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…”