The Red Paradise in Stone
Notes from a travel diary
Jessica Rubino Delhi
Every little girl’s dream is to be a princess. Except for me. I’ve always been a bit of a tomboy so I didn’t really understand why every other girl found that so fascinating or why they always dreamed to live as one. Even though after a certain age this dream crashes against the reality of life, the royal’s lifestyle is still intriguing people, day by day… Why is that? Well, I’ve finally understood it a few days ago.
I’ve been told that there are a few historical places a foreigner must visit in Delhi, and one of them is Lal Quila, the Red Fort. As soon as the rickshaw entered the bustling Chandni Chowk road, the brightness of the red sandstone winked at me, and surrounding the beautiful Lahore Gate there was the Indian flag, fiercely waving, warmly welcoming everyone. I couldn’t believe that I was in front of the Mughal family’s residence, that I was walking in the most important part of the old, walled city of Shahajahanbad, built by emperor Shahjahan.
The first thing that will catch your eye is the unique mixture of various artistic styles, perfectly combined together. Once inside, you will find yourself in the middle of a timeless scene. Being in Chatta Chowk really is an interesting experience, everything around you gives you the feeling of travelling back in time.
At the end of this lively and old fashioned covered market, a beautiful old style Mughal park unfolds in front of you, and the buildings that it contains are splendid with their old world aesthetic charm. One of the most famous ones is Diwan-i-Khas (also known as Shah Mahal) that was the Hall of Private Audience, where the famous Peacock Throne was originally located. Not only are the structures of the bright white hall dainty, but every arch is even decorated with floral pietra dura (marble inlay) patterns, gilding and paintings. The most peculiar thing about this building is that there used to be a stream of water flowing through the center of the hall, called Nahr-i-Bhisht, literally ‘Stream of Paradise’, that connects it to the Chhota Rang Mahal, named also Mumtaz Mahal after Shah Jahan’s beloved wife.
At the very moment I saw her name, I realized that I was standing where one of the greatest emperors of the whole Indian history used to spend his days; that thought gave me goosebumps. Walking through that exquisite garden, watching the squirrels play in a place that looked exactly like heaven, made me realize that Amir Khusro, the legendary sufi poet, was right, when he wrote on the Diwan-i-Khas: “Agar Firdaus Bar Rooe Zaminast Haminasto Haminasto Haminast…” which means: “If there’s a paradise on earth, it’s here, it’s here, it’s here”.
Painted Storks in the sky
Giulia Dogliatti Delhi
A scarf on our head as protection from the sun, and my friend and I are ready to face the world of wild animals. We enter between the Purani Qila, a 16th century Old Fort, and beautiful Tomb of Humayun, the second Mughal Emperor. Those historical buildings in perfect symmetry with their four gardens hide the National Zoological Park of Delhi from the rest of the world, with their ancient and majestic walls. We take our map of the 176 acre site, and start to walk in the middle of nature.