By Shubhangi Shah
How about going back into the history of Red Fort, starting from Delhi’s pre-Islamic era to the construction of the 17th-century monument by emperor Shah Jahan till the unfurling of the tricolour when India became free—all through an immersive experience augmented by the balanced inclusion of tech and non-tech add-ons? Now, you can do just that by visiting the new Red Fort Centre that has come up within the complex.
A two-storied platform set up in a British-built barrack, the Red Fort Centre houses an interpretation centre, a snack point, a souvenir shop and sections for AR photography and a 360° show, all of which enhance the overall experience and understanding of this centuries-old monument.
The main attraction is the interpretation centre. Housed on the first floor, this centre has four sections: ‘Safar’, ‘Zindagi’, ‘Tareekh’, and ‘Hum Ek Hain’, based on different themes. ‘Safar’ takes us through Delhi before the establishment of Red Fort and Shahjahanabad, ‘Zindagi’ gives you a glimpse at the magnificent architecture, royal traditions and luxurious living in the fort, ‘Tareekh’ deals with the defining moments in India’s history with Red Fort as the fulcrum and ‘Hum Ek Hain’ furthers the idea of unity in diversity.
The centre includes a market set-up, where a Mughal-era apparel-clad man recreates how articles were sold at Chhata Bazaar when Shah Jahan and his successors ruled. There are informative jigsaw puzzles and a section for kids to the Red Fort wall using magnetic tiles. There is also a musical addition in the form of ‘Vande Mataram’.
In the AR photography section, you can get photographed against a backdrop such as Rang Mahal, the famed peacock throne and the fort’s ramparts. Reimagining the inauguration of Red Fort is a short film that offers an immersive 360-degree viewing experience. “The aim is for people to understand the Red Fort as a centre,” says Anand Bhardwaj, CEO – heritage and events, Dalmia Bharat Group, which adopted the monument in 2018 under the government’s ‘Adopt a Heritage’ project, a scheme that attracted much ire from several quarters. A ‘monument mitra’, the company is tasked with maintaining the monument and upgrading some basic infrastructure for five years. “In 2018, we started with providing basic amenities at Red Fort, such as installing dustbins and maintaining washrooms,” adds Bhardwaj.
Although the company lost quite a lot of time due to the Covid pandemic that forced Red Fort to shut for two long years, the effort is bearing fruit now. The Dalmia Group works on a public-private arrangement. “We are not allowed to touch any of the Mughal monuments. Those are under the ASI’s protection. What the ASI and the ministry of culture offered us was the 19th-century barrack, which now houses the Red Fort Centre,” explains Bhardwaj.
According to him, every picture showcase was checked by the ASI and the ministry, and the researchers went through books and archival literature to ensure everything was authentic. The ASI was a partner at every step, he adds. On technology, Bhardwaj says it was used “not just for the sake it” but “very aesthetically”.
The centre is open to the public from Tuesdays to Sundays and requires an entry ticket of Rs 100. “The money generated goes for the fort’s maintenance. We cannot take a penny out of this. The scheme does not work that way,” Bhardwaj adds.
Commenting on the launch, Puneet Dalmia, MD, Dalmia Bharat, says, “We are hopeful that our nation-building efforts will lead to greater awareness about our country’s rich heritage and we also look forward to giving back to the community through multiple facets including employment generation that this endeavour is creating.”