imperial apartments consist of a row of pavilions, connected by a water
channel known as the Stream of Paradise (Nahr-i-Behisht). The Red Fort
is considered to represent the zenith of Mughal creativity under Shah
Jahan. Although the palace was planned according to Islamic prototypes,
each pavilion contains architectural elements typical of Mughal
building, reflecting a fusion of Timurid, Persian and Hindu traditions.
The Red Fort’s innovative architectural style (including its garden
design) influenced later buildings and gardens in Delhi, Rajasthan,
Punjab, Kashmir, Braj, Rohilkhand and elsewhere. With the Salimgarh
Fort, it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007 as part of
the Red Fort Complex.
Its English name, "Red Fort", is a translation of the Hindustani Lal
Quila deriving from its red-sandstone walls. As the residence of the
imperial family, the fort was originally known as the "Blessed Fort" (Quila-i-Mubarak).
Agra Fort is also called Lal Quila.
Shah Jahan commissioned the construction of the Red Fort in 1638, when
he decided to shift his capital from Agra to Delhi. Its design is
credited to architect Ustad Ahmad Lahauri. The fort lies along the
Yamuna River, which fed the moats surrounding most of the walls.
Construction began in the sacred month of Muharram, on 13 May 1638.
Supervised by Shah Jahan, it was completed in 1648. Unlike other Mughal
forts, the Red Fort's boundary walls are assymmetrical to contain the
older Salimgarh Fort. The fortress-palace was a focal point of the
medieval city of Shahjahanabad (present-day Old Delhi). Its planning and
aesthetics represent the zenith of Mughal creativity prevailing during
Shah Jahan's reign. His successor Aurangzeb added the Pearl Mosque to
the emperor's private quarters, constructing barbicans in front of the
two main gates to make the entrance to the palace more circuitous.
The administrative and fiscal structure of the Mughals declined after
Aurangzeb, and the 18th century saw a degeneration of the palace. When
Jahandar Shah took over the Red Fort in 1712, it had been without an
emperor for 30 years. Within a year of beginning his rule, Shah was
murdered and replaced by Farukhsiyar. To raise money, the silver ceiling
of the Rang Mahal was replaced by copper during this period. Muhammad
Shah, known as Rangila (the Colourful) for his interest in art, took
over the Red Fort in 1719. In 1739, Persian emperor Nadir Shah easily
defeated the Mughal army, plundering the Red Fort (including the Peacock
Throne). Nadir Shah returned to Persia after three months, leaving a
destroyed city and a weakened Mughal empire to Muhammad Shah. The
internal weakness of the Mughal empire made the Mughals titular heads of
Delhi, and a 1752 treaty made the Marathas protectors of the throne at
The 1758 Maratha conquest of Lahore and Peshawar placed them in
conflict with Ahmad Shah Durrani. In 1760, the Marathas removed and
melted the silver ceiling of the Diwan-i-Khas to raise funds for the
defence of Delhi from the armies of Ahmed Shah Durrani. In 1761,
after the Marathas lost the third battle of Panipat, Delhi was
raided by Ahmed Shah Durrani.
Ten years later, Shah Alam ascended
the throne in Delhi with Maratha support. In 1783 the Sikh Misl
Karorisinghia, led by Baghel Singh Dhaliwal, conquered Delhi and the
Red Fort. The Sikhs agreed to restore Shah Alam as emperor and
retreat from the fort if the Mughals would build (and protect) seven
Gurudwaras in Delhi for the Sikh gurus.
During the Second Anglo-Maratha War in 1803, forces of British East
India Company defeated Maratha forces in the Battle of Delhi; this ended
Maratha rule of the city and their control of the Red Fort. After the
battle, the British took over the administration of Mughal territories
and installed a Resident at the Red Fort. The last Mughal emperor to
occupy the fort, Bahadur Shah II ("Zafar"), became a symbol of the 1857
rebellion against the British (in which the residents of Shahjahanbad
Despite its position as the seat of Mughal power and its defensive
capabilities, the Red Fort was not defended during the 1857 uprising
against the British. After the rebellion failed, Bahadur Shah II left
the fort on 17 September and was apprehended by British forces. He
returned to Red Fort as a prisoner of the British, was tried in 1858 and
exiled to Rangoon on 7 October of that year. With the end of Mughal
reign, the British sanctioned the systematic plunder of valuables from
the fort's palaces. All furniture was removed or destroyed; the harem
apartments, servants' quarters and gardens were destroyed, and a line of
stone barracks built. Only the marble buildings on the east side at the
imperial enclosure escaped complete destruction, but were looted and
damaged. While the defensive walls and towers were relatively unharmed,
more than two-thirds of the inner structures were destroyed by the
British; steps were later taken by Lord Curzon to repair some damage.
