Bada Darwaja or the great door greets us with geometric splendour … Jharokhas and chhatris are key aesthetic elements here. This is the sixth city of Delhi – Shergarh or Purana Qila. It is believed that the fort stands on what was known as the Indraprastha during the Mahabharat era. Sher Shah Suri destroyed the Dinapanah city built by Humayun to build his own capital city.
During an excavation carried out in 1912-13 a village named Indrapat was cleared… later in another excavation conducted in the 60s grey ware dated 3000 BCE was found .. Relics from several other eras were found too .. Mauryan, Sunga, Shak-Kushana, Gupta, Rajput, Sultanate and mughal … artifacts from almost every documented period were found.
One of the few monuments from this fort that have survived the test of times is the Qila-I-Kuhna mosque. We can see a 51×15 mtr prayer hall here. Five arches with richly decorated central arch and beautiful dome gives this monument a fine visual balance. This mosque is considered important because we can see the transition between Lodhi architecture to Mughal design here. We can see several parallels with the Bada Gumbad mosque and Jamali Kamali mosque … especially corner towers and oriel windows. This mosque was built in 1541 CE by Sher Shah Suri. Lotus bud decoration and mihrabs with concentric arches are exhibits of extraordinary skills the makers possessed.
Sher Shah Suri built the Sher Mandal for perhaps recreational purpose. We can see recessed arches and plaster decoration on this octagonal structure. It is believed that Humayun used this building as his personal library and fell from the stairs of the pleasure tower in 1556 CE.
Right in front of Sher Mandal we can see Hamam … luxury bathing area with hot, cold and steam bath facility … it is roughly 3.25 square meter in size.
Among many baolis or step wells in Delhi, this one at the old fort has a unique shape. One needs to go down 89 steps or about 22 meters to reach the base. The overall design is aimed at reducing water loss by evaporation.
Humayuni Darwaja is the southern gateway. It was repaired by Humayun and today it hosts the light and sound show at the fort. It is a two storeyed gate with elaborate rubble structures and fortifications around it.
The southern gateway too is two storeyed and we can see the typical jharokhas and chhatris here too. This door was known as the Talaqi Darwaja or the forbidden gate. However, we do not know the accurate reason behind this nomenclature.
We have to cross the street in front of the Bada Darwaja to see the two important monuments related to this site. Near the traffic light we see a mosque … the Khairul Manzil mosque built by Maham Anga (Akbar’s wet nurse) We can also see a Madarasa adjacent to the mosque. A few steps northwards we can spot the grand red sandstone gateway known as the Lal Darwaja or the Sher Shah gate. It is currently under conservation and therefore out of bounds for the tourists.
One must not miss the lakeside view of the fort … it is a good vantage point to see the rubble wall and the grandeur of the fortifications. If you take a cycle ride or walk northwards for a couple of kilometers you will spot the fifth city of Delhi … the Firoz Shah Kotla Fort … A story we shall reserve for some other day …