Empress Noor Jahan’s Tomb is located in the Shahdra Bagh in Lahore, across Ravi River, just separated by a train track from that of her husband’s and her brother’s tombs. She was the beloved wife of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir and most popular queen of Mughal period. She died in 1645 and was buried in the tomb she built for herself during her lifetime. Empress Noor Jahan’s tomb is located near Emperor Jahangir’s Tomb.
About the Empress
Her original name was Maher-un-Nisa and Noor Jahan was the title given to her which literally mean “light of the world”. She was the daughter of Mirza Gayas Baig, a noble from Iran, and was the beloved queen of Emperor Jahangir from 1569 to 1627. She died in 1645 at the age of 72 years and outlived Jahangir by 18 years. Queen Noor Jahan was the most powerful empress in the history of Mughal dynasty and was the only empress to have her name appeared on the coinage of her period.
The mausoleum of Empress Noor Jahan was built in her lifetime and was completed in a period of four years at a cost of Rs. 0.3 million of the time. However, like other Mughal era monuments in Lahore, Noor Jahan’s tomb was also plundered during the Sikh era in the 18th century and the beautiful marble was removed to use in the Golden Temple in Amritsar, India.
Noor Jahan’s tomb was built on an elevated podium, in the takhtgah (throne) style. The platform making the base of the square mausoleum measuring 158 square feet, has the tomb in the shape of a square and measures 124 feet on each side and 19.6 feet high. There might be minarets previously have risen from the corners of the mausoleum, similar to the nearby Jahangir’s tomb but currently missing.
Noor Jahan’s tomb is constructed using the red sandstone with flat roofing bordered with white marble grill similar to that of Jahangir’s tomb. It has 7 vaulted arches to each side covered with marble and fashioned with flower mosaics in semi-precious stone. The inner floor is covered with marble and outer platform with sandstone. The red sandstone was inlaid with floral motifs in addition to white, black and yellow marble. The central arch on each side protrudes out from the six flanking vaulted arches on its sides. The intricate patterns of the panelling and honeycomb shaped cornices in its several rooms surrounding the crypt.
The central vaulted chamber of the tomb contains a marble platform with two cenotaphs put together – one that of Nur Jahan and the other of her daughter, Ladli Begum. It was built by Hakim Ajmal, Khan of Delhi in 1912, the original marble sarcophagus bears ornate workmanship and the name of Allah, in the same style and size as seen in the tombs of Jahangir and Asif Khan. On her tomb is inscribed an epitaph: “On the grave of this poor stranger, let there be neither lamp nor rose. Let neither butterfly’s wing burn nor nightingale sing“. The original tombs are underneath and accessible by a narrow entrance just outside of the mausoleum. The narrow room is dark and has two small openings to allow sun during sunrise and sunset as Noor Jahan was said to have a fear of darkness.
The tomb stands in the centre of a Persian-style Chahar Bagh. The original garden no longer survives, but once included tulips, roses, and jasmine. It is under renovation currently on a 5-year project and hopefully will gain its past glory.
The Tomb of Asif Khan is a magnificent edifice crowned by a high bulbous dome. Asif Khan’s tomb is situated in Shahdara Bagh, adjacent to Akbari Sarai, in the city of Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan. Like that of other noble persons in the Mughal courts, Asif Khan’s tomb is also octagonal in shape and embellished using attractive designs and colours. Octagonal shaped tombs were only used for Mughal nobles and never for Mughal emperors.
Asif Khan was the title given to the Mughal statesman Mirza Abdul Hassan Jah, who was also known as Asif Jah. He was the brother the of Empress Noor Jahan, father of Arjumand Bano Begum who later became the consort of Shah Jahan under the name of Mumtaz Mahal, and he was also brother-in-law to the Mughal Emperor Jahangir. Asif Khan was elevated as Khan e Khana, commander in chief, and became governor of Lahore a year later.
Asif Khan died in a battle against the forces of rebel Raja Jagat Singh in 1641 and his tomb was commissioned to be built by emperor Shah Jahan. It cost 300,000 rupees and four years from 1641 to 1645 to complete the construction of this marvellous erection. The tomb is only separated by Akbari Sarai from Jahangir’s tomb which makes an axis.
The garden, where to tomb stands, measures 300 yards to each side and was divided by long pools along pathways into four squares (the Persian Chahar Bagh system). Each square is set with fountains, water reservoirs, and trails. The tomb once had water reservoirs at its four corners to fed fountains and pathways.
