The Tomb of Asif Khan is a magnificent edifice crowned by a high bulbous dome. Asif Khan’s tomb is situated in Shahdara Bagh, adjacent to Akbari Sarai, in the city of Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan. Like that of other noble persons in the Mughal courts, Asif Khan’s tomb is also octagonal in shape and embellished using attractive designs and colours. Octagonal shaped tombs were only used for Mughal nobles and never for Mughal emperors.
Asif Khan was the title given to the Mughal statesman Mirza Abdul Hassan Jah, who was also known as Asif Jah. He was the brother the of Empress Noor Jahan, father of Arjumand Bano Begum who later became the consort of Shah Jahan under the name of Mumtaz Mahal, and he was also brother-in-law to the Mughal Emperor Jahangir. Asif Khan was elevated as Khan e Khana, commander in chief, and became governor of Lahore a year later.
Asif Khan died in a battle against the forces of rebel Raja Jagat Singh in 1641 and his tomb was commissioned to be built by emperor Shah Jahan. It cost 300,000 rupees and four years from 1641 to 1645 to complete the construction of this marvellous erection. The tomb is only separated by Akbari Sarai from Jahangir’s tomb which makes an axis.
The garden, where to tomb stands, measures 300 yards to each side and was divided by long pools along pathways into four squares (the Persian Chahar Bagh system). Each square is set with fountains, water reservoirs, and trails. The tomb once had water reservoirs at its four corners to fed fountains and pathways.
The garden was accessible through the gates erected on its northern and southern walls. The southern gate is a double storied structure, square in shape, serves as the primary entrance to the garden complex. Its southern face is decked with red stone and white marble while the other three faces are decorated with plasterwork. Its interiors feature small chambers. Its central portion features a tall two-story iwan portal finished with stucco work and flooring is done in geometrical design brickwork. The northern side gate is known as Jawab (response) gate, a two-storied structure with a central arched iwan portal flanked by four smaller portals. Its front is adorned with intricate tile work (Kashi Kari) but much of the intricate ornamental work has already gone. There is a small mosque found in the eastern wall which was used as a residence during the British era while there is access to Jahangir’s Tomb via the Akbari Sarai in the western wall.
Asif Khan’s tomb was built in Central Asian style architecture. The tomb was noted to feature some of the finest examples of building art and craft at the time of construction.
Standing in the centre of a vast garden the tomb is erected on a 3-foot 9-inch elevated podium accessible by stairs. It was built octagonal in shape with each side measuring 38 feet 8 inches with access to its interior from eight sides and arched window looking into the tomb. Each side of the tomb has a deeply recessed iwan or alcove.
The exterior of the tomb was originally decorated with red sandstone and rich marble stone inlay work. Its finishing was done with stucco tracery and blue Kashi tiles. The high bulbous double dome, resting on the octagonal base, was originally covered with white marble finishing. The use of bulbous domes was initiated by Emperor Shah Jahan and were never used before.
The interior of the tomb, renowned for its lavish use of white marble and precious inlay, ornamented with very bold stucco design, tile mosaic, and Ghalib Kari. The inner dome ceiling is decked in high plaster relief of interlacing patterns. The central cenotaph is made of pure marble carved with inscriptions from the Holy Qur’an like that in the nearby tomb of Emperor Jahangir. The floor on which the tomb stands was built red limestone (Sang-e-Abri) which does not exist anymore.
Sikh Era Mutilation
During the rule of the Sikh Empire, Asif Khan’s tomb along with Jahangir’s Tomb and other monuments were heavily damaged. Notable Sikh rulers like Gujjar Singh, Lahna Singh, and Subha Singh carried out the damages and planted large Pipal trees next to the tomb to obstruct its views which were removed later. Its marble, various decorative stones, and sandstones were pillaged and installed in the Golden Temple in Amritsar and to build the Hazuri Bagh Baradari in Lahore.
