The tale of Lal Kot and its gates

Last Updated 18 February 2014, 13:52 IST

After the end of Pandavas, who are credited with establishing the first city of Delhi – Indraprastha – the area stood abandoned for more than a thousand years. From the wilderness that it became, Raja Anangpal of Tomar clan carved out his own Capital Dhillika in the area now known as ‘Mehrauli,’ in the 8th century. By 11th century, it grew to a stage that a strong fortification became inevitable. Anangpal’s successor, and namesake, Raja Anangpal II (aka Anekpal/Anaypal) built a strong fort to protect this city. 

His fortification was called ‘Lal Kot’ – the first fort of Delhi, also referentially called the first Red Fort of Delhi. Its wall stands till date in Sanjay Van, the medicinal forest spread between the present day Mehrauli and Jawaharlal Nehru University. 

This fort had many gates. History enthusiast and founder of the Youth for Heritage Foundation, Vikramjit Rooprai, says, “Many modern historians say that the fort had seven gates namely Sohna, Ranjit, Ghazni, Hauz Rani, Barka, Budaun and Maya. However, the Archaeological Report of ASI from 1871-72 prepared by JD Beglar and ACL Carlleyle under the supervision of Sir Alexander Cunningham correctly states that the fort originally had only five gates. The Ranjit gate and the Ghazni gate were same.” 

“The gate called ‘Maya’ opened towards the Yogmaya Temple, the famous temple said to have been originally built by Pandavas. It was because of Yogmaya, that once this piece of land was known as Yoginipura. The Sohna gate opened towards the town of Sohna, another principality of Tomars, which has the famous sun temple and lake of its time.” 

Lal Kot was a great fort-palace of an irregular, oblong shape and 2.25 kms in circumference. The ramparts were 28-30 feet thick and 60 feet high from the bottom of the ditch. Some large bastions of 60-100 feet in diameter and some smaller in size (45 feet) diameter interspersed the fort walls at irregular but strategic positions. Walls were about 15 feet thick. Much of this survives even till date. 

An interesting fact about Ranjit Gate is that the kings who ruled Delhi had a bell hung outside it. Anyone who needed justice from the emperor could ring this bell. He was then presented to the king and his wish granted. Several interesting stories from Tomar to Sultanate period float around this bell, showing how justice was dispensed during that period.
 “Another very fascinating fact about this gate is that the open ground outside it had a huge slave market, which probably was India’s largest. In this market were sold the best of class slaves for all kind of work, concubines, dance girls, wines, opium and all other items that were considered a luxury for the richest during that period,” says Vikram.  
Information about these walls and gates, and the stories associated with them is available in the accounts of Ziauddin Barni (Tarikh-i-Firozshahi), Amir Khusro (Nuh Sipir) and Abu Fazil (Ain-i-Akbari). Mentions in the inscriptions about this magnificent city were found in Rajasthan, Palam Baoli of Delhi, Sonepat, Raisina (Delhi) and Narayana (Delhi).

The ruins of Lal Kot say a lot about the past of Delhi.

(Published 18 February 2014, 13:52 IST)

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