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Lahore - Architecture

Lahore is the second largest city of Pakistan. Other than many famous Historical monuments, the city is also known for its beautiful gardens, mostly laid out during Moghal Empire and British Raj. Besides the fragrance of its gardens, the Old Walled City has aroma of rich cultural Heritage.


By Kamil Khan Mumtaz

The use of glazed faience tiles, rare in Mughal buildings, was restricted mainly to the Punjab and Sind, but the animal and human representations in this medium on the northern walls of the fort at Lahore are probably unique. These depict horses, elephants, camels and warriors — often in postures of sport or combat — and even winged angles or fairies. In these designs each shape is separately formed by an individually glazed tile, making up a brightly colored mosaic.

While animal and human forms are only found in the Picture Wall of the fort at Lahore, floral and calligraphic designs in this technique are abundant enough in a great number of buildings in the same city built during the middle of the 17th century.

The restriction of this decorative technique to a small area in the empire as well as the architectural character of these buildings places them clearly outside the mainstream of Mughal court architecture. Indeed, there appears to have co-existed in 17th century Lahore a distinctly independent local tradition which derived its inspiration equally from Safevid Persia and Delhi. lt is perhaps significant that only those buildings commissioned by the emperors themselves are in the imperial style of Delhi and Agra with a prominent use of stone and plastered external surfaces, while those built by lesser nobility or local lords and ladies have the provincial characteristic brick struc- tures with glazed tile mosaics on the outer walls. The finest collection of these mosaic pictures adorns the sur- faces of Wazir Khan’s Mosque. But here as in Dai Anga’a Mosque, the domes follow, if anything, the earlier Pathan mod- el, being ilatter than contemporary Mughal practice allowed. Oriel windows, kiosks and pointed finials with fluted bases are the only definitely Mughal features of these buildings, while the top-heavy appearance of the non-tapering minarets of the Wazir Khan Mosque and the Chauburji, terminating in heavy projecting platforms, are reminiscent of certain Persian and Turkish rather than Mughal minars.

Maryam Zamani Mosque Opposite the Masjidi Gate of the Fort at Lahore, stands the ancient mosque commonly called Begum Shahi Masjid. Built by Queen Maryam Zamani, an Empress of the Mughal Emperor Akbar, it is the earliest dated mosque of the Mughal period in Lahore. It was constructed during the early period of Iahangir in 1(E3 AtI·I.f].6ld and is crowned with a double dome, a characteristic first seen in the historic buildings at Lahore. The mosque is constructed in brick and rendered with plaster, and is a massive structure representing a transitional phase of architecture between the styles of the Lodhi and the Mughal periods, lt has two entrances through deeply recessed arched gateways on its north and east sides. A flight of four steps in each gateway leads down to the main courtyard.

The courtyard was originally enclosed by a row of cells on its north and south sides, some portion of which still existl'. On the east, along the gate, is a wide platform on which stands an enclosure consisting of an octagonal domed tomb and some other graves. In the centre of the courtyard is a tank for ablution. The prayer chamber of the mosque is of special interest. It is an oblong structure measuring internally over 130 feet from south to north and 34 feet from east to west. It has five compartments divided by heavy engaged arches supported by massive jambs and surmounted by domes. The central dome is the highest, placed on a high round neck.

The double dome has a heavy brick outer shell with a small arched opening on the west and an inner shell of stucco. A timber frame connects the two shells for reinforcement. In the development of the mosque plan in La- hore, this mosque marks the first appearance of the fivebay arrangement, subsequently adopted for most of the major mos— ques in the city.

The five front openings of the prayer chamber are spanned by four oemered arches, the central one being the highest and widest with a high parapet and a projected frame. The whole outer surface of the front has been treated with thick lime plaster creating recessed decorative arched panels. Inside the prayer chamber is a series of high and deep arched recesses in the west wall of all the five compartments. The central niche, the Mehrab, has an engrailed arch treated specially with profusc stucco ornamentation in geometric, floral and inscriptional dc- signs. The half-domed niches of the central arch and the mehrah have been filled with low stalactites. The remaining four compartments though comparatively smaller and less decorative have the same engrailed arch treatment. The interior and entrance arch of the prayer chamber is richly embellished with fine fresco decoration. Over the four corners of the prayer chamber are placed small square pavilions with four arched openings surmounted by cupolas placed on octagonal drums. The cupolas originally were crowned with low crestings and finials like the five larger domes over the main prayer chamber. Anarkali’s Tomb Constructed in 1615, the mausoleum known as Anarkali’s Tomb stands in the Civil Secretariat. In 1891 it was converted into the Punjab Records Office.