The garden was accessible through the gates erected on its northern and southern walls. The southern gate is a double storied structure, square in shape, serves as the primary entrance to the garden complex. Its southern face is decked with red stone and white marble while the other three faces are decorated with plasterwork. Its interiors feature small chambers. Its central portion features a tall two-story iwan portal finished with stucco work and flooring is done in geometrical design brickwork. The northern side gate is known as Jawab (response) gate, a two-storied structure with a central arched iwan portal flanked by four smaller portals. Its front is adorned with intricate tile work (Kashi Kari) but much of the intricate ornamental work has already gone. There is a small mosque found in the eastern wall which was used as a residence during the British era while there is access to Jahangir’s Tomb via the Akbari Sarai in the western wall.
Asif Khan’s tomb was built in Central Asian style architecture. The tomb was noted to feature some of the finest examples of building art and craft at the time of construction.
Standing in the centre of a vast garden the tomb is erected on a 3-foot 9-inch elevated podium accessible by stairs. It was built octagonal in shape with each side measuring 38 feet 8 inches with access to its interior from eight sides and arched window looking into the tomb. Each side of the tomb has a deeply recessed iwan or alcove.
The exterior of the tomb was originally decorated with red sandstone and rich marble stone inlay work. Its finishing was done with stucco tracery and blue Kashi tiles. The high bulbous double dome, resting on the octagonal base, was originally covered with white marble finishing. The use of bulbous domes was initiated by Emperor Shah Jahan and were never used before.
The interior of the tomb, renowned for its lavish use of white marble and precious inlay, ornamented with very bold stucco design, tile mosaic, and Ghalib Kari. The inner dome ceiling is decked in high plaster relief of interlacing patterns. The central cenotaph is made of pure marble carved with inscriptions from the Holy Qur’an like that in the nearby tomb of Emperor Jahangir. The floor on which the tomb stands was built red limestone (Sang-e-Abri) which does not exist anymore.
Sikh Era Mutilation
During the rule of the Sikh Empire, Asif Khan’s tomb along with Jahangir’s Tomb and other monuments were heavily damaged. Notable Sikh rulers like Gujjar Singh, Lahna Singh, and Subha Singh carried out the damages and planted large Pipal trees next to the tomb to obstruct its views which were removed later. Its marble, various decorative stones, and sandstones were pillaged and installed in the Golden Temple in Amritsar and to build the Hazuri Bagh Baradari in Lahore.
If the tomb had existed in its original shape with all designs and colours, it would have been a masterpiece. It did not attract much attention because its beauty was snatched by the Sikhs. It was later repaired by did not gain its glory. Also, the gardens and gateways were repaired too by the British and its walls were swept away by flooding in 1955 when River Ravi was inundated, and a second flood occurred in 1973 while repair work was carried out in 1986-87. But the tomb and its walls are still in disappointing condition.
The Mughal Emperor Jahangir’s Tomb is the most glorious edifice in Lahore, Pakistan. The tomb complex is sited in Shahdara – on the right bank of Ravi River, to the northwest of the Walled City of Lahore. In fact, it is the only Mughal tomb surviving intact in the region and is considered as the second most magnificent structure known for its beauty and texture after Taj Mahal in Agra, India.
The garden where the tomb is erected had been the most favourite place of Jahangir and his wife Noor Jahan. It was constructed by Nawab Mehdi Qasim, a special curator of emperor Akbar. When Meher-un-Nisa, title with Noor Jahan, became the Queen of India, she took the garden in her custody and further enhanced its charm with the beautiful trees and fountains due to which it was called Dilkusha Garden. Historically, this place served as a point of departure and arrival to and from Kashmir for Jahangir and Noor Jahan.
Emperor Nuruddin Salim Jahangir (1605-1627), the son of Emperor Jalal-Ud-Din Akbar (1556-1605) and father of Emperor Shah Jahan (1627-1658), was the fourth Mughal ruler in the subcontinent. Like his father Akbar the great, emperor Jahangir also made Lahore the centre of official affairs which resulted in the significant growth of the city during the rule of Akbar and Jahangir. When Jahangir died in the foothills of Kashmir near the town of Rajauri on 28 October 1627, his entrails were separated and sent to be buried in Kashmir and his body was transported to Dilkusha Garden in Lahore for burial.
