The Red Fort (usually transcribed into English as Lal Qil'ah or Lal Qila) is a 17th century fort complex constructed by the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan in the walled city of Old Delhi (in present day Delhi, India) that served as the residence of the Mughal Emperors. The fort was the palace for Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan's new capital, Shahjahanabad, the seventh city in the Delhi site. He moved his capital here from Agra in a move designed to bring prestige to his reign, and to provide ample opportunity to apply his ambitious building schemes and interests. It served as the capital of the Mughals until 1857, when Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar was exiled by the British Indian government.
The fort lies along the Yamuna River, which fed the moats that surround most of the walls. The wall at its north-eastern corner is adjacent to an older fort, the Salimgarh Fort, a defence built by Islam Shah Suri in 1546. The construction of the Red Fort began in 1638 and was completed by 1648. The Red Fort has had many developments added on after its construction by Emperor Shah Jahan. The significant phases of development were under Aurangzeb and later under later Mughal rulers. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007. The earlier Red Fort was built by Tomara king Anangpala, now known as the Qulb Mosque.
The Red Fort derives its name from the extensive use of red sandstone on the massive walls that surround the fort. Shah Jahan commissioned the construction of the Red Fort in 1638 when he decided to shift his capital from Agra to Delhi. Ustad Ahmad and Ustad Hamid were chosen as the architects for construction of the royal palace. Construction began in the auspicious month of Muharram on 13 May 1638.:01 Construction of the fort was supervised by Shah Jahan himself and was completed in 1648. The Red Fort was originally referred to as "Qila-i-Mubarak" (the blessed fort), because it was the residence of the royal family. Unlike the other Mughal forts, layout of the boundary walls of the Red Fort is not symmetrical so as to retain and integrate the older Salimgarh Fort.:04 The fortress palace was an important focal point of the medieval city of Shahjahanabad (present day Old Delhi). The planning and aesthetics of the Red Fort represent the zenith of Mughal creativity which prevailed during the reign of emperor Shah Jahan. Aurangzeb, Shah Jahan's successor, added the Moti Masjid to the emperor's private quarters and constructed barbicans in front of the two main gates, which made the entrance route to the palace more circuitous.:08
The administrative and fiscal structure of the Mughals declined after Aurangzeb. The 18th century thus saw a degeneration of the palace and people of the Red Fort. When Jahandar Shah took over the Red Fort in 1712, the palace had been without an emperor for 30 years. Within a year of his rule, Jahandar Shah was murdered and replaced by Farukhsiyar. To combat the declining finances, the silver ceiling of the palace Rang Mahal was replaced by copper during this period. Muhammad Shah, who was also known as Rangila (the colourful) for his deep interest in arts, took over the Red Fort in 1719. In 1739, Nadir Shah, the Persian emperor, attacked the Mughals. The Mughal army was easily defeated and Nadir Shah plundered the Red Fort of its riches including the Peacock Throne. Nadir Shah returned to Persia after three months leaving a destroyed city and a weakening Mughal empire to Muhammad Shah.:09 The internal weaknesses of the Mughal empire turned Mughals into titular heads of Delhi. A treaty signed in 1752 made Marathas the protector of the throne at Delhi. The Maratha conquest of Lahore in 1758, put them in direct confrontation with Ahmad Shah Durrani. In 1761, after the Marathas lost the third battle of Panipat, Delhi was raided by Ahmed Shah Durrani. In 1771, Shah Alam ascended to the throne in Delhi with the support of the Marathas.:10 In 1783, the Sikh Misl Karorisinghia, led by Baghel Singh Dhaliwal, conquered Delhi and the Red Fort. Sikhs agreed to restore Shah Alam as the emperor and retreat from the fort on the condition that Mughals would construct and protect seven historical Gurudwaras in Delhi associated with the Sikh gurus.
Red Fort Today
Every year on 15 August, the day India achieved independence from the British, Prime Minister hoists the national flag at the Red Fort, followed by a nationally broadcast speech from its ramparts. The Red Fort is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Old Delhi, attracting thousands of visitors every year. It also happens to be the largest monument in Old Delhi.
Today, a sound and light show describing Mughal history is a tourist attraction in the evenings. The general condition of the major architectural features is mixed. None of the water features, which are extensive, contain water. Some of the buildings are in fairly good condition and have their decorative elements undisturbed. In others, the marble inlay flowers have been removed by looters and vandals. The tea house, though not in its historical state, is a functioning restaurant. The mosque and hamam are closed to the public, though one can catch peeks through the glass windows or marble lattice work. Walkways are left mostly in a crumbling state. Public toilets are available at the entrance and inside the park.
The entrance through the Lahore Gate leads to a retail mall with jewellery and crafts stores. There is a museum of "blood paintings" depicting young Indian martyrs of the 20th century along with the story of their martyrdom. There is also an archaeological museum and an Indian war memorial museum.
To prevent terrorist attacks, security is especially tightened around the Red Fort on the eve of Indian Independence Day. Delhi Police and paramilitary personnel keep a vigil on the neighbourhoods around the fort. Sharpshooters of the National Security Guard are deployed on high rises near the Red Fort. The aerial space around the fort is declared a no-fly zone during the celebration to prevent aerial attacks, Safe houses are picked in nearby areas where the Prime Minister and other Indian leaders can be rushed to in case of an attack.
The fort was the site of a terrorist attack on 22 December 2000 carried out by six terrorists of the Lashkar-e-Toiba. Two soldiers and a civilian were killed, in what was described by the media as an attempt to derail the India-Pakistan peace talks and relations.