Jahingar Tomb and Noor Jahan Tomb Shahdara Lahore
On the northern outskirts of Lahore past the old city lies the impressive tomb of Jahingar (Mughal Emperor who ruled from 1605 to 1627) . The tomb is situated in Shahdara, which was the favorite spot of Jahingar and his wife Noor Jahan. Shahdara is translates as the ‘passage of kings’—is now a northern suburb of Lahore. Shahdara has remained the entrance gate of Mughal Empire. It is built inside the walled garden of the Empress Noor Jehan Bagh-e-Dil Kusha, on the bank of Ravi in Lahore.
Upon entering the walled grounds you are met with the impressive structure, and wide open grassed areas, that you can only imaging once was an amazing grounds and garden area. Today the area is full of locals and perhaps some tourists, although not too many western ones were seen on our visit (in fact none, only us). The area is simply a mass of dozens of cricket games occurring concurrently, given the Pakistani passion for the game inherited from the British.
The tomb is inside the large amazingly decorated mausoleum area, surround by four corners of the tower, with the white marble cupolas, rise in five stages to a height of 100 feet (30m) with a zigzag inlay of white and yellow marble. The entrance to the mausoleum is through two massive gateways of stone opposite each other (to the north and south), which lead to a square enclosure.
This enclosure leads to another one, on the Western side, giving full view of the garden in front of the mausoleum, which is surrounded by canals proceeding from the centre, and in which many fountains were once placed (which are now ruined). The corridor around the mausoleum is decorated with beautiful mosaics, representing flowers and verses from the Quran.
The mausoleum is a building with one floor. The ground floor has a square shape. Its structure consists of a platform with a tall, octagonal tower and a projecting entrance in the middle of each side. The building is divided into a series of vaulted compartments. The interior is embellished with floral frescoes with delicate inlay work and marble of various colors.
Inside the mausoleum is an elevated sarcophagus of white marble, the sides of which are covered with flowers of mosaic in the same style as the tombs in the Taj Mahal at Agra, India. On two sides of the sarcophagus the ninety-nine attributes of Allah are inlaid in black. Carved jali screens admit light in various patterns facing toward mecca.
The tomb suffered a great deal of destruction at the hand of Maharajah Ranjeet Singh who stripped the ornaments off the tomb and sent them to Amritsar in order to decorate a Sikh temple.
The tomb was also used as the residence of a Sikh army officer of Spanish origin and Sultan Muhammad Khan, brother of Dost Muhammad khan of Kabul, caused great damage to the mausoleum. However the British government repaired it in 1889-90.
Entrance to the tomb is 500 Rupees for foreigners and 20 Rupees for locals. This gives access to the main area, but you are soon approached when entering the mouseleum by a ‘guide’ who gives some information on the site, and then asked if we wanted to go ‘on the roof’. A couple of hundred rupees and we were allowed up a stairway to the roof for an impressive view of the grounds. We were then asked if we would like to go up one of the turrets, and as this opportunity would most like not come to us again we accepted and climbed the circular stairwell to the top to the 100ft peak for an even more impressive overview of the area.
Noor Jahan Tomb
Nur Jahan’s tomb is similar to Jahingar’s tomb, but is about half the size and lacks corner minarets. The tomb suffered substantial damage in the 19th century when its marble decoration was plundered for use in other monuments. The destruction extended even to the sarcophagus, which is no longer extant. The present cenotaph at the centre of the tomb is a modern restoration.
The area is currently undergoing major renovation works, making it not much of a touristic experience, but you still don’t lose the grandeur of this place.
Again, a local guide asked us if we wanted to see the ‘tunnels’, which used to traverse to the Jahingar Tomb and now a small area underneath is accessed via a locked doorway and a stairwell under the tomb itself. The tunnels were full of bats flying around, which created great interest and excitement (or fear) in the kids as we walked in the mobile phone lit, other wise darkness of the mysterious underground tunnels. At the centre of the area directly under the tomb above us were 3 side tunnels, which allowed sunlight into the room regardless of the position of the sun during the day.
As with many things in Pakistan, you simply don’t know, or even appreciate the historical sites that surround us on a day-to-day basis. Without some help of local friends, we would not have experienced this today, and the area, although busy with local cricket matches was safe and non threatening. The biggest issue, if you could call it that, was the constant starring of being the ‘white’ family, and the not so subtle attempts to capture us on well-positioned ‘selfies’ with mobile phones, and the parade of ‘followers’ who escorted us around the site.
Our visit was made a little bit unique too, in that a local news channel suddenly appeared in front of the exit as we were leaving, and who seemed to be doing nothing until we approached, but then grabbed us all for a quick ‘interview’ on our views on the site…all a part of the fun and experience…
Footnote: The Noor Jahan tomb is currently undergoing a large renovation project