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Red Fort by Debasish Das

Red Fort, remembering the magnificent Mughals

Debasish Das

Book Review

A fort is all about massive bastions and giant gateways coupled with massive military edifice and strategic defensive mechanism. But apart from being a defensive structure, forts have always served as independent cities complete with bazars, gardens crisscrossed with walkways and water channels.

cover

Book Cover (including back cover). Photo source: Debasish Das’ personal blog

Forts complete with royal courts have always been centre of royal decision making. Behind the court, but within the walls of the fort, royal family politics had a significant role. This internal politics not only shaped the history of the empire but also had a significant role in the history of the entire mankind.

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Red Fort, Delhi

The Red Fort of Delhi is no exception and Debasish Das in his latest book titled Red Fort, Remembering the Magnificient Mughals, brings out the stories from behind the walls of Delhi’s most iconic structure.

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Naqqarkhana, Red Fort

A 400+ page book dedicated entirely on the Red Fort is divided into 4 chapters:

  1. The Cityscape
  2. Monuments and Moments of Red Fort
  3. 1857 Uprising: Fall of the Red Fort
  4. Conclusion

The Red Fort came up during the reign of Shah Jahan, the builder of the magnificent Taj Mahal. It was completed in 1648. No wonder apart from his defensive mechanism the fort has its share of beauty and intricacy.

Debasish in his book goes into the details of the fort’s layout starting from the char bagh gardens to the water flowing chanels. The addition of the barbican in front of the Lahore Gate by Aurangzeb or the vanishing north – south street of the fort and every other possible change in the forts layout have been minutely described by Debasish.

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Interiors of Rang Mahal, Red Fort

The book is not restricted to the physical appearance of the fort only. It gives details with the court proceeding of the Mughal emperors starting from Shah Jahan and going right down to Bahadur Shah Jafar.

Debasish has taken utmost care in documenting the royal family politics including the roles of nautch girls and harem women.

The murders of two Mughal (Farrukhsiyar and Jahandar Shah) emperors within the fort wall have been described with great details, so were the murder of the Britishers during the revolt of 1857. The looting of Delhi by  Nadir Shah and blinding of Mughal emperor Shah Alam II by Ghulam Qadir Khan have been described to the utmost details.

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Naqqarkhana from Diwan e Aam

A vivid and detailed account of the royals jewels forms a section of the book. It deals with the much hyped kohinoor diamond to the lesser known Orloff diamond, presently mounted on the royal scepture of the Russian Tsar.

It is also interesting to know that a few of the diamonds of the present Crown Jewel of Iran traces back to the the Mughal Red Fort. The detailed description of the Peacock Throne are a reader’s delight.

The food at the fort, with details of  the ingredients from all across the world and the strict hierarchy of the cooks in the kitchen provides an interesting read.

The bazars with the Red Fort walls and royal dress codes along with exotic perfumes are all described with possible details. The interesting part of the book deals with jharokha darshan (ceremonial appearance of the Emperor before the public from a balcony of red fort). Debasish provides a details of this every day morning event giving references from earlier Mughlas like Akbar and Jahangir.

Debasish Das

Debasish Das (Photo: Face Book)

The book continues with the role of Red Fort during the British rule with the details of the Durbar of 1902 and 1911 (the actual darbars were not held in Red Fort but Coronation Park).

Debasish’s book is a result of a long term research with citations form royal Mughal accounts, travelogues of foreign travellers and ambassadors, along with those of present day researchers. A 100+ bibliography section does good justice to the book.

But a layout (or rather a series of layouts) could have done a great justice to the author’s effort and would enable the reader to visualize the changing scenario of the Red Fort in a much easier way.

Last of all a few old photos and sketches coupled with a few present day coloured photos would done a great justice to the Debasish’s enormous efforts.

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Collage of intricate ornamental works from Red Fort, delhi

About the author: Debasish Das is a telecom profession passionate about history. Originally from Odisha he presently stays in Delhi and spent his spare time exploring the amazing historical city and blogs about it. For more details read his blog.

Quick facts about the book:

Note: Photographs of Red Fort are from my personal collection

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