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Activities in Chandni Chowk

Things to Do

Jama Masjid

The Masjid e Jahan Numa (lit. the ‘World-reflecting Mosque’), commonly known as the Jama Masjid of Delhi, is one of the largest mosques in India.[1]

It was built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan between 1650 and 1656 at a cost of one million rupees, and was inaugurated by Imam Syed Abdul Ghafoor Shah Bukhari from Bukhara, present-day Uzbekistan. The mosque was completed in 1656 AD with three great gates and two 40 metres high minarets constructed with strips of red sandstone and white marble. The courtyard can accommodate more than 25,000 people. There are three domes on the terrace which are surrounded by the two minarets. On the floor, a total of 899 black borders are marked for worshippers. The architectural plan of Badshahi Masjid, built by Shah Jahan’s son Aurangzeb at Lahore, Pakistan, is similar to the Jama Masjid.


Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan built the Jama Masjid between 1650 and 1656. It was constructed by more than 5000 workers. It was originally called Masjid e Jahan Numa, meaning ‘mosque commanding view of the world’. The construction was done under the supervision of Saadullah Khan, wazir (or prime minister) during Shah Jahan’s reign. The cost of the construction at the time was one million Rupees.[1] Shah Jahan also built the Taj Mahal, at Agra and the Red Fort in New Delhi, which stands opposite the Jama Masjid.

The Jama Masjid was completed in 1656 AD (1066 AH).[1] The mosque was inaugurated by Imam Syed Abdul Ghafoor Shah Bukhari, from Bukhara, Uzbekistan, on 23 July 1656, on the invitation from Shah Jahan.[2] About 25,000 people can pray in the courtyard at a time .[3][4] The mosque is commonly called “Jama” which means Friday.[1]

After the British victory in the Revolt of 1857, they confiscated the mosque and stationed their soldiers there. They also wanted to destroy the mosque as an act of punishment to the city. But due to opposition faced, the demolition was not done.[5]

The iconic mosque is one of the last monuments built under Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. After the construction of the monument in 1656, it remained the royal mosque of the emperors until the end of the Mughal period.

During 1948, the last Nizam of HyderabadAsaf Jah VII was asked for a donation of ₹75,000 to repair one-fourth of the mosque floor. The Nizam instead sanctioned ₹3 lakh, stating that the remaining three-fourths of the mosque should not look old.[6][7]

Modern times

Main Facade

In 2006, it was reported that the mosque was in urgent need of repair and then the Saudi Arabian king, Abdullah, offered to pay for it. The Imam said that he had received the offer directly from the Saudi authorities, but requested them to approach the Indian government.[8] However, the Delhi High Court said that this matter had no “legal sanctity” giving no “special equities” to the Imam.

2006 Jama Masjid explosions

On the 14th of April in 2006, there were two explosions which came soon after Friday prayers and occurred in swift succession. However it was unclear, how the blasts occurred. Among the casualties, one was in serious condition, whereas other eight people sustained minor injuries. The then imam, Bukhari commented “here is anger among our people but I am appealing to them to maintain calm”.[9]

2010 Jama Masjid attack

Panorama of the square

Jama Masjid Eid Panorama

On the 15th of September in 2010, two Taiwanese tourists were injured after gunmen on a motorcycle opened fire on a bus parked near gate number three of the mosque.[10] After the attack, the police detained 30 people to question and the area was turned into a fortress because policemen were heavily deployed.[11]

In November 2011, the Delhi Police arrested six members of the Indian Mujahideen who were believed to be behind the Jama Masjid blast along with the Pune German bakery blast. Sources said that the “‘main man’ Imran” allegedly planted the bomb in a car outside the mosque.[12] In September 2013 it was reported that Yasin Bhatkal, a leader of the group, along with Assadullah Akhtar, were arrested the month before and they admitted that they carried out the attack with the on-the-run Pakistani national Waqas. Yasin said that he was ordered by Karachi-based IM head Riyaz Bhatkal to do the task as the Imam allowed “semi-naked” foreigners inside it.[13]


