Delhi happens to be one of the most visited places in India. It happens to be one of the most historical capitals of the world. In Old Delhi, you’ll find forts, mosques, Mughal monuments that represent India’s history. On the other hand you’ll find government and civil buildings, embassies of the world and many newly constructed temples and other attractions.
One such attraction of Delhi is the Old Fort known as the Purana Qila in Hindi. The Purana Qila is a must see for those interested in the history of the city and India in general or those interested in historical monuments. You can get to hear a show in the evening that explains the history of the entire city of Delhi.
The Old Fort or Purana Qila is a sixteenth century fort located in Old Delhi on the banks of Yamuna. It happens to be the oldest fort in Delhi; in fact, it is the oldest surviving fort in Delhi. It is said that the fort was initially built by the by Pandavas in the ancient of city of Indraprastha (Delhi) of the Mahabharata, on the banks of river Yamuna dating it back about 5000 years old. An excavation carried out the “Archaeological Survey of India” has confirmed its date back to at least 1000 B.C.
The ruins of the fort as we see today were built by the second Mughal emperor Humayun during the 1530s. The red sandstone fort is an architectural marvel and a quintessential example of the Indo-Islamic architecture that flourished in India during the long reign of the Mughals. Inside the fort there is Qila-e-Kuhna Mosque, which stands apart from the rest of the fort because of its pre-Mughal architecture. The mosque was built five-six year after the construction of the fort.
History of the Purana Qila
Born in present day Uzbekistan in 1483, Zahir-ud-din Babur was a ferocious fighter. He was a descendant of Turkic ruler Tamerlane and the notorious military general Genghis Khan. Babur came to India during the early years of the 16th century and founded the Mughal Empire. His son Humayun would consolidate the gains made by his father and expand the empire to as far as Assam in Eastern India and Maharashtra in the south. As a part of his consolidation efforts, he built a new capital in Delhi and ordered the construction of the “Purana Qila or the Old Fort.” When Humayun was temporarily ousted from power by Sher Shah Suri from Afghanistan, the new ruler changed the name of the fort to “Shergarh.” Fortunately for Humayun, Sher Shah Suri died quickly and he was able to regain his empire. The Old Fort continued to remain the seat of the Mughal power until Shah Jahan decided to move the capital and constructed the Lal Qila.
The fort’s architecture is an early example of the Persian influence on building. This is one of the largest buildings in the world constructed exclusively from red sandstone. The outer walls are 18 meters (60 feet) in height and have a circumference of over 1.5 km (1 mile). The fort is especially famous for its elaborately decorated giant gates, otherwise known as “Darwazas”.
The Darwazas of the Purana Qila
There are three large gates of the fort called “Darwazas”:
(1) Bara Darwaza: Rendered into English as the “Big Gate”, this is the only of the three that’s still in current use.
(2) Humayun’s Gate: Nobody knows why it’s named so. Nonetheless, it still stands tall, even after four centuries, with all its elaborate decoration.
(3) Talaqi Gate: For some unknown reason, this gate is said to carry a jinx. Even its name is translated as the “forbidden gate.”
Despite different names and purposes for which they were built, all the three gates have a couple of things in common. They are all double storied, don pillared pavilions and are reminiscent of the Rajputana architecture with heavy influences from Islamic architecture, Persia and Central Asia.
Inside the fort is stands the famous Qila-e-Kuhna Mosque. The mosque was built by Sher Shah Suri in 1541 as a place of private worship for him and his close followers. The calligraphy etched on the walls of the mosque marks a shift from the Lodhi architecture to Mughal architecture. The mosque is rectangular in shape and built mainly from marble. Despite its old age, it’s still the best preserved structure in the Old Fort.
A visit to the Purana Qila should be on the priority list for those visiting Delhi especially for those with historical inclinations.
- Address: Mathura Road, Delhi (Near Delhi Zoo).
- Nearest Metro Station: Pragati Maidan
- Opening timings: 8:00 am to 6:00 pm
- Entry fees: Indian Rupees. 5, Foreigners $2 or Rupees 100
- Photography charges: None for still camera; Rupees 25 for video cameras
Video on the Purana Qila, Delhi