Lahore Fort is located at an eminence in the northwest corner of the Walled City. The citadel is spread over approximately 50 acres and is trapezoidal in form. Although the origin of this fort goes deep into antiquity, the present fortifications were begun by Mughal Emperor Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar. There is evidence that a mud fort was in existence here in 1021, when Mahmud of Ghazni invaded this area. Akbar demolished the old mud fort and constructed most of the modern fort on the old foundations. The fort's mud construction dates back to the early Hindu period. The fort is mentioned in connection with Muhammad Sam's invasions of Lahore in 1180, 1184, and 1186. It was ruined by the Mongols in 1241, and then rebuilt by Balban in 1267. It was again destroyed by Amir Taimur's army in 1398, to be rebuilt in mud by Sultan Mubarak Shah in 1421, then taken and repaired by Shaikh Ali. The present fort, in brick and solid masonry, was built during Akbar's reign between 1556 and 1605. Every succeeding Mughal emperor, as well as the Sikhs and the British, added a pavilion, palace, or wall to the Lahore Fort, making it the only monument in Pakistan which represents a complete history of Mughal architecture.
There are two huge gates in the fortifications, one each in the middle of the east and the west sides. The western gate, known as Alamgiri Gate, is presently used as the main entrance; however, plans are afoot to open the eastern gate, the Fort's Masjidi Gate, to the general public as well. The Masjidi Gate, built in 1666 during Akbar's reign, was the original entrance to the fort and faces the historic Maryam Zamani Mosque. Alamgiri Gate, a magnificent double-storey gate, was built by Emperor Mohiuddin Aurangezeb Alamgir in 1673 and faces the grand Badshahi Mosque and opens into Hazuri Bagh. The imposing semicircular bastions flanking the gateway have lotus petals at their base and are highly fluted, crowned with small, graceful domed kiosks. The fortification wall is built of small burnt bricks strengthened with semicircular bastions at regular intervals.
For access to the present entrance, from Circular Road (road encircling the Walled City) you should take a turning south, opposite the famous Minar-e-Pakistan tower dominating the expanse of Iqbal Park or Minar-e-Pakistan Park (formerly Minto Park). The wall that you will notice from the Circular Road is the Sikh Period perimeter wall, beyond which the original Mughal fortification wall is visible. The road leads to Hazuri Bagh and Badshahi Mosque. As you enter the Hazuri Bagh perimeter, you will find the massive Alamgiri Gate on your left side. Before entering the Hazuri Bagh, if you turn your attention to the Mughal fortification wall, you will be able to enjoy a spectacular tile-mosaic mural wall, extending to nearly 1500 feet and about 55 feet high. This is the famed Pictured Wall of the Great Mughals, of which the Hathi Pol-the lofty Shahjahani Gateway—is an integral part. This gateway allowed the royal entourage on elephants to enter the citadel, traversing the elephant ramp that terminates at the forecourt of Shah Burj. The Pictured Wall, so labelled by archaeologist Ph. Vogel in his monograph, extends the whole length of the west fortification wall, with belvederes situated in the Shah Burj including the famous Naulakha Pavilion visible from the lower level. The view from below hardly prepares you for the spectacular structures you will find when you enter the Shah Burj quadrangle.
The mural wall turns the corner and continues as the north fortification wall, with several pavilions situated on the top and overlooking the north aspect—this is the area where once the waters of the Ravi washed the foundations of the fortification wall. This is where a promenade with beautifully laid out gardens by the river bank, along with spaces where elephant and other animal fights were held for the amusement of the royal family and the courtiers watching from an eminence. The Pictured Wall is a spectacular display of Mughal court life and is a remarkable mural, the only one of its kind in the world. where most of the northern wall was rendered in tile mosaic (kashi) during Jahangir's reign, part of the north wall, under Shah Burj and the whole of the west wall is the work of Shah Jahan. Interestingly, the same architect, Abdul Karim Mamur Khan, was employed by Jahangir and during the early part of Shah Jahan's reign, a fact which was instrumental in bringing harmony to the two sections. However, if examined carefully, certain differences can be seen between the walls of the two periods.