The mosque and Red Fort were planned to be a larger planned city named Shahjahanbad. The mosque is considered as the best among all mosques built during the Mughal Empire as it has the best mixture of marble and limestone.[14]The mosque has three great gates, four towers and two 40-metre tall minaretsconstructed of strips of red sandstone and smooth white marble. The northern gate has 39 steps and the southern side has 33 steps. The eastern gate was the royal entrance and has 35 steps.[15] Out of all these gateways, the eastern one, which was used by the emperors, remains closed during weekdays.[16] The mosque is built on a red sandstone porch, which is about 30 feet (9.1 m) from ground level and spreads over 1200 square metres.[1] The dome is flanked by two lofty minarets which are 130 feet (40 m) high and consists of 130 steps, longitudinally striped with marble and red sandstone.[15] The minarets consist of five storeys, each with a protruding balcony. The adjoining edifices are filled with calligraphy. The first three storeys of the minarets are made of red sandstone, the fourth of marble and the fifth of sandstone.[1]

The courtyard can accommodate 25,000 worshippers and occupies 408 square feet.[17] The mosque is about 261 feet (80 m) long and 90 feet (27 m) wide.[15] The prayer hall measures 61 metres in length and 27.5 metres in breadth.[15] It is made up of high cusped arches and marble domes. The cabinet located in the north gate has a collection of relics of Muhammad – the Quran written on deerskin, a red beard-hair of the prophet, his sandals and his footprints embedded in a marble block.[1]

The floor plan of the mosque is similar to that of the Jama Masjid of Agra.[15] It is covered with white and black ornamented marble to look like a Muslim prayer mat. Beside it, a thin black border measuring 3 feet (0.91 m) long and 1.5 feet (0.46 m) wide is marked for the Muslim worshippers. There are 899 total such boxes.[18] The architecture and plan of Badshahi Masjid, which was built by Shah Jahan‘s son Aurangzeb in Lahore, is closely related to that of the mosque. Before the Revolt of 1857there was a madrasa near the southern end of the mosque, which was destroyed during the revolt.


Red Fort

According to the Department of Historians and Archeology, the name of the Red Fort was actually Lalkot. Lal Kot, the red coat, which was the first built city of the present Delhi region. It was founded by the ruler of Tamar ruler Anang Pal in 1060.[3]The evidence states that the Tomar dynasty ruled almost southwards in the South Delhi region, which started from 700AD.[4]Then the Chauhan king, Prithvi Raj Chauhan, took the reign in the twelfth century and named that city and fort Kila Rai Pithora.In 1192, when Prithviraj Chauhan was defeated in the battle of Tarain by Muhammad Ghori, Ghori appointed one of his slaves to take over the rule of this. It was Das Qutubuddin Aibak who started the Das dynasty in Delhi Sultanate from 1206. The barrel was taken away with the people of the cast race, which was a stronghold of the people. King Mahalasi was killed. In these sultans, Sultan Qutbuddin Aibak, who initiated the administration, started making Qutub Minar which is considered a symbol of that period.He built Hindu temples and buildings by occupying or demolishing them on priority. [5]This also includes the conversion of Dhruv Stambha built in Lalkot to Qutub Minar and construction of Kuwat ul Islam Mosque, etc.It was the main residence of the emperors of the Mughal dynasty for nearly 200 years, until 1856.[6] It is located in the centre of Delhi and houses a number of museums. In addition to accommodating the emperors and their households, it was the ceremonial and political center of the Mughal state and the setting for events critically impacting the region.[7]

Constructed in 1639 by the fifth Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as the palace of his fortified capital Shahjahanabad, the Red Fort is named for its massive enclosing walls of red sandstone and is adjacent to the older Salimgarh Fort, built by Islam Shah Suriin 1546 AD. The imperial apartments consist of a row of pavilions, connected by a water channel known as the Stream of Paradise (Nahr-i-Bihisht). The fort complex is considered to represent the zenith of Mughal creativity under Shah Jahan,[citation needed] and although the palace was planned according to Islamic prototypes, each pavilion contains architectural elements typical of Mughal buildings that reflect a fusion of PersianTimurid and Hindu traditions.[8] The Red Fort’s innovative architectural style, including its garden design, influenced later buildings and gardens in Delhi, RajasthanPunjabKashmirBrajRohilkhand and elsewhere.[7]

The fort was plundered of its artwork and jewels during Nadir Shah‘s invasion of the Mughal Empire in 1747. Most of the fort’s precious marble structures were subsequently destroyed by the British following the Revolt of 1857.[9] The fort’s defensive walls were largely spared, and the fortress was subsequently used as a garrison.[9] The Red Fort was also the site where the British put the last Mughal Emperor on trial before exiling him to Yangon in 1858.[10]

It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007 as part of the Red Fort Complex.[7][11]


Its English name red fort is a translation of the Hindustani Lāl Qila,[12][13] deriving from its red-sandstone walls. As the residence of the imperial family, the fort was originally known as the “Blessed Fort” (Qila-i-Mubārak).[14][15] Agra Fort is also known as Lāl Qila.


