Lahore holds yet another key to understanding Islamic architecture in the subcontinent. Like Delhi (the capital of India), the city provides visual reminders of its parental heritage, of its occupation by a series of rulers since the eleventh century. But like two children of the same parents they are very different, each with their own personality and temperament. Throughout their shared history Lahore and Delhi have been inseparable, but distinctive in character.
Today Lahore is the largest city of the state of Punjab in Pakistan, with an elegant mixture of the old, the colonial, and the new. For the monarchs who ruled from Delhi, Lahore was a crucial buffer zone. It was necessary for invading armies from the west to take this city first before they could break through to Delhi. But a protective barrier is also a gateway, and Lahore was the first to come into contact with new ideas and creative influences. Great pots and artists settled here rather than further within the Indian peninsula.
Three miles east of Lahore are the famous Shalimar Gardens laid out by the Mughal Emperor Shah-Jehan in 1642 AD. The Gardens are spread out in typical Mughal style and are surrounded by high walls with watch-towers at the four corners.
Originally, the gardens were spread over seven ascending terraces, but only three remain now which cover an area of about 42 acres. The brick-work of the floors of the three terraces have been repaired according to their original designs which differ on all three terraces. There is a marble pavilion under which water flows and cascades down over a carved, marble slab creating a water-fall effect. Across the water-fall is a marble throne. At the end of the second terrace is a beautiful struc-ture called Sawan Bhadon, a sunken tank niches on its three sides. Water cascades down from it in sheets in front of the niches, introducing the sound of falling rain. In the olden times, small oil lamps were placed in the niches which reflected myriad colours, through the water.
Shalimar gardens have the proud privilege of being the stage of all important state receptions. Outside its walls the annual festival of Mela Chiraghan is held every March. Special lights on the first and second terraces of the Gardens have been installed and the area is illuminated half-an-hour after sun – set.
The Imperial or the Badshahi Mosque is across the courtyard from Alamgiri Gate of the Lahore Fort. The Mosque which is made up entirely of red sand-stone was built was built by Emperor Aurangzeb, the last of the great Mughals, in a record time of two and-a-half years. Its construction was completed by 1674 AD.
It has a beautiful gate- way which measures 21.33 metres in length and a courtyard that mea-sures 161.5 x 160.6 metres and is said to be the largest mosque courtyard in the world for outdoor prayers. The marble domes cover seven prayer chambers.
Four lofty minarets stand at the four corners of the mosque, each with an outer circumference of 20 metres, soar-ing up to 54 metres. In the chambers above the Gate of the mosque, are housed relics attributed to the Holy Prophet of Islam Peace be upon him, His Daughter and His Son-in-Law and are said to have been brought to the sub-continent by Amir Taimur.
Within the Mosque almost all the colours have been used for painting the floral designs but the overall effect remains one of sobriety, piousness and simplicity.
Although most parts of the Royal Fort were constructed around 1566 AD. by the Mughal Emperor, Akbar the Great, there is evidence that a mud fort was in existence here in 1021 AD, as well, when Mahmood of Ghazna invaded this area. Akbar demolished the old mud for and constructed most of the modem Fort, as we see it today, on the old foundations. Construction of the fort dates back to the early Hindu period.
The Royal Fort is rectangular. The main gates are located alongside the centre of the western and eastern walls. Every succeeding Mughal Emperior as well as the Skihs and the British in their turn added a pavilion, palace or wall to the Fort. Emperor Jehangir extended the gardens and consructed the palaces that we see today in the Jehangir’s Quadrangle, while Shah-Jehan added Diwan-e-Khas, Moti Masjid (Pearl Mosque) and his own Sleeping Chambers. Aurangzeb built the impressive main gate which faces the Hazoori Bagh lying in between the Badshahi Mosque and the Fort. The famous Sheesh Mahal or Palace of Mirrors, is in the north-east cor-ner of the Fort. This is the most beautiful palace in the Fort and is decorated with small mirrors of different colours set.
The part of the wall of the Elephant Steps towards the Fort’s inner gate are scarred by bullet marks, bearing testimony to the Sikh Civil War of 1847 AD.
A party of Sikhs had mounted their guns on one of the minarets of the mosque across the courtyard from where they fired on their opponents. The Sleeping Chamber of Mai Jindan houses a very interesting museum with relics from Mughal and the Sikh periods
The exiled Humayun, returned to Lahore in 1555 but died soon after he reclaimed the Delhi throne. His young son Akbar (14 years old at the time) was crowned emperor at Kalanor in the Punjab and proceeded immediately to Lahore. Being an intelligent man, he sensed the perfect positioning of an older citadel constructed by his predecessors and built the new Lahore Fort at the same site, with its northern side facing the River Ravi. Akbar based himself here while he was expanding his empire in the subcontinent
Kim’s Gun or Zamzama
Immortalised by Rudyard Kipling in his accounts is this famous gun now popularly known as the Kim’s Gun.
It is placed just outside the museum on the Sharah-e-Quaid-e-Azam in front of the campus.
Wazir Khan Mosque
In the old part of the town and off the Kashmiri Bazaar, reputedly the most beautiful Mosque in the sub-continent is situated.
The Mosque was built in 1683 AD. by Hakim llmuddin who was Minister to Shah Jehan and was generally known as Wazir Khan. It is a marvelous specimen of tile work and arabesque paintings.
Golden Mosque is also situated in the Kashmiri Bazaar. It was built in 1753 AD. by Nawab Syed Bhikan Khan who was Deputy Governor of Lahore. It is a remarkably beautiful mosque with three golden domes.
Hiran Minar is set in peaceful evirons near Lahore in Sheikhupura, Pakistan. It was constructed by Emperor Jehangir as a monument to Mansraj, one of his pet deers
The structure consists of a large, almost-square water tank with an octagonal pavilion in its center, built during the reign of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan; a causeway with its own gateway connects the pavilion with the mainland and a 100-foot-high minar, or minaret