The citadel is divided into different sections, each creating its own world within its quadrangle, but they are all interconnected for ease of administration of the fort. In the various sections of the citadel you will be able to enjoy the contribution of successive Mughal emperors—at least three of the Great Mughals are represented within the confines of the citadel, namely Akbar, Jahangir and Shah Jahan. The fourth, Emperor Aurangzeb Alamgir, although he built outside the citadel, constructed the impressive Badshahi Mosque and, like the other three left an indelible architectural mark on the cultural map of Lahore.
Maidan Diwan-e-Aam (Garden of Public Audience) located in the south of the citadel, is the earliest and the most important element of Mughal court ceremonial spaces. Its generous dimensions of 730'x460' providing an arena of enormous scale once framed by a perimeter of cloisters, it allowed the pageantry of the Mughal court to be enacted with extraordinary splendor. The cloisters—numbering 114 according to historian al-Badayuni—and dated to Akbar's period, are no longer extant, their foundations alone defining the garden today. Much damage was caused during the Sikh occupancy and Inter-Sikh wars, and after annexation many cloisters were demolished to construct European artillery and infantry barracks when the Mughal fort served as a British cantonment. From the garden you can see the British ceremonial steps lining the southern edge, leading down to the road considerably below its ground level. Although intended as a grand entrance to the fort when the Mughal wall was demolished to make way for the grand steps, this entrance is no longer used.
Diwan-e-Aam dominates the centre of the north periphery of the garden and carries the focus of all activity, with the marble Jharoka or throne gallery projecting from its rear wall. The Diwan-e-Aam is constructed on a raised platform bounded by a stone katehra or railing. The hall measures 187 feet by 60 feet and rises to a height of 34 feet. On the second storey, there are beautiful cusped marble arches at the back of the building, looking down to Jahangir’s Quadrangle. During the reigns of Akbar and Jahangir, the Diwan-e-Aam consisted of a triple canopy of velvet to provide protection from the sun while the floor was covered with rich carpets. However, among the first orders given by Shah Jahan as emperor was the instruction to replace the velvet canopy by a wooden hall. Soon after, however, a sumptuous chihil stun (40-columned hall) was ordered both in Agra and Lahore. While Shah Jahan's Agra Diwan-e-Aam survives, only the Columns and footprint of the one at Lahore are original—the superstructure arches and roof being a British reconstruction.
The takht-jharoka or throne gallery which is located a few feet above the ground and projects into the Diwan-e-Aam is Shahjahani structure, as is the structure in the rear, the Daulat Khana-e-Khass-o-Aam, overlooking the royal residential quad—Jahangir's Quadrangle situated in the north. Today, the takht-jharoka is accessible to all. After climbing a few steps you might like to contemplate the aura of days gone by. In your imagination you could conjure up the scene of the Great Mughal's court. For it is the Diwan-e-Aam, and its garden that became the stage on which the pomp and grandeur of the Mughal Empire was exhibited. The cloisters were decorated with costly shawls and carpets, each of the grandees competing to outdo the one next door, with the garden itself dotted with silver pavilions of the princes and costly tents of the grandees, lined with velvet, damask and taffetas.
In the Diwan-e-Aam, a portion of the original Mughal floor—brick flooring of 'old Lakhauri brick'—is distinguishable from the remaining floor. The original red stone poly-faceted column shafts, and the multifoil arched bases that had supported the original roof have been re-used in the hypostyle. You will notice a great deal of similarity with those used in Akbari architecture when you visit Jahangir's Quadrangle. The comparatively simple faceted concave capitals that you see here were transformed into elaborate stalactite capitals beautifully rendered with inlay etc. when Shah Jahan's Shah Burj was later built.
