Shahjahanabad, the 17th century city of Shah Jahan and the seventh city of Delhi, which was completed in 1649, was built like a huge fortress surrounded by strong rubble-built high walls from all sides with bastions, 14 high-arched openings gates and 16 windows. The city with its base at the imposing Red Fort (now the world's largest non-functional fort) was a difficult proposition for any enemy to enter and challenge the sovereignty of the Mughal Emperor. Polygonal in plan, the city was strategically built with 14 gates for the people and the royal procession to enter or exit, while taking trips in different directions. At present, there are just five gates left of the grand city that have fortunately survived the ravages of time.
Located near the Inter State Bus Terminal (ISBT) on the north of the walled city, Kashmiri Gate was one of the important gates of Shahjahanabad as the royal processions of emperors used to pass through the gate on their trips to Kashmir or northern India. However, when the British came to this walled city, they strengthened the walls and gates of the city as a precautionary step to counter alien attack. In the process, they fortified Kashmiri gate in 1835 and made it a double gateway later. Thus the gate became the only gate of the city with double openings, one for entrance and the other as an exit.
Kashmiri Gate is historically important because during the 1857 war of Independence, the site was the scene of intense fighting. The fighters fired canon balls from the ramparts of this gate on the British army causing causalities. The English army in order to retake Delhi finally had to blow up the gate with much difficulty. Later when the British developed the Civil Lines area, Kashmiri Gate became the commercial center of Delhi.
Today, the gate is situated near a busy thoroughfare and a marketplace hardly noticed by passersby. However, one can still see the damage on the gate caused by the British bombardment.
Of the main fourteen gates of Shahjahanabad, Ajmeri Gate located on the southwest of the walled city, near the New Delhi Railway Station is among the four existing gates that have escaped demolition. Ajmeri Gate was named so because a thoroughfare from the gate led to the city of Ajmer. Almost square in plan, the gate was built with high arched openings. During the reign of Emperor Shah Jahan, all these gates were well guarded and were closed at night. Ajmeri Gate has been restored and is at present surrounded by a good park.
Delhi Gate, the other existing gate of the walled city is situated just opposite the Daryaganj Police Station and Ambedkar Ground. It was the southeast gate of the walled city of Shahjahanabad. This gate was so named because the road from this gate led to the previous cities of Delhi. The road was popularly called as thandi sarak (cool road), because the thoroughfare was lined with trees and provided enough shade to keep the scorching sun away.
Made up of red sandstone, Delhi Gate is still an imposing gateway, though not really capable of reflecting its original grandeur. The interesting thing about the gate is that it has its century old wooden locking system, which is not in use. The gate is now the starting point of the popular Daryaganj old book market held on Sunday.
Built in the late 1650s, Turkman Gate was the southern gate of the old walled city. Named after the pious Muslim saint, Hazrat Shah Turkman Bayabani whose tomb predates Shahjahanabad, Turkman Gate, located near the Ramlila Ground can today be reached by taking the Jawahar Lal Nehru Marg. This gate like the other gates of Shahjahanabad is square in plan with high arched openings. Locally known as Turkman Gate, it is too now amidst one of the densely populated areas of the capital.
The last of the remaining gates of the old walled city is Nigambodh Gate. Located on northeastern edge the city on the Ring Road near the Yamuna Bazaar, Nigambodh Gate derives its name from the popular Nigambodh Ghat. According to the legend the ghat belongs to the period of Mahabharata. It was on this ghat that Lord Brahma is said to have bathed and recovered his lost memory and sacred books and thus the name Nigambodh Ghat, meaning realization of knowledge.
Last Updated On: 2011/07/01