20 Things About Delhi Lal Kila You Didn’t Know

If you are an Indian, you probably know that Delhi’s Lal Kila or Red Fort is where the National Flag is hoisted by the Prime Minister on August 15 every year to mark India’s Independence Day. The first time this happened was on August 15,1947 when Jawaharlal Nehru hoisted the flag at the Lahori entrance of the fort.

The tradition is followed till today. The elected Prime Minister often talks about the direction of his government during his speech at Lal Kila. Here are some little-known facts about the fort, which would pique the history aficionado in you, and may even prompt a visit to the famed structure.

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1. The Lal Kila was built in 1648 when the fifth Mughal emperor, the famous Shah Jahan, wanted to shift his capital from Agra to Delhi in a bid to increase the prestige of his kingdom.

He also wanted to build a new fort to indulge in his fascination for architecture. At this point, his kingdom was flush with gold and valuable stones, which were used in the construction of the Red Fort.

2. The building was built using red sandstone, thus explaining the name. Shah Jahan was famous for building such forts, which would ultimately drive his reign into bankruptcy.

The Mughals called it Qila-i-Mubarak (Blessed Fort). The fort is home to intricate marble and glass work. Much of the mirror work has, however, been ruined during the years under British control.

3. The construction of the fort took nearly 10 years after it was commissioned in 1639. The first durbar was held by Shah Jahan in April 1648.

The events that took place in Lal Kila are of critical importance to the geo-cultural region. Many of the major political decisions taken concerning the empire were taken in the Red Fort.

4. The architect of the Lal Kila was Ustad Ahmad Lahouri, who designed the Taj Mahal as well. It was one of the first forts to be systematically designed in the Mughal era. The architecture of the building is a blend of the Mughal, Persian, Timurid and Hindu styles.

The Salimgarh Fort built in 1546 by Islam Shah Suri lies within the fort. Shahjahanabad (the city of Shah Jahan), the ancient city, lies around the Red Fort. The city was the capital of the Mughal empire from 1648-1857. The Lal Kila is said to be better planned than the Agra Fort as the emperor learned from the experience of building the Agra structure.

5. The octagonal Muthamman-Burj is where the emperor appeared before his subjects every morning during the Mughal rule. A small balcony, which projects from the Burj, was added here in 1808 by Akbar Shah II, and it was from this balcony that King George V and Queen Mary appeared before the people of Delhi in December 1911.

The Mumtaz Mahal, once an important apartment in the imperial hierarchy, now hosts the Delhi Fort Museum.

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6. The Lal Kila lies along the Yamuna and the river fed the fort and its moats. However, it has changed course since then. Originally, the high walls held the river back. A minor gate called The Water Gate was on the banks of the Yamuna, but not anymore.

7. Aurangzeb, who succeeded Shah Jahan, was the last powerful emperor of the Mughal era. During the rule of the Mughal kings who succeeded him, the Lal Kila was often neglected and was deserted for many years.

8. In 1739, Persian emperor Nadir Shah easily defeated the Mughal army and plundered the Lal Kila and stole the Peacock Throne. Thus began a huge controversy over which country should possess ownership of the throne.

9. Subsequently, the Lal Kila fell into the hands of the Marathas. However, in the second Anglo-Maratha war in 1803, the British East Indian Company won the Battle of Delhi and installed Bahadur Shah II as the resident of Red Fort.

He was coronated at Lal Kila in 1837, at the time when his powers did not extend much beyond his palace.

10. After the 1857 rebellion, Bahadur Shah II was tried in his own fort for his role in the rebellion and exiled to Rangoon. This set off the systematic plundering of the Lal Kila and its palaces. More than two-third of the fort was destroyed in subsequent years.

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11. Many of the plundered riches and antique furniture were sold to private collectors in Europe. After the fall of the Mughal empire, the fort was grossly abused.

12. Lord Curzon, the viceroy of India from 1899-1905, ordered repairs to the fort and restoration of the garden and the walls. A new watering system was also installed.

13. Many buildings inside the fort such as the Diwan-e-aam (the hall of public audience ), Diwan-e-khas (the hall of private audience ), Rang Mahal (the house of emperors’ wives) and Moti Masjid add to the splendour of the structure.

14. The Kohinoor diamond, the jade win cup of Shah Jahan and the crown of Bahadur Shah II are all currently located in London.

There have been numerous controversies surrounding this issue, but requests from India for restitution of these priceless objects has been rejected by Britain.

15. In the present day, a sound and light show illustrating the history of the fort is conducted every day (closed on Mondays) at the Lal Kila for visiting tourists.

The historical significance of the fort and its beautiful architecture are the main draws for thousands of people who come here every year.

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16. A significant portion of Lal Kila continued to be a military cantonment and was in Army control until December 22, 2003, when it was handed over to the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) for restoration.

In 2009, the Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan prepared by the ASI, under Supreme Court directions, was announced.

17. The Lal Kila is an octagonal structure built on nearly 255 acres of land. The Lahori and Delhi gates were used by the public to enter and leave the fort. The Khizrabad gate was used by royalty.

The fort originally had 14 gates, but some of them have been demolished. The highest building in the grounds is 33 metres high and the walls are over two kilometres long.

18. There is high security in the Lal Kila, especially during the Independence Day celebrations. There are safe houses around the fort area where VIPs can be taken in case of an untoward incident.

19. Every measure is taken to avoid terrorist attacks like the one on December 22, 2000, when two alleged Lashkar-e-Toiba militants and a civilian were killed within the Kila premises.

Three soldiers were also killed. The attack, supposedly, was organised to derail India-Pakistan peace talks and shook the whole country. However, many of the details of the attack are now forgotten.

20. The Lal Kila was designated as a World UNESCO Heritage site in 2007 and is a powerful symbol of the Indian Republic. In 1913, the fort had been included in public buildings of national importance list.

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