Diwan-I-Aam Red Fort Delhi

Immediately ahead, on the same axis as the Lahore Gate, stands the Diwan-i-Am (Hall of public Audience), where important state functions were held. From his throne in the central recess, the emperor sat in judgement over those accused of crimes, and considered grievances aired by his subjects; the marble bench beneath the throne was occupied by the emperor's wazir (chief minister). Sessions were held every day from 12 noon until approximately 2 pm in the afternoon, and punishments meted out on the spot, including whippings and executions. As may be imagined, great crowds gathered to witness the gruesome spectacles. The emperor was always accompanied by his sons and members of the nobility. On major occasions, the marble throne was replaced by the even more splendid Peacock Throne, which normally stood in the Diwan-i-Khas.

The panels of petra-dura work lining the recess were commissioned from Austin of Bordeaux. It is said that the artist depicted himself as Orpheus in the small panel above the throne. All were removed by British soldiers following the Mutiny of 1857, eventually becoming exhibits in London's South Kensington (now the Victoria and Albert Museum). Lord Curzon when viceroy, returned them, and ordered the restoration of the Diwan-i-Am. This was executed by the Florentine Menegatti in 1909. Unfortunately, the precious stones that had originally studded the panels, have been, presumably looted.

Columns supporting the hall are twelve-sided and set in pairs on the outer perimeters. The Hindu- style cusped arches, which link them, are a feature of the Shah Jahan period. Originally, the columns and arches were decorated to resemble white marble and sumptuous material was draped between them.

The Diwan-i-Aam projects into what was primarily the military zone of the Red Fort. Behind it, skirting the straight section of the east wall, are the five surviving royal pavilions of the palace. The Asad Burj is the most southerly of the three watchtowers that punctuate the east side of the wall.

It was in this corner that zenana (women's quarters) was sited. Two of its three pavilions remain; the first, the Mumtaz Mahal, has been converted to a Museum of Archaeology. Manuscripts and Mughal miniatures are on view, but the rooms are very dark. A pavilion, which once stood immediately to the north, has completely disappeared.

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