Map: The Red Fort

The Red Fort (Old Delhi)

Completed in 1648, the colossal Red Fort (Lal Qila) is the grand legacy of the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan. Within its red sandstone walls—stretching some 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers)—are the crumbling remnants of the once flourishing Mughal empire. This walk takes you through the historic ruins that dot the rambling fort complex.

From Netaji Subhash Marg (Road), enter the Red Fort through (1) Lahore Gate, the main gateway to the fort and so named because its orientation is towards Lahore (in present-day Pakistan).

Once inside, you’ll come to the (2) Chatta Chowk, an erstwhile covered bazaar that sold fancy items, such as silk and jewels, to members of the noble class.

This leads to the (3) Naubat Khana (“Drum House”) where musicians used to perform for members and guests of the royal household.

Move on to the nearby (4) Diwan-i-Am (“Hall of Public Audiences”), the place where subjects could voice disputes to the emperor. Parts of this hall once boasted elaborate marble work and twinkling gems. Although a pale shadow of its former glory, the neglected hall greatly benefited from restoration between 1898 and 1905.

To the southeast is the (5) Mumtaz Mahal, formerly the women’s quarters but now an archaeological museum. The museum contains a series of galleries with exhibits from the Mughal era including old manuscripts, miniature paintings, textiles, daggers, glazed tiles, portraits, lithographs, porcelain items, and carpets.

To the north is the (6) Rang Mahal (“Palace of Colors”), which derived its name from the beautiful interior paintwork (no longer in existence). Fortunately, the lotus-shaped marble carving on the central floor still remains. The Rang Mahal was the home of the emperor’s principal wife.

Next door is the (7) Khas Mahal, which used to be the emperor’s personal palace. The palace was divided into separate sections including a prayer room and bedroom.

Farther north you’ll find the (8) Diwan-i-Khas (“Hall of Private Audiences”), where the emperor would conduct private discussions or meetings. Made of milky white marble, it was here that the famous solid-gold and gem-encrusted Peacock Throne (now gone) took pride of place.

Opposite is the (9) Moti Masjid (“Pearl Mosque”), a later addition built in 1659 by Emperor Aurangzeb. Constructed of marble, it served exclusively as Aurangzeb’s mosque.

Walk north to the (10) Royal Baths, comprised of three spacious hammams (Turkish-style baths) with a central fountain. These baths originally sported sublime pietra dura (marble inlay work) floors and pretty colored glass roof panels.

Conclude your fort tour at the three-story (11) Shahi Burj, a rather simple octagonal tower, which served as Emperor Shah Jahan’s personal study and library.

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