To view this tomb and a group of other monuments
situated in what was once the Mughal Dilkusha Bagh
(Heart-expanding Garden), you will need to proceed
towards Shahdara, three miles northwest of Lahore.
The group includes a cluster of interlinked
monuments of a serai forming the forecourt which
leads on the east to the spectacular tomb of Emperor
Jahangir, built by his celebrated wife Empress Nur
Jahan, and on the west to a mosque and the tomb of
Asaf Khan or Asaf Jah, one of the most powerful
grandees at the courts of Jahangir and Shah Jahan.
Close by is situated the tomb built to house the
mortal remains of Empress Noor Jahan and her
daughter Princess Ladli Begam.
There is no longer a direct access to Asaf Khan's
Tomb from the Maqbara road, since the entrances on
three sides of his chahar bagh rauza (paradisal
garden mausoleum) were blocked in recent times. To
visit this sepulcher of one of most remarkable
Persian nobles of the empire, you will need to turn
left (west) towards the mosque in Chowk-i-Jilau Kham
(Jahangiri Serai quadrangle).
The walled garden around the mausoleum is a square with 800-foot sides. The tomb is a typical Mughal construction with a graceful high-pointed dome set on an octagonal base. Its huge arches were once fully lined with expensive floral Kashi work, but most of this is now gone, as is the chaste white marble facing of the dome. There were once four fountains at the four cardinal points on the plinth around the tomb. Both the platforms were made of red sandstone inlaid with white marble in the style of Jahangir's tomb. The interior was adorned with pietra-dura work. Eight doors had glittering bronze gates with finely wrought metallic motifs. From the dome hung expensive chandeliers. All these were removed by the Sikhs and sent to Amritsar to decorate the Darbar Sahib. The cenotaph of Asaf Khan is made of white marble and inlaid with decorative motifs and inscription. The actual grave was in the form of Jahangir's grave, but it was uprooted by Ranjit Singh in a search for treasure. The floor around the grave today is brick-paved.
Inside, there are remains of stucco decoration. A gallery runs along all eight sides. The arched openings at the gallery level have a double frame made of rope molding in white stucco featuring cloud-like knots on stems. The floral arabesque is an exquisite example of the geometrical arrangement of natural forms.
A set of stairs on the western side leads to a gallery, and thence via another flight of steps to an ambulatory placed between the drum of the dome and the huge parapet wall, 12 feet high and 3-4 feet thick. At each end of the base of the octagonal parapet there are two small arched openings to disperse rain water. Two door-like arched opening at a height of about 8 feet in the shell of the dome are located on the northwest and southeast.
The tomb of Asaf Khan provides a very clear example of double-dome construction. At the base, the drum is a circular or true dome about 3 feet in height. Above this, the drum transforms into a 24-sided drum. The height of this storey is about 10 feet. The original dome was a bulbous structure like those of the Badshahi Mosque or the Taj Mahal in Agra, for which it served as a prototype, but its apex was destroyed by the Sikhs when they pulled off the marble slabs. Its current conical vertex shape does not represent the Mughal style.
Although today but a shadow of the once grand
edifice as a befitting permanent abode of the
closest confidante of Shah Jahan, the tomb was built by
the emperor himself at a cost of Rupees 3 lakhs.