Akbari Serai (built 1640s)
The so-called Akbari Serai is an 470 by 365 meter courtyard situated between Jahangir’s Tomb to the east and Asaf Khan’s tomb to the west. Although commonly referred to as a Serai, or caravan market, the courtyard was intended both as a staging area for official visits to the tomb and as a place of residence for the huffaz (caretakers) who worked at the mausoleums. The 180 hujra, or cells, around the courtyard were used as living areas and storage spaces for luggage, weapons, and other gear carried by visitors to the tombs. Its function and general design is similar to the jilaukhana (literally, ‘front of the house’) found at the Taj Mahal built by Jahangir’s son, Shah Jehan.
The most impressive feature of the courtyard is the gateway on its east side leading to Jahangir’s mausoleum. Opposite the gateway is a small mosque. The north and south ends of the courtyard are punctuated with gateways providing access to the whole ensemble.
Asaf Khan Tomb (built 1642)
Asaf Khan was the brother of Nur Jahan, foremost of Emperor Jahangir’s twenty wives. He was also the father of Mumtaz Mahal, wife of Emperor Shah Jahan and the woman for whom the Taj Mahal was built.
Asaf Khan’s clan rose to power as his sister gained entry into Jahangir’s court. Jahangir had long been addicted to opium and alcohol, and as his addiction worsened he relied more and more on his close aides for day to day governing of the empire. Asif Khan’s sister, Nur Jahan, used the opportunity to take power for herself. In 1625 she used her influence to obtain the governorship of Lahore for her brother, Asaf Khan. He held the position for a mere two years before Emperor Jahangir died in 1627. In the struggle for succession that followed, Asaf Khan broke ranks with his sister and sided with his son in law, the future Shah Jahan, in his bid for succession. When Shah Jahan emerged victorious Nur Jahan was placed under comfortable house arrest and lived out the remainder of her days as a poetess and sponsor of the arts.
Asaf Khan was placed in command of an army attacking Bijapur in 1632 but he failed to take the city. Shah Jahan retained him in the court but he never reached the heights of power that he had previously enjoyed. He died in June 1642 while fighting the forces of the rebel Raja Jagat Singh Pathania. He was accorded high honors in the placement of his tomb just a few hundred meters to the west of Emperor Jahangir’s own tomb.
Octagonal tombs were never used for emperors but they were commonly employed for burial of high-ranking noblemen such as Asaf Khan. The bulbous dome that crowns the tomb is an innovation of Shah Jahan’s era that was used to great effect at other sites such as the Taj Mahal.
Ali Mardan Khan Tomb (built 1657)
Ali Mardan Khan was a high official in the Mughal Empire under Shah Jahan. Born into a Kurdish family, he served as governor of Kandahar under Persia’s Safavid dynasty, becoming a close confidant of Shah Abbas. After the Shah’s death in 1629, he became fearful for his life as the Shah’s successor Shah Safi (Sam Mirza) purged courtiers that had been loyal to his grandfather. In 1637, Ali Mardan Khan offered to surrender Kandahar to the Mughal Empire in exchange for his safety. Shah Jahan agreed to the offer, probably with some enthusiam as Kandahar had been under the control of the Mughals during the reign of Jahangir, Shah Jahan’s father.
As a Mughal officer, Ali Mardan Khan provided guidance on canal instruction, especially in regard to the Shah Nahar canal of Shalimar Gardens. When he died in 1657, he was buried adjacent to his mother in the tomb prepared for her next to the canal at Mughalpura. Originally, the tomb sat amidst a large garden, but today only the large gateway survives.
As the tomb sits within the confines of a modern-day rail yard, the authorities have built a kilometer long passageway from the street to the tomb in an effort to prevent visitors from trespassing on the rail yard grounds.
Badshahi Mosque (built 1672-74)
Badshahi mosque is one of the few significant architectural monuments built during Emperor Aurangzeb’s long rule from 1658 to 1707. It is presently the fifth largest mosque in the world and was indisputably the largest mosque in the world from 1673 to 1986 when the Faisal Mosque was constructed in Islamabad. Although it was built late in the Mughal era in a period of relative decline, its beauty, elegance, and scale epitomize Mughal cultural achievement like no other monument in Lahore.
