Lahore


It is said “Jhenain Lahore nai vakhia oh jamia eh nai ah” How much truth is in it?? Well you can only know by visiting Lahore. Lahore is the capital city of Punjab province. It has been a great center of importance since the Mughal Rule as it remained the capital of great Akbar for about fourteen years and he and his successors built a lot of beautiful buildings here. Ranjeet Singh captured the city in 1779 and became the emperor of Punjab. During the British Raj, some more buildings appeared here. Now not only it is the capital of Punjab but also a great industrial center. Definitely the place to visit in Pakistan, in my humble opinion…

Lahore Fort

The massive walls of Lahore Fort, built by Emperor Akbar in 1566, when he made Lahore his capital. It was modified by Emperor Jehangir in 1618 and later damaged by the Sikhs and British although it has now been partially restored. The compound is filled with stately palaces, halls and gardens built by the Emperors Akbar, Jehangir, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb, comparable to great Moghul forts in Delhi and Agra in India. It towers over the old city of Lahore, and the huge rectangle (380 by 330 meters or 1,250 by 1,080 feet), is filled with buildings from a variety of periods. A complete tour of the fort takes about two hours. The entrance is through Alamgiri Gate , the Maktab Khana (Clerks’ House) is a small cloistered court surrounded by arcades in which clerks sat recording the names of visitors.

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The Moti Masjid (Pearl Mosque) is entered via steps rising from the comer of the large courtyard north of the Maktab Khana. This little gem was built by Shah Jahan 1644. The Diwan-e-Am (Hall of Public Audience) is an open pavilion with 40 pillars built by Shah Jahan in 1631 to shelter his subjects when they appeared before him. The marble pavilion and red sandstone balcony at the back of the Diwan-e-Am are originals built by Akbar. Here the emperor appeared daily before the public-who, in his day, crowded under a canvas awning. The serpentine sandstone brackets are typical of Akbar’s commissions, with the depiction of animals showing Hindu influence and reflecting Akbar’s policy of religious tolerance. His two-story Diwan-e-Khas (Hall of Private Audience), built in 1566, is behind the balcony and is reached by stairs on the tight.

Jehangir’s Quadrangle is one of the fort’s most attractive areas, was started by Akbar in 1566 and finished by Jehangir in 1617. The buildings on the east, west and south sides of the court reflect typical Akbari style, with richly carved red sandstone columns and elaborate animal-shaped brackets. The Khwabgah-e-Jahangir (Jehangir’s Room of Dreams) is the main building running the length of the north side of Jehangirs Quadrangle and is typical of Jehangir’s period in its austerity. It is now a museum, containing a huge ivory model of the Taj Mahal, some excellent illustrated manuscripts (including the Akbar Nama , the daily chronicle of Akbar’s reign), some beautiful calligraphy, good miniature paintings and a collection of Moghal coins. The Lal Burj (Red Tower) is the octagonal summer pavilion in the northwest comer of Shah Jahan’s Quadrangle. Built between 1617 and 1631 by Jahangir and Shah Jahan, it forms part of the north wall of the fort. The tower is decorated with beautiful tile mosaics and filigree work. The paintings inside date mostly from the Sikh period, The floor was originally of marble, and the water channels, fountains and central pool must have made it delightfully cool in summer.

The Court of the Shish Mahal (Palace of Mirrors) is the best preserved and most interesting place in the fort. The Shish Mahal was built by Shahjahan in 1631 as private apartments for his empress.The whole of the interior is covered with mirror mosaics, carved and gilded plaster-work and pietra dura inlay. The ceiling is original Moghal work; the walls, with frescos and shards of blue and white china- date from Sikh times. The main hall of the palace is open at the front, with five cusped arches supported on delicate fluted double pillars. Pietra dura inlay decorates the base of each pillar and the tops of the arches.The graceful vine pattern over the two outer arches is particularly fine. The floor is a geometric mosaic of marble.

The exit is around to the left (east) behind this wall and down the broad, shallow steps of the Hathi Paer (Elephant Path).This was the private entrance of the royal family and leads straight to the Shah Burj Gate . The mosaics decorating the west and north walls of Lahore Fort are unique in style and variety of design, for here the geometric patterns are liberally interspersed with animal and human figures which, like Mughal miniature paintings, illustrate the ways and amusements of the Mughal court, a curious blend of barbarism and refinement.

Badshahi Mosque

Badshahi Mosque is opposite the main gateway to Lahore Fort. Completed in 1676 under Aurangzeb as the Moghuls’ final architectural fling, it is one of the largest mosques in the world, with huge gateways, four tapering minarets of red sandstone, three vast marble domes and an open courtyard capable of holding at least 60,000 people.

