The evolution which the city of Delhi has gone through, as the power shifted from one dynasty to another, is fascinating for any scholar. Hence it is not surprising that quite a few writers and travelers have tried to write an account of this city .The imprints of all the rulers who staked their claim at this historical seat of power have stayed behind in the form of historical monuments which are spread across the city. They take us back to the events which had transpired here in the past. Among them there is one which has also become symbol of our freedom, the Lal Qila. Since the night Jawaharlal Nehru spoke about our tryst with destiny standing at the Red fort, it has become synonymous with our Independence Day. It is here that we as a nation celebrate our independence and the prime minister addresses the nation from the Lahori Gate. It was a Sunday afternoon and Red Fort was crowded with locals and tourists. We had parked our car near the Delhi Gate and had walked along the huge red walls towards the Lahori Gate .From the “ladies only” ticket counter my wife got the entry tickets in a jiffy and we entered an excessively long queue. Everyone was being hurried inside so it did not take us long to enter this fort of Shahjahanabad, the seventh city of Delhi.
The first thing which we noticed as we entered through the Lahori Gate was a board which chronicled this fort’s time as an army establishment. Going ahead you pass through the Meena Bazaar and the Chatta Chowk. In the Mughal era it was a market meant for the ladies to shop at .At present it is a place where you can shop for artefacts, souvenirs, handicrafts etc. Once you walk through this walled and narrow lane glittering with lights you enter an expansive complex which has huge lawns and several stand-alone structures.
The Naubat Khaana is the first one which you come across. This was the drum house .The drummers would announce the entry of the emperor from here. At some specific times in the day music was also played. Time has weathered this building down and the subsequent invaders have destroyed the charm but you only have to go through the information on the board to imagine how magnificent this structure would have been in its original form. When you step inside you can see the remnants of beautiful paintings on its walls and roof. This three storey building also has a museum which showcases an arsenal of weapons and artillery used in different periods .Each one of them barring the shells and the artillery seemed a piece of art in itself .We wanted to capture them but due to the no photography signs we refrained. It was however sad to see that we had little company. Everyone kept flashing their smart phones and quite blatantly ignored the instructions. Perhaps this is the reason why we keep complaining of a lack of order in our society. We moved on with a wry smile to the next building which stood beyond a huge lawn .It was the Diwaan-E-Aam.
Diwaan-E-Aam is where the emperor intermingled with his subjects and took notice of their grievances. He did it while seated on the famous Peacock Throne which was stolen by Nadir Shah. Also to be noticed is the intricate set of pillars here, which were built in a way to ensure that everyone would be able to see the emperor sitting from any corner and vice versa.
Once you walk past this meeting place ,meant for the commoners, you enter the private space of the emperor and his queens. In those days there used to be a wall which shielded it but it has been razed down now. The Mughals loved their art, music and had a lust for luxury, all of which was epitomized by this huge complex with private apartments, gardens and elaborate fountains. Rang Mahal was where the emperor would enjoy women dancing around a lotus shaped fountain. In the basement there were sleeping chambers for the emperor’s wives and mistresses. In one of the corners of this complex was the Mumtaz Mahal which was also a women’s quarter. Right next to the Rang Mahal was the Khas Mahal, the private quarters of the emperor. There used to be an underground tunnel through which he could escape in case of an emergency. Through the doors of the Khas Mahal the emperor could directly walk to Diwaan –E -Khaas where he would meet his courtiers and guests. The Shahi Hammamwas an elaborate sauna which Shahjahaan got built for himself in those times. It was palatial and a peek through the windows would show the glimpses of the intricate artistry on the floor inside. The Hayat Baksh Bagh highlights the Mughal’s penchant for huge and ornamental gardens. This is where the emperor would come after a busy day to unwind himself. It would have been a perfect place to do so with its beautiful flowers, lush green lawns, fountains and pavilions like the Hira Mahal, Saawan, and Bhadon.
By the time we had completed our tour of this huge Mughal abode the sun had started to set .This symbol of art, luxury, struggle and now freedom had lived another day retelling the story of its life.