Purana Qila – A Monument that has Witnessed Many Eras of History

Purana Qila – A Monument that has Witnessed Many Eras of History

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Old Fort also known as Puran Qila located in Delhi is a historical monument that traces its root back to the times of Mahabharata. Experts believe that the site was part Indraprastha (the capital of Pandavas).

The Archaeological Survey of India has concluded that Purana Qila stands on a mound that could possibly be the ancient capital city of Pandavas called Indraprastha.

Delhi is an ancient city that has been home to civilisations from thousands of years. One of the main reason that was the availability of water i.e. River Yamuna. In the Excavation carried in the fort, the officials have discovered stuff belonging to Pre Maurya period, 3rd century BC and more. On the basis of objects recovered during excavation, it appears that this site flourished from Mauryan period to early Mughal period.

There is a museum in the fort that houses various excavated antiques (recovered from Purana Qila site as well as other antiques from Delhi NCR) from different eras. 

Painted grey wares have been recovered from the site during excavation. It is said that there was a settlement of painted grey ware around 1000 BC. This site is called Indraprastha, which is mention in the epic Mahabharata as the capital of Pandavas.  

16th-century history of Purana Qila:

The fort is believed to be standing on Indraprastha (the city formed by Pandavas). It is said that Humayun had constructed a city called Dinpannah in 1533 in Delhi on the banks of Yamuna River. Sher Shah Suri after defeating Humayun demolished whatever was constructed by Humayun and built the ramparts and other buildings of the fort between 1538 to 1545.

Later Humayun got his fort back after defeating Sher Shah Suri. He resided in this for from1555 to 1556 (until he died). It is possible that after getting the fort back Humayun might have done some repair/ construction in the fort. 

The walls of this gigantic fort are 18 meters high and are spread over an area of about 1.5 km. Although the fort is now lying in ruins, the site still holds immense archaeological and historical importance. The ASI team have traced back to 1000 BC period.

Purana Qila Architecture:

Purana Qila is an important historical monument although a major part of it is lying in ruins still there are some features of this magnificent fort that still speak of its, erstwhile glory.

The fort has three Gateways (Dawarza) on its west, south and north sides.

All three gates of the Qila are made with sandstone and are ornamented with colourful marble establishments. The North and south gates of the fort have chattris, balconies and pavilion which make is appearance more majestic.   

Bada Darwaza: This is the western entryway to the fort and is believed to be built during the reign of Humayun.  This gate is 20-meter high three-storeyed structure. The gateway is adorned with inlay work of sandstone and marble, sandstone carving and tile work. Chattris and Jharokhas to its beauty. 

Today, it is used as the primary entrance to the fort.

Humayun Darwaza:

Although it is called Humayun Darwaza, on the basis of inscriptions found in a room to the upper storey, this gate can be attributed to Sher Shah.  Humayun Darwaza has two entrances one which is on the lower side opened at the water level in the moat. The upper door can be approached through the crossway across the moat.

Humayun Darwaza is adorned with carvings and Inlay work in sandstone, tile work and marble. Merlons that can be seen on the Darwaza (gate) served the purpose of decoration these were also part of other Darwazas (gates) of the fort

Talaqi Darwaza meaning forbidden door :

This is a double storey gateway made of sandstone. As the name suggests the use of this gate was prohibited

Other surviving features of the Purana Qila are:


Mostly lying in ruins today, Hammam (bath house) used to be an important feature of Mughal Architecture. This bathhouse used terracotta pipes and ribbed water chute. It had provision for hot and cold water. This bathhouse is built in an area of about 3.2-meter sq.  

Qila-e- Kuhna Masjid meaning the mosque of Purana Qila: 

There is a masjid (mosque) within the fort that was built by Sher Shah Suri in 1541. This magnificent mosque is built with red sandstone and marble. It has five doors and pointed arches which are a common feature in Islamic architectures.

The masjid is built magnificently and intricate carving on stone and stunning designs and patterns on marble and beautiful tile work make it look majestic. Octagonal turrets at the back and corner of wall adorn the masjid, these turrets are a unique feature of Mughal architecture. A large number of Jharokhas can be seen in the mosques which were built for the decoration purpose.  Today this masjid is the most imposing feature of the fort.   

Sher Mandal:

Sher Mandal is a two-storeyed octagonal structure built with red sandstone. It was built as an observatory. It is said that Humayun used to spend time here as this was also his library. He fell from the stairs of his library and died after two days because of his injuries. Sadly you cannot explore it from inside as entry inside the Sher Mandal is prohibited.

Sher Mandal, Purana Qila


As you enter the fort and walk few steps, to your right you will find a small museum that houses antiques from different eras, recovered from the excavation of Purana Quila site as well as others from Delhi NCR.


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Also read about the other amazing places of Delhi Hauz Khas , Tomb of Abdul Rahim , Khan i Khana , Red Fort , Humayun’s Tomb

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