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Timings : 7:00 AM - 6:00 PM

Time Required : 2 - 3 hrs

Entry Fee : Indians - INR 5, Foreigners - INR 200, Video - INR 25

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Purana Qila, Delhi Overview

Stoically standing in the placid vicinity of Indraprastha, Purana Qila or the Old Fort is a masterpiece of the ancient glory and sterling architecture of the bygone Mughal Empire, and is one of the oldest forts in Delhi. Built on the banks of river Yamuna and spread over a vast 1.5 kms of area, the monument has tons of myths and legends of the medieval era attached to it. The most interesting of which suggests that the historical city of the Hindu religion- Indraprastha was built here, by Pandavas and the fort was the famous assembly hall, mentioned in the epic Mahabharat. It is also believed that the king Humayun met his end by tumbling down the steps of his library within the fort. Situated in the heart of the city and boasting of idyllic and a serene panorama, the fort radiates romantic vibes and is frequented by couples to enjoy some moments of solitude.

The gigantic citadel has three entrances and is surrounded by a moat, which is now used for boating. The lush green lawns graciously blessed with several shady trees are a haven if you are looking to spend some quiet time in the summers. The fortress constructed in traditional Mughal style and ornamented with rich embellishments attracts history buffs and archaeology enthusiasts day in and day out. In addition to this, Purana Qila hosts a light and sound show on “the seven cities of Delhi”, every evening, which is very popular among the tourists. The show highlights the evolution of New Delhi from Indraprastha.

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History of Purana Qila

It was initially believed that the fort was constructed in 1533 CE by the Mughal Emperor Humayun as a part of the city of Din Panah. But very soon, Sher Shah captured the city and named it Shergarh; he added some structures to the complex and the fort along with its environs came to be known as the “sixth city of Delhi”. Not long after, Sher Shah died and the fort went back to Humayun. After being possessed by several rulers for really short terms, it fell in the hands of the British.

When Edward Lutyens designed the new Delhi in 1920s, he aligned the Rajpath with Purana Qila. During the Partition of India, the fort served as the refugee camp for the migrating Muslims. Much later, in 1970s, the National School of Drama first used the fort to theatre its plays- Tughlaq, Andha Yug and Sultan Razia. Gradually, it became a common venue to host cultural events and concerts.

However, the most recent excavations done by the Archaeological Survey of India in 2013-14 suggest that the fort dates back to the 3rd Century BC at the time of the pre-Mauryan Empire. In the past, the excavations made by the archaeologist B. B. Lal extracted evidence that proved similarity in the traces found at all the sites mentioned in the Mahabharat.

Architecture of Purana Qila

The fort boasts of medieval style Mughal architecture, with the fortification as high as 18 metres, embellished with blue stone-work. The cascade built on a slightly raised piece of land has three entrances- the west gate known as Bara Darwaza, which is still in use; the south gate is known as Humayun’s Gate, either because Humayun got it constructed or Humayun’s Tomb can be seen at a distance; the last gate is called the Talaqi Gate or the ‘forbidden gate’. The two-storeyed gates are lined with huge semi-circular rampart towers and ornamented with white marbles and blue stone inlay work.

The magnificent tower boasts of detailed interior work with protruding balconies (jharokas) and elaborate Rajasthani style pavilions (chattris) over the roof. Besides the grandeur of the fort, the lawns present a lush green landscape and accentuate the elegance and beauty of the place.

Qila-e-Kuhna Mosque at Purana Qila

A beautiful rendition of Indo- Islamic architectural style, the mosque was built by Sher Shah in 1541. The single domed mosque has pointed arches in the shape of horseshoe seen extensively in the five doorways. Primarily called the ‘Jami Mosque’, the shrine was built for Friday prayers for the king himself and his courtesans. The rectangular prayer hall has five arches or prayer niches (mihrabs) set in the Western walls- the direction of Kaaba. The interiors have been inscribed on the florid, white and slatey marbles. Sometime in the past the courtyard also has a water tank for Wuzu purpose.

The second storey which can be accessed through a flight of stairs on the side was the prayer room for the females. The arches doorways here are ornamented by jharokas (for the purdah); the building being reserved for the royal ladies. An inscription on the wall translates to “As long as there are people on the earth, may this edifice be frequented and people be happy and cheerful in it.”