Construction of the mosque began in 1671 under the direction of Muzaffar Hussain (Fida’i Khan Koka), Aurangzeb’s brother-in-law and the governor of Lahore. It was originally planned as a reliquary to safeguard a strand of the Prophet’s hair. Its grand scale is influenced by the Jama Mosque of Delhi which had been built by Aurangzeb’s father Shah Jahan. The plan of Badshahi mosque is essentially a square measuring 170 meters on each side. Since the north end of the mosque was built along the edge of the Ravi river, it was not possible to install a north gate like the one used in the Jama Mosque, and a south gate was also not constructed in order to maintain the overall symmetry. Within the courtyard, the prayer hall features four minarets that echo in minature the four minarets at each corner of the mosque’s perimeter.
The prominence of the mosque in the imperial vision was such that it was constructed just a few hundred meters to the west of Lahore Fort. A special gate facing the mosque was added to the fort and designated the Alamgiri gate. The space in between–the future Hazuri Bagh garden–was used as a parade ground where Aurangzeb would review his troops and courtiers. The Hazuri Bagh appears to be at a lower level than the mosque since the latter was built on a six meter plinth to help prevent flooding.
The mosque did not fare well during the rule of Ranjit Singh, the Maharaja of the Sikh Empire. When Ranjit Singh took control of Lahore in 1799 the mosque’s courtyard was used as a stable and the hujras (cells) around the perimeter were occupied by his soldiers. Ranjit Singh himself used the adjacent Hazuri Bagh as his official royal court. When William Moorcroft of England visited Lahore in 1820, he recorded that the mosque as being used as an exercise ground for the Sipahi infantry. Twenty years later, a moderate earthquake struck lahore and collapsed the delicate marble turrets at the tops of each minaret. The open turrets were used as gun emplacements a year later when Ranjit Singh’s son, Sher Singh, occupied the mosque to bombard Lahore Fort during the Sikh civil war.
After the British took control of Lahore in 1846 they continued to use Badshahi Mosque as a military garrison. It was not until 1852 that the British established the Badshahi Mosque Authority to oversee the restoration of the mosque so that it could be returned to Muslims as a place of worship. Although repairs were carried out, it was not until 1939 that extensive repairs began under the oversight of architect Nawab Zen Yar Jang Bahadur. The repairs continued until 1960 and were completed at a cost of 4.8 million rupees.
Buddu Tomb (built mid 17th-century)
Traditionally, this tomb is attributed to Buddu, a brick manufacturer during the reign of Emperor Shah Jahan (r. 1628-58). However, it may in fact be the tomb of the wife of Khan-i-dauran Bahadur Nusrat Jang, a high-ranking nobleman in the court of Shah Jahan. The domed tomb likely once stood amidst a garden, but all traces of landscaping have vanished.
Chauburji Gate (built 1646)
The Chauburji gate is the only remnant of a large garden that has all but disappeared. It now stands alone in a grassy roundabout at the intersection of Multan Road and Bhawalpur Road. There is considerable uncertainty regarding who constructed it. An inscription on the monument gives the date 1056 AH (1646) and attributes it to “Sahib-e-Zebinda Begam-e-Dauran”. According to the 19th century historian Syad Muhammad Latif, the full inscription reads:
“This garden, in the pattern of the garden of paradise, has been founded…
(the second line has been effaced)
The garden has been bestowed on Mian Bai
By the bounty of Zebinda Begam, the lady of the age”.
Latif believed that Mian Bai was the favorite female attendent of Zebina Begam. He recounts a story from the Shah Jahan-nama that the garden was laid out on the orders of Zebina Begam with direct supervision delegated to a Mian Bai. As the princess approached the garden as it neared completion, she heard people saying that the princess was on her way to visit Mian Bai’s garden. Seeing that the garden was already being described as “Mian Bai’s garden”, the princess resolved to make a gift of it to Mian Bai. When she reached the garden, Mian Bai came forward and prayed for the princess’s long life. Zebina Begam took this as a positive omen and immediately bequeathed the garden to Mian Bai.
