Shah Jahan selected the site of Red Fort in his new city of Shahjahanbad and laid down the foundation stone in the year 1639. The fort was to be ready by the year 1648 post which the court was to be transferred from Agra. The fort lies along the Yamuna River, which fed the moats that surround most of the wall. The wall at its north-eastern corner is adjacent to an older fort, the Salimgarh Fort, a defense built by Islam Shah Suri in 1546. Construction on the Red Fort began in 1638 and was complete by 1648.This Fort has had many developments added on after its construction by Emperor Shahjahan. The significant phases of development were under Aurangzeb and later Mughal rulers. Infact when Aurangzeb came to power in 1658, Shah Jahan had still not completed transferring his seat of power from Agra and Aurangzeb became the first ruler to rule entirely from the Red Fort.
After the mutiny of 1857 the fort was captured by the British and the residential palaces were destroyed. The British were also responsible for the demolition of arcades surrounding the two main courtyards, the western section of the women's quarters and the gardens in the north. Immediately after the mutiny, Bahadur Shah Zafar was tried at the Red Fort. The British used the Fort as a cantonment and even after independence the Fort remained under the control of the Army.
Red Fort showcases the very high level of art form and ornamental work. The art work in the Fort is a synthesis of Persian, European and Indian art which resulted in the development of unique Shahjahani style which is very rich in form, expression and colour.
There are two main entrance to the Fort. The Lahore Gate is the main entrance; it leads to a long covered bazaar street, the Chatta Chowk originally called Meena Bazaar, whose walls are lined with stalls for shops which sell souvenirs or refreshments to tourists. The Chatta Chowk leads to a large open space where it crosses the large north-south street that was originally the division between the fort's military functions, to its west, and the palaces, to its east. The southern end of this street is the Delhi Gate. In 1947 the Indian Flag was first hoisted at the Lahore Gate.
Important Buildings Inside Fort
On axis with the Lahore gate and the Chatta Chowk, on the eastern side of the open space, is the Naqqar Khana ("drum house"), was the main gate for the palace. Musicians played on the first floor whenever an important guest arrived. The gateway now houses the Indian War Memorial Museum where weapons, uniforms and badges of army men are displayed.
Beyond this gate is another, larger open space, which originally served as the courtyard of the Diwan-i-Aam (Hall of Public Audience). From ornate throne-balcony in the recess, the Emperor sat in judgment over those accused of crimes. Two hour sessions were held everyday from 12 noon to 2pm and punishments are given on the spot.
The imperial private apartments lie behind the throne. The apartments consist of a row of pavilions that sits on a raised platform along the eastern edge of the fort, looking out onto the river Yamuna. The pavilions are connected by a continuous water channel, known as the Nahr-i-Behisht, or the "Stream of Paradise", that runs through the center of each pavilion. The water is drawn from the river Yamuna, from a tower, the Shah Burj, at the northeastern corner of the fort. The palace is designed as an imitation of paradise as it is described in the Koran; a couplet repeatedly inscribed in the palace reads, "If there be a paradise on earth, it is here, it is here". The planning of the palace is based on Islamic prototypes, but each pavilion reveals in its architectural elements the Hindu influences typical of Mughal building. The palace complex of the Red Fort is counted among the best examples of the Mughal style.
The two southernmost pavilions of the palace are zenanas, or women's quarters: the Mumtaz Mahal (now a museum), and the larger, lavish Rang Mahal, which has been famous for its gilded, decorated ceiling and marble pool, fed by the Nahr-i-Behisht.
The third pavilion from the south, the Khas Mahal, contains the imperial chambers. These include a suite of bedrooms, prayer rooms, a veranda, and the Mussaman Burj, a tower built against the fortress walls, from which the emperor would show himself to the people in a daily ceremony.
The next pavilion is the Diwan-i-Khas, the lavishly decorated hall of private audience, used for ministerial and court gatherings. This finest of the pavilions is ornamented with floral pietra dura patterns on the columns, with precious stones and gilding. A painted wooden ceiling has replaced the original one, of silver inlaid with gold. The next pavilion contains the hammam, or baths, in the Turkish style, with Mughal ornamentation in marble and colored stones.
To the west of the hammam is the Moti Masjid, the Pearl Mosque. This was a later addition, built in 1659 as a private mosque for Aurangzeb, Shah Jahan's successor. It is a small, three-domed mosque in carved white marble, with a three-arched screen which steps down to the courtyard.
Hayat Bakhsh Bagh
To its north lies a large formal garden, the Hayat Bakhsh Bagh, or "Life-Bestowing Garden", which is cut through by two bisecting channels of water. A pavilion stands at either end of the north-south channel, and a third, built in 1842 by the last emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar, stands at the center of the pool where the two channels meet.