Sher Shah Sur seems to have razed to the ground the city of Dinpanah built by Humayun, and on the same site, which was also perhaps the site of Indraprastha, believed to be the capital of the Pandavas, he raised the citadel of Purana-Qal’a with an extensive city-area sprawling around it. Among the seven cities of Delhi, the Purana-Qal’a is the sixth. It seems that the Purana-Qal’a was still incomplete at Sher Shah’s death in 1545, and was perhaps completed by Humayun, although it is not exactly certain which parts were built by the latter. On plan the Purana-Qal’a is irregularly oblong with a circuit of 2 km., with its longer sides on the east and west. Its high walls of rubble masonry with a slight batter, 4 m. thick and as much as 21 m. high in places, have a battlemented parapet above the row of arrow-slits, behind which all along the circumference are built a series of chambers in a two-aisle depth. There are massive bastions on the four corners, in addition to five bastions in the western wall, and three gates, all double-storeyed, one on each side except on the east. The gates have a veneer of red and buff sandstones, with an ornamental use of white and black marble and coloured tiles.
The city of Sher Shah around his citadel was extensive, two points on its circumference being perhaps provided by the large and impressive gates to the west of Purana Qal’a and Kotla Firuz Shal on the Delhi-Mathura road, both known as the Kabuli-or Lal-Darwaza.
The Qal’a-i-Kuhna-Masjid, built by Sher Shah Sur inside the Purana-Qal’a, which served as the Chapel Royal, marks a step forward from the Moth-ki-Masjid. It is, on one hand, anticipatory of the mosque-design as it was to take shape in the early Mughal period, and, on the other, emphasizes the ornate phase of Sher Shah’s architecture, as distinct from the plain treatment noticed in the tombs raised by him. Its rectangular prayer-hall at the western end of a courtyard with a shallow tank in the middle, which was originally provided with a fountain, is entered through five openings with pointed arches inclining towards the four-centred form.
The central arch, fringed with lotus-cusps, is framed within decorative bands containing inscriptions and geometrical designs, with thin turrets on the corners. The entrance arch on a recessed plane is likewise treated, with an arched window supported on brackets between the larger arch and the entrance. The flanking arches are also ornamented, but not to the same extent as the central one. Below the merloned parapet runs a chhajja supported on brackets. The inner west wall of the hall is also divided into five arched recesses, which are richly decorated with white and black marble set in geometrical patterns and framed within inscribed bands. The design of the mihrab is unique, obtained by the sinking of one recess within another, which multiplies the scope for ornamentation. On the northern and southern j sides, above the side-entrances are oriel windows, which admit light into the narrow gallery on the second storey running all round the mosque. At the two rear comers are semi-octagonal three-storeyed towers, with openings on the sides.
To the south of the above mosque is Sher Mandal, a double-storeyed octagonal tower of red stone relieved by marble, with a recessed rectangular entrance within an arch on each side, the same scheme repeating itself in the second storey. Perhaps originally constructed as a pleasure-tower, it is believed to have been used by Humayun as his library, from the stairs of which he fell down and died.
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