Old Fort (Purana Qila)
Purana Qila’ (Old Fort) is one of the oldest forts in Delhi. The present citadel at Purana Qila was believed to have been built under Humayun and Afghan Sher Shah Suri (‘The Lion King’). But according to ASI’s Vasant Swarnkar, the excavations — the last one was in 2013-14 — point to traces from the 3rd century BC, the pre-Mauryan period. The first two rounds of excavations — in 1954-55 and 1969-72 — by then ASI director, BB Lal, had unearthed traces of PGW under the mound. At the time, Lal had embarked on a mission to excavate various sites mentioned in the Mahabharata text and claimed to have found such traces as a common feature at all those sites.
On the basis of PGW, which archaeologically belongs to the 6th-12th century BC, Lal had claimed that Purana Qila is the Pandava kingdom of Indraprastha, estimating 900 BCE as the period of the war recounted in the epic.
Excavations carried out by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) at Purana Quila in 1954-55 (trial trenches) and again 1969-1973 by its Director, B B Lal, have unearthed Painted Grey Ware dating to 1000 BCE.
The fort was the inner citadel of the city of Din Panah during Humayun’s rule who renovated it in 1533 and completed five years later. 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. Purana Qila and its environs flourished as the “sixth city of Delhi”.
When Edwin Lutyens designed the new capital of British India, New Delhi, in the 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 neighboring 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.
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.
Places in Old Fort