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Royal ghosts of Red Fort

The Red Fort is known for its vastness with marble palaces, private apartments, elaborately manicured gardens, turrets, bastions -- all fortified within a massive sinuous wall. Within its immenseness, the royals and noblemen still conduct themselves the same way as they did when alive. A report by Sarat C Das.
Hindustan Times | By Sarat C Das, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAY 21, 2008 03:49 AM IST

The Red Fort, a massive fortress palace of the medieval city Shahjahanabad (the seventh Muslim city in Delhi), was constructed by the Emperor Shah Jahan in 1639 A.D. Built of red sandstone and surrounded by a moat, the palace has turrets, bastions and an undulating wall varying in height from 18 metre on the riverfront to 33 metre facing the city.

Entrance to the fort is through the imposing Lahore Gate, geometrically designed to face Lahore, now in Pakistan. This gate was built by Aurangzeb during his reign and is also known as the Laj Ki Diwar.

On axis with the Lahore gate and the Chatta Chowk, on the eastern side of the open space, is the Naqqar Khana ("drum house"), the main gate for the palace, named for the musicians' gallery above it. Beyond this gate is another, larger open space, which originally served as the courtyard of the Diwan-i-Am, the large pavilion for public imperial audiences. An ornate throne-balcony for the emperor stands at the center of the eastern wall of the Diwan, conceived as a copy of the throne of Solomon. The late Asghar Ali Khan, a former custodian of the Red Fort, had been the first person to report some ghostly sightings in the Dewan-e-Am, according to a media report.

The two southernmost pavilions of the Red Fort are zenanas (women's quarters): the Mumtaz Mahal, and a large lavish Rang Mahal, which has been remarked for its gilded, decorated ceiling and marble pool. Some visitors had heard the tinkling of anklets. Strange noises also heard from an abandoned well near the Zeenat Mahal where the corpses of executed prisoners during the British Raj were abandoned.

One of the most known pavilions of the palace, Diwan-i-Khas, is a lavishly decorated hall of private audience used for ministerial and court gatherings. The pavilion had painted wooden ceiling of silver inlaid with gold and floral patterned columns, with precious stones and gilding. The next pavilion to Diwan-i-Khas contains Turkish-styled baths known as hammam with Mughal ornamentation in marble and colored stones. Royals fondness of their hammam sometimes make them sighted at their aromatic bathtubs - their portly bodies floating in bubble at a gay abandon.

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