Regardless of the story’s truth, Latif may not be correct in assuming that the “Zebinda Begam” inscribed on the Chauburji refers to Zeb-un-Nisa, the daughter of Emperor Aurangzeb. Zeb-un-Nisa was born in 1637, so it is unlikely that she was given command of sufficient resources to construct a garden at the age of eight. A better candidate is Zeb-un-Nisa’s aunt, Jahan Ara Begam, one of Shah Jahan’s daughters.
The very word “Chauburji”, meaning “Four Towers” in Urdu, is likely a modern term for what would have been merely a monumental gateway to the vast garden at the site in the Mughal era. Due to flooding and neglect, the garden may not have long survived its completion. By the 19th century the monument was somewhat dilapidated, having lost its northwest tower to an earthquake in 1846. In the 1960s the Department of Archaeology supervised the reconstruction of the destroyed tower and also restored the surviving parts of the monument.
Cypress Tomb (Sarvwala Maqbara) (built mid-18th century)
The so-called ‘Cypress Tomb’ (Sarvwala Maqbara) is located about 200 meters north of Dai Anga’s tomb. Its name derives from the cypress tree ornamentation on the upper portion of the tomb–four on each side–surrounded with flowering plants. The tomb is elevated about 5 meters off the ground to shield the grave from direct sight, and is only accessable using a ladder. The tomb holds the body of Sharfun Nisa Begum, the sister of Nawab Zakaria Khan. It was originally surrounded by a garden–perhaps one abutting Dai Anga’s tomb, but no evidence remains of its former boundaries or dimensions.
Dai Anga Mosque (built 1635)
Dai Anga served as Shah Jahan’s wet nurse and remained an influential force in the dynasty until her death in 1672. She is responsible for several monuments in Lahore that still survive, including her tomb near the Gulabi Bagh garden gate. Her mosque, seen here, was constructed in 1635. Although a relatively small structure, it is notable for its refined use of decoration and its stately three-bay facade. It remains in an excellent state of preservation since Dai Anga took care to donate a substantial waqf (endowment) to ensure its maintenance after her death. However, in spite of this, it was briefly converted into the residence of Henry Cope, a newspaper editor, during the rule of the British. It was restored to its original function in 1903 and has served as an active mosque ever since.
Dai Anga Tomb (built 1671)
Dai Anga’s tomb is located at the site of Bulabi Bagh, an earlier garden of which the only the gateway, Gulabi Bagh, survives. The tomb was built for Dai Anga, the wet nurse of Shah Jahan and the wife of Murad Khan, a magistrate of Bikaner under Emperor Jahangir. The tomb is rectangular in plan with eight perimeter rooms and a central chamber, surmounted by a low dome on a tall base. The space inside is empty, as the actual tomb of Dai Anga lies below in a subterranean chamber. Interior decoration includes inscriptions from the Q’uran. The exterior of the tomb was originally covered with mosaics, but in the manner of many tombs in Lahore, most of these have been worn or stripped away over the centuries. However, the tomb does retain its original four chattris (kiosks) at each of its corners, which contribute a certain lightness to the otherwise weighty structure.
Gulabi Bagh Gateway (built 1655)
The Gulabi Bagh Gateway is the last remnant of a pleasure garden built by the Persian noble Mirza Sultan Baig in 1655. In its heyday the garden measured 250 gaz on a side (according to the scholar Ebba Koch, 1 gaz is likely equal to 0.81 or 0.82 meters). The site could not have functioned as a garden for long, as it was converted in 1671 into a tomb for Dai Anga with her mausoleum occupying the center of the property. Gradually over the centuries the garden was encroached upon by urban development so that the only remaining portion of the garden is the narrow yard running from Gulabi Bagh to Dai Anga’s Mausoleum.
Hazrat Mian Mir Tomb (built 1630s)
Mian Mir (c. 1550 – August 11, 1635) was a Sufi saint of the Qadiri order of Sufism. He rose to prominence as the spiritual advisor to prince Dara Shikoh, the eldest son and heir-apparent to Shah Jahan. Upon his death in 1635, Dara Shikoh delivered his funeral oration. The tomb remains popular with Muslims as well as Sikhs to the present day.
