The Most Magnificent Palace in the East:
The Red Fort of Shah Jahan, the King of the World
A lecture delivered at the ATTIC,
Anisha Shekhar Mukherji
The Red Fort - Lahori Gate
Good Evening. I would like to begin my talk today on the Red Fort of Delhi, once called ‘The Most Magnificent Palace in the East', with an image, which most of us present here―if not all of us―will instantly recognize. In fact, so would four year old children across the country who have just entered formal school!
This image is a part of the Red Fort's outer walls. the Lahori Gate, to be precise, atop which the Indian Flag proudly waves. Each Independence Day, it is this view of the Fort that we salute, that is telecast through the country and routinely printed on the front pages of our newspapers. Ironically, however, this overwhelming focus on the Red Fort as a national icon bound so inseparably with the identity of independant
Nonetheless, today, despite the fact that the .Lal Quila’ is so deeply symbolic of not just Delhi but also of India. used to advertise products from basmati rice to restaurants in Soho in London.for many of us the 15th August view is all there is to the Red Fort. We literally and figuratively stop short at its Lahori Gate, rarely bothering to proceed within it or.wonder about its long and chequered historical existence. For instance, how many of us realise that even the familiar view with the mound and the ramparts from where the Prime Minister addresses the nation, is actually the antithesis of the Fort.s original design?! The original entrance to the Lahori Gate built three hundred and fifty years ago in the reign of the 5th Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, was straight and open to view. It was not hidden by a wall or by a mound, in keeping with Shah Jahan.s actual and metaphorical accessibility to his people. The outer wall in front of the Lahori Gate which we see today in fact, reverses the very notion of the Fort.s original function and appearance. This wall. as well as that in front of the other main public Gateway into the Fort, the Delhi Gate. was made on the orders of Shah Jahan.s son, Aurangzeb, shortly after her defeated his brothers in the battle for the Mughal Throne, and imprisoned his ailing father at the Agra Fort. Shah Jahan is reported to have then written to him, .Dear Son, you have made the Fort a bride and put a veil upon her face..1
Lahori Gate, Red Fort
All representations of the Fort since then, whether in drawings of 19th century
Plan, Lahori Gate
The built structures have been shaded black in the plans of the Fort, before and after the destruction. A photograph of the area from the top of Jama Masjid shortly after the demolition also shows the empty spaces around the Fort, making it an island severed of its connecting links to Shahjahanabad.
TO BE CONTINUED...
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