The first thing that came to my mind was that when the Lal Quila or the Red Fort was built, it must have come as a very modern departure from the other Mughal Architecture of the period. Shah Jahan sure was progressive. I say this because I have seen my share of medieval Arabic architecture on my wanderings.
We walked in through the three-story Lahore Gate, one of six impressive gateways. It was a meandering walk through a straight road (when in India, you snake around street vendors and more on the widest of roads) across the neighborhood of Chatta Chowk. Lots of quaint shops stock full of cheap souvenirs. It’s one street that is more full of legends than, I wager, the rest of the teeming surroundings of Lal Quila put together. Every other person I met in Delhi told me of a century-something old gem that I just had to visit.
Enter and stroll up the gentle slope and you are flanked by a series of tiny shops within the fort. All prettily lit and with colourful ornamentation on them. Lovely to look at and window-shop. If you like something, keep a note and look for the same outside. Much cheaper.
A little farther and the Naqqar Khana greeted. I saw the same trees that the emperor had sat underneath. A marble seat with gurgling water streaming around gleamed in the afternoon sun. The same place where Tansen, the emperor’s favourite musician sang. Looking up and there was Diwan-e-Am, the 60-pillared “hall of public audience,” and the intricately carved seat of power.
Behind lies the Rang Mahal, the royal quarters of the wives and mistresses. Skirting it sits Khas Mahal, the emperor’s personal quarters overlooking the Yamuna River. A couple of minutes’ walk around the rose and grape patches to the gilded Diwan-e-Khas, where the emperor would hold court with his inner circle from the famous jewel-encrusted Peacock Throne.
And then there are the Hamams, which once had fountains of rose-scented water. Facing the hamams is Moti Masjid, which was later added by Aurangzeb exclusively for his own use. Walking over those white marbles, worn smooth underneath, and all sense went out of the window.