Painting of large fort, seen from above

1785 view of the Red Fort from Jharoka in the centre and the Moti Masjid on the far right.

View of the Red Fort from the river (by Ghulam Ali Khan, between c. 1852–1854

Painting of gold-and-white palace interior

Bahadur Shah II in the ‘Khas Mahal, underneath the Scales of Justice

Emperor Shah Jahan commissioned construction of the Red Fort on 12 May 1638, when he decided to shift his capital from Agra to Delhi. Originally red and white, the Shah’s favourite colours,[16] its design is credited to architect Ustad Ahmad Lahouri, who also constructed the Taj Mahal.[17][18] The fort lies along the Yamuna River, which fed the moats surrounding most of the walls.[19] Construction began in the sacred month of Muharram, on 13 May 1638.[20]:01 Supervised by Shah Jahan, it was completed on 6 April 1648.[21][22] Unlike other Mughal forts, the Red Fort’s boundary walls are asymmetrical to contain the older Salimgarh Fort.[20]:04 The fortress-palace was a focal point of the medieval city of Shahjahanabad, which is present-day Old Delhi. Its planning and aesthetics represent the zenith of Mughal creativity prevailing during Shah Jahan’s reign.[citation needed] His successor Aurangzeb added the Pearl Mosque to the emperor’s private quarters, constructing barbicans in front of the two main gates to make the entrance to the palace more circuitous.[20]:08

The administrative and fiscal structure of the Mughal dynasty declined after Aurangzeb, and the 18th century saw a degeneration of the palace. When Jahandar Shah took over the Red Fort in 1712, it had been without an emperor for 30 years. Within a year of beginning his rule, Shah was murdered and replaced by Farrukhsiyar. To raise money, the silver ceiling of the Rang Mahal was replaced by copper during this period. Muhammad Shah, known as ‘Rangila’ (the Colourful) for his interest in art, took over the Red Fort in 1719. In 1739, Persian emperor Nadir Shah easily defeated the Mughal army, plundering the Red Fort including the Peacock Throne. Nadir Shah returned to Persia after three months, leaving a destroyed city and a weakened Mughal empire to Muhammad Shah.[20]:09 The internal weakness of the Mughal empire made the Mughals titular heads of Delhi, and a 1752 treaty made the Marathas protectors of the throne at Delhi.[23][24] The 1758 Maratha conquest of Lahore and Peshawar[25] placed them in conflict with Ahmad Shah Durrani.[26][27] In 1760, the Marathas removed and melted the silver ceiling of the Diwan-i-Khas to raise funds for the defence of Delhi from the armies of Ahmed Shah Durrani.[28][29] In 1761, after the Marathas lost the third battle of Panipat, Delhi was raided by Ahmed Shah Durrani. Ten years later, Shah Alam ascended the throne in Delhi with Maratha support.[20]:10 In 1783 the Sikh Misl Karorisinghia, led by Baghel Singh Dhaliwal, conquered Delhi and the Red Fort briefly.[30] In 1788, a Maratha garrison permanently occupied Red fort and Delhi and ruled on north India for next two decades until they were usurped by the British East India Company following the Second Anglo-Maratha Warin 1803.[30]

During the Second Anglo-Maratha War in 1803, forces of British East India Company defeated Maratha forces in the Battle of Delhi; this ended Maratha rule of the city and their control of the Red Fort.[31] After the battle, the British took over the administration of Mughal territories and installed a Resident at the Red Fort.[20]:11 The last Mughal emperor to occupy the fort, Bahadur Shah II, became a symbol of the 1857 rebellion against the British in which the residents of Shahjahanbad participated.[20]:15

Despite its position as the seat of Mughal power and its defensive capabilities, the Red Fort was not defended during the 1857 uprising against the British. After the rebellion failed, Bahadur Shah II left the fort on 17 September and was apprehended by British forces. Bahadur Shah Zafar II returned to Red Fort as a prisoner of the British, was tried in 1858 and exiled to Rangoonon 7 October of that year.[32] With the end of Mughal reign, the British sanctioned the systematic plunder of valuables from the fort’s palaces. All furniture was removed or destroyed; the harem apartments, servants’ quarters and gardens were destroyed, and a line of stone barracks built.[9] Only the marble buildings on the east side at the imperial enclosure escaped complete destruction, but were looted and damaged. While the defensive walls and towers were relatively unharmed, more than two-thirds of the inner structures were destroyed by the British. Lord Curzon, Viceroy of India from 1899 to 1905, ordered repairs to the fort including reconstruction of the walls and the restoration of the gardens complete with a watering system.[33]

