Location: Near Pragati Maidan, Delhi
Founded By: Sher Shah Suri and Humayun
Founded In: 1538-1545
Old fort of Delhi is situated near the Pragati Maidan area of the city.
It is believed that the site where the fort is built used to house the
capital of Pandavas, of the great Indian Epic Mahabharata. Old fort has
served as the seat of administration for numerous emperors who have
ruled over Delhi, including the legendary ruler Prithviraj Chauhan. Even
though the citadel is now in ruins, its splendor is still not fully
lost. The initial fort was constructed by Sher Shah Suri, after
demolishing Dinpanah, the city of Humayun.
The corners of the Purana Quila of Delhi, along with its western wall,
have strong fortresses. Its ramparts are approximately 2 km in length
and are flanked by three double-storied main gates the north, south and
west, with 'chhatris' on top. The northern gateway of the fort is known
as the 'Talaqi-Darwaza' i.e., the Forbidden Gate. It stands adorned with
exquisite marble carvings, depicting lions engaged in fierce battle with
a man. The exteriors of the gate were once ornamented with colored
tiles, whose remnants are still visible.
It is said that though Sher Shah laid down the foundation of Old Fort,
he could not live to see it being fully completed. The fort was
finished, or at least renovated, by Humayun when he recaptured Delhi.
This is the reason why its southern gate is known as Humayun Darwaza.
Encircling the northern as well as the western side of the fortress is a
moat. Along with that, there is also a causeway that links it with the
main land. The excavations carried out at the fort some time back came
up with relics that date back to around 1000 BC.
These findings confirm the belief that Purana Quila was built on the
site of Indraprastha, the capital of Pandavas. The relics, including
punch-marked coins, human and animal terracotta figurines and inscribed
terracotta seals, seem to belong from the Mauryan period to early Mughal
period. Out of the few buildings of Old Fort that have withstood the
travails of time, one is the mosque built by Sher Shah. It dates back to
the year 1541 and is built as per architectural styles, ranging from the
Lodi style to that of the Mughals.
Then, we have the Sher-Mandal, a double-storied octagonal tower that
has been built of red sandstone. There is an octagonal chhatri,
festooned with glazed tiles and carved and painted plasterwork on the
interiors, which seems to be crowning the tower. It is believed that the
tower used to serve as the library of Emperor Humayun. The same place
also served as his deathbed, when he fell down from it and died. One of
the main attractions of Purana Quila is a Sound and Light Show, where
5000 years of history of Delhi is displayed.
As you enter the main gate of the Old Fort, you will come across a
small archaeological museum. It houses numerous artifacts belonging to
the Mughal period. Then, there are relics belonging to the Mahabharata
era, including archaic pottery and other pieces of art and handicrafts.
Apart from these artifacts, the other items excavated by the
Archaeological Survey of India comprise of material belonging to the
Gupta period (like coins) as well as post-Gupta period. The main
attractions near the Old Fort include a lake with boating facilities and
a Zoological Park.