After going through the hurly-burly of New Delhi’s busy roads, one longs for spending some time in a quiet and serene place. What does one do in such a situation? Head for a place out of Delhi for a change? Not quite. For there are places in Delhi, where once you enter, you will forget the noise and activity of the busy roads. One such place is Old Fort, also known as Purana Qila.
Old Fort is the oldest historic site in Delhi. It is believed that the Indraprastha city of Pandavas stood here during the days of Mahabharata. Excavations at Old Fort have indicated that the site has been occupied since at least 1000BC. The present fort was built by Sher Shah Suri during the years 1538-45 after demolishing Din-Panah, or Refuge of Religion, a citadel built by Humayun around 1533.
VISITING OLD FORT
Old Fort is located on Mathura Road, just next to National Zoological Park, popularly known as the Zoo. After one buys the tickets, there is the option to head straight into the Fort. A better option is to first visit the lake on the left. There is a lake running along the Fort on the left side. There is a well-maintained park, with high trees and lush lawn, just opposite to the lake.
The lake is set with the fort in background. There is a facility for boating in the lake. Migrating birds from the nearby zoo also frequent the lake.
There is a great walking track here. Starting from the entrance to the park, one can go round the lake and reach the fort wall. Then, the track goes along the fort wall with the lake on the right. The change in elevation along the track makes one breath more oxygen. The track is straight, clean and a pleasure to walk on. At the end, one comes to the main entrance of the fort.
The walking track ends at the West Gate to the fort, the main entrance. It is is also known as Bara Darwaza, or the big gate.
INSIDE THE FORT
One of the striking features of the Old Fort is the scenery inside. The lush green lawns together with high trees provide a serene environment. There are birds chirping on the trees. The air is very fresh and the whole experience of being there is very reinvigorating.
After admiring the nature, it is time to look at the main subject of Old Fort-the monuments. These are pieces of art, timeless classics that seem to belong to the environment around. The monuments are built mainly from stones and one can just marvel at the size and strength that has withstood the test of time. The craftsmen who built these monuments must have planned, designed and built with meticulous care and interest and also would have put in lots of effort.
There are three main gates, the Bara Darwaza in the west, Talaqi Darwaza in the north and Humayun Darwaza on the south side. There is Baoli near the center and Qila-I-Kuhna mosque in the east direction. The Sher Mandal is towards the south of mosque.
Humayun Darwaza is permanently closed. The above picture is rather old. Over the years, unruly vegetation has grown in front of it and it looks more like in the picture below.
The Quila-I-Kuhna mosque was built by Sher Shah Suri in 1541. The salient points about the architecture are a well decorated facade with five arched openings, oriel windows at the sides and rear, inlay decorations and towers at rear corners. The prayer hall inside is spacious.
Sher Mandal was built by Sher Shah Suri in the year 1541. It is double storied octagonal tower made with red sandstone. It was used as an observatory by Sher Shah Suri. Later on, after Humayun regained his kingdom, he used Sher Mandal as a library. It is also the tragic sport where Humayun fell from the stairs on January 24, 1556 and sustained serious injuries. Humayun succumbed to his injuries three days later at an age of 47.