After Indian Independence the site experienced few changes, and the Red
Fort continued to be used as a cantonment. A significant part of the
fort remained under Indian Army control until 22 December 2003, when it
was given to the Archaeological Survey of India for restoration. In 2009
the Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP), prepared by
the Archaeological Survey of India under Supreme Court directions to
revitalise the fort, was announced.
The Fort Today
Every year on 15 August (the day India achieved independence from the
British), the Prime Minister hoists the national flag at the Red Fort
and delivers a nationally-broadcast speech from its ramparts. The Red
Fort, the largest monument in Old Delhi, is one of its most popular
tourist destinations and attracts thousands of visitors every year.
A sound and light show describing Mughal history is a tourist
attraction in the evenings. The major architectural features are in
mixed condition; the extensive water features are dry. Some
buildings are in fairly-good condition, with their decorative
elements undisturbed; in others, the marble inlaid flowers have been
removed by looters.
The tea house, although not in its historical state, is a working
restaurant. The mosque and hamam are closed to the public, although
visitors can peer through their glass windows or marble latticework.
Walkways are crumbling, and public toilets are available at the
entrance and inside the park. The
Lahore Gate entrance leads to a mall with jewellery
and craft stores.
There are a museum of "blood paintings", depicting young 20th-century
Indian martyrs and their stories, an archaeological museum and an Indian
To prevent terrorist attacks, security is especially tight around the
Red Fort on the eve of Indian Independence Day. Delhi Police and
paramilitary personnel keep watch on neighbourhoods around the fort, and
National Security Guard sharpshooters are deployed on high-rises near
the fort. The airspace around the fort is a designated no-fly zone
during the celebration to prevent air attacks, and safe houses exist in
nearby areas to which the Prime Minister and other Indian leaders may
retreat in the event of an attack.
The fort was the site of a terrorist attack on 22 December 2000, carried
out by six Lashkar-e-Toiba members. Two soldiers and a civilian were
killed in what the news media described as an attempt to derail
India-Pakistan peace talks.
The Red Fort has an area of 254.67 acres (103.06 ha) enclosed by 2.41
kilometres (1.50 mi) of defensive walls, punctuated by turrets and
bastions and varying in height from 18 metres (59 ft) on the river side
to 33 metres (108 ft) on the city side. The fort is octagonal, with the
north-south axis longer than the east-west axis. The marble, floral
decorations and double domes in the fort's buildings exemplify later
It showcases a high level of ornamentation, and the Kohinoor diamond was
reportedly part of the furnishings. The fort's artwork synthesises
Persian, European and Indian art, resulting in a unique Shahjahani style
rich in form, expression and colour. Red Fort is one of the building
complexes of India encapsulating a long period of history and its arts.
Even before its 1913 commemoration as a monument of national importance,
efforts were made to preserve it for posterity.
The Lahori and Delhi Gates were used by the public, and the Khizrabad
Gate was for the emperor. The Lahore Gate is the main entrance, leading
to a domed shopping area known as the Chatta Chowk (covered bazaar).
The most-important surviving structures are the walls and ramparts, the
main gates, the audience halls and the imperial apartments on the
The Lahori Gate is the main gate to the Red Fort, named for its
orientation towards the city of Lahore. During Aurangzeb's reign, the
beauty of the gate was spoiled by the addition of bastions (Like a veil
drawn across the face of a beautiful woman). Every Indian Independence
Day since 1947, the national flag has flown and the Prime Minister has
made a speech from its ramparts.
The Delhi Gate is the southern public gate, in layout and appearance
similar to the Lahori Gate. Two life-size stone elephants, on either
side of the gate, face each other.
A minor gate, the Water Gate is at the southeastern end of the walls. It
was formerly on the riverbank; although the river has changed course
since the fort's construction, the name has remained.
