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.

Shalimar Gardens
Posted in Heritage Sites in Pakistan Monuments Punjab

Shalimar Gardens

The Shalimar Gardens in Lahore is an exceptional Mughal garden complex. It was constructed during the artistic and aesthetic zenith of the Mughal rule. The construction of the Shalimar Gardens began on 12 June 1641 by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan and completed after 18 months at the end of 1942. The Shalimar Gardens and the Lahore Fort together were inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981.

The gardens were built primarily to entertain the royal guests yet the general public could enter to a specific section of the garden. The construction of the Shalimar Gardens was influenced by the older Shalimar Gardens in Kashmir built by Emperor Jahangir (Shah Jahan’s father) and Shah Jahan himself was involved in the construction of the old gardens in Kashmir.

Covering about 16 hectares (658 meters north to south and 258 meters east to west) by crenelated walls of red sandstone, the rectangle garden is constructed in three terraces descending from south to north. Each terrace has been given a special meaningful name. The upper-level terrace, for instance, was named “Farah Baksh” meaning Bestower of Pleasure, the middle-level terrace was named “Faiz Baksh” meaning Bestower of Goodness, and the lower level terrace was named Hayat Baksh meaning Bestower of Life.

There are a total of 410 fountains rising from the canal and from the basin water discharges into the marble pools. The water circulation system was so technically engineered that even scientists today still find it hard to understand thermal engineering. The architecture of thermal engineering was aimed to create cooler air through fountain water during beating down summers to relief visitors. Out of 410, there are 105 fountains in the upper-level terrace, 152 in the middle-level terrace and 153 in the lower level terrace.

Inside the covered boundary wall, there are a number of buildings used for a variety of purposes. The names of the buildings are:

  • Sawan Bhadun pavilions
  • Naqar Khana and its buildings
  • Khwabgah or Sleeping chambers
  • Hammam or Royal bath
  • The Aiwan or Grand Hall
  • Aramgah or Resting place
  • Khawabgah of Begum Sahib or Dream place of the emperor’s wife
  • Baradaries or summer pavilions to enjoy the coolness created by the Gardens’ fountains
  • Diwan-e-Khas-o-Aam or Hall of the special and ordinary audience with the emperor
  • Two gateways and minarets in the corners of the Gardens

Besides the terraces, various buildings, fountains, marble pools, and pathways, there used to be a variety of trees in the garden named as Almond, Peach, Apple, Plum, Apricot, Poplar, Cherry, Quince Seedless, Gokcha, Mango, Mulberry, Sapling of Cypress, Shrubs and Sour and Sweet oranges.

Historically the project of Shalimar Garden was supervised by a noble of Shah Jahan’s court named as Khalilullah Khan. The site originally belonged to the Arian Mian Family and the title “Mian” was given to the family by the emperor for its services to the Empire. However, the land where the Shalimar Garden was built was acquired by Mughal engineers by placing pressure on the Mian family only because of its ideal position and soil quality. In return, the Arian Mian family was granted the governance of Shalimar Garden which lasted for 350 years. Later, General Ayub Kahn nationalized the Garden only because the Mian Family had opposed his imposition of Martial law.

 

Lahore Fort and Shalimar Garden
Posted in Heritage Sites in Pakistan Punjab World Heritage Sites

Lahore Fort and Shalimar Garden

The Lahore Fort and Shalimar Garden are two exceptional royal complexes from the Mughal era. Both monuments are in Lahore, the cultural hub of Pakistan, and boasting of their pride and prestige to date. The Lahore Fort and Shalimar Garden were inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Pakistan in 1981 for their “outstanding repertoire” of Mughal monuments dating from the era when the empire was at its artistic and aesthetic zenith.

The fort is located at the northwest corner of the walled city of Lahore while the Shalimar Gardens are situated along the Grand Trunk Road some 5 kilometres northeast of the main Lahore city. The monuments are located at a distance 7 kilometres from each other.

Dating back to 1the 7th century, both masterpieces reflect the true artistic expression of the Mughals at its peak.  The fort is the only monument that represents the complete history of Mughal architecture in Pakistan. The Shalimar garden, built by Emperor Shah Jahan in 1642, still retain the glorious Persian and Islamic tradition is a fine example of Mughal gardens.

Lahore Fort

Irregular in design, the Lahore Fort or Shahi Qila is a worldly famous citadel spreading over an area greater than 20 hectares. The fort is located at the northern end of Lahore’s Walled City. It has 21 notable monuments, some of which date as far back as to the era of Emperor Akbar.

The Fort was almost entirely rebuilt in the 17th century when the Mughal Empire enjoyed the height of its reign. According to records, it was said to be a mud-brick fort in the 11th century but the foundations of the modern Lahore Fort was laid in 1566 during the reign of Emperor Akbar.

The fort featured both Islamic and Hindu motifs in its architectural design. However subsequent amendments were carried out with the passage of time by the succeeding Mughal Emperors.  However, the facility was turned into the residence of Ranjit Singh, founder of the Sikh Empire, after the fall of Mughal Empire and later passed on to British who made some major changes in its design as per their own need.

