Restoring Red Fort’s glory brick by brick
One of Delhi’s most iconic monuments, the Red Fort, has received an elaborate facelift over the last year.
Over 350 years after Mughal emperor Shah Jahan laid the foundation stone for the monument, there had been many additions to the 250-acre fort complex, including barracks and other post-Independence buildings.
Today, close to 400 post-Independence structures have been demolished, and the elegance of Mughal-era structures restored after due scientific treatment.
“Earlier, the green space inside the fort complex was 15 acres and now after the demolition of almost 400 structures, an additional 35 acres have been added to it,” said Dr. N K Pathak, superintending archaeologist in ASI Delhi circle.
“The Red Fort came under British control after the fall of Delhi in 1857. The British destroyed almost 70-80 % of the existing buildings and gardens and replaced them with barracks. Post independence some more administrative buildings were constructed by the Indian government,” said historian Rana Safvi. “The ASI destroying the latter buildings is a good thing since they were out of place in the fort and were dilapidated,” she added.
The Chhatta bazaar, which was once the market selling all kinds of goods for the imperial household, has now been restored. Wooden framed doorways topped with Mughal styled arches have replaced the old shutters.
“The archival images of the bazaar were studied in detail so as to give a feel of by-gone era of Mughals, as one walks past the bazaar,” said Pathak. Further, the paintings on the ceilings of the market, which was hitherto hidden beneath six to seven coats of lime has been reinstated with delicate precision.
Yet another highlight of the renovation project is the restoration of a 4X6 feet single-stoned marble, grid-pattered window (jali) in the Khas mahal, which had been broken for the last two and half decades. The restoration of the window was carried out by artisans from Agra, Fatehpur Sikri over a period of three and half months.
Five new museums have also come up in the structures, which the British army had built post the 1857 revolt. These include the Subhash Chandra Bose and INA museum, Yaad-e-Jallian museum, Museum of 1857- India’s first war of independence, Drishyakala-Museum on Indian art and Azaadi ke Deewane Museum.
This apart, several new public amenities have been included in the fort complex which includes new street lights, pathways made of sandstone to replace metalled roads, public holding areas with new benches, and new drinking water kiosks with RO.
The ongoing project will take another three to four months to be completed. What is remaining is the revival of the fountains
for which evidence has been found in the Sawan and Bhadon pavilions, conservation of the hammam (public bath) in the southern part of the complex, and the conservation of the Mumtaz Mahal that housed the women’s quarters.
According to ASI, only 20 Mughal-era edifices remain. The British razed a significant portion of fort’s northern wall and a small (Calcutta) gate to lay railway lines in the 1860s.