Red Fort, Delhi, India – An epitome of historical & political significance

Red Fort is witness to the dawn of August 15, 1947 when Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, First PM of Independent India made the historical speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort, Delhi and since then it has been the permanent venue for the big speech i.e. Independence day address to citizens of free India. The Red Fort stood for the sovereign authority of the Mughal badshah, even when actual control of the territories had passed to others. For independent India, the Red Fort came to epitomise the sovereignty of Delhi and, by extension, the unity of India. The Red Fort is an iconic symbol of India. On Independence Day, the prime minister hoists the national flag at the main gate of the fort and delivers a nationally-broadcast speech from its ramparts.

This year’s Independence Day evoked the keen interest not only amongst Indian citizens but Indians all over the world, head of states, diplomats…alike! After all it was first address of newly elected Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi from ramparts of Red Fort on August 15, 2014. Excitement was palpable amidst people who had gathered at Red Fort to get the glimpse of Tri Colour unfurled by Mr Modi and his eagerly awaited speech. Not just India but the whole world was keen to know the mind of the first Indian PM born after Indian independence. This was reflected by the fact that the MEA was pleasantly surprised as it was inundated by requests for passes from an unprecedented large number of Heads of Foreign Missions posted in Delhi. Normally, out of the 153 Foreign Missions in New Delhi, just about 50-60 Missions approach the MEA for passes to attend the Independence Day ceremony at Red Fort. But this time the MEA received requests for passes from a record number 150 diplomatic missions. Given the enormous interest shown by foreign diplomatic missions, the MEA had to stretch itself further and made arrangements for simultaneous English translation for the benefit of the foreign diplomatic corps, yet another first.

Yet, there was one facet of national life that has defied the intrusions of the new Republic: Popular memory. Despite many attempts to impose some order into India’s myriad past, there remains a fundamental gulf between ‘history’ and memory. The sanitised version sees Independence as a seamless journey from darkness to light. But that’s not how most Indians recall narrations of the past by grandparents and elders. & thus making the Red Fort even more significant. Anybody who has been to Delhi or has lived in Delhi has not missed an opportunity to visit Red Fort and I am sure has great memories attached to his visit.

Besides political significance which Red Fort enjoys, it has special significance as historical monument, UNESCO heritage site and tourist destination. It has been a mute witness to various political and historical event which unfurled in Delhi. The Red Fort was the residence of the Mughal emperors of India for nearly 200 years, until 1857. It is located in the centre of Delhi and houses a number of museums. In addition to accommodating the emperors and their households, it was the ceremonial and political centre of Mughal government and the setting for events critically impacting the region.

Undoubtedly it has great significance for tourists visiting Delhi not just from India but across the globe to visit Red Fort which stands on Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Road, close to Jama Masjid and extends upto Chandani Chowk. It is famous for its light and sound show which is being held at 7:30 3every evening and is a big draw amidst tourists. The long and short of story is that we all love visiting Red Fort – Old generations, New generations. It is a must visit on our itinery. I have some very special memories attached to it when I used to go there for Independence Day celebration with my father to watch Mrs. Indira Gandhi, PM of India who exuded great power then, what a delight it was to watch her speech from ramparts of Red Fort. Not only this, after this we would move to Nai Sarak to pick up some lovely second hand books which I loved to read. Cherish memories of my father who is no more…and his frequent visits to Red Fort on some pretext or the other.

For my tourist friends who would not like to give a miss to Red Fort while in Delhi, I present here an historical account of Red Fort.
The Red Fort was built as the fortified palace of Shahjahanabad, capital of the fifth Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, in 1648. Named for its massive enclosing walls of red sandstone, it is adjacent to the older Salimgarh Fort, built by Islam Shah Suri in 1546. The imperial apartments consist of a row of pavilions, connected by a water channel known as the Stream of Paradise (Nahr-i-Behisht). The Red Fort is considered to represent the zenith of Mughal creativity under Shah Jahan. Although the palace was planned according to Islamic prototypes, each pavilion contains architectural elements typical of Mughal buildings, reflecting a fusion of Timurid, Persian and Hindu traditions. The Red Fort’s innovative architectural style, including its garden design, influenced later buildings and gardens in Delhi, Rajasthan, Punjab, Kashmir, Braj, Rohilkhand and elsewhere.

Shah Jahan commissioned construction of the Red Fort in 1638, when he decided to shift his capital from Agra to Delhi. Its design is credited to architect Ustad Ahmad Lahauri. The fort lies along the Yamuna River, which fed the moats surrounding most of the walls. Construction began in the sacred month of Muharram, on 13 May 1638. Supervised by Shah Jahan, it was completed in 1648. Unlike other Mughal forts, the Red Fort’s boundary walls are asymmetrical to contain the older Salimgarh Fort. The fortress-palace was a focal point of the medieval city of Shahjahanabad, which is present-day Old Delhi. It’s planning and aesthetics represent the zenith of Mughal creativity prevailing during Shah Jahan’s reign. His successor Aurangzeb added the Pearl Mosque to the emperor’s private quarters, constructing barbicans in front of the two main gates to make the entrance to the palace more circuitous.

After witnessing rise and fall of many Mughal emperors, 1911 saw the visit of the British king and queen for the Delhi Durbar. In preparation of the visit, some buildings were restored. The Red Fort Archaeological Museum was also moved from the drum house to the Mumtaz Mahal. With the Salimgarh Fort, it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007 as part of the Red Fort Complex.

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