Hazuri Bagh Garden (built 1813)
The Hazuri Bagh garden was built in 1813 by Maharajah Ranjit Singh to commemorate the capture of the Koh-i-Noor diamond from Shah Shujah of Afghanistan. The garden is bound on the east side by the Lahore Fort and to the west by Badshahi Mosque. This originally served as the Serai of Aurangzeb, a forecourt to the Badshahi Mosque where the Mughal ruler would approach and enter the mosque with great pomp and ceremony. By enclosing the north end with a gate and the south end with the Roshnai gate, Ranjit Singh’s architects were able to create a walled space adequately sized for a a commemorative garden.
The major monument in the garden is the baradari at its center. It is primarily constructed of marble stripped from numerous Mughal monuments in Lahore, many of which remain standing despite the removal of their marble cladding. Ranjit Singh used the pavilion as a place to hold court, and the mirrored ceiling in the central chamber is a testament to this function.
Old photographs of the baradari establish that it once supported a second level which collapsed in July 1932. There are presently no plans to reconstruct it.
Jahangir’s Tomb (built 1627-37)
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 (built 1520s or mid 17th-century)
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 (built ~1697)
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.
Khwaja Mehmud Tomb (built mid 17th-century)
Khwaja Mehmud (also known as Hazrat Eishan) was a Sufi religious leader from Bukhara who moved to Lahore during the reign of Shah Jahan. He was a contemporary with Hazrat Mian Mir and was also noted as a great scholar and physician.
Kos Minar (built early 17th century and earlier)
The Kos Minar (Mile Pillars) are a series of milepost markers built during the reigns of Sher Shah Suri and later Mughal emperors. They were originally spaced roughly every three kilometers over major highway routes, particularly the Grand Trunk Road which connected Peshawar in the west to Bengal in the east (a span of over 3,000 kilometers). As the Kos Minars are utilitarian in design, they were not regarded as architecturally significant. Most of them have been torn down, dismantled for their bricks, or otherwise demolished. Only a handful remain in the Lahore area, including the Kos Minar shown here.
Lahore Fort (originally 11th century, current form from 16th century onward)
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 (likely built mid-18th century)
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.
Maryam Zamani Mosque (built 1614)
The Maryam Zamani Mosque is named after Queen Maryam Zamani, the wife of Emperor Akbar. It is the earliest surviving Mughal mosque in Lahore and is the first to exhibit the five-bay facade that would become typical of nearly all future mosques built by the Mughals. It is a comparatively small structure, measuring just 50 meters east-west and 50 meters north-south. Often called Begum Shahi Masjid, the mosque stands just opposite the Masjidi Gate of the Lahore fort.
Mian Khan Tomb (built 1670s)
This is the tomb of Nawab Mian Khan, the son of Nawab Saadullah Khan who served as Prime Minister during the reign of Shah Jahan. It is built in the form of a baradari (literally, ‘twelve doors’) with a tripartite facade on four sides.
Nadira Begum Tomb (built 17th century)
Nadira Begum was the wife of Dara Shikoh, the eldest son of Shah Jahan and heir-apparent to his throne. In 1657 a power struggle broke out between Dara Shikoh and his three brothers over succession to the throne after Shah Jahan fell ill. Initially, fate seemed to favor Dara Shikoh. He prevailed in battle against his brother Shah Shuja and gained signifiant support from his father, who recovered enough to assist Dara Shikoh in his bid for power. However, father and son could not overcome the combined strength of his two other brothers, Aurangzeb and Murad.
Dara Shikoh and his wife attempted to flee to the west and south, but they were betrayed by Malik Jiwan, a Baluch cheiftain, who turned them over to Aurangzeb’s army in June, 1659. Nadira died several months later prior to the assassination of her husband on August 30, 1659.
The tomb stands on a raised platform at the center of what used to be a vast water tank. The tank was dismantled during the British period.
Nau Nihal Singh Haveli (built mid-19th century)
The word “Haveli” is used to refer to mansions in India and Pakistan. The word is derived from the Persian word “hawli”, meaning “an enclosed place”. Havelis typically were built by wealthy aristocrats to house themselves and their extended families, and were often constructed several stories high with one or more courtyards in the interior.
