Purana Qila, the Urdu name fort Old Fort which was formerly called Shergarh or Sher Fort is one of the oldest forts in Delhi. It is made of red sandstone and has three arched gates.
If you like integrity, then this is the perfect place for your outing. You will find a blend of Mughal, Afghan and Hindu architecture in the construction of the building.
It is a huge fort and will take about two and a half to three hours to explore the whole fort. It is often called Delhi ka Purana Qila by the locals. The fort is believed to be more than 5000 years old.
India is a land of cultural heritage and visiting an ancient fort-like Purana Qila Delhi is one of the best ways to know about the different cultures. The quiet and serene Old Fort is not just a site of historical interest, but also a popular picnic spot and lover’s point for couples.
The place is more popular because of its location on the Delhi Mathura road at the heart of the city. This place has an amazing blend of Afghan architecture, Mughal architecture, Hindu architecture, and Rajasthani style. It is one of the best and most visited sites in New Delhi.
The walls of the Qila are so old and rugged, yet it feels they have a story to tell, a story to convey to the upcoming generations.
The key attraction of the place is three magnificent gateways, the Qila-i-Kuhna, a single domed structure built in typical Mughal architectural style with five doorways, the Sher Mandal, the spot from which Emperor Humayun slipped and died, a light and sound show, and Purana Qila boating experience at the outskirts of the fort.
Purana Qila Delhi visitor Information
Old Fort Timing:
The Purana Qila timings are from 7:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. The Purana Qila timings are applicable on all the 7 days of the week.
Purana Qila Location/Address:
Mathura Road, Pragati Maidan, Near Delhi Zoo, New Delhi – 110003.
Purana Qila nearest Metro Station:
Pragati Maidan situated on the blue line is the nearest metro station to Purana Qila. The distance between the Old Fort and Pragati Maidan Metro Station is around 3 km. You can either go by local or battery run rickshaws or book a cab for more comfort.
Old Fort Entry Fee:
For Indians, the entry fee is only INR 20 (Rs. 35 with Museum fee) while that for foreigners, it is INR 200. The entry of both still camera and video camera is permitted, but for carrying a still camera you don’t have to pay anything, while for a video camera you need to pay a minimum of INR 25. You can click Purana Qila images, without paying anything extra.
Apart from the metro, you can also avail of various government-run public and private buses that connect the fort with the capital city or you can always hire a cab or taxi. Buses 374, 410, 423 and 425 stops near the Purana Qila. From New Delhi railway station, the fort is only a 13 minutes’ drive via Mathura road.
Purana Qila History
It is very difficult to answer the question- who built Purana Qila. Built during the 16th century, on the banks of river Yamuna, Purana Qila or Old Fort Delhi is one of the oldest forts in India.
Abul Fazl states that the fort was built by him in the place of ancient Indraprastha, which was captured by Sher Shah Suri, an Afghan king and the founder of the Suri Dynasty when he defeated Humayun a Mughal.
He made changes in the fort to strengthen its fortification. While it was Islam Shah who actually completed the construction of the fort. It was built on a raised platform.
Hindu king, Hem Chandra Vikramaditya was crowned on 7th October 1556 in Purana Qila after defeating Akbar’s forces decisively at the Battle of Delhi (1556), declaring “ Hindu Raj ” in North India. This is the reason, the impressive and grand edifice blends the architectural style of Mughal, Afghan as well as Hindu.
Purana Qila Architecture
The walls of the Old Fort are around 18 meters in height and 4 meters in thickness. the Delhi old fort is enclosed by two walls and spreads over 2.41 kilometers. Roughly rectangular in shape, the Fort has 3 main entrances, they are — The West facing Bada Darwaza, the South facing Humayun Darwaza and Talaqi Darwaza or the forbidden gate.
The Bada Darwaza is used as the entrance to the fort even today. All the three gates are double-story structures surrounded by two large semi-circular towers adorned with blue tile works and colored marble embellishments.
At the North and South gates of the Qila, you will find ornate overhanging balconies known as Jharokhas, Chatteris, and pavilions with Rajasthani architecture. The entire fort is made of red sandstone.
Purana Qila Excavation
Many excavations were carried out by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in the years 1954-55, 1969-1973 by B. B. Lal and in the year 2013-14 and 2017-18 by Vasant Kumar Swarnkar.
Evidence found by the archaeologists proves that the place has been a habitat for many dynasties—from Mauryan to the Shungalu dynasty, the Kushana dynasty, the Gupta dynasty, Rajputs, Delhi Sultanat as well as the Mughals.