Daulat Khana-e-Khass-o-Aam is accessed by following the steps to takht-jharoka. It is a building cleverly placed to provide transition from the highly public area of the Diwan-e-Aam to the private residential apartments of the imperial harem. The throne jharoka, overlooking the Diwan-e-Aam in the south, is set above the human height to ensure an elevated position for the emperor. 8'6" in length and projecting 4' from the wall, the elegant and regal jharoka, with its railing of delicate sang-i-murmur (white marble) is roofed over with an elegant sloping chajja and saddle-backed dome. The 4' wide galleries on the two sides of the jharoka, seem to have extended the whole length of the Daulat Khana, acting as a viewing gallery for court proceedings by the imperial female entourage, no doubt seated behind screens. The building dated to the Shahjahani period was much mutilated during later rules. Consisting of a core of vaulted chambers—the central one an elongated octagon opening into an open-fronted aiwan—the Daulat Khana is bordered by an arcaded verandah circumambulating its three sides. It is a largely arcuate structure sporting, from a simple coved roof, shallow domes on squinches in verandah bays to more complex vaults. From the first floor of the building you can enjoy the freshness of the quad on the north, a chahar bagh bounded by royal pavilions— the zenana of Emperor Akbar. Originally there may have been an access staircase to descend into the quad. However, it is no longer extant. Few of the original decorative elements in the building are now extant—indiscriminate Sikh over-painting and British 'military whitewash' having camouflaged most of the Mughal evidence. There is little doubt that at one time all surfaces were profusely ornamented. In spite of the loss of surface decoration, evidence of the sumptuous rendering of structure and surfaces can still be seen. On the north verandah, there are two sets of beautifully sculpted seh-dara (3-bay) ensembles consisting of a combination of white marble double-column shafts, and grey-black stone base and ornamental brackets. They are original Shahjahani elements, as are the marble dadoes (izara) with courtly inlay borders of double black lines and of multi-colored inlaid zigzag (chevron) design.
Makatib Khana is located in the northwest corner of the Maidan Diwan-e-Aam. Since there is no access to any quadrangles from the Daulat Khana-e-Khass-o-Aam, you will need to climb down the royal throne steps to return to the Diwan-e-Aam. Makatib Khana is the only inscribed Jahangiri building (1027/1617-18) in the fort, and is well worth a careful examination. It was designed by one of the most accomplished Mughal architects—Abdul Karim titled Mamur Khan, a favourite of both Jahangir and Shah Jahan. Placed ingeniously, this introverted building on the one hand faces the highly public garden (Maidan-e-Diwan-e-Aam) to the east, and on the other provides access to the select quad-precinct of the Moti Mosque located to the north, an area also accessible from several royal apartments located in the northern belt of the citadel. The eastern facade, with its low level arcade, no doubt designed to relate to the height of extinct cloisters bordering the maidan, carries a tall aiwan (portal) in its centre. The inscription above the portal, while ascribing the building's construction to 1027/1617-18, "the twelfth year of Jahangir's accession by the devoted servant Mamur Khan," describes it as "the building of this daulat khana". This structure is conjectured to be part of a group of royal mansions on which the princely sum of seven lakhs Rupees was expended, and which were much acclaimed by Emperor Jahangir in his delightful memoirs. The east arcade facing the maidan incorporates raised platforms likely to have been used as sitting places—indicating their use for news writers, mentioned by the traveler Montserrat as noting down the daily court events. As you step down into 62 ' square internal courtyard, you will find it framed by low-height arcade-like bays on all four sides. The centers of two of these are accented by tall arched recesses and the remaining two by gateways, providing access to east and north mentioned earlier. The arcaded bays employ single-storey, wide pointed arches and accommodate platforms a couple of feet above the courtyard floor, possibly also for the use of scribes. You will find no trace of stone, since Mamur Khan selected the common brick as his basic building material, which once treated with chunam, a polished lime plaster, lent itself to a remarkable array of surface decoration. However, today little of the once dazzling decoration employed as an integral part of the architectural countenance is in evidence. However, a few decorative fragments of colorful fresco based on floral and vegetal themes can still be seen—some in the aiwan ceiling and mucfarnas (stalactite squinches) as well as some in the courtyard alcoves. Makatib Khana leads directly into the Moti Mosque Quadrangle and to the celebrated sang-e-murmur (marble) Moti Masjid, or the Pearl Mosque.
