Mughal Tombs and Paradise Gardens, Lahore

1 - JAhangir Tomb

The Mausoleum of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir, completed in 1637.

In the suburb of Shahdara (The Way of the Shahs), some 16 km from Lahore, stand the tombs of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir, and his Empress, Nur Jahan.

Of all the Mughal Emperors (and Empresses), they loved Lahore the most; and it was during their reign that Lahore reached its zenith as a Mughal capital and a centre for culture and the arts. Jahangir willed that he be laid to rest forever here, in his beloved city. After she died, Nur Jahan joined her beloved.

Jahangir’s Tomb

Jahangir’s tomb is in the tradition of the great Mausoleums of the Mughal Emperors. Of the tombs of the six Great Mughals, Babur’s tomb is in Kabul, Humayoun in Delhi, and Akbar and Shah Jahan’s in Agra. Aurangzeb is buried in Khuldabad, India, but he had ordered that his tomb be unmarked – the present-day marble structure was built in the British Era by Lord Curzon.

Completed in 1637, the tomb was either designed and commissioned by the Emperor Shah Jahan (Jahangir’s son), or the Empress Nur Jahan (his mother and Jahangir’s wife). It is in the Mughal style with Persian elements, and is strikingly simple and elegant, as compared to the other Royal Mausoleums in India, which tend towards a kind of self-conscious monumentalism.

The interior of the tomb is exquisitely decorated with Mughal frescoes and pietra dura, and in the white marble cenotaph (also decorated with pietra dura), one sees echoes of what is to come later with the Taj Mahal. Unfortunately, it was plundered and damaged during the Sikh period, with precious materials and artefacts taken and used in the construction of the Golden Temple at Amritsar. It has been painstakingly restored today, however, and gleams with a kind of stately though self-effacing beauty.

The tomb is surrounded by a Char Bagh, or a Persian Paradise Garden. These gardens once extended to and encompassed the tombs of Nur Jahan and Asif Khan (Nur Jahan’s brother, Jahangir’s brother-in-law). But today, the Empress’ tomb is cut off from the other two by a road.

2 - Darwaza Entrance

One enters the Tomb of Jahangir by way of the Akbari Sarai. A “sarai” is a resthouse for travellers, with this particular sarai also built for caretakers of the tomb. The travellers would be housed in chambers seen to the

3 - Side Walls

Other chambers, built into the walls of the Akbari Sarai.

4 - Close-up Darwaza

The Darwaza of the Akbari Sarai is exquisitely decorated with pietra dura, and also features a muqarnas. It leads to the Tomb itself.

5 - Tomb with Fountain

The Tomb of Jahangir is simpler than that of Humayoun, Akbar, and Shah Jahan, in that it is single-storeyed, and lacks a dome.

6 - Tomb on Fountain

The tomb is just beautiful in its simplicity, its four minarets rising stalwart from the central structure.

7 - Close-up Tomb

The facade of the tomb has probably been extensively restored.

8 - Side

Close-up of one of the four exquisitely ornamented gold minarets.

9 - Entering it

The interior of the tomb is also exquisitely ornamented with Mughal tiles.

10 - Cenotaph

Jahangir’s cenotaph, in white marble with flowers in pietra dura, echo those of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal at the Taj Mahal.

11 - Side corridors

The corridors along the sides of the tomb structure.

12 - Detail

Each of the chambers along the side corridors are also decorated with frescoes.

13 - close-up back

Emerging from the back of the Tomb.

14 - Back

Jahangir’s Tomb, seen from the back.

Asif Khan’s Tomb

Right beside Jahangir’s tomb stands the Tomb of Asif Khan, which has not weathered time well. The tomb was heavily damaged during the Sikh Period, plundered successively by the Sikh rulers and stripped of its precious materials such as white marble. Much of this precious material was then used to decorate the Golden Temple at Amritsar.

15 - Towards mosque

Proceeding to Asif Khan’s tomb by the Mosque on site.

16 - Picnic

Families picknicking

17 - Asif Khan tomb

Asif Khan’s Tomb, completed in 1641, with its dome, once decorated with precious materials, but stripped of them during the Sikh era.

18 - Tomb Detail

Entrance to the tomb, with remaining Mughal tiles.

19 - Detail Mughal tile

Close-up of the Mughal tiles, betraying how the Tomb might have looked like before.

Nur Jahan’s Tomb

A short walk away lies Nur Jahan’s tomb, which has, similarly, not weathered the years well.The surfaces of the tomb had also, like the others, been stripped of white marble and other precious materials used in the Golden Temple in Amritsar.  In fact, it is said that almost half of the precious material used in the Golden Temple came from Nur Jahan’s tomb.  

