The Purana Qila that translates to ‘Old Fort’ and lies on Mathura Road in South Delhi is an excellent architectural example of a 16th Century AD medieval period fortress built with military precision to combat any attack from enemies. Initially constructed by Emperor Humayun in 1533 and later modified by Afghan Emperor Sher Shah Suri in 1540 and then renamed as ‘Shergarh’, this Fortress exudes a formidable magnitude of bold, straight and broad design showcased in every corner, lines and inch of its wall.
The Old Fort (Purana Qila’ is seen with high walls with three arched double storied gateways named ‘Bara Darwaza’ overlooking the west, ‘Humayun Gate’ overlooking the south and ‘Talaq Gate’ which is a forbidden gate and flanked by Towers or Bastions on either side inlaid with white marble and blue coloured tiles and ornate with Roof overhanging and balconies, small windows (Jharokhas), pavilion supported by pillars and covered by cupolas (Chhatris) depicting typical blend of Rajasthani and Mughal architecture.
The Purana Quila is unlike other Fortresses which are normally seen with Palaces, Administrative Cells and Palatial buildings but unfortunately despite the exquisite interior designs and architecture, the fortress is survived by only two stunning Monuments seen in a dilapidated state which are the Quila-i-Kuhna Mosque and the Sher Shah Mandal built by Emperor Sher Shah Suri in the late 16th Century.
The Quila-i-Kuhna Mosque which is one of the best preserved ancient monument in Purana Quila was constructed within a huge courtyard with a single dome shaped roof under the orders of Emperor Sher Shah Suri in 1541 that displays numerous pointed arches on its five doorways designed with a typical horseshoe shaped opening on each arch more or like the Persian style which is a pre-Mughal style of architecture. This Mosque also known as the Jami Masjid was built for the Sultan and his Royal Courtiers to attend their Friday Prayers. The Special Prayer Hall within the Mosque is designed as a single aisle measuring 51.20 x 14.90 metres with five beautifully arched Mihrabs placed in the wall to the west. The Central Mihrab is seen with inscriptions embedded with red and white marble slates revealing the transition of its design from the Lodhi style to the Mughal style and a marble slate seen in this mosque has a sentenced inscribed which reads that as long as there are people existing in this world, may this place of God (edifice) be visited by all and may they always be cheerful and happy within it. The Courtyard of this Mosque also had a reservoir tank with a fountain which seems to have disappeared or completely damaged through the centuries.
SHER SHAH MANDAL
The Sher Shah Mandal Monument was also built under the rule of Emperor Sher Shah Suri within the precincts of the Purana Qila (Old Fort) during the 16th Century AD. It stands erected towards the southern end of the Quila-i-Kuhna Mosque and was made of red sandstone built at the height of a two storied Tower with steep steps leading right to the top of the Mandal. This Tower was supposed to be the highest one ever built for the purpose of Observing any untoward event or unwarranted attack from the enemy in that era but unfortunately the construction was stopped and cut short due to the untimely demise of Emperor Sher Shah. This Mandal was then converted into a Library for the use of Emperor Humayun after he recaptured the Throne of Northern India and re-established the Mughal reign in 1555 AD.
The Sher Shah Mandal is covered by an octagonal shaped cupola (Chhatri) which is supported by eight strong pillars ornate with white marble and the interiors decorated with plaster work and shelves made of stone where the Emperor probably supported his books and Manuscripts. On the fateful day of 24th January 1556, Emperor Humayun was climbing down the stairs of this Mandal after a day’s rest to attend his evening prayer or ‘namaaz’ and accidentally slipped falling head down first leading to internal injuries. He succumbed to these injuries and died 2 days later on 26th January 1556 despite all the efforts of the Royal Hakims. Some say that it was probably the curse of Afghan Emperor Sher Shah Suri who was badly defeated and killed by Humayun.
The Monuments within the Purana Quila can be visited by all tourists between 0930 hours and 1630 hours in summers and 1000 hours to 1700 hours in winters. Residents of India are charged Rs. 5/- per person as entry fee while Foreign Nationalities are charged Rs. 100/- per person for entry into the premises of the Purana Quila and extra charges of Rs. 25/- need to be paid for Video filming and Camera per person.