Haveli of Mai Jindan dominates the eastern periphery of the Moti Mosque Quadrangle. Mai Jindan, (Chandan or Chand Kaur), was the mother of the infant Sikh ruler, Dulip Singh. This two-storey building may have originally been a Mughal structure, however, it is considered a Sikh structure due to large-scale additions by the Sikhs. The building now houses a collection known as the Princess Bamba Collection. This is the building where according to Fakir Qamruddin, during the Sikh War of succession the gruesome murder of Rani Jindan took place.
was begun by Akbar and completed by Jahangir in 1618
and contains some of the earliest Mughal structures
in the fort. The area is part of a
belt of quadrangles and suites lining the northern
periphery above the Mughal fortification wall, and
was dedicated to strictly imperial usage. Jahangir's
Quadrangle, a quad consisting of royal apartments
and a harem sera, was placed in a secure corner of
the citadel to ensure the safety and security of the
zenana. Also, since the river Ravi once flowed at
the foot of the north fortification, the view from
the royal quads, overlooking the vast countryside
beyond, would have been spectacular.
The iwans represent the best of Akbari architecture
in the region that is now Pakistan. In fact in the
rendering of the sculpted imagery in the struts,
they surpass the elements found anywhere else in the
subcontinent. While there are many elements that are
evocative of those employed in Agra or Fatehpur
Sikri, there is little doubt that as the last
capital built by Akbar, Lahore represents the high
point of Akbari architecture in view of the
experience gained by Akbari architects and crafts
persons while building the earlier capitals.
Haveli of Kharak Singh, the heir to Ranjit
Singh, occupies the southeast corner of Jahangir's
Quadrangle. No doubt it was due to its having been
utilized by the heir to the Sikh throne that after
the British occupation the first floor was
considered suitable for the 'Commandant's Quarters',
while the ground floor was used as 'godown and
Mashriqi and Maghribi Iwans (East and West
Chambers), built by Akbar, define the quad's
eastern and western borders. These symmetrically
arranged chambers are the most spectacular of the
quad buildings. Originally lined with five iwans or
suites on each side, each unit is identified by
original distinctive features—the red sandstone
seh-dara (three-doorway unit) dalan porticoes. The
seh-daras carry exquisitely carved columns and the
roof chajja is supported by striking sculpted struts
composed of the much-acclaimed figures of elephants,
griffins and peacocks. Although the seh-dara is a
trabeated structure—using beams and struts of
stone—the rooms themselves demonstrate arcuate
construction techniques in red Lahori brick which
were utilized with great effect to produce lofty
vaulted spaces and arched apertures.
Mashriqi and Maghribi Suites are identical
two-storey, detached graceful mansions located at
the northeast and northwest corners of Jahangir's
Quadrangle. They are of greater height and the east
and west chambers and carry greater refinement in
the execution of architectural elements. Although
they are placed in continuity of the remaining iwans
on either side, from their unique character and
elaborate ornamentation of structural elements, it
is evident that these mansions were reserved for the
more illustrious members of the royal household—the
queen mother or a favourite empress—or a favourite
daughter such as Shah Jahan's eldest Jahan Ara Begam.
Surely these mansions were the place where edicts
would have been brought to be stamped with the royal
seal, which was always in the custody of the most
powerful royal lady of the day.
Shah Jahan's Quadrangle, located on the left (west) of Jahangir's Quadrangle is a much smaller 150' x 150' square. The quad incorporates a chahar bagh, its four sections divided with walkways and central axis marked by a 31' x 31' marble platform incorporating a water reservoir (hauz). A 19th century account by Ph. Vogel describes a silver gilt pavilion that was placed on the platform. As in the case of many Sikh ornaments and bric-a-brac, the silver pavilion was sold by auction by John Login in 1848 after he took over the fort as governor.