Octagonal in plan with alternate sides measuring 44 feet and 30 feet 4 inches respectively, the building stands on an octagonal platform. On each corner there is 21 domed octagonal tower, and in the centre, 21 large dome on 21 high cylindrical neck. A notable feature ot this massive structure is its upper storey gallery and bold eutlines. It is one of the earliest existing examples ef zi double-domed structure in Pakistan;. The lower shell of the dome is constructed in small bricks in five stages or rings.

It was originally surrounded by an extensive garden enclosed by a wall with a double-storey gateway, all of which are now missing. Having in turn been occupied by Kharak Singh, the scm of Ranjit Singh, given as a residence to General Ventura of the Sikh army, converted into a Christian church in 1851 and into the Punjab Records office in 1891, it has long lost its original decoration. Wazir Khan`s Mosque Located about a furlong from the Delhi Gate within the Walled City is Wazir Khan’s Mosque, which was founded in 1634 by Hakim Ilmud Din Ansari entitled Nawah Wazir Khan, a native of Chiniot, District Jhang, and Viceroy of Punjab under Shan Jahanl. Its eastern entrance gateway is in fact an elaborate forecourt which opens on to a generous square or chowk. One of its most attractive features is the colourful Floral and callig- raphic designs in glazed·tile mosaic work, said to be introduced into this part of the country from Thatta during the 16th cen- tury. It is in the decorated panels of this mosque that the cypress as a motif on enamelled mosaic work appears for thc first tirne. The improved octagonal minarets, amongst the can liest of this type in Mnghal architecture, are another distinctive feature of the mosque.

The Chowk Wazir Khan This square outsidt-: the mosque probably once formed an important part of the plan of the old city of Lahore. According to Dr. Cl1ughtai1 this court or jflaukhuna of the mosque held the entire city of Lahore in a right-angular relationship, more accurately, the mosque was so located in the contrc of thc city that all thc major routes and bazaars were linked with it at right angled.

On close examination it becomes apparent that the magnificent central gateway is a complete building in itself. The five or six steps in this wide passage lead to a platform under the front niche of this gate; another step leads to the centre of a covered octagonal court, the central domed portion of this gate. This central roofed area is connected by steps on all four sides: one enters from the east and north through a stepped passage, and from this same centre, opposite the east entrance, one crosses several steps to the west to enter the court within the mosque. To the north and south of the great octagonal forecourt stretch out bazaar-like corridors or gallleries with double rows of arcaded chambers each with a 16 feet wide passage between. This part of the mosque, which in common usage should he called a dewrhi (forecourt), deserves our special attention as it is a novel innovation in the evolution of the mosque plan. The central octagonal court also has double rooms in each of its four corners, probably reserved for the gatekeepers of the mosque. This arrangement of rooms is repeated on the upper storey of this portion. The northern and the southern sides of the main court of the mosque have twelve rooms each, of which those adjacent to the ewan and minars are double, and probably were reserved for the library attached to the mosque, indicating that apart from serving as a place of worship, this mosque served as a university or colleges.

Dai Anga’s Mosque

Situated near the Railway Station of Lahore this mosque was constructed in 1635 by Dai Anga, the wet nurse of Shah Jahan, whose name was Zebun Nisa‘°’. It is notable for its minute and refined enameled tiled mosaic work. In plan the prayer chamber consists of three domed bays, with the central dome rising higher than the two flanking domes. All the domes are raised on high cylindrical necks with sharply recessed collars at the springing. The east facade of the prayer chamber reflects thc internal plan with three arched openings framed in half-domed recessed bays by tall multi-capped arches. The central arch is taller and wider than its two adjacent arches. Each bay is contained within a rectangular frame and the entire ensemble is flanked on either side by square towers topped by heavy pro- jecting platforms, typical of the Lahore provincial style.


