Forts in India
Purana Qila information
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Purana Qila

Purana Qila is one the oldest forts in Delhi. Its current form was built by the Afghan king Sher Shah Suri, on a site which was perhaps that of Indraprastha, the legendary capital of the Pandavas. Sher Shah raised the citadel of Purana-Qal'a with an extensive city-area sprawling around it. It seems that the Purana-Qal'a was still incomplete at Sher Shah's death in 1545, and was perhaps completed by his son Islam Shah , although it is not certain which parts were built by whom. Indraprastha is said to be founded by the Pandavas on the banks of the perennial river Yamuna, which would date the site back 5000 years. Consequently, the fort is considered by some to be 'the first city of Delhi'. Researchers now confirm that until 1913, a village called Indrapat existed within the fort walls. Excavations carried out by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) at Purana Quila in 1954-55 (trial trenches) and again 1969-1973 by its Director, B B Lal have unearthed Painted Grey Ware dating 1000 B.C., and with a continuous cultural sequence from Mauryan to Mughal through Shunga, Kushana, Gupta, Rajput and Sultanate periods, confirming the antiquity of the site. Purana Qila is where Humayun's capital Din Panah was located. Later it was renovated and named Shergarh by the first Afghan emperor of India, Sher Shah Suri. The Hindu king Hemu was crowned there after defeating Akbar's forces in the Battle of Delhi (1556) on 7 October 1556. The Fort was supposed to be unlucky for rulers who occupied the site; Humayun, Sher Shah Suri, and Hemu all had but relatively brief tenures ensconced there - Humayun on two separate occasions, having lost the fort to Sher Shah only five years after erecting it, and dying within a year of recapturing it 15 years later. Akbar did not rule from here and Shahjahan built a new fort in Delhi known as Lal Qila ("Red Fort"). When Edwin Lutyens designed the new capital of British India, New Delhi in the 1920s, he aligned the central vista, now Rajpath, with Purana Qila. During the Partition of India, in August 1947 the Purana Qila along with the neighbouring Humayun's Tomb, became the site for refuge camps for Muslims migrating to newly founded Pakistan. This included over 12,000 government employees who had opted for service in Pakistan, and between 150,000–200,000 Muslim refugees, who swarmed inside Purana Qila by September 1947, when Indian government took over the management of the two camps. The Purana Qila camp remained functional till early 1948, as the trains to Pakistan waited till October 1947 to start. In the 1970s, the ramparts of Purana Qila were first used as a backdrop for theatre, when three productions of the National School of Drama were staged here: Tughlaq, Andha Yug and Sultan Razia, directed by Ebrahim Alkazi. In later decades it has been the venue of various important theatre productions, cultural events, and concerts. Today, it is the venue of a daily sound and light presentation after sunset, on the history of the "Seven Cities of Delhi", from Indraprastha through New Delhi. Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) carried out excavations at Purana Qila in 1954–55 and again from 1969 to 1973 by B. B. Lal, and its findings and artefacts are exhibited at the Archaeological Museum, Purana Qila. This includes Painted Grey Ware, dating 1500 BC, and various objects and pottery signifying continuous habitation from Mauryan to Shunga, Kushana, Gupta, Rajput, Delhi Sultanate and Mughal periods. The walls of the Fort rise to a height of 18 metres, traverse about 1.5 km, and have three arched gateways: the Bara Darwaza (Big Gate) facing west, which is still in use today; the south gate, also popularly known as the 'Humayun Gate' (probably so known because it was constructed by Humayun, or perhaps because Humayun's Tomb is visible from there); and lastly, the 'Talaqi Gate', often known as the "forbidden gate". All the gates are double-storeyed sandstone structures flanked by two huge semi-circular bastion towers, decorated with white and coloured-marble inlays and blue tiles. They are replete with detailing, including ornate overhanging balconies, or jharokhas, and are topped by pillared pavilions (chhatris), all features that are reminiscent of Rajasthani architecture as seen in the North and South Gates, and which were amply repeated in future Mughal architecture. Despite the grandeurs of the exterior, few of interior structures have survived except the Qila-i Kuhna Mosque and the Shermandal, both credited to Sher Shah. Several other monuments lie around the complex, like Kairul Manzil, mosque built by Maham Anga, Akbar's foster-mother, and which was later used as a madarsa. Sher Shah Suri Gate or Lal Darwaza, which was the southern gate to Shergarh, also lies opposite the Purana Qila complex, across Mathura Road, south-east of the Kairul Manzil.


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