As a kid, I was always fascinated by the magnificence of Red Fort, the theatre of grandeur, a backdrop to wars, terror attacks, and the rise and fall of empires. Red Fort has been built by the Mughals at the zenith of their power; it has been visited by the Sikhs, Marathas, the Afghans and the Persians. With the fall of the last Mughal, the British turned the fort and its pleasure palaces into military barracks. And when they were forced out, the Red Fort was liberated and opened to the people of India and became the iconic platform from where the Prime Minister of India set the agenda for the nation on Independence Day.
The red sandstone imperial battlement, aptly named Red Fort gave rise to a city whose fame spread across the world. Shahjahanabad, the seventh city of Delhi, was glorious in its promise. The fort was the centrepiece of this city and the Yamuna river, the artery of life and commerce which gave impetus to this new capital of the Mughal Empire.
After the 1857 uprising, the British transferred their wrath onto the Red Fort and the last Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar. They destroyed over two-thirds of the Mughal buildings and turned the place into military barracks with hospitals, living quarters and administrative blocks.
Restoring the Glory
Whenever I used to visit Red Fort I used to wonder how Mughal emperors ruled from Red Fort, what their traditional attire was and what they ate. The numerous buildings inside the fort complex, particularly the British-era barrack inside the fort between flea market ‘Chhata Bazaar’ and drum house ‘Naubat-Khana’ lying closed and in ruined conditions always used to make me think – “What might have been the scene inside during the fort’s prime time?”
Red Fort Centre
Luckily, thanks to the efforts of Red Fort’s ‘Monument Mitra’ Dalmia Bharat along with the Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Tourism and Archaeological Survey of India, today we can find the answers to these at the Red Fort Centre, which recently opened to the public. The world-class visitor centre at the Red Fort, showcasing the rich heritage of the Mughal-era fort, the multi-storied centre is housed in a barrack built by the British in 1862. The brick British army barrack has been restored and its first floor now houses the Interpretation Centre that takes visitors through the history, architecture and culture of Delhi, including the historic capitals of various empires such as Tughlaqabad, Firozabad and Jahanpanah.
The first floor, called ‘Interpretation Centre’, equipped with rare archival photographs of the historic monument is a crash course of sorts in the rich history of the iconic heritage site, and is divided into the following sections:
- Safar: An introduction to Delhi before the establishment of Red Fort and Shahjahanabad
- Zindagi: The magnificent architecture, royal traditions, and luxurious living in the fort
- Tareekh: Defining moments in India’s history with Red Fort as the fulcrum
- Hum Ek Hain: Positioning Red Fort as the Fort of India and India’s unity in diversity. This section houses the Harmony Installation, the Unity Room & the Pledge for India
The centre has interesting features like moving maps to know what was happening in India and abroad around Shah Jahan’s lifetime (1592-1666). There is a replica of Chhatta Bazaar offering a glimpse of the grandeur of the Mughal empire. Originally known as Bazaar-e-Musaqqaf or ‘Roofed Bazaar’, Chhatta Bazaar was inspired by the great covered markets of Peshawar. A man who acts as if he was still an employee in the Mughal era points out wares like jars for warm and cold water, body scrubbers and paan daans.
There is a section dedicated to the lifestyle of the Mughals. The royal men and women of the fort would wear clothes made of the finest, softest material in the land and their lifestyle was so luxurious that they would wear an outfit once and then discard it forever, donating it to an underling. The Mughal emperors ate lavishly, among the delicacies served to them being badam ki nuql as starters, moti pulao, sunheri pulao, korma, and yoghurt accompaniments.
The ground floor of the centre showcases a unique, 360-degree immersive viewing experience with projections on the walls, ceiling and floor, reimagining the first day of the Red Fort’s inauguration.
Puneet Dalmia, managing director, Dalmia Bharat Limited, said, “We welcome our fellow citizens and guests from across the world to visit and experience Delhi’s old-world charm through the best-in-class Red Fort Centre. It aims to provide a first-hand understanding of the transformation and history of Delhi and how the majestic monument’s grand opulence has left a mark.”
Dalmia added, “We hope that our nation-building effort will lead to greater awareness about our country’s rich heritage and we also look forward to giving back to the community, including the employment generated by this endeavour.”
Anand Bhardwaj, CEO (Heritage & Events), Dalmia Bharat Group, added, “We are planning to add a sound and light show and projection mapping show in November.”
According to Anand Bhardwaj, the entire barrack was painstakingly conserved using lime, and not cement, similar to how the British built it after the 1857 revolt when they destroyed almost “90 per cent ” of the architectural ambience of the Red Fort. He added, “The conservation work was started around February 2019 and it took us a little less than three years, counting in the COVID period in between (when the monument was shut), to get this structure in place.” Dalmia Bharat Limited, a cement manufacturing company, was selected as a ‘Monument Mitra’ to adopt and develop tourist amenities of the Red Fort in 2018.
The Red Fort Visitor Centre is open to the public from 10 am to 6 pm from Tuesdays to Sundays (Red Fort is shut to the public on Mondays). A nominal ticket of Rs.100 each will be charged for the first floor Interpretation Centre, the 360-degree Show and the AR Photography per visitor. The Snack Point and Souvenir Shop costs will be as per the menu/price list.
About Monument Mitra – Dalmia Bharat Limited
Dalmia Bharat Limited has been selected as a ‘Monument Mitra’ to adopt and develop tourist amenities at the nation’s iconic 17th-century heritage site, Red Fort by the Ministry of Tourism in close collaboration with the Ministry of Culture and Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). As part of the government’s “Adopt a Heritage Project,” the company has been given the responsibility to provide excellent tourist facilities at Red Fort to make the monument tourist-friendly and enhance its tourist potential and cultural importance in a planned and phased manner. Dalmia Bharat will also look after the operations and maintenance of amenities it has introduced or is taking care of for five years subject to review at any time. The project, which was launched by the Hon’ble President of India on 27th Sept 2017 on the occasion of World Tourism Day, will see Monument Mitra – Dalmia Bharat, focus on active industry participation to ensure a sustainable model formulation for the Red Fort and developed a world-class tourist facilitation-cum-interpretation centre, Souvenir shop, Snack Point, ease of access for tourists, signage, cleanliness, providing basic amenities that include drinking water and public convenience etc.