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India: Red Fort

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Red Fort | India | Asia

[Visited: September 2014 and several times before]

On the eastern side of Chandni Chowk, close to the western banks of the Yamuni river, stands the Red Fort. Commissioned by Shah Jahan, famous for building the Taj Mahal in Agra, it was the stronghold of the Mughal emperors from the 17th to the mid 19th century. It is a fortified palace compound, surrounded by impressive walls of red sandstone, which gives it its name. In Hindustani, it is called Lal Qila, which translates to Red Fort. After leaving the hustle and noise of Chandni Chowk behind, I first walk along the wall to Delhi Gate on the south side of the fort. The moat appears green, and contrasts nicely with the deep red of the massive walls, with defensive towers at its angles. Delhi Gate is closed to the public, and I walk back to Lahore Gate, the official entrance, where I pick up my foreigner ticket.

Picture of Red Fort (India): The fortifications of the Red Fort at the Lahore Gate

Both Delhi and Lahore Gate can only be accessed by making a 90 degree turn; a clever way to prevent a full-out attack on the openings in the wall. After walking through Chatta Chowk, full of handicraft shops, I reach a small rotunda with flowers. Behind it, a white building appears: the Naubhat Khana. I walk through it, then reach the Diwan-i-Am, or the Hall of Public Audience, where the emperor could meet ordinary people. This has two corridors of arches resting on columns. To my dismay, I find its famous throne wrapped in plastic, and closed off to us, the common people. I stand there and wait, until the wind unveils some of the white marble with inlaid precious stones depicting flowers and birds, partly made in Florence, Italy, and completed by local workers.

Picture of Red Fort (India): The domes of the Moti Masjid, the small and fine mosque inside the Red Fort

From the Diwan-i-Am, I reach the eastern part of the Red Fort, and I visit the Mumtaz Mahal, which houses a small museum, and walk north. Close to one another, I find precious building here: the Rang Mahal, Khas Mahal with its finely carved marble filigree screen, and the Diwan-i-Khas. This was the Hall of Private Audience, where the emperor would address his highest nobles. It is, therefore, the finest building of the entire Red Fort, even though its masterpiece, the Peacock Throne, was taken as booty by Nadir Shah. Unfortunately, the Diwan-i-Khas cannot be entered, so I stand close to the blue rope, taking in the views of the ceiling, the columns, arches, and semi-precious stones with elegant flowers at the base of the columns. From here, the Moti Masjid, or Pearl Mosque, is just a few steps away - it was specially built as a private mosque for Aurangzeb. Behind the small mosque which is also closed, the Hayat Bakhsh Bagh gardens extend all the way to the northern part of the Red Fort. There are more richly decorated marble buildings here. The channels that were once filled with water, are dry now. The only water left in the Red Fort is the small pool in front of the Khas Mahal and Rang Mahal. Under the trees, many Indians, taking a break, and enjoying the peaceful surroundings of the Red Fort, before heading back to Lahore Gate and the chaos of modern-day Delhi.

Picture of Red Fort (India): Angular view of the Diwan-i-Khas
Picture of Red Fort (India): Lahore Gate, the western entrance to the Red Fort
Picture of Red Fort (India): The eastern part of the Red Fort with a square pool in the foreground
Picture of Red Fort (India): Panel of the Khas Mahal, with scales of justice and the upper part of the finely carved filigree screen
Picture of Red Fort (India): Flower motifs decorating the columns of the Diwas-i-Khas
Picture of Red Fort (India): Outside view of the Diwas-i-Khas building, the Hall of Public Audience
Picture of Red Fort (India): Richly decorated small white marble building in the Red Fort
Picture of Red Fort (India): The imposing walls of the Red Fort seen from the outside
Picture of Red Fort (India): Looking through the red Zafar Mahal building in the Hayat Baksh Bagh
Picture of Red Fort (India): Detail of a door in the Khas Mahal, with figure riding an elephant
Picture of Red Fort (India): Fragment of the wall inside the Naubhat Khana
Picture of Red Fort (India): Richly decorated fragment of the dais inside the Diwan-i-Am
Picture of Red Fort (India): The Hall of Public Audience, Diwan-i-Am, with typical arches

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