The tomb was in the midst of an extensive restoration when I visited. The interior of the tomb, once covered with beautiful frescoes, had faded. But the exterior had been restored so it glowed beneath the afternoon sun. 

It has to be noted that Nur Jahan was perhaps the most powerful Mughal Empress in history. She ruled beside her husband as a de facto advisor, taking a keen interest in affairs of state and actually influencing key decisions in the Empire. She commissioned the creation of her own tomb in her lifetime, as well as her father’s tomb – the exquisite, white marble, Itmad ud-daulah Tomb in Agra, known as the “Little Taj Mahal”.

All in all, she was an accomplished and exceptional woman in an empire and history that was overwhelmingly patriarchal.

20 - Approaching Nur Jahan Tomb

Approaching Nur Jahan’s Tomb, completed in the mid-1600s.

21 - Nur Jahan Tomb

The tomb is very similar in style to Jahangir’s tomb, except that it is smaller and lacking in minarets.

22 - Closer

The facade of the tomb has been extensively restored.

23 - Close-up

Entering the Tomb, which was under restoration when I visited.

24 - CEnotaph

The cenotaph of Nur Jahan, and her daughter Ladli Begum.

25 - Ornamentation

Floral frescoes fading off the walls of the tomb.

Shalimar Gardens

To the northeast of Lahore, lies another important historic site and destination – the Shalimar Gardens. Recognised as the finest example of a Mughal-style pleasure garden, the Gardens were created by the Emperor Shah Jahan, and were completed in 1642.

Inspired by an earlier Shalimar Gardens, built by his father Jahangir in Kashmir, Shah Jahan commissioned work on his own Gardens, determined that they literally be “Paradise on Earth”. The gardens are (naturally) designed in the Persian Char Bagh or “Paradise Garden” style, and are the largest and most elaborate of these in the Mughal Empire.

While the gardens were private and for the exclusive use of the Emperor, his harem and his guests, the lower part of the gardens were open to the public. Like the Mughal tombs, the gardens were also plundered during the Sikh Empire, with marble and other materials used in the Golden Temple.

[It must be clarified, however, that the attacks on the Royal Tombs and the Shalimar Gardens were retaliation for Jahangir’s strict and often violent persecution of the Sikhs during his reign.]

Today, the Gardens continue to be a huge public attraction, with all manner of local families enjoying themselves in its relatively still tranquil and pleasant surroundings. The Shalimar Gardens were inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981.

26 - Entrance to Shalimar Bagh

The entrance to Shalimar Gardens today.

27 - Bangla Style roof

Nigar Khana.

28 - Shalimar Bagh

The Upper Gardens, Farah Baksh (“Bestower of Pleasure”) were exclusive to the King’s Harem.

29 - Approaching the Bagh

Approaching the Baradari that opens onto the next terrace.

30 - WilliamMoorcroft Picnic

The house of William Moorcroft, an explorer of the East India Company, who stayed here in 1820.

31 - Panoramic View

View of the Second Garden, the Faiz Bakhsh (Bestower of Goodness) terrace, was the Emperor’s private garden. It is also the beautiful part of the Shalimar Gardens.

32 - Closer view to beyond

View through the baradaris to the third, lower part of the gardens, Hayat Baksh (Bestower of Life). This part was open to the public now and then.

33 - Chhatri

Side view towards a

34 - Side Pillars

Minaret on the walls of the garden.

35 - Child

Child at one of the chinkhanas

36 - Goes Further

The Lower Gardens, or Hayat Baksh.

Like the rest of Lahore, there were relatively little foreign tourists – in fact, none at all at the tombs and Gardens. And so one really gets an authentic sense of local life. The Lahoris themselves, are immensely friendly and welcoming, and greeted me with a mixture of smiles and curious stares, with many a group approaching me for a friendly “we-fie” on their mobile phones.

37 - Backward Glance

A backward glance at Jahangir’s Tomb.

Essential Reference: LAHORE – History and Architecture of Mughal Monuments, by Anjum Rehmani. Pakistan: Oxford University Press, 2016.

About Kennie Ting

I am a wandering cityophile and pattern-finder who is pathologically incapable of staying in one place for any long period of time. When I do, I see the place from different perspectives, obsessive-compulsively.
This entry was posted in Art & Architecture, Cities & Regions, Culture & Lifestyle, Heritage, Museums, Photography, Travel & Mobility and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s