Tag Archives: Ranjit Singh

10 desolate monuments of Lahore


Lahore, the cultural capital of Pakistan, is one of the epicenters of architecture, particularly that belonging to the Mughal period. Historical monuments and buildings serve as visual reminders of the past. They bring the general public closer to the relics of various civilizations that had once existed in the pre-historic times. The historical pieces are like safe vaults carrying centuries old secret treasures. Not only do they connect people with their history and cultural heritage, they also give them a better understanding of where they hail from and how they should appropriately define themselves today.

Unfortunately, most of the monuments in Lahore are facing a host of issues ranging from human neglect, environment degradation to factors as aging and natural decay. Despite conservation efforts, the Department of Archaeology and Government of Pakistan have failed to preserve various monuments that possess sheer historical importance.


Situated on the Multan Road, the monument was actually a gateway to a garden that has now disappeared. It is called Chauburji (the four minarets) because of its four corner minarets, out of which one on the north west corner was actually lost. The fragmentary inscription on its eastern archway records that the garden was founded in 1664 A.D by a lady, mentioned metaphorically as “Sahib-e-Zebinda.

The reference is most probably to Jahan Ara Begum, the eldest daughter of Emperor Shah Jahan who was entitled as “Begum Sahib “.

The main architectural merit of the building is its rich mosaic decoration with which its entire façade including the octagonal corner minarets are brilliantly embellished

Tomb of Anarkali

Anarkali, a beautiful girl brought up in Akbars Tharam was suspected by the Emperor of having a secret love affair with prince Salim (Emperor Jahangir). According to the legend, she was executed for her amorous folly in 1599 A.D. Six years later, when Salim came to the throne, he in the memory of his beloved, constructed a monument known as Anarkali Tomb. The mausoleum which stands within the enclosure of the Punjab Civil Secretariat, was completed in 1615 A.D. It has undergone great changes from time to time that it has lost all its original decorations. In 1891 A.D. it was converted into Punjab Records office and still serves the same purpose.

Hazuri Bagh and Baradari

The quadrangle now occupied by the garden called Hazuri Bagh with a marble Baradari (1818 A.D.) in its center, was originally a Sarai built by Aurangzeb, where during the Mughal rule thronged the Imperial cavalcade and armed retainers.

The two storied building adjoining the southern gateway (Hazuri bagh Gate) was also originally built in the time of Aurangazeb as a boarding house for scholars. Later on it was used as Abdar-Khana or place for keeping refreshing drinks. During the reign of Ranjit Singh it came to be called Gulabkhana or “Rose water House”. During the British period it was again used as a boarding house for students.

The marble baradari was constructed in 1818A.D. by Ranjit Singh.

The Sikh Maharaja used to sit in state and transact business of his kingdom, and it was also in this baradari that Sher Singh received the British Embassy sent by Lord Ellenborough in 1843 A.D.

Dai Anga Tomb

Behind the Gulabi Bagh Gateway and on the site of the former garden lies the mausoleum of Dai Anga, nurse of Shahjahan. She was the wife of Murad Khan, a Mughal Magistrate of Bikaner. She also founded Dai Anga’s Mosque, one of the well known ancient mosques of Lahore. The Quranic inscription on the walls of the tomb chamber ends in the name of the scribe, Muhammad Salih. According to the date inscribed on the tomb, it was constructed in 1671 A.D. The mausoleum comprising a central tomb chamber and eight rooms around it, was once beautifully decorated with mosaic work.

Samadhi of Ranjit Singh

Ranjit Singh, the Sikh ruler, ruled Punjab from 1799 to 1839 A.D. His Samadhi occupying the spot where he was cremated lies just opposite the Lahore Fort. It was commenced by his son Kharak Singh and completed in 1848 A.D. Built in bricks with a sprinkling of red sandstone and marble, it is a mixture of Hindu and Muslim architecture composed and constructed in conformity with Hindu tastes. The ceilings are decorated with class mosaic or plain glass work. Eleven smaller marble knobs placed all around hold ashes of four queens and seven slave girls. The interior of the Samadhi chamber is also decorated with frescoes depicting mostly the stories of the Sikh Gurus.

Haveli Maharaja Naunihal Singh

Haveli Nau Nihal Singh is reckoned among the most magnificent buildings of Lahore constructed during the Sikh period. It was built by Nau Nihal Singh, son of Maharaja Kharak Singh, and was used as his private residence. It contains numerous spacious chambers, halls and balconies. The roofs are decorated with paintings and mirrors decorated with gold. The walls are richly ornamented with glasses and artificial flowers.

Tomb of French Officer’s Daughter

The tomb exists on a mound to the east of main road from old Anarkali to Jain Mandir. Still this area is known as Kuri Da Bagh (Daughter’s Garden) named after the French officer’s daughter.

