The Wazir Khan Mosque was commissioned by the Emperor Shah Jahan and it is quite simply the most beautiful mosque I’ve ever seen.
The Walled City of Lahore, also known as the Old City, has been continuously inhabited for some 1000 years or more. Though it retains remnants of its Pre-Mughal history, its glory days really began with the Mughal Emperor Akbar, who briefly shifted his capital city from Fatehpur Sikri to Lahore in the 1580s.
Akbar rebuilt the walls of the city and gave it its famous city gates. He also built his palace in the Lahore Fort. From thenceforth, Lahore would be one of the major Mughal cities, after Delhi and Agra.
All of the successive Great Mughal Emperors left architectural legacies in the Lahore Fort and in the Walled City. But it is Shah Jahan who left the most beautiful of these, including the magnificent Wazir Khan Mosque – perhaps the loveliest Mughal-era mosque in the world today; and the Shahi Hammam – the city’s only remaining Mughal-era bathhouse.
The Walled City is a treasure trove of architectural gems: mosques, tombs, shrines and havelis – those quaint private residences that look deceptively small and nondescript on the outside, but often open onto self-contained worlds of courtyard, fresco, balcony and hammam.
A full wander of the Old City would take days. This gallery provides a mere glimpse into the Old City’s wealth of heritage.
Delhi Gate is one of six remaining gates to the Walled city. This gate is a British reconstruction in post-1857. The gate is so-called because it faces the direction of Delhi. In Delhi, there is a similar Lahore Gate, that faces the direction of Lahore.
The exquisite Shahi Hammam, or Royal Baths, were commissioned by the Emperor Shah Jahan in 1635. They are the only remaining bathhouses from the Mughal world, and have been lovingly restored by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture and the Walled City Authority.
Approaching Wazir Khan Chowk, with a minaret of the Wazir Khan mosque visible.
The beautiful mihrab of the Wazir Khan Mosque, with its muqarnas features and its Mughal tiles.
The Mosque of Maryam Zamani Begum is Lahore’s oldest Mughal-era mosque, built by the Emperor Jahangir in 1614 in the name of his mother.
While the exterior of the mosque hasn’t weathered the years well, the interior still boasts amazingly intricate fresco and tilework.
The underside of the dome, Maryam Zamani Begum Mosque.
The Haveli of Asif Khan (also known as Dhian Singh) dates to the Jahangir period. It was built by Asif Khan, who was appointed Governor of Lahore. Today it houses a girls’ school.
The grounds of the haveli harbour some magnificent frescoes that blend Persian and Hindu elements
Close-up of a fresco of Krishna.
A class taking place during my visit, which required special permission from the Principal as this school was out of bounds to visitors.
Another treasure in the school’s compound is a remarkably well preserved hammam, with frescoes of angels.
The Dai Anga Mosque was built in 1635 in honour of Shah Jahan’s wetnurse, Dai Anga.
Inside, it retains some remnants of original Mughal floral tilework (in gold).
The Tomb of Dai Anga, built in 1671.
The underside of the dome, Dai Anga Tomb.
The Sunehri Mosque dates from 1753, when the Mughal Empire was on the wane.
Its interior, however, was simply stunning.
The Data Darbar is the largest Sufi Shrine on the Subcontinent. It pre-dates the Mughal era and was built to house the remains of Sufi Saint Abu Hassan Ali Hujwiri. A shrine has probably stood here since the 11th century.
A rousing qawwali performance at the basement of the shrine.
The Haveli Nau Nihal Singh dates from the Sikh Period. Built around 1840, it is the most magnificent example of Sikh Architecture in Lahore.
It has been used as a school since the British period, and so special permission had to be sought to visit.
The highlight of the visit is the exquisite series of frescoes that line the walls of the rooftop chamber of the Haveli.
These frescoes were simply breathtaking – my camera doesn’t capture their full beauty.
The haveli of Ram Gopal
The expansive, multi-floored interior of the haveli, with its central airwell.
The Lahori Gate is one of the oldest gates of the city, and is named after the lohar, or blacksmiths that traded their wares around the gate.
Entrance to a Hindu Temple in the Anarkali district.
The entrance leads to the disused site of the former Basuli Hanuman Mandir.
The old Hindu Temple stands next to the Forman Memorial Chapel.
…and right across of the Tomb of Qutb al-Din Aibak, the founder of the Mamluk Dynasty and the first sultan of the Delhi Sultanate.
Anarkali’s Tomb dates possibly to the turn of the 15th century and is supposed to have been built by Jehangir for a slavegirl he loved, called Anarkali. This is disputed. The tomb is one of the earliest Mughal-era tombs. It holds the Punjab Archives today and sits in the complex of the Punjab Civil Secretariat, so access is restricted.
Not far away stands Chauburji, built by Shah Jahan in 1646 as a monumental gteway to a vast garden complex, long since gone.
And finally, a backward glance at Old Lahore… this is the door to the Haveli of Nau Nihal Singh.
Essential Reference: LAHORE – History and Architecture of Mughal Monuments, by Anjum Rehmani. Pakistan: Oxford University Press, 2016.