Purana Qila

The name Purana Qila literally translates into Old Fort. This is because, not only is this fort one of the oldest forts in India, it is the oldest known structure to have been built in Delhi. The fort is generally attributed to Sher Shah Suri, the Afghan King, but the fort has a long history which goes on before and after the contributions of this king. This fort is one of the primary heritage sites of India, rife with history, the totality of which has still not been discovered.

Travel Tips

Delhi is sweltering hot during the summers, and visiting the Purana Qila in the scorching heat is not advisable. The Autumn season is the best time for sightseeing in the city. Make sure you wear comfortable shoes to be able to walk around the compound of the fort.

When to visit

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Things to do

The site of Purana Qila was supposed to be Indraprastha, which was the capital city of the Pandavas. The structure, when it was under Sher Shah Suri, also had a city complex built around the massive fort grounds, and some historians say that this might have been the first city which had ever cropped up in Delhi. Located on the banks of river Yamuna, this fort is about 5,000 years old, and the fort was still not complete when Sher Shah Suri died in 1545. Other kings, such as Humayun, had also contributed to the building of the fort, although the demarcations of these individual contributions have been left unclear.

When Archeologist B.B. Lal had excavated the grounds here, he had found small artifacts and remains which suggest that this fort might have come down from the lineage of the Mauryas, getting passed on to the Sunga dynasty, the Kushana dynasty, the Gupta empire, the Rajputs, the Sultanate and then the Mughals. It can safely be said that the history which the Purana Qila contains within its walls is very deep and goes back over many years, yet to be made clear.

The walls of this fort are 18 metres high, and the fort itself is surrounded by a moat which is quenched by River Yamuna. There are 3 gateways to this fort, out of which, the grandest, by far, is the Bara Darwaza, or the Big Gate which faces the west. The gate in the south goes by the name of Humayun Gate, while the third gate is called the forbidden gate, or the Talaqui Darwaza. These gates have enormous amounts of detailing done to them, and the gates themselves are proof enough of the existence of both Rajasthani Architecture as well as Mughal influence.

The fort is so old that not much of it has remained over the years. The Quila-i-Kuna Mosque is one of the few structures which have survived the ravages of time. This mosque, which shows distinct pre-Mughal influence in terms of the architecture, was built by Sher Shah Suri in 1541. The introduction and usage of the pointed arch is one of the defininf features of this mosque. This place was supposed to be the Jami Mosque, or the Friday Mosque. While the first floor was to be used by others, the second floor of this mosque was to be used exclusively by the members of the royal family. There are marble slates in the mosque, which were used to write calligraphy on.

The Sher Mandal, which was also built by Sher Shah Suri, is the other best preserved monument within the fort complex. Named after the patron, it is a tower which is double-storied, and made of red sandstone. It is speculated that Sher Shah might have died without being able to complete this structure. It was a continuation of the work which Babur had commissioned, because it was originally supposed to be a library as well as an observatory for his son, Humayun. The Sher Mandal is also one of the first observatories in India.

Places to Stay

High-Range: The Hyatt Regency in New Delhi is a five-star restaurant which offers all the luxuries you might need, including a gym, a spa and an outdoor salon. The room rates start from 15,000 INR onwards. The Ashok also offers similar facilities and the price range is also the same.

Mid-Range: Hotel Star Plaza has room rates starting from 1,700 INR, and the hotel provides for free parking,  free Wi-Fi access, rooftop restaurant and free breakfast facilities. Hotel BB Palace also offers similar facilities for the same price onwards.

Low Range: Vivek Hotel and Hotel Star Villa are two good budget hotels you can opt for. While the latter has room rates starting from 1,000 INR, the former has rooms available from 500 INR onwards. Both these hotels have clean and comfortable rooms up for grabs.

How to Reach

  • Delhi can be reached by Air, from a number of different cities.
  • Once there, taking the metro to Pragati Maidan Metro station, and then taking a rickshaw or an auto to visit the Purana Qila is a good option.
  • You can also take an auto directly to the site. Hired cars are also an option, and there are a few tour buses which take tourists in small groups to the famous tourist places in Delhi.

Surrounding Attractions

The Kairul Manzil Mosque is very close to this fort. It was built by Akbar’s foster mother, Maham Anga. Later, it was also used as a Madarsa. The Sher Shah Suri gate, also called the Lal Darwaza is very close by. This gate was supposed to be the entry to Shergarh, which was founded by Sher Shah Suri himself.

Important Numbers

Purana Qila Administrative office: 011 2336 5358