Originally this garden was laid by General Venture a coach to Sikh army. Another French General M. Allard an officer in the services of Maharaja Ranjgit Singh was also residing in the same garden who remained in service from 1822 to 1889.

The daughter of General M. Allard named Marie Charlotte died on April 5 in 1827 in Lahore and she was buried on a mound in the north west corner of this garden. General H. Allard also died due to heart attack in January, 1889 during the campaign of Peshawar and his body was brought to Lahore and buried by the side of his daughter in the same tomb.

It is small tomb with a dome octagonal in plan. On the top of the main entrance, a tablet with Persian script is fixed bearing the name of the bidder and the death date of Marie Charlotte.

Gulabi Bagh Gateway

Known for its excellence of rich and vivid mosaic tile work and superb calligraphy on plaster base, this was the entrance gate to a garden which like many others in Lahore has now disappeared. It was constructed by a Persian noble, Mirza Sultan Baig, who was Aminul Bahr (admiral of fleet). It is said that in 1657 A.D while on a hunting excursion to the royal hunting reserve at Hiran Minar near Sheikhupura, he died from the bursting of an English gun given to him by Shahjahan. The title “Gulabi Bagh” (Rose garden) occurs in the last line of the inscription of over the archway which not only describes the kind of the garden, but as a chronogram, also gives the date of its construction, 1655 A.D.
Kos Minar

In 1609 the Emperor Jahangir ordered a small minaret like monuments to be built at every kos along the Grand Trunk Road. Kos was an ancient measure of the territory distance which varied from time to time. It was derived from Kross meaning a “cry” used as an indication of distance as early as 300 BC. It was probably known also to Hiuen Tsang in the seventh century AD. During the period of Emperor Jahangir the conventional Kos, was measured between 2 miles 3 furlongs to 2 miles 5 furlongs. Remians of a 4 Kos Minars of Mughal period still exist in the environs of Lahore, among which the typical example at Shahu-ki-Garhi near the railway line just outside Lahore station is prominent. It is built of burnt bricks about 27 feet high, with an octagonal base and cone-shaped super structure not having any inscription.

The other Kos Minars exist in the most miserable condition.

Bhadrakali Mandir


Bhardrakali Mandir, an ancient Hindu temple is situated inside the famous Thokar Niaz Baig. The temple dedicated to an incarnation of the Hindu deity, Durga Mata was once a grand complex comprising various smadhs (stupas), baoli (well), banyan tree, a pool and two temples. According to the writer Kanhiya Lal, the largest Hindu festival of Lahore used to be held in this temple. Unfortunately, historical account regarding the main temple can’t be found. However, another structure created by Maharaja Ranjit Singh during his reign still stands there and is being used as government primary school.

This article was originally posted at Dunya News Urdu Website

Where the land changes its nationality

Killa Jevan Singh, the last village on the Pakistan side of the border

By Haroon Khalid

Having treaded the long stretch of the canal, now acting as the artillery of the city, the BRB, the mother canal comes. Crossing the bridge over it, after a few kilometers, one would come across the village of Manhiala. The next and the last village on the Pakistan side of the border is known as Killa Jevan Singh. As can be inferred from its name, this settlement derives its name from a small fort, perching on the top of a mound, within the village, which also happens to be the highest point around. Easily the top of the edifice stands 15-17 meters above the ground.
I happened to reach the village accidentally, while I was researching for Kos Minars in the surrounding areas. I was of the impression that there were two such minarets in the neighbouring regions but what I did not know was that one of them was in India. Manhiala is the destination of the other one. The distance between these two structures is 1 Continue reading

Temple wrought with stories

by Haroon Khalid

Lahore is ever expanding, mercilessly eating away any village or town that comes in its way. Many towns and villages like Niaz Beg, Hanjarwal, etc, which were historically well outside the city are now deemed as part of Lahore. However, even after being incorporated by the phenomenon that is Lahore, such places have managed to retain their past, culture and identity as something that is different from the city itself, and that is what makes this new city of Lahore so interesting and endearing. Whereas most of these settlements do not predate Lahore and were never historically as significant as Lahore, there was nonetheless one such locality, which is believed to have existed even before Lahore did. Its significance chronologically exceeds that of Lahore. This town is Ichhra.

In the popular culture Lahore’s origin is tied to the Hindu mythologies. There are historians who argue that before the walled city of Lahore became Lahore, Lahore actually was the locality of Ichhra. A very interesting observation is presented to substantiate the thesis. Mostly what we find in the appellations of the doors of a walled city is that the gates are named after the city which they face. The Delhi darwaza of Lahore is named so because it faces Delhi, so is the case with the Kashmiri darwaza. There has been some controversy regarding the name of the Lohari darwaza. It is argued that the Lohari darwaza points towards Ichhra. Lohari could be a primeval name of Lahore in this case, and Ichhra would be that historical city of Lahore. Continue reading

Unexplored heritage

by Haroon Khalid

Many historians believe that original city of Lahore is not the walled city of today but in fact the locality of Ichhra a few kilometres from the area. Various evidences are shown to prove this thesis, one of which is that the oldest Hindu temples exist in the locality.