Official records suggest that Emperor Shah Jahan was the head designer of the tomb who wished to construct a ‘Tomb befitting an Emperor’ to honour his beloved father. On the other hand, most historians believe his wife Noor Jahan had more influence over the construction of this tomb complex. The major bases that convinced historians was the profound Persian influence throughout the area as well as her inspiration from the tomb of her father, Itmad-Ud- Daulah, in Agra that reflects the design of the Tomb of Jahangir.
Besides leading the entire architecture of Jahangir’s tomb, empress Noor Jahan played a role in designing the gardens which resulted in making Lahore her permanent resident after Jahangir’s death. There’s also enough evidence that suggests the construction of this grand mausoleum was mostly financed by Noor Jahan rather than the imperial treasury. It took about ten years, from 1627 to 1637, to build the grand mausoleum at a total cost of one million rupees of the time.
Later, during the Sikh regime, the tomb was used as army headquarters and as a private residence. During the time, it was desecrated, damaged, and precious pieces of art in the inner chambers were destroyed and pillaged. The tomb complex almost lost its prestige after the fall of the Mughal empire, particularly during the Sikh rule and British occupation. The British used the complex for coal dumping during the construction of a railway line which also separated Jahangir’s tomb from that of his wife’s. However, the British later restored the tomb complex and Akbari Sarai to its former glory. Image of the tomb was used on the 1,000 Pakistani Rupee note until 2005 but no longer printed yet is still in circulation.
Jahangir’s mausoleum is set in a large quadrangle measuring 500 (600 gaz) meters to a side and is covered with a thick wall. The complex could be accessible by two grand entrances located to the west and east. The eastern entrance gate of Jahangir’s tomb was destroyed because of the river the garden and is currently accessible by the western gate that features a small mosque and accessible through the Akbari Sarai – a square enclosure reachable from two gates standing to the north and south facing each other. The gate is artistically decorated with pietra-dura work – white marble inlaid in red sandstone – retains its unique glory. The arch of the gate is skillfully associated with the sun and the stars and present a beautiful example of human excellence.
Entering through the gate provides a panoramic view of the tomb which is surrounded by a retch of a magnificent garden laid out in the Persian Chahar Bagh scheme (Islamic paradise garden). The garden is separated into four squares by paved walkways (Khiyabans) and two bisecting channels of water designed to reflect four rivers that flow in the paradise (Jannat). All four squares are further divided into sixteen smaller squares with pathways and fountains in between.
Jahangir’s great grandfather Babur chose to be buried in a tomb open to the sky, following the Sunni tradition, but the construction of Jahangir’s mausoleum with a flat roof compromised the conventional tradition as Jahangir was said to have explicitly forbade the construction of a dome. Standing gracefully on a 5 feet high podium and square in plan measuring, the 22-foot-tall single-story mausoleum measures 267 foot (100 gaz) to a side. The main grave is surrounded by forty rooms and every room has a corridor attached with a different design from the other. These rooms were used by Islamic scholars to recite the Quran in the al era in order to reward the king soul. The corridor around the mausoleum is adorned with a very elegant mosaic, floral frescos and verses from the holy Quran. Carved marble jali screens admit light in various patterns facing toward Mecca. The rooftop is remarkable, with intricate marble work on the ceiling that resembles a Persian carpet. Its vaulted bays reflect Timurid architectural style from Central Asia.
The four octagonal minarets topped with white marble cupolas measuring 100 feet in height rising from the corners are decorated with zigzag inlay of brilliant white marble and yellow stone. Each one of the minarets is 5 floored, easily accessible, and provide a scenic view of the city. Badshahi Mosque lies opposite the tomb of Jahangir and the fun fact is that these structures have been built in such a way that only three minarets of the tomb are visible from the mosque and, vice versa. The exterior of the mausoleum, including the lowest stage of the towers, is clad with red sandstone facing with rich panel decoration inlaid with marble decorative motifs. The geometrical perfection and exquisite symmetry combine to reflect dexterity and human excellence simply admirable in this piece of art.
Jahangir’s grave is situated at the centre of the mausoleum in an octagonal chamber 8 meters in diameter. It is connected to the outside of the tomb by four hallways facing the four cardinal directions. The floor is beautifully decorated with floral designs using a variety of stones including four types of 400 years old original marble while walls are decked with mosaic samples. The tomb was constructed in a Mughal style influenced by Safavid-style architecture from Persia, which may have been introduced into the Mughal Court by Noor Jahan – who was of Persian origin.