The haveli of Nau Nihal Singh is perhaps the grandest of the surviving havelis in Lahore. It is rectangular in plan and comprises two levels wrapped around a central courtyard. A tower at the northwest corner rises two additional stories and provides a panoramic view of Lahore from its roof. As the west side of the building includes the main entrance from the street, the tower is architecturally integrated with the first and second levels to present an eye-catching facade repleat with projecting fenestration and colorful surface detail.
The patron of the haveli, Nau Nihal Singh, reined as Maharaja of the Punjab for a mere month in October and early November, 1840. He had gained control of the Sikh Empire when his father, Kharak Singh, died from the effects of poisoning on November 5, 1840. The following day, when Nau Nihal was returning from his father’s funeral, a building collapsed onto the path his entourage was travelling. Nau Nihal sustained minor head injuries and was knocked unconscious. His courtiers pulled him into a tent to ostensibly treat his injuries, but when the tent was opened some time later it was discovered that Nau Nihal was dead–his head having been smashed in. It is not known even today if this resulted from the initial accident or if assassins took advantage of the situation to remove Nau Nihal from power.
Nawankot Monuments (built 1646)
The so-called Nawankot Monuments are the remains of the eastern wall of the tomb garden of Zeb-un-Nisa, comprising two corner turrets and the eastern gate. This relationship is difficult to distinguish in the crowded district, as the monuments are hemmed in on all sides by contemporary houses and roads. In the Mughal era, the three Nawankot monuments were linked together by a brick wall forming the eastern edge of the garden, and were in turn linked to two turrets that deliniated a square area of greenery with Zeb-un-Nisa’s tomb at the center. No trace of the western turrets and walls survive and the gardens have disappeared under urban sprawl. The Nawankot monuments themselves are in considerable danger from the effects of neglect, urban encroachment, vandalism and environmental stress.
The eastern gate is the most impressive of the monuments. It is a two story structure measuring 11.1 meters east-west and 13.0 meters north-south. It was once almost entirely covered by kashikari (enameled mosaic work) but large areas have worn away.
Nur Jahan Tomb (built 1640s)
Nur Jahan was the daughter of I’timad-ud-Daula, Jahangir’s prime minister. Meaning “Light of the World”, she was born in 1577 to Persian parents and was given the name Mehr-un-Nisaa. At the age of 17 she married Sher Afghan, a Mughal courtier. The marriage lasted thirteen years and resulted in the birth of one daughter, the only child Mehr-un-Nisaa was to ever have. After her husbands’s death in 1607, Mehr-un-Nisaa entered Emperor Jahangir’s harem as a lady-in-waiting to one of his stepmothers. She remained in the harem for four years until Jahangir happened to notice her during the Nowruz spring festival in March 1611. Infatuated by her beauty, he immediately proposed to her. She wedded in May of that year, becoming Jahangir’s twentieth wife.
Jahangir’s attention to matters of state was seriously compromised by his addiction to opium and alcohol. As he aged, he relied more and more on his close advisers to manage the empire’s administration. Mehr-un-Nisaa–now known as Nur Jahan–used this as an opportunity to take power for herself and for many years became the de-facto ruler behind the throne. In an unusual step, Jahangir even allowed her to have coinage minted in her name–traditionally a prerogative of the emperor alone.
In 1626 the emperor was captured by rebels while on his way to Kashmir. Although Nur Jahan was able to secure his release, he died on October 28, 1627. In the struggle for succession that followed, Nur Jahan’s own brother Asaf Khan sided against her and allied with his son-in-law Khurrum who was angling for the throne. Khurrum succeeded and became the next Mughal Emperor with the reign name Shah Jahan. Nur Jahan lost favor and was confined to house arrest, but was not stripped of her finances. Throughout the remainder of her life she engaged in artisic activities, including composing Persian poems under the pen name Makhfi. Her greatest legacy, however, was the construction of the I’timad-ud-Daulah Tomb in honor of her father, which ranks second only to the Taj Mahal as the finest example of Mughal architecture in the subcontinent. She also oversaw the construction of her own tomb and was interred there when she died in 1645 at age 68.
