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Purana Qila: Attractions in Delhi

Purana Qila in Delhi is one of the most ancient sites in Delhi and a popular attraction. I have been to this place several times now and each time there’s something new to discover. The trick is the timing with early morning offering not just the best photo ops and unobstructed views of the monuments and structures inside, but it is also the time when it is not visited by couples who have led to a notorious reputation of Purana Qila. For those of you who don’t know about “Seven Cities of Delhi”, Purana Qila happens to be the Sixth City of Delhi. One of the reasons why I love my City is the history and heritage and tales of thrones, empires and powers that be which often pushes me to explore the road less traveled. Purana Qila is one such attractions in Delhi with its rich history which often beckons the explorer in me.

Bada Darwaza, Purana Qila
Bada Darwaza is the only entrance open to allow visitors inside Purana Qila
Purana Qila or the Old Fort is located near Pragati Maidan in Delhi. Purana Qila is also believed to be the site where Pandavas built Indraprastha during the times of Mahabharata. During the excavations, some pottery dating back to 1000 B.C. have been uncovered but nothing much to substantiate that this one is the site where the legendary Indraprastha was constructed. The recent history of this place starts with the rule of Humayun who renovated the Old Fort and laid foundation of his city Dinpannah (Refuge of People), “sixth city of Delhi”. Humayun was later defeated by Shershah Suri in 1540 and Suri declared himself the ruler of Delhi and named this site Sher Garh. He ruled briefly and his sudden death led to eventual return of Humayun.

You could notice the massive ramparts of Purana Qila from a distance. There are three massive gates only one of which is open to allow visitors inside. The fortified rubble masonry entrance walls are known as the Talaqi Darwaza (Forbidden Gate), Humayun Darwaza (probably because Humayun's Tomb is visible from this gate) and Bada Darwaza (Only door which remains open). There is one other gate opposite of the entrance to Purana Qila. It is the massive yet now crumbling Sheh Shah Gate or the Lal Darwaza (probably because it is made up of red sandstone).

One of the still standing and most impressive structures inside Purana Qila is the Qila-i-Kuhna Mosque built during Shershah Suri’s rule. It is surprisingly well maintained. Built as a Jami Masjid for royal family and courtiers, this exquisitely built single domed mosque is a great example of pre-Mughal architecture. There are a total of 5 arched niches or mihrabs set in the western walls of the mosque. The central iwan or the rectangular prayer hall is carved using white marble and red sandstones and there are intricate calligraphic inscription which one could observe on the Pishtaq.

Another of the few remaining structure inside the Purana Qila is Sher Mandal. This two storey red sandstone octagonal structure stand amidst the well manicured garden. The foundation of the tower - topped by an octagonal chattri supported by 8 pillars - was laid by Babur and was supposed to be his personal observatory. Later, Sher Shah too tried to finish the construction but the tower was completed by Humayun after the short reign of Sheh Shah ended. Humayun used this tower as his personal library and it is also the place from where Humayun fell to his tragic death later.

Practical Information: Purana Qila is a paid monument i.e. you need to pay an entrance fee to explore this fortress complex. For Indian visitors, fees is Rs. 10 whereas for fees for foreign tourist is Rs. 100. There’s no availability of locker room as they have at Qutub Minar but you could deposit your luggage and belongings at locker room of Delhi Zoo which is in the vicinity. There are food court with availability of food and drinks in plenty and washrooms (restrooms) could be found both outside and inside Purana Qila. One could also enjoy a boat ride in the lake near the entrance to Talaqi Darwaza or you could go visit Delhi Zoo which is also a popular attraction in Delhi.

Qila-i-Kahuna Mosque, Purana Qila
Central iwan decorated with red sandstone and white marble with calligraphic decoration- Qila-i-Kahuna Mosque, Purana Qila

Sher Mandal, Purana Qila
Sher Mandal inside Purana Qila is one of few standing structures of note

Talaqi Darwaza, Purana Qila
A view of Talaqi Darwaza or the Forbidden Gate of the Purana Qila from the inside

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Last updated on 17th September 2014 by