The cenotaph is laid out as a takhtgah – built upon a 1.5 ft high podium measuring 9ft by 6 ft which serves as a Takht, or “throne”. It is decorated using white marble on which beautiful floral fresco work is done with precious and semi-precious stones including Aqeeq, Suleiman, Sapphire, Zehar Mohra (Bezoar Stone) and Ubri Marble. The platform of the cenotaph is 2.5 ft from the podium made with white marble. The cenotaph has 99 traditional attributes of Allah decorated with pietra dura inlays. The flat top of the cenotaph is engraved with Quranic verses. The inscription to the feet side confirms the Persian influence, reads, “This is the illuminated grave of His Majesty, the Asylum of Pardon, Nooruddin Muhammad Jahangir Padshah 1037 AH”
The Original Building
There is another notion that the tomb structure was a three-story building and there was a Baradari on the existing building (Pavilion with 12 doors) where Jahangir’s grave amulet was built. During the Sikh rule, on the orders of Maharaja Ranjeet Singh, several Mughal era buildings were undermined including the Jahangir’s tomb. The Baradari was said to removed from Jahangir’s tomb and reassembled at the garden (Hazuri Bagh) located between Badshahi Mosque and Lahore Fort which is standing even today. After extracting Baradari, Ranjeet Singh installed a temporary wooden roof which was replaced with a permanent concrete roof by the British, but the structure never looks the part of work done in the Mughal era. The roof of the tomb had intricately carved marble grill which was also removed by the Sikhs and sent to Darbar Sahib in Amritsar, India. To fill the space, lime plaster had been done on the roof of the mausoleum.
Well respected for their architectural marvel, floral designs, geometrical patterns, extensive application of natural colours, pietra-dura work, and use of precious and semi-precious stones for ornamentation, the Mughals have earned a name for their aesthetic brilliance. The intricate work inside and outside this massive complex is the testament of the marvellous art the Mughals have demonstrated. Visiting Jahangir’s tomb is always a rewarding experience. The two other complexes in Shahdara Bagh – Asif Khan’s tomb and Akbari Sarai – built by Shah Jahan are worth the visit and give a deep insight into the glorious days of the Mughal empire.
The gigantic Muslim necropolis of the historical monuments, Makli Necropolis in Thatta, is one of the largest graveyards in the world. The cemetery encompasses an area of 10 km2 and is home to about half a million monuments. Sprawling in a diamond-shaped site, Makli houses alluring tombs and graves of people from all walks of life; notably of kings & queens, scholars & soldiers, philosophers, governors, and saints. It was included in the world heritage sites in 1981.
According to historical accounts, the sleeping city of Makli is the final resting place of over 125,000 saints. The city has historically been an important centre of learning. According to an estimate, there were some 400 educational institutions where students from the Muslim world and Asia learned different disciplines including religion, politics, and philosophy.
However, the fable that who first inhabited this city has remained unresolved. It is generally believed that the cemetery grew around the shrine of the fourteenth century Sufi Hamad Jamali. Likewise, why this place was called Makli is another legend. Two notions hold – the first that locals believe Makli means Mecca-like and the other is the association of the name with the pious women “Mai Makli” whose prayers said to have averted Sultan Firuz Shah Tughlaq’s conquest of Thatta until she died. She was also buried in Makli near the tomb of Jam Nizamuddin.
Thatta remained a glorious capital of Sindh from 14th to 18th centuries reigned by three successive dynasties – Samma, Argun and Tarkhan – before it was ruled by the Mughal emperors of Delhi from 1592 to 1739. The province was then ceded to the Shah Nadir of Iran in 1739 when Thatta entered into a period of depravity and neglect.
There are monuments notable for their design, size, and artwork. The tombs of Jam Nizamuddin II, who ruled from 1461 to 1509, is an impressive structure square in shape built of sandstone and adorned with floral and geometric medallions. Likewise, the two-story mausoleums of Isa Khan Tarkhan the Younger and also of his father, Jan Baba, was constructed before 1644 – a stone building with majestic cupolas and balconies. The most colourful is that of Diwan Shurfa Khan (died in 1638). All the tombs are different in size, shape, and design. Some of the monuments are built a double-story with covered premises indicating the trademark of the buried inside.
