The advantage of starting early was that the Red Fort complex was not crowded. Otherwise on holidays and in evenings one always sees a huge rush…this is a prime tourist destination after all. One enters from the Lahori gate. The shops in Chhatta Chowk weren’t open yet. There are some beautiful murals in the music gallery (Naubat Khana), unfortunately, they are badly deteriorated. One can see the different layers of paint on the wall done over several years. The Naubat Khana now has the Indian War Memorial Museum. The Diwan i Aam or Hall of public audience was our next stop. It is an extremely elegant sandstone building. This is the place where Shahjahan held court daily. The marble throne canopy with its delicate inlay work is awesome! The riverside pavilions are few of the private palaces of the royal family that still exist. The Mughal buildings we see in Red Fort today are only about 20% of all that existed originally. Large parts of the Red Fort and the capital city of Shajahanabad were destroyed by the British after 1857. Mughal buildings were replaced by British barracks. The Rang Mahal, the Khas Mahal and Diwan i Khass are some of the riverside pavilions open to public. The famous peacock throne stood in the centre of the Diwan i Khass (or hall of private audience). These pavilions are decorated with delicate inlay work done in precious stone (Peitra dura). The ceilings are painted in gold and silver, green and turquoise. Of course, these decorations are much deteriorated but one can easily imagine how these palaces must have looked during Mughal times. The hammams or royal baths and the Moti Masjid (Pearl Mosque) are nearby. All around the palaces are gardens and water channels. We walked the distance between Red Fort and Jama Masjid. The life of old Delhi was a culture shock to the visitors, the noise, the crowd, the traffic and smells. Once inside the narrow galis it was much quieter. We went inside the Digamber Jain Naya Mandir in Dharampura and Sheesh Mahal in Katra Khushal Rai. All along the way there were extremely interesting facades of former havelis (mansions). The Naughara in Kinari bazaar is the most well preserved traditional havelis in a kucha. Kinari bazaar & Parathewali gali, where we ended the walk, are probably the most well known streets in old Delhi.
(posted by Rajesh Ranjan & Kanika Singh, team members, Delhi Heritage Walks)