Located on the Multan Road, this was a gateway to a garden that has now disappeared. The garden was founded in 1646 by a lady, mentioned metaphorically as "Sahib-e-Zcbinda, Begum- e—Dauran" (endowed with elegance, the lady of the age), prob- ably Jahan Ara Begum, the eldest daughter of Emperor Shah Jahan, and bestowed upon Mian Bai who constructed the garden? This gateway is notable for the glazed mosaic decora- tion with which its entire facade, including the octagonal corner minarets, is brilliantly embellished. The minarets themselves with their top-heavy profile are characteristic of the contemporary provincial style of Lahore.

Tomb of Ali Mardan Khan

Ali Mardan Khan, Governor of Qandahar, Kashmir and Pun- jab, is known for his skill and judgement in the execution of public works, especially canals, such as the Shah Nahar of Shalimar Gardensll. He is buried by the side of his mother in her tomb, on the right bank of the canal at Mughalpura. This was once surrounded by a garden of which only the gateway has survived. This gateway indicates the excellence of cnamelled tiled mosaic work which must have once adorned the tomb. The tomb itself, a massive brick construction octagonal in plan with a high dome and kiosks on angular points, stands on an eight-sided podium each side measuring 57 feet 6 inches. Deep half~domed recesses in each side contain smaller arched open— ings i11to the central chamber. The dome was originally finished with white marble inlaid with lloral designs in black marble.

Gulabi Bagh Gateway

This gateway, with its rich and vivid mosaic tile work and superb calligraphy on a plaster base, was the entranoe to a pleasure garden constructed by the Persian noble Mirza Sultan Baig in 16559. It is an exquisitely refined example ofthe form of garden gateway typical of this city. The main facade is divided into three bays, delineated by a grid of rectangular lines re- miniscent of timber-framed town houses. The double-storey volume is expressed by the two pairs of arched windows in the two side bays. These storey-height openings are arranged one above the other, whereas the central bay consists of a single arch rising two storeys, behind which the arched entrance is placed in a deep recess.

The delicate sophistication of its tile mosaics is matched by the subtle detailing of its structural forms, such as the ertgrailed arches of the upper storeys and the slender octagonal shafts marking the corners of the gateway block.

Nawankot Monuments

Situated about a mile south of Chauburji on the Multan Road, this three-centred double arched gateway was constructed in cut brick-work. It is almost entirely covered with cnamelied mosaic tile·work in green, blue, yellow and orange. The interior is richly decorated with fresco paintings in red and green"`. The form of this gateway follows thc standard design prevalent at the time, but the roof line is distinguished by a decorative row of castellations in the form of srylised naga hoods and airy kiosks on each of the four corners.

Dai Anga’s Tomb

The mausoleum of Dai Anga, wet nurse of Shah Jahan and wife of Murad Khan, a Mughal Magistrate of Bikaner, lies on the site of the Bulabi Bagh, the garden whose surviving gateway has been described above, The tomb was probably constructed in 1671. Built in brick and square in plan, the structure is raised on a low platform under which lies the actual burial site in a subterranean chamber. The mausoleum, cornprising a central tomb chamber and eight rooms around it, was once elaborately decorated with glazed-tile mosaics. The central chamber is roofed by a low pitched dome on a high neck. Around it, the roof over the smaller chambers is externally flat with a square kiosk in each corner supported on slender brick pillars. Sarvwala Maqbara Not far from Dai Anga’s Mausoleum is a solid, tower-like brick structure with generous chhajja [eaves) near the top and sur- mounted by a four-sided pyramidal low dome carried over a low double neck. This structure is the tomb of Sharfun Nisa Begum, built in the middle of the 18th centurym. lt is known as Sarvwala Maqbara from its ornamentation of cypresses — four on each side —— intercepted by blooming flower plants. The burial chamber is elevated to a height of 16 feet and is approachable only by a removable ladder. ln order to shield from sight the actual grave of the pious lady. According to some sources, the tower was originally surrounded by a beautiful garden and tank.

