Purana Qila, Delhi
Location: The oldest yet precious gem from the heritage of India’s oldest monument is peculiar ‘Puran Qila’ that is glorifying the heart of India through its existence on Mathura Road at the bank of the perennial river Yamuna. It is believed to be the capital city called ‘Indraprastha’ of Pandavas.
Re-constructor: Sher Shah Suri and Islam Shah or Humayun.
Fort in the Medieval Period: The inner part of the citadel (fort) was known as the city of ‘Dina-Panah’ during dynasty of Humayun who revived the structure in 1533 and took five years for its completion later. Its environment was at the surge of flourishment as the ‘6th city of Delhi’.
Defeating Sher Shah of Suri Dynasty in 1540, Humayun named this citadel as ‘Shergarh’ and continued to add more structures to the existing one until he died in 1545.
Then, it came under the charge of Islam Shah who set Gwalior as his capital since it was assumed to be a secure place that would have sought difficult to be invaded. So, his Hindu General ‘Hemu’ was deployed as its in-charge. He died in 1553. Afterwards, Adil Shah Suri became the ruler of North India. In the meanwhile, Hemu was busy in the advent of pacifying the rebellions who were raising heads in the east India; thus, the fort left neglected. Adil Shah stretched his ruling feet to Chunar (in Uttar Pradesh). Clever Humayun recaptured the fort and established his reign over the throne of Delhi in 1555 while taking revenge of his defeat at the hands of Suri King in the battle of Chausa and Kannauj. But Humayun’s re-capturing stayed for short duration of one year as he died due to sudden fall from the ladders within the citadel at Sher Mandal in January 1556.
Eager to snatch the charge of Delhi-reign, Hemu moved to Delhi from Bengal after conquering over Muhammed Shah (the ruler of Bengal). Battling and triumphing in 22 wars re-capturing the region of Agra, Itawah and Kanpur, Hemu faced fervent defeat by the hands of Akbar in the battle for Delhi that was occurred in the Tughlaqabad area on 5 and 6 October, 1556. Hemu’s coronation was held at Purana Qila on 7th October 1556 proclaiming ‘Hindu-Raj’ in North India while receiving the title of ‘Samrat Hem Chandra Vikramaditya’. But the ‘Second Battle of Panipat’ occurred in November 1556 was the end of Hemu’s reign. His torso (beheaded body) was hung for created fear in the heart of the Hindus.
- Walls’ Height: 18 metre with traverse of about 1.5 Km
- Architectural Style of the gates: Mughal architecture and Rajasthani architecture resembling the gates found in the North and South gates. The double storey structure of the laid below gates are flanked by two big semi-circular projections in the form of towers adorned with white and colourful inlays and tiles. Ornated balconies or jharokhas shed by pillared pavilions give it the touch of ‘Rajasthani architecture’.
- Bara Darwaza: This gate is constructed with west facing that is still in utilization.
- Humayun Gate: The gate in south is known as ‘Humayun Gate’ (perhaps it had been named after its constructor ‘Humayun’ or may be his tomb is witnessed from this gate).
- Talaqi Gate: or forbidden gate: This is the third and final gate of the heritage meant for accessing.
Excavation: Excavation or digging of the ground at Purana Qila has been conducted twice by Archaeological Survey of India in 1954-55 and 19689-1973 respectively under the supervision of B. B. Lal for putting the found artifacts, such as Painted Grey Ware dating 1000 BC, pottery and other objects symbolizing the existence of Mauryan, Sunga, Gupta, Rajput, Delhi Sultanate and Mughal periods, in exhibition at the Archaeological Museum of Purana Qila.
History: Though the fort ‘Purana Qila’ did not prove ‘auspicious’ for the rulers reigned during medieval period yet it remained erected while changing its shape and structure during manifolds of the history. While crafting the map of Delhi, Edwin Lutyens kept ‘Purana Qila’ adjoined to the central vista, i.e. Rajpath (now). The fort & ‘Humayun tomb’ became a place to resort Muslims specifically during partition of India in August 1947.
The ramparts of Purana Qila were utilized as a backdrop for theatre in 1970s when the three dramas namely Tughlaq, Andha Yug and Sultan Razia were directed by Ebrahim Alkazi. Afterwards, it became the hub where events based on cultural, traditional and creative themes are arranged. Now, this venue is installed with sound and lights for creating illuminating dusk (evening).
Qila-i-Kuhna Mosque: Sher Shah Suri directed to built the glorifying single domed ‘Qila-i-Kuhna Mosque’ (Jami Mosque) using extensively the architectural design of pointed arch in its five doorways resembling true ‘horseshoe shaped’ arches that represent Pre-Mughal design. Its complex consists of the prayer hall, single-passage mosque measuring 51.20 m X 14.90 m including five arched prayer niches (mehrabs) in its western wall. Calligraphic inscriptions are inscribed on red, white and slate marbles of central ‘Iwan’ signifying a transition of architecture from Lodhi to Mughal Empire.
The half part of the second storey was restricted for the royals leading to the arched doorway on the left wall where ornate jharokhas are framed while the leading way from staircase to prayer hall accessible through a narrow way provided space to female courtiers for worshipping.
Sher Mandal: It is a double storeyed tower in octagonal shape made up of red sandstone having steep flights routing to roof that was to be higher than that of the existing height. Babur, being its founder, was supposed to use it as his personal observatory and library for son Humayun but unfortunately, he died before its completion. Its octagonal chhatri is relied on eight pillars and beautifully designed with white marble in typical Mughal style.
The embellishing plaster work and stone shelves are there in remnant form where the king used to keep his books. It is also the very spot from where king Humayun fell and died on 24 January 1556 while reviewing astronomical positions of stars in his private observatory. Now, the entry inside his library is barred.
Outlying Monuments: The other monuments aligning nearby it are Kairul Manzil (mosque), built by Maham Anga (Akbar’s foster mother, Shah Suri Gate or Lal Darwaza insoutheast of the Kairul Manzil.