It was damaged and later restored by the British. The rooms above the entrance gate, not open to the public, are said to house the hairs of the Prophet Mohammed and other relics of his daughter Fatima and his son-in-law and cousin Ali.

Lahore Museum

Lahore Central Museum, was originally the Industrial Art Museum of the Panjab. Lahore was important because of the key position of Panjab in the Indian Empire. Recently annexed, efficiently administered in less than 30 years there had been progress in irrigation, land settlement and afforestation. The British were also keen to foster, develop and support local craftsmanship. Many projects were undertaken. There are Gandhara, Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, Indus valley and Islamic collections, wonderful paintings from Moghul times and from the Panjab Hills, and many wonderful examples of handicrafts, rugs and carvings. The collections of calligraphy are also very fine. The Museums most famous exhibits include a Koran which is a thousand years old, and several sculptures including the emaciated fasting siddhartha from Taxila, the miracle of Sarasvati, and the green goddess, Athena. There are some fine prehistoric displays showing archaeological finds half a million years old from the area around Islamabad, and the struggle for Pakistan is well documented. Outside the museum, not far away, Zamzama, the 18th century firepiece immortalized by Rudyard Kipling as “Kim’s Gun” , takes up a surprising length of space in the middle of road.

The Mausoleum of Jehangir

The entrance of this superb building is through two massive gateway of stones and masonry opposite each other to the north and south, these lead to a square enclosure. From this enclosure is reached another, on a larger scale, giving a full view of the garden in front, about six hundred yard squares which is traversed by four-bricked canals proceeding from the center, and in which innumerable fountains were introduced, but these are now in ruins. The corridor is adorned with a profusion of marble ornaments arranged in a most elegant mosaic, representing flowers and texts from the Koran. In the interior of the mausoleum is an elevated sarcophagus of white marble, enshrining the remains of the Emperor, the Sides of which are wrought with flowers of mosaic in the same style of elegance as the tombs in the Taj at Agra, on two sides are most beautifully carved the ninety-nine attributes of God. Jehangir’s Tomb is magnificent and decorated with pietra dura. The 99 names of God are inlaid in black on the marble and there are beautiful jalis which admit patterns of light. Jahangir’s tomb was built by his son, Shah Jahan.

Jehangir’s wife Nur Jahan was a power in the court and apparently much loved. It is said that when Jehangir was a young man, he handed the lady two of the royal pigeons to hold. While pigeon flying may not be a cult in many countries, it is a sport enjoyed by the gentle folk of the subcontinent. When Jehangir returned for his birds, one had flown. He was surprised. “But how did it fly?” he asked. “Like this!” She laughed and let go the second bird. They say that from then on he was enchanted. Nur Jahan’s Tomb was stripped down to the bricks by the Sikhs, but it has been restored this century. In buildings of this sort, the grave is underneath the mausoleum, in the cellar.

Old Walled City

Old Lahore is at the foot of Lahore Fort, covering one square kilometer of narrow twisting alleys surrounded by a 9 meter high wall with 13 gates, looking in parts almost as it must have done in Moghul days. It’s a fantastic place to get lost. Among the many sites in and around the city are the Golden Mosque, Wazir Khan Mosque, Brass Bazaar and the people. There are bagpipe players, harmonium makers, dancers, chutney sellers, and streets filled with kites, chickens and other random sights! Golden Mosque (Sunehri Masjid)

The Sunehri Masjid is located in the center of the Old City and was built in 1753. It is famous for its three gilded domes and gold-plated minarets, still shining as brightly as ever. Friday prayers bring the surrounding streets to a standstill.

Wazir Khan Mosque

Wazir Khan’s Mosque is one of the most beautiful in Pakistan. It was built in 1634 by Hakim Ali-ud-din, popularly known as Wazir Khan, who was governor of the area during the reign of Shah Jahan. The Mosque is justifiably famous for the colorful fresco and tile decoration.

Shalimar Garden

“A garden,” Babar wrote, “is the purest of human pleasure.” This impressive Mughal monument, the most complete Moghal garden in the entire Indian subcontinent, is on the Grand Trunk Road five kilometers towards the Indian border from the center of Lahore. Laid out by Shah Jahan in 1642 for the pleasure of royal household, which often stayed here for days or week at a time.

In design, it conforms to the classic Mughal conception of the perfect garden and consist of three terraces of straight, shaded walk sets around a perfectly symmetrical arrangement of ponds, waterfalls, marble pavilions, all surrounded by flower beds and fruit trees and enclosed within a wall and more than 400 fountains. There are also huge fruit trees and little chipmunks scamper about. The emperor’s sleeping quarters are at the center of the west wall, across from the Hall of Public Audience, which just through the wall and out of the garden. The emperor walked through this hall daily to show himself to the public gathered in a separate walled garden outside.

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