Impressed by the extent and prominence of Makli Necropolis, Dr. Anne Marie Schimmel, the distinguished German Sufi scholar and an authority on Iqbal’s poetry once wished to be buried here. Makli, the city of silence, is an archaeologists’ paradise. It is equally fascinating for domestic and international tourists as well as for pilgrims. Makli, however, became an unsolved legend today in many aspects.
The historical monuments at Makli mark the social and political history of the Sindh province between the 14th and 18th centuries. Most tombs and graves of the upper echelon during the glorious period of Thatta were built with architectural dexterity, displaying a unique art of the time, using a variety of materials including sand bricks, stone, and marble. Some of the monuments at Makli are lavishly decorated with glazed tiles. These monuments feature various designs with arched domes and towers inscribed beautifully of Islamic calligraphy and devotional carving representing motifs drawn from various religious and iconographic traditions.
Most of the monuments of the iconic figures are still standing in good condition today, even after several centuries of exposing to all weather conditions, representing Hindu and Islamic architecture. A considerable renovation, however, is required to pass on the rich heritage to the next generations.
Location and access:
The site making the historical monuments at Makli lies adjacent to the tip of Indus river delta, on the outskirts of Thatta – the ancient centre of Islamic civilization – clustered at the edge of 6.5 km long plateau of Makli. It is about 89kms east of Karachi in the Sindh province, south of Pakistan. Makli Hill is an ideal day trip from Karachi. The entire site of the graveyard is easy to navigate through wide streets giving access to all monuments.
Locally known as China Yadgar, the Chinese graveyard (The memorial Park) is the final resting place of mighty Chinese engineers and workers who sacrificed their lives during construction of the mighty Karakoram Highway (KKH) in the 1960s and 1970s. The cemetery is located in Danyore, about 10 km across main Gilgit town – the capital city of Gilgit-Baltistan in Pakistan. To be exact, the graveyard can be accessed in the residential area on the KKH, adjacent to Sehat Foundation Hospital.
The 1300 km (Pakistan: 887 km & China: 413km) Karakoram highway was a joint venture of Pakistani and Chinese workers and Engineers. It cost lives of 810 Pakistanis and about 200 Chinese during the period of its construction. It was started in 1959 and the construction completed in 1977 while opened for public in 1979. During construction on the Pakistani section of the KKH, the Chinese workers who laid down their lives were buried in what is called the Chinese graveyard today.
The cemetery was established in the early 70s – at a time when the construction of KKH was in progress. Several years after its construction, the Chinese government realized to carry out renovation of the cemetery. It was repaired in 2013 on a Chinese-funded project. The Consular of the Chinese Embassy Mr. Zhang Lianyou and the then Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) Assembly Speaker Mr. Wazir Baig laid the foundation stone for a new cemetery on April 05, 2013. The project was completed in October of the same year.
Access and location
The memorial park is accessible by a main gate and entry is totally free. A custodian designated by the government of China looks after the cemetery. As soon as one enters the main gate of the graveyard, both sides of the pathway are adorned with a pictographic display. The pictures in display feature construction work on the KKH by the Chinese workers and engineers during harsh conditions. It also shows medical aid provided by the Chinese doctors to the local people during the time of construction of the Highway.
Moreover, there is also a set of pictures on display along with sufficient information. The display features a reconstruction of the KKH, formation of tunnels, erection of major bridges (in Shishkat over Attabad Lake and in Danyore over Gilgit River) and providing of emergency transportation services across Attabad Lake in hard environmental conditions. The adjoining concrete erection in brown glazing with black base comprises historical information on the KKH in Urdu, Chinese, and English languages.
Proceeding further, the elevated podium, accessible by staircases, has a lime-white memorial tower, with Chinese inscription on in red, is surrounded by beautiful evergreen trees. The entire memorial park is decked with a variety of trees including the towering pine trees, and some are said to have imported from China. During summers the overall climate within the premises of graveyard remains fairly cool.
The Chinese graveyard has four equal size quarters surrounded by footpath. Each quarter contains three rows with nine tombs in each row which make 27 graves in each quarter. A tombstone is placed over each grave containing epitaph inscriptions in Chinese characters. There are 108 tombs in four quarters of which 16 tombs are still empty in one of the quarters. The reason those graves are still blank was the bodies of the workers lost under debris in massive landslides or other incidents during the construction of KKH.
The graveyard is very well maintained and serves also as a tourist attraction. The Chinese cemetery is a reminder of the hard work that demanded precious lives. It is indeed a symbol of lasting friendship that has continued for years. Pak-China friendship will remain even stronger with the passage of time.