Most of the jewels and artworks of the Red Fort were looted and stolen during Nadir Shah’s invasion of 1747 and again after the failed Indian Rebellion of 1857 against the British. They were eventually sold to private collectors or the British MuseumBritish Library and the Victoria and Albert Museum. For example, the Koh-i-Noordiamond, the jade wine cup of Shah Jahan and the crown of Bahadur Shah II are all currently located in London. Various requests for restitution have so far been rejected by the British government.[34]

1911 saw the visit of the British king and queen for the Delhi Durbar. In preparation of the visit, some buildings were restored. The Red Fort Archaeological Museumwas also moved from the drum house to the Mumtaz Mahal.

The INA trials, also known as the Red Fort Trials, refer to the courts-martial of a number of officers of the Indian National Army. The first was held between November and December 1945 at the Red Fort.

On 15 August 1947, the first Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru raised the Indian national flag above the Lahore Gate. On each subsequent Independence Day, the prime minister has raised the flag and given a speech that is broadcast nationally.[35]

After Indian Independence, the site experienced few changes, and the Red Fort continued to be used as a military cantonment. A significant part of the fort remained under Indian Army control until 22 December 2003, when it was given to the Archaeological Survey of India for restoration.[36][37] In 2009 the Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP), prepared by the Archaeological Survey of India under Supreme Court directions to revitalise the fort, was announced.[38][39][40]

Every year on India’s Independence Day (15 August), the Prime Minister of India hoists the national flag at the Red Fort and delivers a nationally broadcast speech from its ramparts.[1] The Red Fort, the largest monument in Delhi,[41] is one of its most popular tourist destinations[42] and attracts thousands of visitors every year.[43] A sound and light show describing Mughal history is a tourist attraction in the evenings. The major architectural features are in mixed condition; the extensive water features are dry. Some buildings are in fairly-good condition, with their decorative elements undisturbed; in others, the marble inlaid flowers have been removed by looters. The tea house, although not in its historical state, is a working restaurant. The mosque and hamam or public baths are closed to the public, although visitors can peer through their glass windows or marble latticework. Walkways are crumbling, and public toilets are available at the entrance and inside the park.

The Lahore Gate entrance leads to a mall with jewellery and craft stores. There is also a museum of “blood paintings”, depicting young 20th-century Indian martyrs and their stories, an archaeological museum and an Indian war-memorial museum.

The Red fort appears on the back of the ₹500 note of the Mahatma Gandhi New Series of the Indian rupee.[44]

To prevent terrorist attacks, security is especially strict around the Red Fort on the eve of Indian Independence Day. Delhi Police and paramilitary personnel keep watch on neighbourhoods around the fort, and National Security Guard sharpshooters are deployed on high-rises near the fort.[45][46] The airspace around the fort is a designated no-fly zone during the celebration to prevent air attacks,[47] and safe houses exist in nearby areas to which the Prime Minister and other Indian leaders may retreat in the event of an attack.[45]

The fort was the site of a terrorist attack on 22 December 2000, carried out by six Lashkar-e-Toiba members. Two soldiers and a civilian were killed in what the news media described as an attempt to derail India-Pakistan peace talks.[48][49]


Barrel vault structure located past the Lahore Gate, acts as a market that was built to satisfy the needs of higher ranked Mughal women, who reside inside fort

The Red Fort has an area of 254.67 acres (103.06 ha) enclosed by 2.41 kilometres (1.50 mi) of defensive walls,[50] punctuated by turrets and bastions and varying in height from 18 metres (59 ft) on the river side to 33 metres (108 ft) on the city side. The fort is octagonal, with the north-south axis longer than the east-west axis. The marble, floral decorations and double domes in the fort’s buildings exemplify later Mughal architecture.[51]

It showcases a high level of ornamentation, and the Kohinoor diamond was reportedly part of the furnishings. The fort’s artwork synthesises Persian, European and Indian art, resulting in a unique Shahjahani style rich in form, expression and colour. Red Fort is one of the building complexes of India encapsulating a long period of history and its arts. Even before its 1913 commemoration as a monument of national importance, efforts were made to preserve it for posterity.

