LAHORE’S TREASURES – II | Pakistan Today


The tomb of Jahangir is located in Shahdara, a suburb of Lahore to the northwest of the city. The area had been a favorite spot of Jahangir and his wife Nur Jahan when they resided in Lahore, and the area was commonly used as a point of departure for travels to and from Kashmir and Lahore. When Jahangir died in 1627 he may have initially been buried in Shahdara in one of its many gardens. His son, Shah Jahan, ordered that a mausoleum befitting an Emperor be built as a permanent memorial.
Construction of the mausoleum lasted 10 years, from 1627 to 37, and was probably funded by the imperial treasury (though there is some evidence that Jahangir’s wife, Nur Jahan, may have financed the construction). It occupies a vast quadrangle measuring 600 gaz (approximately 500 meters) to a side and is subdivided into four chahar baghs (four-part gardens). A fountain occupies the center of each of the chahar baghs and the avenues in between, creating a ring of 8 fountains around the central tomb. Water for the fountains was supplied by wells outside of the garden and raised into channels atop of the walls using water wheels that are no longer extant. From there, the water flowed through terra cotta pipes and into the fountains, whereupon the water cascaded into shallow channels running throughout the garden.
The mausoleum itself is square in plan and exactly 100 gaz to a side. Except for the four corner minarets the layout is entirely horizontal with a flat roof covering the whole of the structure. It is likely that this derived from the example set by Jahangir’s grandfather, Babur, who preferred burial in a tomb open to the sky in keeping with Sunni Islam precident. Both Jahangir and Shah Jahan would have been familiar with Babur’s tomb garden in Kabul in which Babur’s wishes were carried out–a screen was erected around the grave site but the cenotaph was not roofed over. At Jahangir’s tomb, a compromise of sorts was arrived at by raising a roof over the cenotaph but not constructing any monumental embellishments such as domes. This design was apparently not very popular as it was replicated only once for the tomb of Nur Jahan, Jahangir’s wife, at her tomb garden also in Shahdara. Shah Jahan himself was buried in the Taj Mahal, a monument renowned for its use of domes as architectural elements. At the center of the mausoleum is an octagonal tomb chamber about 8 meters in diameter. It is connected to the outside of the tomb by four hallways facing the four cardinal directions. The cenotaph at the center is carved from a single slab of white marble and decorated with pietra dura inlays of the 99 attributes of God. At its foot is an inscription in Persian recording that “This is the illuminated grave of His Majesty, the Asylum of Pardon, Nooruddin Muhammad Jahangir Padshah 1037 AH”.
The establishment of Jahangir’s tomb at Shahdara profoundly affected the character of the suburb. Whereas previously the area has been used as a place of relaxation, during Shah Jahan’s time the suburb was transformed into a monument to the Mughal’s imperial rule. This was only strengthened by the construction of a jilau khana (forecourt) to the west of the tomb and the subsequent construction of a tomb to Jahangir’s chief minister Asaf Khan to the west. The ensemble reached its peak when Nur Jahan herself was laid to rest in a tomb slightly to the southwest of the other tombs. Today, the tomb of Jahangir holds special significance for Pakistanis as it is the only Mughal tomb located in present-day Pakistan. Its image appears on the 1,000 rupee banknote and it remains one of Lahore’s most popular attractions.
KAMRAN’S BARADARI: Kamran’s Baradari is the ostensibly the earliest known Mughal monument in Lahore, said to have been built by Prince Kamran in the 1520s. However, the pavilion more likely dates to the reign of Shah Jahan (1627-58) as certain architectural features such as the use of cusped arches were not employed until Shah Jahan’s reign. The attribution of the structure to Prince Kamran likely derived from local oral traditions which were picked up by Latif when he collected material for his comprehensive book on Lahore’s architectural heritage in 1892.
