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Should you go to Red Fort?

Mayank Austen Soofi tells you why outstation students need to visit Delhi’s signature landmark.

entertainment Updated: Jul 24, 2010 01:20 IST
Mayank Austen Soofi

There is nothing inside the imposing ramparts of Red Fort, or Lal Quila, except a few gardens, a couple of crumbling halls, and two museums with spotty paintings and antique knives.

Spread within 2.4 kms, the Red Fort tour is exhausting and occasionally frustrating — some pavallions are barricaded, some are locked and some later structures are downright ugly. A bazaar inside the principal entrance — Lahori Gate — is a cheap tourist trap, selling hippie necklaces and Taj Mahal keepsakes. Why then is the Red Fort necessary?

Noisy and touristy, it was the imperial court of the Mughals. Built in the 17th century by emperor Shah Jahan after he moved his capital from Agra to Delhi, the fort was where the last Mughals lived out their lives.

The best of Mughal culture — poetry, music and cuisine — was created here. This complex had the wealth of the world. There were the chandeliers, the diamonds, the gold-painted walls, the gold-plated railings, the heavy curtains and the peacock throne.

All that has gone. Persia’s Nadir Shah took the peacock throne. The locals stole the gold and silver from the ceilings. The rest was destroyed by the vengeful British, after they replaced the Mughals as India’s rulers. The beautiful pavilions were demolished and military garrisons were built.

Following independence, we Indians, strangely showed more interest in the British barracks than the Mughal ruins. They were lovingly mantained. Elsewhere, wall motifs faded, stone jaalis broke. A canal that carried water through the halls to help the royals survive the Delhi heat went dry.

Yet you must wander in this desolation. Especially if you have taken history in your BA. There are very few monuments like Red Fort that encapsulate the essence of an entire historic timeline within their walls. Edward Gibbon sat amid the Roman ruins and was inspired to write his majestic The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Who knows what Red Fort may make you do?

Nearest Metro Stop Chandni Chowk