The Lahori and Delhi Gates were used by the public, and the Khizrabad Gate was for the emperor.[20]:04 The Lahori Gate is the main entrance, leading to a domed shopping area known as the Chatta Chowk (covered bazaar).

Major structures

The most important surviving structures are the walls and ramparts, the main gates, the audience halls and the imperial apartments on the eastern riverbank.[52]

Lahori Gate

Red sandstone gate of the fortress

The Delhi Gate, which is almost identical in appearance to the Lahori Gate

The Lahori Gate is the main gate to the Red Fort, named for its orientation towards the city of Lahore. During Aurangzeb‘s reign, the beauty of the gate was spoiled by the addition of bastions, which Shahjahan described as “a veil drawn across the face of a beautiful woman”.[53][54][55] Every Indian Independence Day since 1947, the national flag is unfurled and the Prime Minister makes a speech from its ramparts.

Delhi Gate

The Delhi Gate is the southern public entrance and in layout and appearance similar to the Lahori Gate. Two life-size stone elephants on either side of the gate face each other.[56]

Chhatta Chowk

Adjacent to the Lahori Gate is the Chhatta Chowk, where silk, jewellery and other items for the imperial household were sold during the Mughal period. The bazaar leads to an open outer court, where it crosses the large north-south street which originally divided the fort’s military functions (to the west) from the palaces (to the east). The southern end of the street is the Delhi Gate.

Naubat Khana

Photo of courtyard shortly after the 1857 uprising

Naubat Khana and the courtyard before its destruction by the British, in an 1858 photograph

The vaulted arcade of the Chhatta Chowk ends in the centre of the outer court, which measured 540 by 360 feet (160 m × 110 m).[57] The side arcades and central tank were destroyed after the 1857 rebellion.

In the east wall of the court stands the now-isolated Naubat Khana (also known as Nakkar Khana), the drum house. Music was played daily, at scheduled times and everyone, except royalty, was required to dismount.


The Diwan-i-Aam audience hall

The inner main court to which the Nakkar Khana led was 540 feet (160 m) wide and 420 feet (130 m) deep, surrounded by guarded galleries.[57] On the far side is the Diwan-i-Aam, the Public Audience Hall.

The hall’s columns and engrailed arches exhibit fine craftsmanship, and the hall was originally decorated with white chunam stucco.[57] In the back in the raised recess the emperor gave his audience in the marble balcony (jharokha).

The Diwan-i-Aam was also used for state functions.[51] The courtyard (mardana) behind it leads to the imperial apartments.


The imperial apartments consist of a row of pavilions on a raised platform along the eastern edge of the fort, overlooking the Yamuna. The pavilions are connected by a canal, known as the Nahr-i-Bihisht (“Stream of Paradise”), running through the centre of each pavilion. Water is drawn from the Yamuna via a tower, the Shahi Burj, at the northeast corner of the fort. The palace is designed to emulate paradise as described in the Quran. In the riverbed below the imperial apartments and connected buildings was a space known as zer-jharokha (“beneath the latticework“).[57]

Mumtaz Mahal

The two southernmost pavilions of the palace are zenanas (women’s quarters), consisting of the Mumtaz Mahal and the larger Rang Mahal. The Mumtaz Mahal houses the Red Fort Archaeological Museum.

Rang Mahalemperor’s wives and mistresses. Its name means “Palace of Colours”, since it was brightly painted and decorated with a mosaic of mirrors. The central marble pool is fed by the Nahr-i-Bihisht.

Khas Mahal

The Khas Mahal was the emperor’s apartment. Connected to it is the Muthamman Burj, an octagonal tower where he appeared before the people waiting on the riverbank. This was done by most kings at the time.


A gate on the north side of the Diwan-i-Aam leads to the innermost court of the palace (Jalau Khana) and the Diwan-i-Khas (Hall of Private Audience). It is constructed of white marble, inlaid with precious stones. The once-silver ceiling has been restored in wood. François Bernier described seeing the jewelled Peacock Throne here during the 17th century. At either end of the hall, over the two outer arches, is an inscription by Persian poet Amir Khusrow:

If heaven can be on the face of the earth,
It is this, it is this, it is this.

— “World Heritage Site – Red Fort, Delhi; Diwan-i-Khas”. Archaeological Survey of India. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
Many white buildings, with large grassy area in foreground

Panoramic view of the imperial enclosure. From left: Moti Masjid, the hammamDivan-i-KhasKhas Mahal and the ‘Rang Mahal


The hammam were the imperial baths, consisting of three domed rooms floored with white marble.