Delhi has five forts, but it is the Red Fort that takes pride of place. It was the last fort built in India. Hence it has become the symbol of the country. The fort of Tughlaqabad, though in ruins, has an interesting history. The old fort is equally captivating. Delhi, a union territory in India, encloses the national capital New Delhi. The region of Delhi enjoys a strategic location in North India. So, it attracted rulers of several dynasties to form their capitals here. For centuries together, the region of Delhi remained the centre of power. The forts left behind by those dynasties offer insights into the dramatic past of Delhi.
Red Fort was conceived as a royal township in the erstwhile city of Shahjahanabad – today’s Old Delhi. Shah Jahan, a Mughal Emperor established this fort in 1639 and moved in ten years later. And then for nearly 200 years, it was the seat of power of the Mughals. But none of the successors have shown as much attachment with the Red Fort as Shah Jahan did.
This octagon-shaped fort has received its name from the red-coloured sandstone used in making its walls and gates. The ramparts run the length of 2 kms and are studded with two gates. Lahori Gate is to the west and Delhi Gate is to the south. The entrance is through the Lahori Gate. To bolster the defense, Aurangzeb placed barbicans in front of them. For Shah Jahan, this was like veiling a beautiful face.
Within the ramparts there are halls of public and private audience, domed marble palaces, elegant apartments, gardens, and a mosque. Not all the edifices that were built have survived. But the ones which are present are enough to give us a peek into the elegant art and architecture of that period. Shah Jahan’s successor Aurangzeb was busy most of the time in Deccan expansions, so he couldn’t contribute much to the fort. And his descendants led a decadent lifestyle; for money they dismantled many structures. Yet Red Fort, a world heritage site, remains one of the finest forts of India due to its exemplary planning and architecture.
This video has a detailed narration of Red Fort:
Location: Red Fort is situated in the famous Chandni Chowk area of Delhi.
Tughlaqabad Fort, now in ruins, was the capital of Ghiyas-ud-din Tughlaq. The 6.5-km-long ramparts enclosed the whole town of Tughlaqabad. Ghiyas-Ud-Din built this fort in the early 14th century. But his reign lasted for only four years. A pavilion built to welcome him after a victory collapsed over him leading to his death. It is believed that this was conspired by his son Mohammad, who later on built a fortress called Adilabad within this fort.
On the southwestern part of the site is the rectangular citadel. It has the remains of a tower, an underground passage, and several halls. To the west of the entrance is the palace area. The palaces were bounded by outer protective wall. The walls of the fort were pierced with thirteen gates. The southernmost gate overlooks a causeway that link the fort with Ghiyas-Ud-Din Tughlaq’s tomb. This well-preserved tomb has sloping walls made up of red sandstone. On the top it has a white marble dome.
This video features a heritage walk in Tughlaqabad Fort organized by a Delhi-based company:
Location: Tughlaqabad Fort is 7.5 km east of Qutb Minar on the Mehrauli-Badarpur Road.
Old Fort, called ‘Purana Qila’ in Hindi, is a 16th century fortress. The work of this grand fortress was begun by Humayun but later it was captured by Sher Shah Suri who completed it. Within its crumbling ramparts are the remains of some old structures along with a museum. Excavated artefacts are on display in the museum. Most of the area inside the fort is covered with well-tended lawns and gardens.
The two most important monuments inside the fort are Qila-i-Kuhna Masjid (a mosque), and Sher Mandal (an observatory). Built in 1541, Qila-i-Kuhna is a splended mosque. Made up of red sandstone, this mosque is adorned with five elegant arches. The sculptural art of the building is admirable. Sher Mandal is an octagonal tower. It was used as an observatory and a library by Sher Shah Suri.
Location: Old fort is just a km east of India Gate.
Siri was once a fortified city, it was the second of the seven cities that were built in the region of Delhi. All that remains of that majestic fort are some devastated walls and bastions. But studies reveal that the fort was as much mighty as it was architecturally and artistically appealing. Apart from weathering, the fort was also victimized by the loots. The men of the other kingdoms brought down the structures of this fort for their utilization. The Afghan ruler, Ala-ud-Din Khilji, built this fort around 1303. Adjacent to the fort is a modern sports complex which was built during the 1982 Asiad Games.
Salimgarh Fort dates back to 1546. Salim Shah Suri, son of Sher Shah Suri, built this fort on what was once an island of Yamuna river. With the fall of Suri dynasty in 1555 AD, the fort lost its importance. The Mughal rulers used it for their short stays till the Red Fort was built. Salimgarh lay abandoned after the completion of Red Fort till Britishers took over from Mughals. British brought down all the structures in Salimgarh to create space for constructing barracks and prisons. So, none of the constructions of the Sur dynasty have remained except the fort wall. A bridge connects Salimgarh with Red Fort.
Location: Salimgarh is at a walkable distance from Red Fort.