A testament to grandeur

February 18, 2024

Lahore Fort is a magnificent reminder of the glory of yesteryears

A testament to grandeur


orts, symbolising stability and security, have been constructed worldwide for military purposes and as royal residences.

The Lahore Fort, known locally as ShahiQila, is located northwest of the city. Its history dates back to ancient times, but it was rebuilt by the Mughal Emperor Akbar (1556-1605). Subsequent rulers continued to add to it, making it an excellent example of Mughal architecture and tradition. In 1981, UNESCO declared this fort a World Heritage Site.

Historyis silent on when a fort was first built at this site. However, it is known that a fort near Lahore, presumably at the same site, was present in 1180 AD. It was destroyed by the Mongols in 1241 AD and later rebuilt by GhiyasuddinBalban in 1267 AD. In 1398 AD, Amir Timur’s army destroyed it. Sultan Mubarak Shah then reconstructed it at the beginning of 1421 AD. This construction was destroyed by SheikhaGakkharfive months later. In 1432, Sheikh Ali, the governor of Kabul, conquered Lahore and repaired the fort.

A testament to grandeur

In 1556, Emperor Akbar ordered that the mud fort be demolished and replaced with a brick building.

The construction work had been completed before 1568. Subsequent Mughal emperors, including Jehangir, ShahJehan and Aurangzeb Alamgir, also contributed to its expansion.

The fort has an almost rectangular shape, spanning 466 metres in length and 370 metres in width. The walls have been constructed using sturdy red bricks held together with mud mortar. These walls had openings for gunners, allowing hot water and bullets to be rained onbesieging armies. Remnants of these openings are still visible along the eastern wall. The outer facade of the fort is adorned with intricatemosaic patterns, depicting images of humans, horses and elephants.

The fort is circumscribed by a towering wall featuring three grand gates: one on the eastern side, another on the southern side and one on the northwest. Historically, the northwestern gate was reserved for the passage of king and the queen.

Previously, a rudimentary fort had stood at this site. In 1566, Emperor Akbar ordered its demolition and commissioned the construction of a new, lavish fort in its place. This new fort was designed to serve both residential and military purposes.

Diwan, characterised by a roof supported by pillars, commonly referred to as Diwan-i-Aam has a niche where Shah Jehan would sit to observe his subjects.

Alamgiri Gate was constructed in 1678, during the rule of Emperor Aurangzeb Alamgir. The gate was closed for nearly a century until it was reopened on November 18, 1949, by Sardar Abdul RabNishtar, the then Punjab governor.

A testament to grandeur

Shah Burj: Bearing the name of Shah Jahan, the gate was closed during the Mughal period.However, during the British period, it was opened after all other gates were closed.

Elephant Pool Gate: This gate had served as the entrance for queens and princesses who would arrive riding on elephants.

Sheesh Mahal is a stunning structure built by Shah Jehan in 1631 AD. It served as the royal residence in Lahore during the Mughal era. It was also where on December 26, 1846, Henry Harding signed a treaty with the Sikhs. Subsequently, in March 1849, the British promulgated their rule over the Punjab. The central courtyard of Sheesh Mahalhas a small tank with a beautifully crafted platform at its centre. Surrounding the courtyard are narrow canals that divide it into four sections.

Naulakha is a magnificent marble structure.

Hasht Dari is a pavilion constructed by Ranjit Singh featuring traces of a waterfall to the east, at the rear of the long plinth. Near the northern end of the plinth stands a tower known as Kala Burj. Another tower on the eastern side, just ahead of it is called the Red Tower.

Dewan-i-Khas is an exquisite marble compound commissioned by ShahJehan in 1645. Situated to the west, it has a row of royal baths extending from east to west.

The Jehangiriquadrangle is situated east of the royal baths.It is slightly lower than the earthen platform and was constructed by Emperor Jahangir. Its pillars feature diverse designs, including images of elephants, lions and birds. Originally Jehangir’s bedroom, the palace now serves as a museum, housing maps, photographs and weapons from the Sikh era, including swords, daggers, pistols, spears, javelins, bows and armour.

A testament to grandeur

The Diwan-i-Aam, accessible through the Akbari Gatevia a winding path, spans 730 feet in length and 460 feet in width. Constructed by Akbar in 1566, it is surrounded by several roomsnow lacking any identifiable signs or names. Only a courtyard in front of the Moti Masjid remains. The Diwan comprises sixty pillars and is situated in a spacious compound, with a few rooms at the height of 8 feet known as takhtor darbar. The rear section, known as DaulatKhanaKhas and Aam, features a two-storey building and includes a jharokacalled, Musnad-i-Shahi.

Makatibkhana is situated in the western corner of the expansive Diwan-i-Aam courtyard. This served as an entrance hall where the court scribe recorded the comings and goings of visitors to Jehangir’s quadrangle.

Moti Masjid: Originally constructed as a women’s mosque, it was later renamed as MotiMandir by Maharaja Ranjit Singh. During various periods, including Sikh and British rule, this mosque also served as the treasury.

Inside the fort, there is a small museum showcasing a plethora of rare artefacts. Richly decorated cabinets display ancient tools, weapons, pictures, clothes and more. An ideal destination for students, it’s also a great place for lay persons to visit. Parents can educate their children about the grandeur of the Mughal emperors who once ruled the subcontinent and have left an indelible mark on its architecture.

The writer is a freelance journalist based in Gujranwala. He can be reached at waseemshabbir78@gmail.com

A testament to grandeur