Nur Jahan’s tomb is stylistically similar to Jahangir’s tomb, but is about half the size and lacks corner minarets. The tomb suffered substantial damage in the 19th century when its marble decoration was plundered for use in other monuments. The destruction extended even to the sarcophagus, which is no longer extant. The present cenotaph at the center of the tomb is a modern restoration. More recently, over-zealous rehabilitation of the tomb has resulted in the loss of some of the remaining fragments of original ornamentation.
Prince Pervez Tomb (built early 16th century)
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 (Golden Mosque) (built 1749)
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.”
Shahi Hammam Bathhouse (built 1634)
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 (BUILT 1633-42)
Lahore is often described as the “city of gardens”. Although deserving of this title, few of its historic gardens survive to the present day and even fewer are preserved in something close to their original state. Shalamar is a grand exception to this trend. Comprising nearly forty acres on three broad terraces, its majesty brings to life the Mughal genius for landscape architecture like no other monument in Lahore.
Prior to Shalamar, the Mughal emperors had been no strangers to garden building. Babur, the founder of the dynasty, had constructed a number of gardens during and after his invasion of the Indian subcontinent. Judging by his memoirs, he held a consumate interest in cataloging and describing the flora and fauna of the Indian landscape, and his gardens often incorporated varieties of native plants. Despite this, Babur never felt at home in the arid climate of Hindustan, preferring the cool weather of the Afghan mountains which had been his boyhood home. When he died, Babur left instructions to be interred in an earth covered grave in present-day Kabul rather than in a garden tomb on the subcontinent.
As Babur’s successors assembled a larger and more diverse empire, the gardens they founded served multiple purposes. In a practical sense, they provided an environment where the imperial court could camp in relative comfort as the emperor and his entourage traveled from site to site. At the end of a long day’s journey, imperial gardens along the Grand Trunk Road and other roads would have been a welcome refuge from the overwhelmingly arid landscape of North India. In a political sense, such gardens also served as landmarks of imperial conquest. Mughal gardens were easily distinguishable from earlier varieties in north India as they were both grander in scale than prior gardens and placed a great emphasis on axis, symmetry, and balance. Such char bagh gardens (literally, “four gardens”) referenced the paradise gardens described in the Q’uran and Persian models to the west. Both were like nothing India had seen before, and their presence testified to the Mughal’s dominion over the landscape.
The origins of Shalamar Garden are directly attributable to another garden of the same name built by Jahangir in Kashmir. The Kashmir area had long been of interest to the Mughals, and Babur himself had attempted to visit the area in 1554 but had been unable to do so due to the political situation. In 1586 the area was finally conquered by Akbar and its capital Srinagar taken in 1589. Akbar was immediately struck by the beauty of Kashmir. Geographically, it comprised a 150 kilometer long valley with stunning views of the Himalayas. Its climate was moderated by the Pir Panjal mountain range, which served as a buffer against the monsoon climate to the south. Down the middle of the valley flowed the Jhelum river which was amply watered by seasonal snowfall in the surrounding mountains. In the midst of this verdant landscape, Akbar established a number of gardens which may have included the Garden of Breezes (Nasim Bagh) along the western edge of Dal Lake. He may also have constructed floating gardens on boats which he used when travelling along the Jhelum river.
Akbar’s son, Jahangir, built the first Shalamar garden in the Kashmiri landscape. He selected the site in 1620 and involved his son, the future Shah Jehan, in a project to dam up a stream used to irrigate the garden. One can imagine that this experience left a deep impression on the future Shah, as he continued to build gardens throughout his lifetime that were generally similar in design to the Shalamar of Kashmir.
Here, Shah Jehan witnessed the construction of a garden that rivalled any built previously by the Mughals. The garden took advantage of the spectacular backdrop of the Himalaya mountains, which provided water year-round and views of snow-capped peaks that persisted into the warmer months. The garden was laid out on three broad terraces on the gently sloping landscape, and the change in elevation allowed fountains to be built with sufficient water pressure to produce stunning hydraulic effects. Several magnificent marble pavilions studded the garden and provided places to contemplate the landscape or engage in the business of the court.
