On the ever busy Mathura Road straddled by the zoological park, stands a forgotten relic amid wild greenery where you can hardly see any tourists or people. The Purana Qila is one of the oldest known structures in the capital of India, Delhi. Going up and down this road, one fine day, I decided to visit this place. However, at the entry gate itself, I was drawn to a vast water body interspersed with weeds where a few youngsters were paddling, hardly bothered by the craggy ruins of a glorious past. I too paddled for a few minutes but the mysterious, red sandstone remnants could not keep me away for long.
Known to be the site of Indraprastha, the legendary city of Pandavas on the banks of Yamuna, was later built by Sher Shah Suri, the Afghan King and Babar's son Humayun. However, subsequent battles and re-capture of the fort by different kings led to additions in different periods during the 16th century. Many considered this fort unlucky for any ruler as Sher Shah, Humayun, Samrat Hem Chandra lost their reign and lives subsequently.
Most buildings inside this fort have either vanished or are in ruins. Some of the existing ones like the Kulhna Mosque, the Sher Mandal Observatory, Khairul Manzil and the various gates like the Bara Darwaza, the Talaqi Darwaza and the Humayun Gate are outstanding examples of both Rajasthani and pre-Mughal architecture. It was at Sher Mandal that Emperor Humayun tripped and fell down the stairs and later died.
The three gates which are tall and majestic are double-storied sandstone structures flanked by two huge semi-circular bastion towers, decorated with white and colored-marble inlays and blue tiles. The gates have fine detailing, including ornate overhanging balconies and are topped by pillared pavilions. The massive gateways and walls were built by Emperor Humayun while the other structures by Sher Shah Suri.
Several continuing excavations at the Purana Qila by the Archaeological Survey of India since the 1950s has led to the discovery of artifacts and archaic pottery including Painted Grey Ware dating back to 1000 BC. Most of the findings which signify the existence of habitation from Mauryans to Mughals are displayed at a museum inside the fort. Open on all days of the week except Fridays, the museum is a treasure house showcasing antiquities from different eras.
The Purana Qila that holds many secrets, mysteries, tales and lores, is today the venue for a scintillating light and sound show. Depicting the history of Delhi with the fort wall providing the perfect backdrop, it imparts a beautiful lesson in history. Many musical plays, Shakespearean dramas and concerts are held here regularly. Beware of mosquitoes and carry a repellent whenever you visit the fort for any event.