From Akbar to Aurangzeb…
The Majestic Monument Paying Homage to
the Mughal Kings!
When you wish to ravel into the Mughal Architecture in its complete majesty, there is just no better way to do so but by walking through majestic structures which pay homage to the era of absolute wonders. There is just no way better to feel it- to actually go through it and if ever you find yourself in Lahore, be sure to take the time out to make a visit to the wondrous location of Shahi Qila or how we call it the Lahore Fort.
While you may have come across a range of images and stories on the creation and existence of the Lahore Fort, it will not justify the experience you can soak in when you actually peek at the walls of this historically significant structure of absolute wonder. We made sure we took a whole day to explore this complex of fortifications which consists of a range of marble mosques as well as palaces with sheer stories. Welcome to the Mughal Emperor’s rule and witness its greatness in complete beauty and majesty.
Called the Royal Fort also, this structure is one which depicts royalty with every stone laid. When visiting the walled city, it is undeniable the treasure within which is actually spread across more than 20 hectares.
It will very well take you a complete day to actually explore the whole fort. There are noticeably 22 monuments and these are complex structures which have been standing strong for well over hundreds of years.
This is specifically to the era of Akbar and how during the Mughal Empire, the fort withstood many wars, natural calamities and shone in its complete splendor.
Undoubtedly its opulence can be overwhelming. You can feel its power as you walk within. Though the site of the Lahore Fort has been inhabited for millennia, the first record of a fortified structure at the site was regarding an 11th-century mud-brick fort. The foundations of the modern Lahore Fort date to 1566 during the reign of Emperor Akbar, who bestowed the fort with a syncretic architectural style that featured both Islamic and Hindu motifs. Additions from the Shah Jahan period are characterized by luxurious marble with inlaid Persian floral designs, while the fort’s grand and iconic Alamgiri Gate was constructed by the last of the great Mughal Emperors, Aurangzeb, and faces the renowned Badshahi Mosque.
Standing in front of one another, you are left completely in awe as you soak in these sights and feel completely overtaken by the beauty of its structural significance. Ornate and full of incredible sites such as Naulakha Pavilion and the Hall of Public Audience or ‘Diwan-i-Aam’, the Lahore Fort is also well-planned. You need a definite guide who can walk you across these famed halls to know and learn about the majesty of the fort. There is a story of power and royalty through every monument you walk across. Such as getting to know how the Alamgiri Gate was actually a private entrance to the royal quarters. It was large enough to allow several elephants carrying members of the royal household to enter at one time. These very structures even survive today. You are able to marvel at the works and talent of the Mughal era and its rulers. There is so much detail and distinction which defines every structure, giving it its complete story of existence. Just walk through the sequence of noble palaces, halls and gardens . Feel the power of the Mughal rulers. Akbar, Jehangir, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb, comparable to and contemporary with the other great Mughal forts at Delhi and Agra in India, this is enriching history every step of the way.Located directly beneath the Sheesh Mahal and Shah Burj quadrangle is the Summer Palace, also known as the Pari Mahal, or “Fairy Palace.” The palace is a labyrinth of chambers that date from the Shah Jahan period.They were used as a residence during hot weather months, as they were cooled by effective ventilation systems that channelled cool breezes into the palace. The palace’s flooring system also helped cool the space – its floors were made of two layers that were separated by a layer of water pumped in from the Ravi River. Cool water perfumed by roses flowed through an elaborate system of 42 waterfalls and cascades throughout the palace. The palace was historically only accessible from the overlying Sheesh Mahal, though a new entrance was built by the British near Hathi Pul, or “Elephant Stairs.” Its walls were decorated with intricate frescoes and marble inlay that have been severely deteriorated by layers of subsequent white-washing and centuries of dampness. Passage tunnels also exist that lead from the palace to the fort’s exterior where the River Ravi once flowed, suggesting that it may have been part of an escape tunnel designed to allow occupants to flee in case of attack. The Summer Palace remained in use during the Sikh period under the reign of Ranjit Singh. After the defeat of the Sikh empire in the Second Anglo-Sikh War, it went into the hands of the East India Company and in 1858, into the hands of the British Raj, and its appointed agents and executors.
The fort is also home to a museum that holds some of the most rare and interesting artefacts. From ancient weaponry to home accessories, jewelry and coins from various eras, you will be completely spellbound as you enjoy these incredible mementos to how life of the yesteryear was extremely well-planned and depicted the intelligence of various rulers and their tribes. Be it the Sikh era, the Jehangir period, Akbar’s tribe and many others, there is so much still in preservation.
The Origins of the Fort
Though the site is known to have been inhabited for millennia, the origins of Lahore Fort are obscure and traditionally based on various myths. Actually the first historical reference to a fort at the site is from the 11th century during the rule of Mahmud of Ghazni. The fort was made of mud and was destroyed in 1241 by the Mongols during their invasion of Lahore. A new fort was constructed in 1267 at the site by Sultan Balban of the Turkic Mamluk dynasty of the Delhi Sultanate.
The re-built fort was destroyed in 1398 by the invading forces of Timur, only to be rebuilt by Mubarak Shah Sayyid in 1421. In the 1430s, the fort was occupied by Shaikh Ali of Kabul and remained under the control of the Pashtun sultans of the Lodi dynasty until Lahore was captured by the Mughal Emperor Babur in 1526. After the fall of the Mughal Empire, Lahore Fort was used as the residence of Emperor Ranjit Singh, founder of the Sikh Empire. The Sikhs made several additions to the fort. It was said that the Badhashi Mosque was used by Ranjit as a stable for the horses of his army. It then passed to the control of the East India Company after they annexed Punjab following their victory over the Sikhs at the Battle of Gujrat in February 1849. In 1981, the fort was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its “outstanding repertoire” of Mughal monuments dating from the era when the empire was at its artistic and aesthetic zenith.
But it is impossible to end this piece without mentioning the absolute beauty that was brought to the fort during Jahangir’s reign.Emperor Jahangir first mentions his alterations to the fort in 1612 when describing the Maktab Khana. Jahangir also added the Kala Burj pavilion, which features European-inspired angels on its vaulted ceiling. British visitors to the fort noted Christian iconography during the Jahangir period, with paintings of the Madonna and Jesus found in the fort complex. It is Jahangir who had bestowed the massive Picture Wall, a 1,450 feet (440 m) by 50 feet (15 m) wall which is exquisitely decorated with a vibrant array of glazed tile, faience mosaics, and frescoes. On the spandrels of the large arched panels below Jahangir’s Khwabgah (the Imperial Bedchamber) are azdahas or winged dragons from ancient Persian mythology, cup-bearing angel figures, herons, cranes and other flying birds. Many of the scenes displayed on this ‘Picture Wall’ illustrate the court life of the Mughal sovereigns, their sports and their pastimes. One of the finest panels shows four horsemen playing the noble game of chaughan, nowadays known as polo. Most prominent are those relating to elephant fights, which were one of the favourite recreations of the Mughal court.
It is our pure luck and good fortune that this qila, probably one of the most treasured and detailed, still stands so strong. It is a plethora of stories of the Mughal era, depicting the many rulers who have ruled this region at some point in time during history. You are completely mystified as you learn and progress through how every stone, every brick that has been laid, defines how we stand today from the sheer history, a flashback of all that has been going through this monumental structure holding so much history of some of the greatest eras of history.