Traces like the Painted Grey Ware (PGW) found here links the history of Purana Qila with the ancient Iron Age, nearly 1000BC. All the artifacts and findings are displayed in the Archaeological Museum, Purana Qila Delhi.
Some believed, that Delhi is built on the remains of the legendary city of Indraprastha, of the Pandavas from Mahabharat period, but archaeologists still haven’t found any evidence of Indraprastha consequently considered the ‘First City of Delhi‘ here. The remains seen here are mostly from the medieval period onwards.
With every excavation, a new fact surfaces itself about this mysterious and old fort. In the recent excavation, a 12th century Lord Vishnu sculpture and a seal of the Gupta era got unearthed by the Archaeological Survey of India. It is an ideal place for history lovers and archaeological students doing their research work on Indian history.
Purana Qila Delhi for Couples
Delhi itself is considered to be a heaven for lovers, It has a myriad of romantic places and Old Fort Delhi is one of them. The green lawns complemented by the backdrop of ancient imposing structure proves to be one of the best places to visit with your better half.
The solitude of the place catches the attraction of many couples, here you can spend hours together without being disturbed. With its green surrounding and solitude nature, this place is perfect for photoshoots especially pre-wedding shooting with your fiancé.
Historical Things to see in Old Fort
1. Qila-i-Kuhna Mosque
Qila-i-Kuhna Mosque is a single domed mosque made by Sher Shah Suri in the year 1541, within the premises of Purana Qila. It has five pointed arched doorways with true horseshoe-shaped arches. The Prayer Hall inside the mosque measures 51.2 meters by 14.9 meters.
Red, White, and slate-colored marbles were used for the calligraphic inscriptions on the iwan. It has separate passages surrounded by ornate jharokhas for the female and the Royal Family members. Designed as a Friday mosque or a Jami mosque, it is one of the most preserved buildings in the Purana Qila.
One of the places of interest in this mosque is a long marble slab with the inscription, “ As long as there are people on the earth, may this edifice be frequented and people be happy and cheerful in it ”. It is an excellent example of extensive use of the pointed arch and pre-Mughal design.
2. Sher Mandal
Sher Mandal was built by the Mughal emperor Humayun as a pleasure tower and astronomical library in the year 1530-1556 ( including the 15-year interruption by Afghan king Sher Shah Suri ). It is located at the highest point of the Purana Qila, Delhi.
It is a two-story octagonal structure with chhatri ( domed pavilion ) and pillars. It stands to the South of the mosque and was intended to be higher than it’s existing height but the work was stopped due to the untimely death of Sher Shah. Later, when Humayun recaptured the fort, he used this building as a library.
This double-storeyed octagonal tower of red sandstone has steep stairs leading up to the roof. Owing to its height, it is one of the first observatories of Delhi. It is also the tragic spot from where Humayun slipped while going for his evening namaz, fell headlong down and died after two days due to his injury. After the Qila-i-Kuhna, it is the second surviving structure within the Old Fort boundary
3. Humayun Gate
Few people believe that the South facing gate of Purana Qila is called the Humayun gate because it was built by Emperor Humayun while others believe that the gate has gained its name because Humayun’s Tomb is visible from this place. You will find beautiful hanging jharokhas on either side of the Humayun gate.
4. Bada Darwaza
Bada Darwaza or west gate is the main entrance of the fort. Still today, entry to the fort is through the Bada Darwaja. This structure is 18 meters in height and is colossal in size. Unlike the other structures, it lacks the Mughal architecture.
It is a double-storeyed sandstone structure flanked by two huge semi-circular bastion towers. You will find beautiful jharokhas and Chatteris on either side of the gate.
5. Talaqi Darwaza
On turning left from the Bada Darwaja, and walking to the periphery of the Qila, you will come to the North facing the third gate. Talaqi Darwaza is also called the forbidden gate. You may wonder, why it has got such a strange name.
It is called so because no one could pass through the gateway until the king returned victoriously, this is the reason the gate was completely abandoned after the death of the emperor. Not everyone was allowed to pass through the Talaqi Darwaja.
Only the royal family members, including the members of the harem and their children, could use the gate. The gate is embellished with white marble decorates and is done well with overhanging galleries.
6. Hammam Khana
Hammam means a normal bathhouse or a community bathhouse. The concept of having a hammam khana came from the Afghan countries, but later it was adopted by the Mughal architecture. Traces of a hammam is also found in New Delhi Purana Qila.
