Thursday, June 16, 2011

Delhi – The Forts Part 2 Purana Qila

The Purana Qila or Old Fort is the site of Delhi’s sixth city of Dinpanah  established by Humayun in 1533 to mark the return of the Mughal capital to Delhi from Agra. Sitting on the banks of the Yumana it is also thought to be a possible site of Indraprastha, the city founded by Arjun in the Mahabharata and archaeological evidence of early settlements on the site are being investigated. The fort is laid out in an irregular oblong pattern with the principal gateways along the eastern walls and ramparts and was moated connecting to the Yumuna on the east side although nowadays all that remains is a boating lake on the Western side.

There are three gateways being the Talaqi, Bara and Humayun Darwaza (respectively in the North-West, South-West and South). The gateways remain impressive and are rather grand and topped with chhatris.

The main access is via the South-West gate or Bara Darwaza  from near the Delhi zoo, the South and North-West gates were both inaccessible on my visits in both 2001 and 2004. The entrance from near the zoo and the view back from the inside.

It looked like due to its state of disrepair that the South entrance is permanently closed although the North-West one appeared serviceable.
Humayun ruled from 1530 to 1540 and from 1555 to 1556, having been usurped for a period by the Afghan Sher Shah (who ruled in Delhi from 1540 to his death in 1545)) who extended Humayun’s city to the north to the site of Feroz Shah Kotla and it is some of Sher Shah’s buildings that remain today.
This is another place where most of the buildings are long gone but by 2004 there was significant renovation work under way to preserve the site.
There are large and well maintained gardens that are popular with young couples in particular although my guide in 2001 had me very confused as he pointed to them and said repeatedly “cold tea”, “they are cold tea”. I eventually realised that he meant “they are courting”!
Sher Shah’s Qal’a-i-Kuhna Masjid was built in 1541 with five great arches and a central dome. The courtyard contains a large well for washing before prayer.
The mosque is very near the Eastern wall preventing me getting a full shot of the front!

The marble inlaid sandstone decoration marks the change from Lodi to Mughal architecture in the old mosques of Delhi and this example has oriel windows at the sides and rear with corner towers on the rear. The eave brackets and arches are richly decorated throughout.
The central mihrab of the mosque is particularly impressive and reasonably well preserved.
The decoration is carried up into the arches and brackets of the roof and there is a stucco work ceiling.
There is a step well come reservoir that has been renovated although there was no evidence of water on my visits. The rear tower of Sher Shah’s mosque can be seen in the background.
The Sher  Mandal is thought to have been built as a pleasure house for Sher Shah in 1541 but became Humayun’s library on his return to Delhi in 1555. He is said to have died here from a fall on the stairs answering the call to prayer.
It is a two-storey octagonal structure with recessed arches are on each side while on the upper storey is a cruciform chamber with recesses on each side. The interior is decorated with glazed tiles and stucco work in the familiar Mughal geometric pattern.
Purana Qila photo collection:
More on Purana Qila:

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