Noor Jahan's Tomb
Posted in Heritage Sites in Pakistan Punjab Tombs

Noor Jahan’s Tomb

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.

Architecture

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.

Exterior

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.

Interior

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.

Gardens

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.

Tomb of Asif Khan
Posted in Heritage Sites in Pakistan Punjab Tombs

Tomb of Asif Khan

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.

Layout

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.

Architecture

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 tomb, along with the adjacent Akbari Sarai and the Tomb of Jahangir, is on the tentative list as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Akbari Sarai
Posted in Monuments Punjab

Akbari Sarai

The Akbari Sarai (Palace of Akbar) is a large oblong shaped courtyard situated between Jahangir’s Tomb and Asif Khan’s Tomb in Lahore city in Punjab province of Pakistan.  This unique Mughal era structure was built in 1637 to host travellers and caretakers of Jahangir’s Tomb. It also served as mail station known as dak chowki.

History

The court historian to the Emperor Shah Jahan, Abdul Hamid Lahori, mentioned the original name of the building as “Jilu Khana-e-Rauza (attached court of the tomb) in his book the Padshahnama. The name Akbari Sarai began to be called during the reign of Islam Shah Suri in mid-1550s, not during the reign of the Mughal Emperor Akbar.

Architecture

The Sarai measuring 797 feet by 610 feet covering 12 acres of land is bordered by a raised terrace containing 180 cells with front verandas and a common passage. The Sarai has four Burjes in its corners containing elaborate chambers feature an elliptical hall in front with a veranda and an octagonal room in the back.

It is accessible by two stately entrances on its north and on the south. Featuring typical Mughal style art, these gates are beautifully adorned with frescoes and Ghalib Kari (a network of ribs in stucco and plaster applied to curved surfaces in each archway). Its topographies including the decorative elements, the style of the structure, the size of the bricks used for construction; the Sarai and the eastern entrance gateway to the Jahangir’s tomb, featuring a large double storied iwan linked by four other smaller arched niches, are believed to have been built in the same period.

To the west of the Sarai, in the middle of the row of cells, is a mosque from the Suri period with three splendid domes. Although most of the fine artwork is already gone, its sandstone facing decoder with inlay work is graceful. The cells which line the complex and its gateways date from the Shah Jahan period in the mid-1600s.

Administration

The Sarai actually served as a state guesthouse and was administered by a Shahna (official caretaker) and several assistants. It also had a physician and a resident baker. Fodder for animals, hot and cold water, and bedsteads were provided free of cost.

During the Sikh era, Maharajah Ranjit Singh converted the complex into a cantonment of one of his foreign generals called Musa Farangi. It was also used as a private residence. Likewise, during the British era, it was used as a rail depot and severely damaged following the construction of the nearby rail line.

All three monuments – Akbari Sarai, the Tomb of Jahangir, and Tomb of Asif Khan – were inscribed on the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1993.

Jahangir's Tomb Lahore
Posted in Heritage Sites in Pakistan Punjab Tombs

Jahangir’s Tomb

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.

History

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.

Construction

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.

Renovation

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.

Layout

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.

Architecture

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.

Cenotaph

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.

Wazir Khan Mosque
Posted in Mosques Punjab

Wazir Khan Mosque

The 17th century Wazir Khan Mosque in Lahore is an outstanding feat of Mughal era architecture. It was commissioned during the reign of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. The Mughal architecture in the subcontinent has been archetypal and has had no matching landmarks built to date.  The Wazir Khan Mosque in Lahore is such a sole and vivid illustration of Mughal architecture. It is also a testimony of their affinity to finesse, frescos and dexterity. It has been described as “a mole on the cheek of Lahore”.

The exquisite Wazir Khan Mosque is named after Wazir Khan, the title granted to Hakim Sheikh Ilm-ud-din Ansari. He was a native of Chiniot who hailed from humble origins in the town of Chiniot in Punjab. Hakim Ansari studied medicine and was hired by the Mughal court as the personal physician of Prince Khurram (the future Shah Jahan).  Later he was promoted as governor of Lahore. The young prince, because of Ansari’s competence, bestowed him with the title Wazir Khan in 1620. Wazir is a title meaning “Minister” in Urdu.

History

Before the construction of the mosque, Wazir Khan built a tomb or Mazar of a Sufi saint called Syed Muhammed Ishaq, also known as Miran Badshah. The mosque was built between 1634 and 1941 to enclose the tomb of the Sufi saint. Currently, his tomb lies in the courtyard some 10 feet below the main ground of the mosque.

Location

Located in the old walled city of Lahore in Punjab, Pakistan, the Wazir Khan mosque is situated on the road connecting the Lahore Fort to the Delhi Gate. The mosque covers an area of 279 feet (85 m) x 159 feet (48 m). The building is erected on an elevated plinth and can be accessed through an octagonal interior chamber on the eastern side of the complex. Moreover, a curious feature of it is the incorporation of 22 shops in its ground plan forming a bazaar located on the two sides of a brick paved passage leading to the mosque which exists even now.

Architecture

The mosque has a single aisle and five bays. The prayer chamber resembles that of the Mosque of Mariyam Zamani Begum located in the same city. Its high arched galleries surround its central brick paved courtyard. Similarly, the arrangement of the 5-bay single-aisle prayer chamber 130 ft long, framed by simple cusped arches carried on deep piers.

The mosque has three domes. The central dome, rising higher than others, accents the elegantly detailed mihrab. The ingenious constructions of double domes help spread the voice of the imam to the extremity of the courtyard. It is also flanked on its four sides by 32 guestrooms (Hijars).

The mosque is constructed of cut and dressed bricks. Its walls are adorned with fresco paintings in charming colors (cobalt, cerulean blue, green, orange, yellow and purple). The walls are divided into compartments “for the reception of glazed pattern” and contain calligraphy in Arabic and Persian languages. Similarly, the grills of the mosque are made up of terracotta.

Likewise, the floors are decorated with colorful tiles with geometrical designs. Another distinguishing architectural feature is the use of 107 feet high minarets; each of its four corners decorated with mosaic tiles. These designs are employed for the first time reflecting the regional style totally uncommon in mosques of Mughal capitals. The domes of the mosque are built in the Lodi style.

The mosque till date is immensely attractive not only to the locals but also nationwide and internationally. Wazir Khan Mosque is a must visit tourist attraction in Lahore. The mosque is a great landmark to carry forward the Mughal style architecture.

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