A History Lesson at the Lal Qila in Delhi

Lal Qila, meaning Red Fort in Hindi, is a complex in present-day Delhi built from red sandstone.
It is a complex of buildings that were originally constructed during the time of the Mughal empire in 1638, when the emperor Shah Jahan moved the capital from Agra to Delhi.  It was built as the palace fort of Shahjahanabad, the name of Shah Jahan’s new capital.

From the outside, Lal Qila looks exactly like what I’d imagine a fortress to be.  It has high walls and towers that were used to keep watch.  It even has a moat, which was originally fed by water from the Yamuna River, though it is now dried up.

Walls of Lal Qila

There are several entrances to the fort, and among the more recognized of them is the Lahori Gate, so named because it faces in the direction of Lahore.  There is an Indian flag flying above the gate, and for whatever reason, this particular spot has become an Indian national symbol.

Lahori Gate

We walked around the fort outside once before we bought our tickets and entered.  The price of admission at many sites in India is different for Indians and foreigners, the price for foreigners often being an order of magnitude higher than the price for Indians.  At Lal Qila, the price for Indians is Rs. 10, whereas the price for foreigners is Rs. 250.

After walking through Chatta Chowk, the bazaar at the entrance that sells trinkets to tourists (I bought a trinket here on my way out), we entered the main area inside the fort.

Gate and museum

Walking through the gate, we found ourselves in front of Diwan-i-Amm, the hall of public audiences, which is built from red sandstone.


The hall is full of red sandstone arches and is the former site of the Peacock Throne.

Inside Diwan-i-Amm
Site of the Peacock Throne

The sandstone buildings have carvings on the columns and in the arch, but they are not the most ornate of the buildings in the Red Fort complex.  That distinction belongs to the white marble buildings at the back of the complex.

Diwan-i-Khas and Rang Mahal

The hall of private audiences, Diwan-i-Khas is an ornate building with semi-precious stones such as jade and lapis lazuli inlaid in beautiful designs in the marble arches.  This type of marble work is also found in other Mughal constructions, most notably the Taj Mahal.

Semi-precious stone work in Diwan-i-Khas

Since the fort was meant to be a residence for the Mughal emperor, there are parts of the complex that were constructed for the queens, such as the Turkish baths.  This is where the queens would bathe. The water would flow in and out of the baths through the channels seen below the ornate screen.

Turkish baths

One of the most interesting things about the Red Fort is that there are additional layers of history that are visible within the complex.  The British army used the fort as a base during the British empire’s rule in India.  The barracks built to house British soldiers right along side the Mughal buildings.

Barracks that housed British soldiers

I found the Red Fort to be a very interesting place to visit because of its historical significance to India.  It contains the story of the reign of the Mughal empire, the rule of the British empire, and the movement for Indian independence, and it has become a symbol of Indian history.  Although not as famous as other monuments such as the Taj Mahal, the Red Fort is nonetheless one of the most fascinating places in Delhi to learn more about India’s past.

6 responses to “A History Lesson at the Lal Qila in Delhi

  1. Pingback: Delhi in 1 day | The Unfinished Travel Project·

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  3. On our trip to Leh, we had to spend a day in Delhi before boarding the night bus to Manali. It was a hot day in the month of August and we chose to while away those hours in the Red Fort. 🙂 We chose a quiet spot, under a tree, and planned the next phase of our trip! Delhi is steeped with history. Truly enjoyed your mix of culture, history and experience.

    • Thank you! I would have loved to spend more time at the Red Fort. It seemed like a great place to relax and people watch. I haven’t been to Manali or Leh yet, but both places sound incredible.

      • Leh is fantastic! And the trip from Manali to Leh is a trip of a lifetime. I know it sounds cliched, but it’s everything you’ve heard about and more. It does come with it’s fair share of mountain sickness, perilous roads, and Maggi meals; but it’s definitely worth it. 🙂

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