Shalimar Garden

The Shalimar Gardens in Lahore is an exceptional Mughal garden complex. The garden has a unique collage of natural and architectural beauty. It was constructed during the artistic and aesthetic zenith of the Mughal rule.  The construction of the Shalimar Gardens began on 12 June 1641 by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan and completed after 18 months at the end of 1942. Its construction was influenced by regions like Central Asia, Persia, Kashmir, Punjab and Dehli Sultanate and reflects the affinity of Shah Jahan for nature and architecture.

The 16 hectares (658 meters north to south and 258 meters east to west) rectangle garden by crenellated walls of red sandstone is arranged in three terraces descending from south to north with each terrace given a special name. The upper-level terrace, for instance, was named “Farah Baksh” meaning Bestower of Pleasure, the middle-level terrace was named “Faiz Baksh” meaning Bestower of Goodness, and the lower level terrace was named Hayat Baksh meaning Bestower of Life.

There are a total of 410 fountains rising from the canal and from the basin water discharges into the marble pools. The water circulation system was so technically engineered that even scientists today still find it hard to understand thermal engineering. The architecture of thermal engineering was aimed to create cooler air through fountain water during beating down summers to relief visitors. Out of 410, there are 105 fountains in the upper-level terrace, 152 in the middle-level terrace and 153 in the lower level terrace.

The gardens were built primarily to entertain the royal guests, yet the general public could enter a specific section of the garden. It is located close to Baghbanpura on the GT road 5km northeast of the city centre. The site of the garden belonged to the Arian Mian Family and Shah Jahan rewarded them with the Mian title for its services and contribution to 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.

Ketas Raj Temples
Posted in Punjab Temples

Ketas Raj Temples

The Ketas Raj temples are a valuable piece of ancient architecture and one of the oldest Hindu religious sites in Punjab, Pakistan. This splendid complex of temples dedicated to Ram, Hanuman, and Shiva, is laid around a natural pond. The complex also houses the Gurdwara of Guru Nanak, who was believed to say here during his journey around the world;  and remains of the Haveli of Hari Singh Nalwa, the most famous general in Ranjit Singh’s army.

History of Ketas Raj

The main Ketas temple is believed to have existed since the days of Mahabharata, about 300 BC. Legend has it that at the death of Hindu god Shiva’s wife Satti, he wept so much that his tears created two holy ponds and Ketas pond is one of the two while the other is at Ajmer in India. Ketas is a Sanskrit word literally means “raining eyes”.

Another myth says that the five Pandava brothers stayed here for four out of the 14 years that they spent in exile. The lake in the complex is believed to have magical powers and is supposed to be where Yudhisthira defeated the Yaksha with his wisdom to bring his brothers back to life. Yet another version of the Siva legend involves the death of Shiva’s horse Katas instead of that of Satti his partner.

The Temples

The Katas site houses the Satgraha, which comprises of a group of seven ancient temples, remains of a Buddhist stupa, a few Medieval Temples, Havelis, and some recently constructed temples scattered around a pond considered holy by Hindus. The pool was surrounded by a fort, temples, bathhouses, and rest houses.

Some of the construction around the pool is clustered while there are some units spreading sparsely around the main construction site. The oldest building in Ketas is a Buddhist Stupa with remains still visible on an elevated portion of Ketas. Only the base of this stupa is intact and believed to be more than 2000 years old.

Hieun Tsang, the famous Chinese traveler visited this place in search of Buddhist text and relics in the early 7th century AD. That was the time when Buddhism took a downward spiral and largely replaced by Hinduism. Hieun’s account of travel describes the fact in the account of his travel that an ancient fort surrounds the complex of the buildings at Ketas.

The fortification wall is still intact at many places and major portions of the fort have been preserved. Sikh Raja Hari Singh Nalwa constructed a palace by the pond. Though this palace is now in ruins yet in some of the preserved rooms there are colorful pictures of Hindu gods and goddesses.

There are three temples at the highest point. Kala Mandar is the oldest one built about fifteen hundred years ago. The central temple is the largest construction with three stories having a dark narrow staircase leading to the rooftop which gives a broader view of the Ketas complex and the salt range as a whole. These Hindu Temples of Ketas were built during the Hindu Shahi Period. They are similar in architecture to the temples of Malot and Shiv Danga.

The Ketas temple has been the site of holy pilgrimage for people of various faiths. Thousands of Hindus used to flock every April to bathe at Ketas pool. The pilgrims bathe in the sacred pool and seek forgiveness as Hindu belief holds that bathing in the pond (especially on certain occasions) leads to the forgiveness of sins and helps attain salvation.

Most of the temples were built during the reign of Hindu kings around 900 years ago or more, although the earliest of the Ketas Raj temples dates back to the latter half of the 6th century AD.

Location and access

The temples are situated in Ketas village off Choa Sadan Shah, past main bazaar, in Chakwal district of Punjab, Pakistan. Ketas is 160 km from Islamabad easily accessible by taking the road to Choa Sadan Shah from Kalar Kahar interchange at Islamabad- Lahore motorway (M2).

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