Most people in Delhi must have seen Purana Qila even before they knew what that place was. From the road one can see the Fort standing on a small rise with the lake in front. Whenever I see the fort, I always imagined the scene beyond those walls. But nothing prepares you for the immensity and the sense of palatial grandness when you go inside it. The ruins of the fort are beautiful in its own way.
Purana Qila is one of the oldest Forts in India. The second Mughal emperor Humayun began the construction work in 1533 but it was completed after 5 years. But his reign here was short lived. In 1940 Sher Shah the Afghan-origin chieftain from eastern India ended Humayun’s reign and ousted him. Sher Shah reigned here for 5 years until his death in 1545. But during his reign he also built many important monuments here. Humayun regained the fort in 1555 after 15 year of being ousted but he died a tragic death shortly in 1556. The fort was believed to be unlucky for ruler operating from here. The occurrences of many tragic incidents have strengthened the myth.
The main entrance now is the Western Gate which is also known as the Bada Darwaza. It is 18 metres in height and is colossal in size. The entry ticket is kept at minimal sum of Rs.5. The view of fort from the inside is altogether a different World. There are many chambers stuck up to the Fort. These chambers have been repeatedly repaired and you can easily distinguish the old from the new walls. The old stones are dark with age. They looked mystic and grand at the same time.
It’s difficult to walk from one end of the Fort to the other. The walls of the Fort runs for around 1.5km and therefore enclosed a small plateau in the middle. Apart from Bada Darwaza there are two other openings to the Fort. The forbidden gate also known as Talaqi gate stands on the North and Humayun’s gate stands to the South; from where Humayun’s Tomb is also visible. All the gates are double storeyed sandstone structures with semi-circular bastion towers on each side. The Humayun Gate which is also the venue for Sound and Lights show after sundown is a great treat to the eye.
Some remarkable monuments inside the fort are the Sher Mandal and Qila-i-Kuhna Mosque. Sher Mandal was built by Sher Shah and was one of the first observatory towers of Delhi. Later, when Humayun recaptured the Fort he converted into a library cum observatory tower. Little did he know that this would be the place where he’ll meet his tragic death. Humayun died falling from the second floor, while he was hurrying for evening prayers. The red building is a lone figure and still bears a sad and forlorn look. Qila-i-Kuhna Mosque is one of the finest examples of pre Mughal era architecture. It was built by Sher Shah in 1541. Not many buildings have survived through time but no doubt, it is the best preserved monument in the fort.
The Baoli is another structure that had survived the rough and tears of time. Ascending down to 22 metres this well was an important source of water. It could have been the only source. Since the fort stood on an elevation, the well had to be dug deeper. The way in which they managed to create an 89 steps well with proper covering is a great achievement even by today’s standard. Hammam a bath house with hot and cold water provisions were an important culture of the Mughals. It is in a pitiable state today.
Purana Qila is an enjoyable place even for those who care nothing about monuments and history. The wide open spaces and lush laws just invite you to sprawl and spare a little time.
Nearest Metro Station: Pragati Maidan
Entrance Fee: Rs.5 (Indian), Rs.100 foreigners