Chirdeep Malhotra . Updated: 6/2/2020 11:31:03 AM Books and Authors

Book Review: "Red Fort – Remembering the Magnificent Mughals" by Debasish Das

The Red Fort has been the glory of the Mughal Empire, and the Britishers knew that to be seen as controlling India, they had to have control of Delhi and the Red Fort. Even now, the Red Fort is an epitome of Indian civilizational ethos and vibrant culture, and the Prime Minister gives the Independence Day speech from the ramparts of this fort. The author Debasish Das has come out with the book “Red Fort: Remembering the Magnificent Mughals”, which is a book that spans both the architecture of the Red Fort and its symbolism, while offering a compelling look into the Mughal court practices and shenanigans.

The book is divided into four parts. The first part focuses on the Imperial court and court etiquette, cultivation of the Persian language, and patronage of scholars. The second part details the symbolism of the Red Fort architecture. The third and fourth parts trace the decline and fall of the Mughal Empire and the British Colonial Durbars at the Red Fort.

The book describes with élan the Mughal history anchored around Delhi’s iconic Red Fort, and the stories that lie behind its monuments. It talks about the Red Fort’s layout, its water flowing channels, and gardens based on the concept of Chahar bagh. The different sections of the palace – including Diwan-e-Aam, Diwan-e-Khas, and the Zenana have been described, as is the court protocol which was followed there, along with the colourful characters which populated them.

Vivid and nuanced accounts of Mughal cuisine, Mughal family politics, Persian language usage, patronage of Hindu and Jain scholars, costumes and jewellery, perfumery, and philosophy of Jharokha darshan and other court customs, also animate this book.

The book has been wonderfully researched, and has been embellished with lively anecdotes. The book has been a passion project for the author, and his interest in the Mughals and the Red Fort can surely be gathered through the pages. While describing the facts and anecdotes and customs, the text is also enlivened with thoughtful commentaries and explanations about why such customs were followed. Though many of them are on the basis of lores and hearsay, many have been recorded by verified sources.

The extensive bibliography at the end is a great source for further reading, and tells about the exhaustive research done for this book. However, the pictures and illustrations which have been incorporated in the book could have been better. The text also seems repetitive at times. More coherence while describing some facts and incidents would have made it an exceptional read.

This book offers a comprehensive look into Mughal history and culture, and will be enjoyed by both history aficionados and general readers. Many hitherto unknown or lesser known things have been detailed in this book, which would be quite interesting for people who have delved into the subject previously. And for those wanting to get introduced to and explore Mughal architecture and history, this book is a good start, for it is easily readable and entertaining, even though it exhaustively covers this wide-ranging topic.

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