Monday, 11 June 2012

The Red Fort

The restaurant in Soho.....
Many years ago, Fantasy Bob's employment took him to London for the middle part of every week. Once a month or so, he and colleagues would go for dinner together en masse. A favourite location for this celebration was The Red Fort restaurant in Dean Street in Soho. And very fine it was too, and FB has noted that it is still in business and going from strength to strength. Presumably it is a relief to the owners that FB and his colleagues are no longer to darken their door from time to time. So it is many years that FB was last in a Red Fort.  To his shame FB has never visited the Red Fort restaurant in Edinburgh.  He is sure that it is excellent.

Not the restaurant in Soho...........
Last week however he was back at the Red Fort, with a difference. During his engagement in Delhi, he managed to escape briefly from the conference room to make a fleeting visit to the real Red Fort situated in Old Dehli. It is a UNESCO world Heritage Site and one of the prime examples of Mughal architecture. The Fort was built by Shah Jahan who was emperor of the Mughal Empire from 1628 until 1658. Shah Jahan comes from Persian and means roughly Ruler of Everywhere.

Shah Jahan was perhaps the most cultured Mughal emperor and possibly one of the most cultured leaders of any great regime anywhere.  When he was Emperor the Mughal Empire was the wealthiest on the planet.  He left behind an incomparable legacy of buildings which are the highest expression of Islamic architecture. His most famous building was the Taj Mahal, now a wonder of the world, which he built out of love for his wife the empress Mumtaz Mahal.  Agra Fort, Lahore Fort and the Shalimar Garders are among this great gift.

However he notably failed to deliver any cricket stadia or indoor practice areas to his people and so the Mughal Empire declined, until it finally came to and end under British rule in 1857.  Cricket came to India shortly after, building steadily to become the dominant force it is in the country today, Mughals or no Mughals.

FB  approaching
the Hall of Grievances
with a full career's worth
of incidents to raise
Sadly, FB's visit was only short, as dusk fell and he was unable to see all the marvels of this the site. However he did see the exterior of the building known as the Diwan-e-aam, which is where the Emperor would address the grievances and other issues directly from the public.  The building is also known as the Hall of Grievances. Any member of the public could attempt to bring his grievance before the Emperor.  rhaps this is why Shah Jahan, though cultured enough and more to have been a cricketer did not press the early development of the game across the Empire.  He was worried that there would be too many crowding into the Diwan-e-aam every Monday to complain about shocking LBW decisions.  FB would have been at the head of the queue.  Jahan clearly thought that his time would be  better spent building the Taj Mahal.

Posterity judges him to be right.   Cricket came in any case and flourished.  But without Shah Jahan, the world's heritage of wondrous buildings would be considerably less.  

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