Gaps in the walls of Old Delhi
Derived from the Norse word ‘gata’, the original meaning of the word ‘gate’ was the gap in the wall or the fence. Somewhere over the years this ‘gap’ in the wall became the ‘entry’ to the complex enclosed by that wall. Considering that Delhi is actually a combination of seven cities, one can only imagine the number of gates that were constructed in the different periods for marking various entry points. It is believed that Shahjahanabad or old Delhi alone had 14 high arched gates and 16 windows or ‘Khirkis’. Out of the following five are standing in all their majesty even today.
Located in the northern part of the city near Inter State Bus Terminal (ISBT), Kashmiri or Kashmere gate was built in 1835 by a British Major, Robert Smith. The most interesting fact about this gate is that it has always been surrounded by the hustle and bustle of an active commercial area. It was so named by the British because it pointed in the direction of Northern parts of India – the extreme point of which was Kashmir. Fortified by the British for checking any attacks to the city, this became the only gate in the city with double openings, i.e. having both an entry and exit points. Later, it was this very gate which came to play an important role in the tussle for power that took place in the revolt of 1857 between Indian mutineers and the British. Today, this is one of the most well preserved pieces of heritage that our city can boast of.
Built in 1638 by the emperor Shah Jahan, this gate was used by him to visit Jama Masjid for his prayers. Located on the south eastern corner of Shahjahanabad, this gate was so named because it pointed in the direction of the other areas of Dilli lying outside of Shah Jahan’s city. Designed in the shape of a polygon, this gate was part of the high wall enclosing the city. Made of out sandstone it has two beautiful stone carved elephants on each side. A well preserved heritage site, the wooden locking system even though is not used anymore is still said to be in perfect working condition. Kudos to the Archaeological Survey of India!
Also known as Lahori Dawaza, it forms the main entrance to the Lal Qila or Red Fort. Located in the western part of the fort, this gate is considered to be pointing towards the city of Lahore in what is now Pakistan. Installed by the Mughal ruler Aurangzeb, much of this gate’s glory is hidden by the bastions that are located in front of it today. It is particularly heavily guarded on 15th August when the Prime Minister of India hoists the nation’s flag in Red Fort.
Situated near the New Delhi railway station, this gate was constructed in 1644. This gate was so named because it was located on the road that goes towards the Rajasthani city of Ajmer. This nearly square shaped gate has high arched openings. One of the few gates to have escaped demolition and encroachment, this is now surrounded by a well maintained garden.
Constructed in the 1650s this gate lies on the southern side of Shahjahanabad near the now famous Ram Lila grounds. On its eastern side lies the sufi saint Hazrat Shah Turkman Bayabani’s dargah or tomb that was constructed in 1240. This is in fact the oldest dargah of the entire city of Delhi. The gate was named to honour this pious saint. Very similar in plan and design to the Ajmeri gate, it faced brutal attacks during the emergency period in 1976. Today, it is surrounded by densely populated areas of Delhi. At night the lightings of this gate offer a serene view of history in the middle of a very busy part of the city.