Adjacent to the Lahori Gate is the Chhatta Chowk, where silk, jewellery
and other items for the imperial household were sold during the Mughal
period. The bazaar leads to an open outer court, where it crosses the
large north-south street which originally divided the fort's military
functions (to the west) from the palaces (to the east). The southern end
of the street is the Delhi Gate.
The vaulted arcade of the Chhatta Chowk ends in the centre of the outer
court, which measured 540 by 360 feet (160 m × 110 m). The side arcades
and central tank were destroyed after the 1857 rebellion.
In the east wall of the court stands the now-isolated Naubat Khana (also
known as Nakkar Khana), the drum house. Music was played at scheduled
times daily next to a large gate, where everyone except royalty was
required to dismount.
The inner main court to which the Nakkar Khana led was 540 feet (160 m)
wide and 420 feet (130 m) deep, surrounded by guarded galleries. On the
far side is the Diwan-i-Aam, the Public Audience Hall.
The hall's columns and engrailed arches exhibit fine craftsmanship, and
the hall was originally decorated with white chunam stucco. In the back
in the raised recess the emperor gave his audience in the marble balcony
The Diwan-i-Aam was also used for state functions. The courtyard (mardana)
behind it leads to the imperial apartments.
A gate on the north side of the Diwan-i-Aam leads to the innermost court
of the palace (Jalau Khana) and the Diwan-i-Khas (Hall of Private
Audience). It is constructed of white marble, inlaid with precious
stones. The once-silver ceiling has been restored in wood. François
Bernier described seeing the jewelled Peacock Throne here during the
either end of the hall, over the two outer arches, is an inscription by
Persian poet Amir Khusrow:
heaven can be on the face of the earth, it is this, it is this, it is
The imperial apartments consist of a row of pavilions on a raised
platform along the eastern edge of the fort, overlooking the Yamuna. The
pavilions are connected by a canal, known as the Nahr-i-Behisht ("Stream
of Paradise"), running through the centre of each pavilion. Water is
drawn from the Yamuna via a tower, the Shahi Burj, at the northeast
corner of the fort. The palace is designed to emulate paradise as
described in the Quran. In the riverbed below the imperial apartments
and connected buildings was a space known as zer-jharokha ("beneath the
The two southernmost pavilions of the palace are zenanas (women's
quarters), consisting of the Mumtaz Mahal and the larger Rang Mahal. The
Mumtaz Mahal houses the archaeological museum.
The Rang Mahal housed the emperor's wives and mistresses. Its name means
"Palace of Colours", since it was brightly painted and decorated with a
mosaic of mirrors. The central marble pool is fed by the Nahr-i-Behisht.
The Khas Mahal was the emperor's apartment. Connected to it is the
Muthamman Burj, an octagonal tower where he appeared before the people
waiting on the riverbank.
The hammam were the imperial baths, consisting of three domed rooms
floored with white marble.
West of the hammam is the Moti Masjid, the Pearl Mosque. A later
addition, it was built in 1659 as a private mosque for Aurangzeb. It is
a small, three-domed mosque carved in white marble, with a three-arched
screen leading down to the courtyard.
The Hira Mahal is a pavilion on the southern edge of the fort, built
under Bahadur Shah II and at the end of the Hayat Baksh garden. The Moti
Mahal on the northern edge, a twin building, was destroyed during (or
after) the 1857 rebellion.
The Shahi Burj was the emperor's main study of the; its name means
"Emperor's Tower", and it originally had a chhatri on top. Heavily
damaged, the tower is undergoing reconstruction. In front of it is a
marble pavilion added by Aurangzeb.
Hayat Bakhsh Bagh
The Hayat Bakhsh Bagh is the "Life-Bestowing Garden" in the northeast
part of the complex. It features a reservoir (now dry) and channels, and
at each end is a white marble pavilion (Savon and Bhadon). In the centre
of the reservoir is the red-sandstone Zafar Mahal, added about 1842
under Bahadur Shah II.
Smaller gardens (such as the Mehtab Bagh or Moonlight Garden) existed
west of it, but were destroyed when the British barracks were built.
There are plans to restore the gardens. Beyond these, the road to the
north leads to an arched bridge and the Salimgarh Fort.