The hammam khana is located beside the Sher Mandal. It is brick-walled and the most interesting feature of this structure is the complex system in which hot water and cold water is mixed before the bath. However, no prominent evidence has been found that could suggest it was constructed by Humayun Or Sher Shah Suri.
7. Khairul Manzil Masjid
Khairul Manazil or Khair-ul-Manazil is a mosque built by Maham Anga ( the great emperor Akbar’s foster mother ) in the year 1561 with the help of her son Adam Khan and Kinsman Shahabuddin Khan. It is situated in the opposite side of Purana Qila and southeast to the Sher Shah Suri gate.
The exterior and the gateway of the mosque are made of red sandstone, similar to Mughal architecture, while the interior structure is made in the Delhi Sultanate pattern. At present, Khairul Manazil is under the protection of the Archaeological Survey of India ( ASI ).
Archaeologists say it is Delhi’s very first Mughal Mosque, not to mention, the first mosque to be promoted and commissioned by a woman. The mosque has five high arched openings in the prayer Hall. The most attractive feature of the mosque is the presence of a madrasa on the east of the building.
8. Lal Darwaza
Lal Darwaza or Sher Shah Suri Gate was built in the 16th century by Sher Shah Suri. It is one of the few gates in India where you will find Mughal Afghan-style construction. It is 15.5 meters high and is made of quartzite stones.
This gate is known by another name by the locals, Khooni Darwaja since this gate was used to put the beheaded heads of the Royal traitors on display on this gate by the royals.
It is a heard rumor that this place is haunted by the spirits of the people who were killed here. Haunted or not, this place is eye candy for hundreds and thousands of visitors visiting every day.
9. Old Fort Baoli
Have you ever seen a Baoli? Baoli is a stepped well. It was constructed in ancient times to preserve water during monsoon season in order to meet the water demands and cope with the seasonal fluctuations. Later this water was used for irrigation.
Not many people know about the presence of a Baoli in the old Fort Delhi. It is located between the Sher Mandal and Qila-i-Kuhna. It is one of the nine historical Baolis in Delhi. It has evidence to prove, this place was used for social gatherings and religious ceremonies.
10. Archaeological Museum
A city is incomplete without a museum. The museum is the place which gives us an idea about the history of the place. Archaeological Museum in Old Fort is one of the most popular museums in Delhi. The exhibits in this museum are largely based on the excavated materials found while excavating Purana Qila.
In this museum, you will find potteries of the Kushan and Gupta dynasty, undeciphered coins, idols, semi-precious stones, charred wheat, and rice grains and many other antiques that have been recovered from various other parts of Delhi.
It is a very interesting place that you cannot miss while exploring the fort. You will get to know about many interesting facts about the old fort here. Unlike the Purana Qila, which remains open on all the seven days of the week, the Archaeological Museum of old fort remains closed on every Friday. The entry fee for the museum is only INR 5 for people above the age of 15.
11. Old Fort Lake
If you want to enjoy the old Fort Lake and Purana Qila boating, then this is the perfect place for you. It is a deep, wide ditch surrounding Delhi ka Purana Qila and NBCC, the National Building Construction Corporation, has been assigned the task of renovating the lake.
Here you can enjoy the fun of boating, keeping the beautiful and mysterious monument in the background. The best time for boating is after sunrise while in the evening, the fountains and the lightings are a mesmerizing sight to look at. I hope you won’t like to miss the chance to the boat after knowing the fact that the water was once full of crocodiles.
Every day, the place is frequented by thousands of visitors from all over the world with family and friends to enjoy some moments of solitude.
All the walls of the Delhi Old Fort, the Bada Darwaja, the Humayun Gate, the Talaqi Darwaja, the Sher Shah Suri Gate, the Qila-i-Kuhna mosque, the Sher Mandal and the Khairul Manazil make up a spectrum of history that echoes with the past.
The Purana Wila has a lot to offer the tourists in terms of both history and architecture. During the partition of India, the Purana Qila became the refuge spot for many Muslims who were trying to migrate to newly founded Pakistan leaving India.
Places to Visit near Purana Qila
- National Zoological Park
- National Science Centre
- National Handicrafts and Handlooms Museum
- Indraprastha Park
- Sunder Nursery
- Humayun’s Tomb
- Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia Dargah
- India Gate
- National Gallery of Modern Art
- Agrasen ki Baoli