The baradari originally stood at the edge of the Ravi river, but over time the course of the river changed and the site became an island. Sometime over the course of the centuries the river flooded, taking half the baradari along with it. As Mughal buildings are generally symmetrical, it was possible for historians to infer the design of the lost portion and it was rebuilt in 1989 at a cost of 19.6 million rupees (about $1 million USD at the time). Unfortunately, the restoration extended to the remaining half and resulted in the total effacement of its surface decoration including the few fragments of original decoration to have survived. Of the gardens, very few traces survived in the late 20th century and a new garden based partially on Mughal motifs was built to the west of the Baradari.
KHAN-E-JAHAN BAHADUR KOKALTASH TOMB: Khan-e-Jahan Bahadur Zafar Jhan Kokaltash was a high-ranking officer during the reign of Emperor Aurangzeb Alamigir. He served as subahdar (governor) of the Panjab from April 11th, 1691, but was dismissed from office in 1693. He died four years later on November 23, 1697, and was presumably interred here shortly thereafter.
His octagonal tomb is composed primarily of cut brick work without any use of red sandstone, in contrast to many other buildings of that period. The current appearance of the tomb is much denuded: the numerous holes in the façade and dome attest to marblework that was stripped away as late as the 19th century. Despite this, traces of the tomb’s original elegance are still evidenced in the beautifully carved stucco muqarnas (stalactite squinches) that embellish the tops of the outer alcoves. The design overall is similar to Ali Mardan Khan’s tomb, which is located just a few kilometers to the north.
Overall, the tomb is in a poor state of preservation. At some point in the past, most of the east façade collapsed. Fortunately, the dome was spared, but it is now supported by a brick pillar of modern design. The muqarnas at the tops of the alcoves are substantially damaged, revealing the underlying brickwork. Significant restoration is urgently needed to avoid further dilapidation.
LAHORE FORT: The fort at Lahore is the result of many centuries’ work. According to the Pakistani historian Wali Ullah Khan, the earliest reference to the fort comes in a history of Lahur (Lahore) compiled by Al-Biruni, which refers to a fort constructed in the early 11th century. He further notes that Munshi Sujan Rae Bhandari, author of the Khulasatut Tawarikh in 1695-96 A.D., records that Malik Ayaz, a favorite of Sultan Mahmud, built a masonry fort at Lahore and repopulated the city. Khan believes it is the same fort that was damaged by the Mongols in 1241 and again in 1398 by a detachment of Timur’s army, then rebuilt again in 1421 by Sayyid, son of Khizr Khan.
The early history of the fort is subject to debate, but it is known for certain that the fort was extensively upgraded during the reign of Emperor Akbar (mid-16th century). Sometime before 1566, the mud-brick fort was demolished and replaced with burnt bricks. The exact date is not known for certain since the records first refer to a fort at Lahore in connection with the rebellion of Muhammad Hakim in 1566.
The fort was greatly expanded during the reigns of Jahangir, Shah Jahan, and Aurangzeb. During the period of Sikh occupation, Ranjit Singh added several pavilions on the upper ramparts. Modifications to the fort were even made during the British colonial period beginning in 1846, but consisted mainly of converting older buildings into hospitals, barracks, and other colonial functions. Perhaps worst of all, portions of the gardens were converted into tennis courts, but abuses such as this have been corrected as preservationists have slowly restored portions of the fort to its pre-1846 appearance.
MAI DAI TOMB: The so-called “Mai Dai” tomb is located in an alley off the beaten path in the Kot Khwaja Saeed neighborhood of Lahore. In urdu, “Mai” and “Dai” are words that both mean “Respected Lady” and are polite titles used to refer to women. This oral tradition suggests the tomb is associated with a woman, but there is no definitive knowledge of who was buried here. It bears a strong resemblence to the nearby ‘Cypress Tomb’, which was built by a pious widow who wished to elevate her grave out of site of the public eye.Unfortunately, the tomb is not a protected monument and it is currently occupied as part of a house.
– Courtesy: Lahore Nama Blog