Kashmir may have been an eartly paradise, but it was not suitable as a permanent capital for the Mughal empire. Fatehpur-Sikri had held this role, but was replaced in the 1590s by Lahore in present-day Pakistan. The climate of Lahore is nothing like Kashmir. Although it is irrigated by a river–the Ravi–the climate is much hotter than Kashmir and the landscape is almost unrelentingly flat. Akbar and Jahangir had done their best to build gardens here on a grand scale (for example, the Shahdara garden), but any hydraulic effects were constrained by the absence of water pressure that could only be achieved, in absence of machine power, by a change in elevation.
Establishment of the Garden
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.
Sher Singh Baradari (1840s)
Maharaja Sher Singh (December 1807 – September 16, 1843) ruled the Sikh Empire from 1841 until his death. He was the the son of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the founder of the Sikh Empire, and his Queen Rani Mehtab Kaur. His reign–brought to a brief end through treachery–produced few lasting architectural vestiges in Lahore apart from this baradari.
Neglected for many decades, the baradari was nearly destroyed in 1992 when mobs set it afire in misdirected retaliation for the destruction of the Babri Mosque in India in 1992. Currently, the baradari is threatened by ongoing construction and waste refuse from the Solid Waste Management Company which operates in the vicinity.
Immediately to the west of the Baradari are the ruins of several samadhi where domed enclosures onced housed the ashes of Sher Singh and his son.
Wazir Khan Baradari (built 1635)
This baradari (literally, 12-door pavilion) originally served as the centerpiece of the Nakhlia Garden built by Wazir Khan, a benefactor of numerous buildings throughout Lahore including the mosque and hammam (bath house) which bear his name. It is among the finest of such monuments in the city, having been incorporated into the grounds of the Punjab Public Library as early as 1860, where it serves as a reading room. During the 19th and early 20th centuries it also served as a museum and as the Settlement and Telegraph Office under the British.
Wazir Khan Mosque (built 1634)
Wazir Khan mosque was built in 1634 by Shaikh Ilm-ud-din Ansari, Viceroy of Punjab under Shah Jahan. Ansari hailed from humble origins in the town of Chiniot in the Jhang district of the Punjab. He studied medicine under Hakim Dawi and was hired by the Mughal court as the personal physician of Prince Kuram, the future Shah Jehan. The young prince was so taken with Ansari’s competence that he awarded him with the title Wazir Khan in 1620. Wazir is a title meaning “Minister” in Urdu.
Wazir Khan acquired a large tract of land in Lahore bounded by the Delhi Gate to the east and the Lahore Fort to the west. He founded the mosque that now bears his name on the site of the tomb of Syed Muhammed Ishaq (also known as Miran Badshah), a saint who had migrated from Iran in the 13th century. Wazir Khan also established a bathhouse (Shahi Hammam) and other commercial establishments along the road to the mosque whose income was intended to ensure maintenance of the mosque into perpetuity. Although the bathhouse did not provide as much income as intended, the bazaar to the east of the mosque was quite successful and remains a flourishing market even to the present day.
The mosque’s distinguishing architectural feature is the use of minarets at each of its four corners–the first time such a design was employed in Lahore. The prayer hall follows the one-aisle five-bay motif that was first established in Lahore a generation earlier at the Maryam Zamani Mosque, which was later to find its full expression in the Badshahi Mosque built by Emperor Aurangzeb a half century later. Much of the mosque is constructed of cut and dressed brick decorated with glazed tile mosaics.
A curious feature of the mosque is the incorporation of 22 shops into its ground plan. Situated on either side of the entrance hall, these shops form a bazaar with a brick-paved passage in between. This commercial area extends east beyond the mosque into the Chowk Wazir Khan (Wazir Khan Square) which remains a vibrant commerical district to the present day.
Zeb-un-Nisa Tomb (built late 17th century)
Zeb-un-Nisa, meaning “most beautiful of all women”, was a daughter of Emperor Aurangzeb who lived from 1637 to 1702. She gained renowned for her Sufi faith and passionate interest in poetry. However, it is not known if this in fact her tomb. Some sources indicate that she died in Delhi and is buried outside the Kabuli gate. If this is true, another candidate for the tomb’s occupant is Mian Bai Fakhrunnisa (Pride of Women), a favored female attendent of Zeb-un-Nisa who was given the Chauburji garden by her patron.