Lahore’s treasures – III | Pakistan Today

Lahore’s treasures – III

PRINCE PERVEZ TOMB: Traditionally, this tomb is attributed to Prince Pervez, one of the sons of Emperor Jahangir. The historian Latif, who actively documented architectural sites in Lahore in the late 1800s, holds a different view, writing:
‘In the time of Shah Jahan, a market flourished at this place, which was called Parewzabad. The spot is still known by the old inhabitants as Perwezabad.
The dome is known as the Maqbara of Prince Parwez, second son of Jahangir, and both Chishti and Mufti Ghulam Sarwar ascribe it to that prince. But Parwez died of delirium tremens in 1036 A.H. (1626 AD) in Burhanpur (Deccan). The Emperor heard this news at Cabul [Kabul], on his deliverance from captivity through the unwearied exertions of his faithful wife Nur Jahan, and Shah Jahan became the most probable heir to the Crown.
I think it probable, judging from the fact that the place is still called Parwezabad, that this is the burial-place of Parwez’s two sons who, we are informed, were murdered at Lahore along with the other Princes of royal blood, by order of Shah Jahan, on his ascession to the throne, ‘their bodies being buried in a garden at Lahore’.
In any case, the tomb is in a deplorable state of conservation. This is all the more unfortunate as its octagonal plan suggests that a high-ranking nobleman or member of the royal family was buried here. Originally, the tomb likely stood at the center of a large garden with gateways on four sides (similar to the layout of Asaf Khan’s tomb tomb and landscape ensemble). No traces of the gates or gardens survive and modern housing has encroached nearly to the edge of the tomb itself. The remaining portion of the tomb stands denuded of much of its surface decoration which likely included marble cladding and bas reliefs. The marble sarcophagus it once housed was removed in the 19th century or earlier and replaced with a crude brick replica.
SUNEHRI MASJID: The Sunehri Masjid is a relative latecomer to Lahore’s traditional cityscape, having been built in 1753 during the waning years of the Mughal empire by Nawab Bhikari Khan, the Deputy of Lahore during the tenure of Governor Mir Mu’in al-Mulk Mir Munoo. It stands on a small plot of land where one street diverges into two. When Nawab Bhikari Khan acquired the property, it was a vacant parcel of land at the chowk (square) of Kashmiri Bazaar. He was required to obtain a special fatwa from Muslim scholars to construct the mosque, as the local authorities has been concerned that the construction of a building in the square would interrupt the flow of traffic. The pre-eminent architectural historian Kamil Khan Mumtaz is highly critical of the design, writing:
“On close inspection the corruption of Mughal forms is revealed in every detail. The bulbous Mughal domes are now exaggerated into the form of grotesque vegetables capped with slender drooping leaves. The merlons have become naga hoods, and the column stalks growing out of cabbages that blossom into life-like lotuses.”
BATHHOUSE: The Shahi Hammam bathhouse, also known as Hammam Wazir Khan, is the only remaining bathhouse of its type in Lahore. During the Mughal era, hammams (public baths) were introduced based on Persian models and flourished for a time, though their popularity never reached the level maintained in Persia as public baths were not an established cultural institution in the Punjab. Today, the Shahi Hammam is no longer in use and has been converted into a tourist information center.
The hammam was first established in 1634 by Sheikh Ilmuddin Ansari who built it just inside the Delhi Gate along the path to Wazir Khan mosque, under construction at the time. It contained separate facilities for men and women to bathe and also included amenities such as a reception chamber and a small prayer room. In keeping with Persian precident, virtually the entire hammam was illuminated from above with small openings on the roof which also aided ventilation by allowing hot air to flow out from the facility. Since the walls had relatively few windows, merchants were able to set up shops directly abutting the hammam. Although the hammam is no longer in operation, the merchant shops have remained open and even today make it difficult to discern the facades of the hammam.
The interior of the hammam is mostly intact and preserves frescos dating from the Mughal era. Unfortunately, the actual bathing facilities were filled in and tiled over in the mid 1990s when the building was briefly converted to another purpose by its private owners. In recent years the site has been acquired by the Tourist Information Center of Lahore and is being conserved. About 75% of the interior area is now open to the public.
SHALAMAR GARDENS: Sometime in the 1620s or 1630s, a large flood swept through Lahore and exposed a low bluff at the edge of the Ravi river. Although the bluff averaged only a few meters higher than the surrounding floodplain, it presented the best opportunity in the Lahore area to create a garden in the Kashmiri variety. The site was relatively remote–about a day’s ride to the east of Lahore fort–but it was chosen as the site of the future Shalamar garden by Kalil Ullah Khan, an imperial nobleman who had been ordered by Shah Jahan to find an appropriate site for a garden. At this point, in 1641, the narrative of the site becomes entangled with the life of Ali Mardan Khan, the former governor of Kandahar who had surrendered the city to the Mughals in exchange for riches and safe conduct. Ali Mardan Khan claimed to have expertise in the construction of qanats (underground canals) and Shah Jahan tasked him with constructing a canal from Rajpur, at the foot of the Himalayas, all the way to Lahore. Such a canal would span over 160 kilometers and provide ample water to encourage settlement in the Punjab northeast of Lahore (a relatively underpopulated area at the time). The terminus of the canal would reach the upper terrace of Shalamar garden and its remaining water would provide sufficient flow to animate hundreds of fountains.
Shalamar garden did not fare well in the years after Shah Jahan’s death. Architectural patronage as a whole declined during the reign of Shah Jahan’s successor Aurangzeb, who gave little to Lahore apart from the spectacular Badshahi Mosque which survives to the present day. After Aurangzeb, Lahore’s fortunes declined in tandem with the greater Mughal Empire. By the early 1800s, the gardens were looted of much of their marble decoration. Many of the present structures are largely reconstructions in plaster and brick.

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