In view of the number of buildings named after Shah
Jahan or attributed to him, along with evidence of
his favorite building material—white marble—being
utilized in buildings as well as in paving and
garden platforms, it is evident that this was among
the favorite residential areas for the emperor on
his visits to Lahore. The marble paving is no longer
in place since it was stripped and taken to be
utilized in the new church built at Mian Mir during
Diwan-e-Khass, the marble pavilion of
exquisite beauty, was in the past referred to as
Chotti Khwabgah, also as Khwabgah-e-Khurd (Minor
Sleeping Chamber)—the name khwabgah most probably
being an appellation given by the Sikhs. The
building also did duty as the garrison church during
the British occupation of the fort, when the elegant
fountain and the marble screens in the north were
filled with concrete. At the time a baptismal font
was placed in the central alcove, a place which 19th
century archaeologist Henry Cole noted, "Shah Jahan
would most likely have selected for his couch to
catch the air through the marble lattice." The
building was reconstructed during the British period
restorations, utilizing the original elements, but
it is likely that the roof structure was modified
Paien Bagh and Khilwat Khana(Chamber of Seclusion) Quadrangle are in continuation with each other. Most of the structures are now lost, except the two major towers—Lal and Kala Burj—jutting out from t he northern periphery wall—which define the eastern and western ends of the courtyard.
The first area that you encounter is known as Paien
Bagh or the Zenana Garden where remains of
foundations indicate the footprints of now-lost
Khilwat Khana, a small bangladar pavilion of uncertain origin, lies in the centre of the northern edge of the Paien Bagh. This building, marked as the 'Hall of Perfumes' on Sikh Period maps, is usually referred to as the Khassa Khana. Archaeologist Ph. Vogel conjectured that it was probably a khass khana (khass as opposed to khassa), which would have been enclosed with the cooling device of khass tattis (screens of fragrant matting) during summer. However, if it is the Khassa Khana, i t would mean royal palace, which would indicate exclusive use by the imperial family. During the British Period it was part of a house for the commanding officer, when the Mughal Khassa Khana was converted into a bathroom.
Lal and Kala Burj (Scarlet and Black Towers),
constructed by the Sikhs, are massive 4-storey
structures and are thought to have been used as
residential apartments. Both are almost similar,
semi-octagonal towers and have attached chambers.
The towers were designed incorporating galleries at
a high level encircling the projecting
semi-octagonal portion, and facilitating a
breathtaking view of the surrounding country side.
Shah Burj or Royal Tower is the most well documented group of buildings in the Fort. The controversy regarding the authorship of this tower—also referred to as Mussaman Burj (or the octagonal tower) was laid to rest by Moulvi Nur Bakhsh in his writings in 1902-3, when he concluded that the Shah Burj of Shah Jahan mentioned in the inscription on the Hathi Pol Gateway was none other than the Sikh-appellated Mussaman Burj. Hathi Pol is the same impressive gateway that one passed through when the British Period 'postern' gate was being used as the main entrance while Alamgiri Gate was under repairs.
Reception Court occupies the first part of
the group of buildings of Shah Burj. Although few
chambers with arched alcove frontages are now
extant, the once elaborate architectural perimeter
of the court can be gauged. The remains of
foundations also give an indication of a cloistered
space, framed on all sides by chambers and punctured
by passages or gateways. From an imagined
reconstruction it is evident that an entrance
provided convenient access from the Paien Bagh or
the zenana garden into Shah Burj's reception court.
The reception court was designed in a manner that
made it easily accessible on one hand from the
imperial zone in the east of the fort and on the
other hand from the Hathi Pol situated on the west
through a twisted flight of wide steps. The Hathi
Pol entry facilitated secluded entry directly into
the imperial zone of the fort—the imperial family
arriving atop caparisoned elephants.
Unfortunately, tawdry dabbling by later rulers and
custodians has resulted in the addition of 19th
century porcelain blue and pottery shards, the whole
overwrought with mirrors and discordant
Hindu-mythological frescoes. Ph. Vogel relates how
the young Dulip Singh proudly pointed out his own
handiwork in the fresco painting. Today it is
difficult to distinguish the original Mughal
portions of the ceiling in view of the various
structural problems and subsequent repairs.
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