WHS ----------Purana Qila , Delhi

Purana Qila , Delhi

Purana Qila is the oldest fort among all forts in Delhi and, the oldest known structure of any type in Delhi. It was rebuilt by the Afghan king Sher Shah Suri, on the same site, which was perhaps the site of Indraprastha, believed to be the capital of the Pandavas. Sher Shah raised the citadel of Purana-Qal'a with an extensive city-area sprawling around it. It seems that the Purana-Qal'a was still incomplete at Sher Shah's death in 1545, and was perhaps completed by his son Islam Shah or Humayun, although it is not certain which parts were built by whom. It's located at the site of the legendary city of Indraprastha, that was founded by Pandavas on the banks of perennial river Yamuna, which is revered by Hindus since ages, points to the possibility of this site's history dating back to nearly more than 5000 years old. 

    West Gate, 'Bara Darwaza', present main Entrance, with its bastion

Consequently the fort is considered by some, to be 'the first city of Delhi'. Researchers now confirm that up till 1913, a village called Indrapat existed within the fort walls. Excavations carried out by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) at Purana Quila in 1954-55 (trial trenches) and again 1969 to 1973 by its Director, B B Lal have unearthed Painted Grey Ware dating 1000 B.C., and with a continuous cultural sequence from Mauryan to Mughal through Sunga, Kushana, Gupta, Rajput and Sultanate periods, confirming the antiquity of the fort.

Fort in Medieval Period

Fort was called as the inner citadel of the city of Dina-panah during Humayun's rule who renovated it in 1533 and completed five years later. Purana Qila and its environs flourished as the "sixth city of Delhi".

                                                                                    Purana Qila or Old Fort Ramparts, and Lake, Delhi

The founder of the Suri Dynasty, Sher Shah Suri, defeated Humayun in 1540, naming the fort Shergarh; he added several more structures in the complex during his five-year reign until his death in 1545.
Subsequently Islam Shah took over the reins of North India from this fort, but shifted his capital to Gwalior, as it was supposed to be a safer capital in that period, leaving the charge of Delhi and Punjab to his Hindu Governor and military General Hemu. After Islam Shah's death in 1553, Adil Shah Suri took charge of North India and appointed Hemu as the Prime Minister-cum-Chief of Army and himself retired in Chunar fort in eastern UP. According to Abul Fazal, Hemu became virtual king and had all authority of appointments and other decisions making. Hemu was busy in quelling rebellion in east India and this fort remained neglected. Humayun, who was based in Kabul at this time, seized the opportunity to re-capture the citadel and the seat of Delhi in 1555, fifteen years after abandoning it following his defeats at the hands of the Suri Dynasty in the Battles of Chausa and Kannauj. Humayun's reign proved brief thereafter; he died following an accidental fall within the fort complex at Sher Mandal only a year later, in Jan. 1556.

                                                                                    Qila Kuhna Masjid inside Purana Qila, Delhi.

Hearing about re-capture of Delhi by Humayun, Hemu, the Hindu Prime Minister – cum – Chief of Army of Adil Shah, rushed towards Delhi from Bengal, where he had just quelled a rebellion, defeating and killing Muhhamad Shah, the ruler of Bengal. After capturing Agra, Itawah, and Kanpur with relative ease, Hemu, who had won 22 battles spanning entire north India, met and defeated the forces of Akbar, which were led by Tardi Beg Khan, in the Battle for Delhi, which took place in the Tuglaqabad area on 5–6 October 1556. Hemu had his Rajyabhishek or Coronation at Purana Quila on 7 October 1556, declared 'Hindu Raj' in North India, and was bestowed the title of Samrat Hem Chandra Vikramaditya. Hemu, who later lost his life at the Second battle of Panipat in Nov. 1556, subsequently had his torso hung outside this fort to create terror among Hindus.


The walls of the Fort rise to a height of 18 metres, traverse about 1.5 km, and have three arched gateways: the Bara Darwaza (Big Gate) facing west, which is still in use today; the south gate, also popularly known as the 'Humayun Gate' (probably so known because it was constructed by Humayun, or perhaps because Humayun's Tomb is visible from there); and lastly, the 'Talaqi Gate', often known as the "forbidden gate". 

  Qila-i-Kuhna back of mosque

All the gates are double-storeyed sandstone structures flanked by two huge semi-circular bastion towers, decorated with white and coloured-marble inlays and blue tiles. They are replete with detailing, including ornate overhanging balconies, or jharokhas, and are topped by pillared pavilions (chhatris), all features that are reminiscent of Rajasthani architecture as seen in the North and South Gates, and which were amply repeated in future Mughal architecture. Despite the grandeurs of the exterior, few of interior structures have survived except the Qila-i Kuhna Mosque and the Shermandal, both credited to Sher Shah.


Delhi is thought by some to be located at the site of the legendary city of Indraprastha founded by the Pandavas from Mahabharata period, which is consequently considered the 'First City of Delhi', In support of this, until 1913, a village called Indrapat existed within the fort walls.

Ironically, the dates in support of Indraprastha and said five thousand year old city clash directly with proof found in other sites in India, namely the Indus Valley Civilization

Cultural cross reference of the larger Indian sphere at the time, negates many modern commonly accepted theories.


Purana Qila, situated on the banks of Yamuna, was constructed by the Pandavas as Indraprastha 5,000 years ago, during the period of the Indus Valley civilization. It is where Humayun's capital Din Panah was located. Later it was renovated and named Shergarh by the first Afghan emperor of India, Sher Shah Suri. The Hindu king Hemu (Samrat Hem Chandra Vikramaditya), often referred to as the last Hindu emperor of India, was crowned there after defeating Akbar's forces in the Battle of Delhi (1556) on 7 October 1556. The Fort was supposed to be unlucky for rulers who occupied the site; Humayun, Sher Shah Suri, and Hemu all had but relatively brief tenures ensconced there - Humayun on two separate occasions, having lost the fort to Sher Shah only five years after erecting it, and dying within a year of recapturing it 15 years later. Akbar did not rule from here and Shahjahan built a new fort in Delhi known as Lal Qila ("Red Fort").

Purana Qila

When Edwin Lutyens designed the new capital of British India, New Delhi in 1920s, he aligned the central vista, now Rajpath, with Purana Qila.During the Partition of India, in August 1947 the Purana Qila along with the neighbouring Humayun's Tomb, became the site for refuge camps for Muslims migrating to newly founded Pakistan. This included over 12,000 government employees who had opted for service in Pakistan, and between 150,000–200,000 Muslim refugees, who swarmed inside Purana Qila by September 1947, when Indian government took over the management of the two camps. The Purana Qila camp remained functional till early 1948, as the trains to Pakistan waited till October 1947 to start.

     Stepped Well (Baoli),Purana Qila

In the 1970s, the ramparts of Purana Qila were first used as a backdrop for theatre, when three productions of the National School of Drama were staged here: Tughlaq, Andha Yug and Sultan Razia, directed by Ebrahim Alkazi. In later decades it has been the venue of various important theatre productions, cultural events, and concerts.Today, it is the venue of a daily sound and light presentation after sunset, on the history of the "Seven Cities of Delhi", from Indraprastha through New Delhi

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