Right now we would not delve upon the already established evidences but would try to look at new traces that can shed some light on the history of the city. In popular myths and legends it is believed that the city of Lahore originates in antiquity. A popular myth is that this city was founded by one of the twin sons of Sri Ram and Sita, Lahu whereas the other son established the twin city of Kasur. Continue reading


By Majid Sheikh
Dawn, Sunday, 24 January 2010

When the British conquered Lahore in 1849, Lord Dalhousie, the Governor
General, declared that he would educate the “wild illiterate Punjabis” in a
new system of Anglo-Vernacular education. When they started the East India
Company Board was shocked by what already existed.

The board was amazed to find that the literacy rate in Lahore and its
suburbs was over 80 per cent, and this was qualified by the description that
this 80 per cent comprised of people who could write a letter. Today, in
2010, less than nine per cent can do this, while 38 per cent can sign their
name, and, thus, are officially ‘literate’. If you happen to read Arnold
Woolner’s book ‘History of Indigenous Education in the Punjab ’ you will come
across some amazing facts we today just do not know. To understand the
situation it would interest scholars to go through the ‘A.C. Woolner
Collection in the Punjab University Library. My review is a scant one. But
studying other similar pieces provides a picture of the educational system
as it existed in Lahore in 1849 when the British took over. Continue reading

Merchant collection nets £653,000, necklace at £55,200

Oct. 8: Indian-born producer-director Ismail Merchant’s personal art collection sold for £653,000 at an auction by Christie’s in London.

The highest price was paid for the painting by Hungarian artist August Theodor Schoefft, entitled The Thugs of India halt at the shrine of Ganesh, which was sold for £91,250 to a private British collector. The unusually large painting was estimated to sell for £70,000-100,000. Continue reading


An important 19TH Century emerald and seed-pearl Necklace from the Lahore Treasury, reputedly worn by Maharani Jindan Kaur wife of Ranjit Singh, the Lion of the Punjab (1780–1839), is for sale in Bonhams next Indian and Islamic sale on 8th October 2009 in New Bond Street.

The necklace has six polished emerald beads, one later converted to a pendant, each bead gold-mounted and fringed with seed-pearl drop tassels, fastened with a gold clasp. It comes with a fitted cloth covered case, the inside of the lid inscribed: “From the Collection of the Court of Lahore formed by HH The Maharajah Runjeet Singh & lastly worn by Her Highness The Late Maharanee Jeddan Kower” It is estimated to sell for £25,000-35,000. Continue reading

Ranjit Singh’s 169th death anniversary

Around 300 Indian Sikh pilgrims will arrive at Wagah Border on a special train today (Saturday) to attend the 169th death anniversary of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

Maharaja Ranjit Singh belonged to a Jat family and was born in 1780 in Gujranwala. Ranjit Singh succeeded his father at the age of 12. After several war campaigns, his rivals accepted him as their leader and he united the Sikh factions into one large state.

Ranjit Singh took the title of maharaja on April 12, 1801 (coincided with Baisakhi Day). Lahore had been the capital of his empire since 1799.

Ranjit Singh’s samadhi is in Lahore at the Gurdwara Dera Sahib and Sikhs visit Pakistan every year to attend his death anniversary. He fought the Afghans and drove them out of western Punjab, capturing Pakhtoon territory including Peshawar. In 1802, he conquered Amritsar. He was also given the title of Sher-e-Punjab (Lion of the Punjab). He donated wealth and materials to shrines and is remembered with affection by the Punjabis.

Ranjit Singh abolished capital punishment during his rule. He died in 1839 after ruling Punjab for nearly 40 years. He left seven sons, none of whom proved to be a worthy successor.

Courtesy Daily Times

The rise and fall of courtesans

By Majid Sheikh

THE 50 years of Sikh rule in Punjab (1799-1849), with Lahore as its capital was basically confined to the areas, minus Amritsar, that came to be known as Pakistani Punjab.The seat of power was called the ‘Lahore Darbar’.

During this time, like never before in the history of this land, the role of courtesans rivalled those of Florence and Venice in the Renaissance period. Men in power loved beautiful women. It is a universal, natural and timeless happening just as beautiful women know how to exploit men in power. In Elizabeth the First’s England, handsome men weaved their charm around the queen, giving rise to the best of Shakespeare’s works. It has always worked both ways, for “mutual benefit” as a bankerfriend of mine so aptly puts it.

The all-powerful Maharaja Ranjit Singh loved beautiful women, and soon after he came to power in 1799, he loved to spend his time among such beauties. But he was a man with a sensible head on his shoulders, for he was to describe to a British visitor. Continue reading