The Red Fort Complex was built as the palace fort of Shahjahanabad – the new capital of the fifth Mughal Emperor of India, Shah Jahan.
The Red Fort is a large complex in the centre of Old Delhi, and for 200 years, until 1857, was the main residence of the Mughal emperors. In addition to accommodating the emperors and their households, it was the ceremonial and political centre of the Mughal state and the setting for events critically impacting the region. Sadly, the Red Fort today is not what it was once was. The fort was plundered of its artwork and jewels during Nadir Shah’s invasion of the Mughal Empire in 1747. Most of the fort’s precious marble structures were subsequently destroyed by the British following the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857. The fort’s defensive walls were largely spared, and the fortress was subsequently used as a garrison. The Red Fort was also the site where the British put the last Mughal Emperor on trial before exiling him to Rangoon in 1858.
As we walked up to the entrance I was drawn to a couple of things, the first being the many stray dogs hanging around and secondly the ramshackle framework that was being used by the men working on the renovation of the walls. These were not the solid-looking metal scaffolding that is used by workmen in the US and Europe but was instead made from bamboo (which to be fair is very strong) and lashed with rope. I can only imagine what health and safety would say if you tried to suggest using this type of framework on a building site back home.
Feral dogs can be seen everywhere and seem to be tolerated, if not revered, by the locals, who feed them tidbits. It is a part of the culture to give scraps to the feral animals because when you pass into the afterlife these kindnesses will be rewarded. Apparently, there are some 30 million feral dogs in India, which is all well and good, but 20,000 people die each year from rabies, which means that 35% of human deaths from rabies happen in India. That sounds like a problem! On the other hand, cats are thought to be unlucky, by some, so you don’t see so many of those around.
Security at the Red Fort was tight, evidenced by the many armed soldiers and armoured vehicle on the approach to the entrance. The reason for this level of security is the fact the Red Fort is an active military base and reflects the ongoing tension between India and Pakistan – terrorist attacks in India are sadly too common. At the entrance two lines formed; one for men and one for women. The men have to climb on to a platform where you get to be frisked by a gruff soldier, whilst the ladies, to protect their modesty, get to stand behind a curtain, where they are frisked by an equally gruff female soldier.
Once inside you get to appreciate the scale of the complex, with elegant gardens and numerous stately buildings. Sadly, many of the original structures were demolished by the British and replaced with barracks buildings. What remains of the original Mughal buildings are the imperial apartments, consisting of a row of pavilions connected by a water channel known as the “Stream of Paradise!” These buildings had been allowed to fall into a bad state of repair, but the government has stepped in to refurbish them. Unfortunately, they are closed to visitors, so we could only stand and admire them from the outside.
Planning the journey
Red Fort Timings are from 9.30 AM to 4.30 PM. It is open on all days of the week except on Mondays. The opening time of Red Fort Delhi is 9.30 AM and the closing time is 4.30 PM.
Entry fee of Red Fort for Indian citizens is Rs.35 per person while for foreign tourists it is Rs.500 per person. For the tourists from SAARC countries (Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Maldives, Bhutan, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nepal) and BIMSTEC Countries (Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bangladesh and Myanmar), the red fort entry fee is the same as that of Indian citizens, i.e., Rs.35 per person.
Best time to visit New Delhi
While October to March is the best time to visit Delhi because of cool weather. However, some weeks in late November to January should be avoided because of heavy smog cover. February and March have great weather and relatively clean air to travel outside. Delhi experiences extreme temperatures in the summer and winter seasons. The summer months (April to July) are scorching hot in Delhi as the temperature might rise to 45 degrees Celsius. Temperatures fall a little during the monsoon season (August to September) and certain days can be good for roaming around.
Places to visit close by
1. QUTAB MINAR
One of the most popular places to see in Delhi, Qutab Minar (Hindi: क़ुतुब मीनार, Urdu: قطب مینار) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, presenting a glimpse into the grandeur of the past. Owing to its worldwide popularity Qutub Minar has become an integral part of every Delhi Tour.
Delhi Qutub Minar boasts of being one of the tallest minarets in the world as the height of Qutub Minar is 72.5 meters. Built in 1192 by Qutab-ud-din Aibak, it is considered to be first building, marking the arrival of Muslim rulers in the country. Although there are also a few contradicting theories on the same.
2. HUMAYUN’S TOMB
Also referred as Maqbara-e-Humayun, Humayun’s tomb is an architectural masterpiece. It is considered to be the first garden tomb to be built in Indian. It is the tomb of Mughal emperor Humayun. Humayun’s tomb has been declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1993 which further adds to the importance of this impressive structure of red sandstone. Humayun’s tomb is the first structure in India that was built in the Mughal style of architecture.
3. INDIA GATE
A popular monument in India, India Gate stands majestically, presenting an awe-inspiring sight. Formerly known as Kingsway, India Gate construction was completed in 1931. India Gate Delhi has been a symbol of sacrifice and dedication of India soldiers.
Designed by Edwin Lutyens, it was constructed in the honour of 90,000 Indian soldiers who lost their life in the World War I. Also known as India War Memorial, it also has 13,516 names of Indian and British soldiers engraved on its arch and foundations. These soldiers lost their lives during the Afghan War of 1919.
Amar Jawan Jyoti, which is also an important part of India Gate, was built later as a tribute to Indian soldiers who laid down their lives in the Indo-Pakistan War of December 1971.
4. RAJ GHAT (GHANDI MEMORIAL)
The focus of this open-air memorial to Mahatma Gandhi is a black marble platform marking the place where the peace leader was cremated after his assassination in 1948. It’s a peaceful, beautiful site; memorial ceremonies are held on Fridays.
Where to stay in New Delhi
1. HAVELI DHARAMPURA
Set in the heart of Delhi, WelcomHeritage Haveli Dharampura, awarded UNESCO award for cultural and heritage restoration, is nestled among the narrow alleys of Chandni Chowk. Guests can enjoy the on-site restaurant. Free WiFi is available.
Red Fort is 1,000 yards from Haveli Dharampura, while Rāj Ghāt is 1.1 miles away. The nearest airport is Delhi International Airport, 10.6 miles from the property.
A staycation at Haveli Dharampura ensures you experience all of Old Delhi under one roof. A heritage traveller’s dream , the rooms feature traditional interior designs within the shell of modern amenities.
2. MAIDENS HOTEL
Built in 1903, Maidens Hotel showcases 19th century colonial charm and architecture. It has an outdoor pool, fitness centre and features a coffee shop which extends into a charming, open courtyard. Modern rooms include a flat-screen satellite TV. Free WiFi is available in the rooms of the property.
Air-conditioned rooms feature a minibar and free bottled water. Private bathroom includes a shower and free toiletries.
Just 200 yards from Civil Line Metro station, Maidens Hotel New Delhi is 1.6 miles from The Red Fort monuments and Chandni Chowk (market). New Delhi Airport is about a 1-hour drive from the hotel.
3. BLOOM ROOMS NEW DELHI
Situated in New Delhi, 0.9 miles from Jantar Mantar, bloomrooms @ Janpath features accommodation with a restaurant, free private parking and a shared lounge. This 3-star hotel offers a tour desk and luggage storage space. The accommodation provides a 24-hour front desk, airport transfers, a concierge service and free WiFi throughout the property.
Guests at the hotel can enjoy a buffet breakfast.
Gurudwara Bangla Sahib is 1.2 miles from bloomrooms @ Janpath, while India Gate is 1.2 miles from the property. The nearest airport is Delhi International Airport, 8.7 miles from the accommodation.