Delhi chronicles 6: The fort where Delhi began

The OH and I managed a flying visit to Purana Qila (Old Fort) while we were in Delhi – the fort that is considered to be the oldest in the city. Some historians believe that it was the first building of any sort to have been constructed in Delhi, in effect the building where the city actually began. Others believe that the site where the Purana Qila stands today was were Indraprastha, the capital of the Pandavas, was located, a about 5,000 years ago. How can that kind of history not give one goosebumps, make one tread the ground almost reverentially?

The Afghan king Sher Shah Suri is believed to have torn down the previously existing structure of the Old Fort during his reign over Delhi in the 1500s, and to have had it rebuilt. The reconstruction was incomplete when Sher Shah Suri passed away in 1545, and is believed to have been completed either by his son, Islam Shah, or the Mughal Emperor Humayun. It is unclear which parts of the fort were built by whom.

Sadly, this piece of history lies today in shambles, in spite of being a popular tourist spot, full of people over the weekends. There is a lake adjoining part of the fort, where one can go for boating. I am sure it would have been a wonderful experience to have a joyride in a boat while gazing at an extremely old fort and wondering about the people who used to inhabit it (where else can such a thing happen, except in Delhi?), but we had to abandon the idea due to lack of time.

One has only to look around at the ruins to understand how magnificent the fort must have been, once upon a time. It is still a beauty, all right.

The Fort’s West Gate, at present the main entrance
A ‘chhatri’ on one of the walls of the fort. Doesn’t it make a beautiful picture against the sky?
The remains of Humayun Gate, a part of the Fort attributed to Humayun
This is all that remains of the hammam, or the royal bath, inside the Fort. One can still spot pipes that used to carry water in those days!
Sher Mandal, that part of the Fort which interested me the most. This used to be Humayun’s private library and observatory, where he used to follow his passion for gazing at the stars. There are shelves built into the walls here, which were supposedly used by Humayun to store his books. The Sher Mandal is also the spot where Humayun met his death, slipping, one fateful day, on his way to his evening prayers and falling down the stairs from the second level.
The Qila-i-Kuhna mosque, with its five doorways, inside the Fort complex. This is where the Emperor used to perform his Friday prayers.
Beautiful jharokhas on the second storey of the mosque, supposedly used by members of the royal family. Does it not make you imagine public audiences where common men waited underneath the mosque to catch a glimpse of their king?

We couldn’t explore much of the Fort complex in the limited time we had, but I totally loved what we saw and understood. This is one part of Delhi I am sure I will be going back to again.

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Have you read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5 of this travelogue?

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