Sonehri Masjid (Golden Mosque)

By the middle of the 18th century the mainstream of architec- ture in Lahore had lost its grandeur and elegance. The Sonehri Masjid in the Dubbi Bazaar area of the Walled City, built by Nawab Bhikari Khan in 1753, displays none of the characteristic features which had been the hallmark of architecture in the provincial capital in the preceding oentury. It was built on the site of an earlier but much smaller mosque, in what had been a public square called Chowk Kashmiri Bazaar. 'The little "GoI- den Mosque", so called for its glittering domes. make a drama- tie termination as it rises on a platform at the end of a long narrow street of crowded shops and town houses. A flight of steps leads directly from the Kashmiri Bazaar to the main entrance which is elaborately adorned with an arcaded balus— trade and miniature minarets, reminiscent of the gateway of the Badshahi Mosque. Beyond the entrance the long, slightly wedged-shaped court contains an ablution tank.

The prayer chamber is roofed with three domes, with the central dome larger and raised higher than the two flanking ones. Externally these double domes have a bulbous fluted "turnip" form and are covered by gold-coated sheet copper, The two tall rninars flanking the eastern facade of the prayer chamber are similarly topped by miniature golden domes. On close inspection the corruption of Mughal forms is revealed in every detail. The bulbous Mughal domes are now exaggerated into the form of grotesque vegetables capped with slender drooping leaves. The merlons have become naga hoods, and the columns stalks grow- ing out of cabbages that blossom into life—like lotuses.


The vulgarization of Mughal forms appears to have been carried to fantastic extremes in the half century or so of Sikh rule. Even so, the religious architecture of the Sikhs represents an interesting development of the indigenous mainstream Taken singly, almost every element of these buildings is derived from a Mughal precedent, yet seen as a whole, these buildings are an unmistakable expression of El radically different style.

The hand of the Sikh designer seems not to be guided by the over-riding concern with the concept of a cosmic unity which inspired his Muslim counterpart. Instead. the structures appear to have been conceived more as the earthly containers of ob- jects of veneration. These objects -— -— an urn containing the ashes of a venerated personage, or the Gran: Sui‘rib_ the holy book of the Sikhs — are no doubt recognised as symbols, yet the focus of attention in a sarnedh or gmdivcm seems to be directed towards the central object ofthe building. Thus typi- cally, the guidwara sits in the centre of an open court or pool,

The main structure is often double storeyed on a simple square plan, with practically identical facades on each side. An inner square chamber on the ground and first floor is usually repeated on a third floor and is toppped by a fluted hulbous dome. The transition from the square room to the circular drum of the dome results in the characteristic double curve form, remains- cent of the ciiaiichufla or baiigula roof introduced into Mughal architecture by Shah Jahan. This curvilinear form. projected to form eaves [especially its wavy variant, reflecting the lines of a multicusped arch}, became one of the most distinctive features of Sikh architecture. Among the best known Sikh buildings in Pakistan are the number of Guru Arjun Dev and Maharaja Ranjit Singh located between the Badshahi Masjid and the fort at Lahore. Accord- ing to Sikh belief Guru Ariun Dev disappeared miraculously in the waters of the Ravi"}.

A small commemorative shrine was built on this site by Guru Gobind {l610—l645), but the present structure with its heavily gilded dome, was constructed later by Maharaia Ranjit Singh. The samadhi of Maharaja Ranjit Singh lies to the south west of the shrine of Guru Arjun Dev. Cornmenced by Raniit Singh`s son Kharak Singh, it was completed by I848. Of the two sumadhs, that of Guru Arjun Dev is smaller and its dome is raised on a single-storeyed lower structure instead of the more usual two—storey form. Its originally isolated position in a wide court has been lost with the addition of later structures

Among Sikh secular buildings the white marble pavilion in the adjoining firrztirt ling}: is a fine example of the degree of deriva- tion of Sikh buildings from Mugbal precedents, while the hrrveli of Naunihal Singh in the Walled City of Lahore, is one of the must outstanding representatives of their domestic architecture. Not a fundamental departure from the conventional hrwetf, or large town house, it is an isolated double—storey structure on an approximately square plan with a central court Its most re- markable feature is the rich surface decoration, externally in relief patterns in brick and internally some colourful frescoes on lime plaster, depicting human, animal and mythological figures.


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