restaurant. The mosque and hamam are closed to the public, though one can catch peeks through the glass windows or marble lattice work. Walkways are left mostly in a crumbling state. Public toilets are available at the entrance and inside the park, but some are quite unsanitary.
The entrance through the Lahore Gate leads to a retail mall with jewellery and crafts stores. There is a museum of “blood paintings” depicting young Indian martyrs of the 20th century along with the story of their martyrdom. There is also an archaeological museum and an Indian war memorial museum.
The fort was the site of a December 2000 attack by terrorist group Lashkar-e-Toiba which killed two soldiers and one civilian in what was described in the media as an attempt to derail the India-Pakistan peace process in Kashmir.