It held the fort for centuries
From the Mughals to free India, the Red Fort stands as a witness to the rise and fall of empires.
Anuradha Thakur reports

Marble fountain in Rang Mahal
Marble fountain in Rang Mahal 

Pietra dura work showing birds, plants, etc at Deewan-e-aam
Pietra dura work showing birds, plants, etc at Deewan-e-aam 

THE Red Fort, which has been the epitome of power for the Mughals, the British and the free India, was built by Emperor Shah Jahan in 1639. Sustaining its position as the symbol of power through centuries, it was here that the national flag was hoisted for the first time after Independence.

The octagonal fort encloses its elegant buildings in a two-mile-long, 70-ft-high and 45-ft-wide walls. The fort has a 75-ft-wide and 30-ft-deep moat on three sides while the river Yamuna surrounds it on the fourth. The fort has two entrances ó one through the Delhi Gate, originally called Akbarabadi Darwaza, and the other through Lahore Gate.`A0The Delhi Gate leads to Jama Masjid through Faiz Bazaar with the Lahore Gate being its principal entrance.

On entering the Lahore Gate, one comes across a 270-ft-long arcade, which has small shops on both sides where one can pick up souvenirs.`A0This is Meena Bazaar, the erstwhile principal shopping centre of Shah Jahanís nobles.

Further ahead, is the Jilau Khana with its sides lined with rooms meant for guards and their superintendents.`A0On the extreme end stands the Drum House, called Naqqar Khana or Naubat Khana, used to regulate the entry of visitors into the fort. The first floor was a stage for musicians, who welcomed royal visitors.

Passing though the red sandstone walls carved with floral designs, one reaches the Deewan-e-Aam. At this open-arch pavilion, the Emperor would listen to the grievances of his subjects and dealt with routine matters of the state.

Built on a platform measuring 185ft x 70ft, with 40 pillars in three rows, the structure holds testimony to the richness the art of that era possessed. It is fabricated with white marble from Makrana (Rajasthan). The back wall of the Emperorís throne displays beautiful pietra-dura work with floral designs and birds perched on trees. Beneath the throne is a marble platform with intricate inlay work, where nobles handed over the petitions and other documents to the monarch. The canopy over the throne is also finely embellished with inlay work.

Crossing the royal gardens behind the Deewan-e-Aam, one reaches the Rang Mahal (the entertainment area). Here stands a pavilion measuring 153ft x 69ft, which was meant for senior queens. It is the largest building of the harem consisting of six apartments and a central area. Marble has been used in plenty. Khas Mahal (special palace) lies next door. Small and cosy, this was the place where the Emperor rested. The cooling waters of Nehar-e-Bahisht reflected the pietra-dura decorations and floral wall paintings.

Made entirely of marble, the Deewan-e-Khas is one of the most elegant buildings of the fort. Housing the famous "Peacock Throne", the structure is lavishly decorated with inlay work displaying floral designs, birds, and other patterns. It is here that the Emperor discussed important and secret affairs of the state with his trusted lieutenants. The walls of marble pavilion were bedecked with precious stones like agates, cornelia and lapis lazuli. Hamaams (bathing houses) too display royal luxury. The royal feet emerged from the grey marble tub onto white marble floor entirely inlaid with semi-precious stones and limestone. Though this monument has been tampered with over the centuries, yet it proudly stands to tell the tale of 350 years of its existence.