‘Jumna’s dark and limpid waters laved Yudhishtir’s palace walls; And to hail him Dharmaraja, monarchs thronged his royal halls.’
The Mughals were a dynasty which had inherited a lot of aesthetics from the Sultanate rule, but also had a lot to give to India. Emperor Babur laid out several gardens and mosques during his short rule. When Humayun had come to power, he founded a modest city called Dinpanah. On the banks of Yamuna, with the remaining stones and bricks from the fort city of Siri, the walls and gateways of the city were laid out. But was it Humayun’s city in actuality?
Sher Shah Suri succeeded Humayun, plundered and razed the settlement, and made a new city over the city called Shergarh. His palace fortress which is now commonly known as Purana Qila, is a complex which consists of a mosque and the tower from which Humayun had fell down. An octagonal fort, it is indeed an important landmark in tracing the history of Delhi.
The Qila-i-Kuhna Mosque was built in 1542 by Sher Shah himself. It offers an interesting glimpse into how mosque architecture in Delhi evolved from the earlier Lodhi period to that of the Mughals. This single aisled mosque contain only one dome left out of three earlier. The exquisite facade of the mosque is decorated with bands of Quranic verses carved in sandstone along with inlay works. The SherMandal, on the other hand is an octagonal, three-storeyed red sand stone building built by Sher Shah again in 1541 as a recreational structure. When Humayun succeeded him in 1555 A.D., he used this place as a library. Here Humayun met his death by accidentally falling down the inconveniently steep stairs in 24th January, 1556. It is said 20th January, the emperor appeared on the roof of his library. Toward evening, he started down the stairs, but on the second step hear the muezzin’s call to prayer and stopped. The steps were slippery, and, the emperor’s foot caught in his robe, causing him to drop his staff and fall upon his head. For the next three days he lay near death, and on the fourth he passed away. He was fifty-one years old and had ruled India twice: the first time from 1530 to 1540 and the second from 1555 until his death on January, 1556. The rubble and dressed stones 20 meter high walls of the fort pierced by three massive gates: the Badā Darwazā, the Talāqi Darwazā (forbidden gate), the Humayun Darwazā or South Gate. All these monumental darwazās are built in 1533-34 under Humayun.
The baoli or step well lies between the Masjid and Sher Mandal. It is an interesting example of medieval water management. The hammām or Persian bath lies to the west of SherMandal, as an important aspect of medieval life, recently unearthed in 1931. Several other monuments also lie around the complex, like Khairul Manazīl, mosque built by Maham Anga in 1561 A.D., Akbar’s foster-mother, and which was later used as a madrasa. It is now stands opposite the Purana Qila, south east to Sher Shah Gate. Though the walls, mehrāb, dome and Qura’nicverses are on the verge of extinction, produces an elegant background of its magnificence.
Believed to be one of the oldest settlements in Delhi having finding a mention in the Mahabharata as Indraprastha built by the Pandavas, Old Fort is in itself a city within a city. Join us and explore as to what makes this area worthy of a visit.