Sher Mandal at Purana Qila

The double storeyed octagonal building built in red stone with a Chhatri on the top. Sher Mandal was constructed with the purpose of pleasure chambers for the king. He used it to read and rest and enjoy the view of the city below from the top of the tower. It is believed that the building was intended to be built higher and used as an observatory, but due to the untimely death of the king, the construction was called off.

The interiors are done with plaster-work, and there are traced of stone-shelving, for the kings to store his books. It is believed that Humayun died here by tumbling down the steps of the library, rushing for the evening prayers. Entry to the library is now closed for visit.

Archaeological Museum at Purana Qila

The museum at Purana Qila houses the many specimens excavated from the fort site by the Archaeological Survey of India. The numerous artefacts and findings of 1954-55 and 1969-73 by the archaeologist B. B. Lal, are displayed here. The exhibits include painted greyware dating back to 1500 BC, various pottery and objects from the ancient empires of Kushana, Rajputs, Delhi Sultanate and the Mughals.

Things to Do at Purana Qila

1. Admire the marvellous fortifications and the enormous gates.
2. Visit the Qila-e- Khana mosque within the premises.
3. Check out the Sher Mandal which is supposedly the place where Sher Shah took his last breaths.
4. Stop over at the museum to look at the wondrous preserves and archaeological findings.
5. Do not miss the Light and Sound show held in the evening.
6. Stroll down the beauteous garden and enjoy a quiet picnic with your friends/ family.
7. Experience the boat ride in the moat.

Other Places to Visit In and Around Purana Qila

1. The Step- Well is a rectangular well situated within the premises with a few steps to take a peek. The Hammam next to it is possibly the bathing places for the royal ladies.
2. Kunti Devi Temple is also located inside the premises. It is a small shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva. Legend goes to say that the temple was established by the Pandavas and belonged to their Kunti. The two Bhairon temples outside the complex are also said to have been by the Pandavas. Interesting, alcohol is the preferred prasad for the Bhairon temple, and you can encounter an enormous crowd at the premises at the time of prasad distribution for obvious reasons.
3. The fort boasts of some sturdy and impregnable walls. Spend some time to just admire the ruddy tough fortification. Try and get an aerial view of the city from the top of the walls.
4. Bang opposite Purana Qila is on the Mathura Road itself, is the Khairul Manzil Mosque. Built in 1561 CE, the charming mosque belongs to Maham Anga- the wet nurse of Emperor Akbar. The place boasts of glazed tile ornamentation and houses a madrasa cum school.
5. A little ahead of Khairul Manzil Mosque is the Sher Darwaza, also known as Lal Darwaza. Built in red sandstone, marble and quartzite, this is an enormous Darwaza with a spectacular view of the fort.

Light and Sound Show at Purana Qila

The light and Sound show was inaugurated in 2011 in Purana Qila and has been a massive hit ever since. It is a brilliant presentation of the journey of Delhi from the Mughal Era to British India to the modern day Delhi. Very aptly named as “Ishq- e- Dilli”, the visual presentation makes you fall in love with the city. Starting with the 11th century Delhi, the show covers the myth of Mahabharat and Indraprastha as well and brings you back to the present timeline. Some parts are displayed in 3D, and the show is a cannot miss activity if in the fort.

The Hindi show is played from 7:30 PM - 8:30 PM, while the English show is played between 9:00 PM - 10:00 PM. Fridays are off. Tickets are priced at INR 100 for adults and INR 50 for kids (between 3 to 12 years of age).

Best Time To Visit Purana Qila

The perfect time to visit Purana Qila is around 3:00 PM preferably during winters (to keep away from the heat of Delhi). You can get enough time to stroll around, sit in the lawns, enjoy boating before you can witness the marvellous sound and light show post-sunset and head back.

Tips For Visiting Purana Qila

1. Carry a mosquito repellant, especially if you are planning to go for the Light and Sound Show.
2. Wear light-coloured comfortable clothes as Delhi can get really hot.
3. We advise you not to wear heels, as the place requires a lot of walking around.
4. We request you to not litter. Use the dustbins to dispose waste.
5. Carry a water bottle to stay hydrated.

How To Reach Purana Qila

Delhi is a state well connected through metro and state-run buses. The nearest metro station to Purana Qila is Pragati Maidan Metro, situated on the blue line. The fort is around 2 kms from the metro; you can either hire a local or a battery run rickshaw. You can also book a taxi cab for a more comfortable journey. Alternatively, you can travel in one of the buses which will be relatively economical.

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