Delhi diary (Sep 2007) – 8

Inside Red Fort, we were approached by tourist guides a couple of times, and we declined. When this happened a third time, I said ‘ok…how much?’ , and this guide replies “Only hundred rupees sir”. I liked the ‘only’ part. Who did he think we were? German tourists? So we exchanged some Indian songs. We came to some satisfactory agreement and the fellow took us around.

The lawns inside the Red Fort were well maintained. “There were no lawns here during Mughal times” said the guide. “All groundwork was in marble. The British took it all out and used it for building Victoria Memorial in Calcutta” he said. 

Set inside the river side rampart of the fort, were a row of buildings, built on a raised platform. A narrow water-canal ran through the middle of this platform, through the buildings. The guide told us that in the early days, Yamuna water, mixed with fragrances was channeled through this canal. It was known as the stream of paradise.

Looking towards the river side, on the left was ‘Diwan-i-khas’ – the chamber of special audience. This had a silver-gold ceiling once upon a time. All that has disappeared along with other stuff plundered from here, the famous peacock throne being one such. The Koh-i-noor, the 105 carat ‘Mountain of Light’ diamond, used to adorn this throne. Now the Kohinoor is a property of the British crown, and is on display at the tower of London.

They weren’t allowing tourists inside Diwan-i-khas, and so we had to be content with peering from the platform. One could see some fine floral carvings, and the place still radiated a powerful aura.

It is in these pavilions that a couplet is inscribed, which says “If there be a paradise on earth, it is here, it is here”.

On the far side of Diwan-i-khas was the Hammam, the chamber of royal baths. Yamuna streams I guess. In front of this was a garden that has two pavilions at either end. A row of many-many fountains (now dry) were set all along the middle. The Guide told us that the pavilions were called “Saavan’ and ‘Bhaadon’ (monsoon clouds), and the fountains would create a nice monsoon for the joy of the nobles.

On the other side of Diwan-i-khas was the Khas-mahal, the special chambers of the King. At the river side of this was a tower, where the King would stand and be seen by commoners who gathered in the grounds below, outside the fort. (I have some childhood memories of seeing acrobats and magicians performing there, on the grounds below. People would see from the ramparts above, and throw coins and currency to the performers below).

Next to the Khas Mahal was the Rang Mahal, which was said to have had gilded ceilings. The ‘stream of paradise’ flowed right through. The guide told us that the King used to see ‘Dance’ performances in one of these rooms, which had hundreds of mirrors on the ceiling…

At the end of this row of pavilions was the Mumtaz Mahal, the ladies palace – now a museum. We strolled through the museum, and saw some artifacts, weapons, dresses etc, of Mughal times. Much more stuff is perhaps in British Museum or in other collections abroad.

Bala: The Indian Army had taken charge of this fort after 1947. But they handed over charge to civil archeology/tourism authorities, a few years ago,

And yes, Bala, they do have the ‘son et lumiere’ (Sound and Light) shows every day in the fort. This is a nice audio-visual programme of about an hour’s duration, done in Hindi and English. I remember seeing this when I was in school. It was a night-show and I remember that it was quite intense and scary. Sudden lights (of different colors) coming up in different parts of the fort, and the story relevant to that part coming up in loud audio from there. Battle sounds, royal parties, dialogs from long gone times.

Dim memories. But one line from those dialogs still remains in my mind….

‘Abhi dilli door hai…”


11 Responses to “Delhi diary (Sep 2007) – 8”

  1. Srinivasa Says:

    Great stuff! This thing reminds me of an amusing incident.

    In the Rang Mahal or one of those other Mahal’s there’s also a sheesh mahal. We went there on a school outing either during Class 7 or Class 8.
    The sheesh mahal is full of mirror pieces on the walls. The guide struck a match and showed us the million small images on the ceiling and so forth.

    So immediately couple of my distinguished classmates, I think, Thyagu and Chellu got a bright idea. They let the teachers and the girls go ahead. They immediately told a few of us to cover them – ‘hamein gher lo juldi’ etc. Then they dropped their shorts and started counting the number of images each one got multiplied to. Of course the images were so small that one could not be sure which was which. I think Chellu and Thyagu had a disagreement over the tally and started pushing each other at the end of it. We all had to run way soon to join the main group in case we were missed.

    It was kind of a foreshadowing of the ‘Mera Bharat mahan’ theme 🙂

  2. gkamesh Says:

    Yes…it is part of Rang Mahal…but nowadays they arent allowing tourists inside (or at least on that day they didnt)…

    Chelloo’s heroics reminded me of the famous song “jab pyar kiya to darna kya’, which showed the mirrors in the ceiling…

  3. bala Says:

    they have a reason not allowing tourists inside for fear of them exposing their private parts in public multiplied by 100 times or however many mirrors there are….

    kamesh: how do you remember the facts, do you carry a little notebook to write them down as you see them..If not amazing memory of little details….

  4. Srinivasa Says:


    Not everybody gets up to such antics. One of the other guys in my class was actually trying to figure out what would happen if the angle of incidence exceeded some other angle. We were one of the most studious batches in 10 years.

    Guys like Chellu and Thyagu would have gotten up to such antics even if the Sheesh Mahal had only Mumtaz Mahal’s portrait and no real mirrors. They can’t go on a picnic or field trip without enriching their biodata in some way.

    But don’t forget this is nothing compared to what the Arya School or Anglo Arabic School boys usually got up to upon losing a hockey match.

    So maybe the Sheesh Mahal got closed for maintenance. Maybe it was just closed on that day. Maybe you’re right and they figured out Kamesh and Ravi were DTEA 🙂

  5. bala Says:


    We had our own batch tales along similar lines. our visit to the national art gallery in 10th class with all the nude paintings by Amrita shergil with our physics teacher looking at them admairingly with all the guys having a ball watchim him admire those..

    Boys will be boys!!!!

  6. Srinivasa Says:

    Thank God, you didnt take the Physics lab ass Kundan with you

  7. gkamesh Says:

    And it seems that they remain boys till Kingdom come 🙂

    kuch to sharam karo…there is a public washroom inside the Fort. pls use that. also, if any of this was seen had been during the times of great Mughals, Chelloo and others would have to find quarters in Lal Kuan.

  8. Anu Says:

    u have not mentioned the most important part of the story.The guide spoke in ind-english and expected an appreciation from Sweta who couldn’t follow a word !!!. For eg He said “One girl dancing, thousand girls dancing upstairs”, when he was explaining sheesh-mahal. Or that time, explaining about the gate that led direct to the river, he said “That time, no car, no plane. Boat. The Shahjahan going to the Agra. And from the Agra to the Delhi. Boating”. And each time explained, SShweta would say “What did he say?” And so he would would look at me and say “Now the gudia!” and I had to translate his english in my english to the gudia(sweta)!! I think I deserved Rs 50?for my efforts too

  9. Anu Says:

    Thankyou.It was really sweet of you to have taken us to the red Fort

  10. GJV Says:

    i see that anu’s comment put an end to the other reminiscences!

  11. Srinivasa Says:

    Just to pave the way for other reminiscences 🙂

    > if any of this was seen had been during the times of great Mughals,
    > Chelloo and others would have to find quarters in Lal Kuan.

    Don’t agree there. The Great Mughal would have given them Cabinet Secretary posts or whatever they were called then 🙂 For further information, please revisit the Delhi of the still not late Shri Khushwant Singh 🙂

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