IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


31st May, 2023 History

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  • A fresh round of excavations at the site of Delhi’s Purana Qila (Old Fort) have uncovered evidence of the continuous history of the city since the pre-Mauryan era.

The Purana Qila, built by Sher Shah Suri and Mughal emperor Humayun, is believed by many to be the site of Indraprastha, as mentioned in the Mahabharat.


  • The findings include shards of Painted Gray Ware pottery which are usually dated to around 1200 BC to 600 BC.
  • The new excavations have also found remains of a 900-year-old Vaikuntha Vishnu from the Rajput period, a terracotta plaque of Goddess Gaja Lakshmi from the Gupta period, the structural remains of a 2,500-year-old terracotta ring well from the Mauryan period, and a well-defined four-room complex from the Sunga-Kushan period dating back to 2,300 years ago, besides beads, seals, copper coins and a bone needle.
  • More than 136 coins and 35 seals have been discovered from a small excavated area, indicating the site’s pivotal role as a centre for trade activities.
  • This was the third round of excavations at the site, beginning from January. Earlier excavations had been carried out in 2013-14 and 2017-18.
  • These efforts have revealed nine cultural levels, representing different historical periods, including pre-Mauryan, Mauryan, Sunga, Kushana, Gupta, post-Gupta, Rajput, Sultanate, and Mughal.

About Purana Qila

  • It is one of the oldest and ancient forts in Delhi, India.
  • However, the exact time period of foundation of the original structure is in antiquity and is unknown, though it was re-built under the reign of the second Mughal Emperor Humayun and Sur Emperor Sher Shah Suri.
  • Excavations point to traces from the 3rd century BC, the pre-Mauryan period.


  • Excavations point to traces from the 3rd century BC, the pre-Mauryan period.
  • Even till the early part of the 20th century, Purana Qila was known as Pandavon Ka Qila (Pandava's fort) and the entire complex as Indraprastha village.
  • The origins of the Purana Qila lie in the walls of Dinpanah, the new city of Delhi was being constructed by Mughal emperor Humayun, in the general vicinity of the ancient Indraprastha ruins.
  • Abul Fazl stated that he built the fort in the place of that of ancient Indraprastha.
  • The founder of the Suri Dynasty, Sher Shah Suri, defeated Humayun and made changes to the fort, strengthening its fortifications and completing its walls.
  • The construction of the walls and fortifications were almost finished by Humayun's time.
  • Edwin Lutyens who designed the new capital of British India, New Delhi, in the 1920s, had aligned the central vista, now Rajpath, with Purana Qila.
  • During the Partition of India, in August 1947 the Purana Qila along with the neighbouring Humayun's Tomb, became the site for refuge camps for Muslims migrating to newly founded Pakistan.

Physical features

  • The walls of the fort rise to a height of 18 metres, traverse about 1.5 km, and have three arched gateways: the Bara Darwaza (Big Gate) facing west, which is still in use today; the south gate, also popularly known as the 'Humayun Gate'; and lastly, the 'Talaqi Gate', often known as the "forbidden gate".
  • All the gates are double-storeyed sandstone structures flanked by two huge semi-circular bastion towers, decorated with white and coloured-marble inlays and blue tiles.
  • They are replete with detailing, including ornate overhanging balconies, or jharokhas, and are topped by pillared pavilions (chhatris), all features that are reminiscent of Rajasthani architecture as seen in the North and South Gates.
  • Despite the grandeurs of the exterior, few of interior structures have survived except the Qila-i Kuhna Mosque and the Shermandal, both credited to Sher Shah.

Qila-i-Kuhna Mosque

  • The single-domed Qila-i-Kuhna Mosque, built by Sher Shah in 1541 is an excellent example of a pre-Mughal design and an early example of the extensive use of the pointed arch in the region as seen in its five doorways with the 'true' horseshoe-shaped arches.
  • It was designed as a Jami Mosque or Friday mosque for the Sultan and his courtiers.
  • Today it is the best preserved building in Purana Qila.

Sher Mandal

  • The Sher Mandal named for Farid (Sher Shah) who had tried to finish what was ordered by Babur but had died during the initial phase and so construction was halted until the arrival of Humayun.
  • This double-storeyed octagonal tower of red sandstone with steep stairs leading up to the roof was intended to be higher than its existing height.
  • Its original builder was Babur who ordered the construction and was used as a personal observatory and library for his son Humayun, finished only after he recaptured the fort.
  • It is also one of the first observatories of Delhi, the earliest being in Pir Ghaib at Hindu Rao at Ridge built in the 14th century by Firoz Shah

Outlying monuments

  • Several other monuments lie around the complex, like Kairul Manzil, mosque built by Maham Anga, Akbar's foster-mother, and which was later used as a madarsa.
  • Sher Shah Suri Gate or Lal Darwaza, which was the southern gate to Shergarh, also lies opposite the Purana Qila complex.


Q) How many of the following statements with reference to Purana Qila is/are correct?

1. The Purana Qila was built by Sher Shah Suri and Mughal emperor Humayun.

2. It has references in the Ramayana.

3. The single-domed Qila-i-Kuhna Mosque was built by Sher Shah.

  1. Only 1
  2. Only 2
  3. Only 3
  4. None

Correct Answer: 2