If the tomb had existed in its original shape with all designs and colours, it would have been a masterpiece. It did not attract much attention because its beauty was snatched by the Sikhs. It was later repaired by did not gain its glory. Also, the gardens and gateways were repaired too by the British and its walls were swept away by flooding in 1955 when River Ravi was inundated, and a second flood occurred in 1973 while repair work was carried out in 1986-87. But the tomb and its walls are still in disappointing condition.
Lahore is the second largest city and the cultural hub of Pakistan. The city has a charming longstanding history and is entirely rich in tourist attractions, mostly of historic and cultural significance. However, sadly, only a few conventional landmarks out of a cluster are known to the general public and tourists. The “Hidden Treasures of Lahore” has not yet been unearthed properly. The wealth of attraction that is still hiding behind deserves to be known to the public and tourists which certainly will add to the historic significance of Lahore.
Wazir Khan Baradari
The Wazir Khan Baradari (12-door pavilion) is sited between the Punjab Public Library (PPL), National College of Arts (NCA), and the Lahore Museum and is accessible from the PPL road. It was named after Hakim Ilumddin titled ‘Wazir Khan’, a benefactor of numerous impressive buildings across Lahore including the splendid Wazir Khan’s Mosque and Wazir Khan’s Hammam ( also known as Shahi Hammam), in the Walled City. The Baradari is surrounded by a fine garden with a large number of palm trees. The two-story pavilion has been incorporated into the grounds of the Punjab Public Library in 1860 and serves as a reading room. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, Wazir Khan Baradari was used as a museum and as the Settlement and Telegraph Office under the British rule.
Maryam Zamani or Begum Shahi Mosque or Barood Khana Wali Masjid
Maryam Zamani was one of the queens of Emperor Akbar, mother of Jahangir and sister of Bhagwan Das. She built a mosque near Masti Gate of the Walled City in 1614 AD and is believed Lahore’s earliest surviving example of the Mughal era mosque that influenced the construction of the larger Wazir Khan Mosque. Thus it was named after the queen Maryam Zamani who was actually born Rajkumari Hira Kunwari, a Rajput princess, the daughter of Raja Bihari Mal of Jaipur (the then Amber). The mosque has a beautifully adorned prayer hall with a remarkable central dome adorned by muqarnas and painted frescos. The Mosque is close to the Akbari gate entrance and was once used as gunpowder factory by Ranjit Singh thereby called Barood Khana Wali Masjid. However, it was restored in 1850 under the British.
Ali Mardan Khan’s Tomb
Ali Mardan Khan was originally a noble at the court of Shah Tahmasp, a Safavid king. After surrendering Iranian Qandahar to Emperor Shah Jahan in 1638, he joined the Mughal court and rose to great heights rapidly and became Governor of Kashmir, Lahore, and Kabul. He was also granted the title of Amir al-Umara (Lord of Lords) in 1639 and became a commander of 7,000 troops as well as appointed viceroy of Punjab from Kabul to Delhi. Besides a commanding figure, Ali Mardan Khan was also a renowned engineer who coined the idea of the construction of a canal from the river Ravi for the supply of water to the Shalimar Gardens, as well as for the irrigation and cultivation of surrounding areas. His tomb is a massive brick construction work standing on an octagonal podium. The structure of the tomb is also octagonal with a bulbous dome and kiosks on angular points. The tomb once stood in the centre of a luxuriant garden and the extent of which could be seen by its double story gateway. The imposing tomb is accessible by a 300 m long walkway through narrow streets of the Railway Carriage Workshop.
Saru Wala Maqbara or Cypress Tomb
The tomb of Sharf-un-Nisa Begam is popularly known as ‘Saru Wala’ Maqbara. Saru is the Urdu term used for Cypress and because of images of cypress trees used on its walls, it is thus called Cypress tomb. Sharf-un-Nisa Begam was a sister of Nawab Zakariya Khan, governor of Lahore province during the reign of Emperor Mohammad Shah Rangeela. Before her death, the Begum would read the holy Quran on daily basis on the first floor of the Chamber and then would deposit the holy book and the jewelled sword, descending by means of a portable wooden stair. After her death, she was buried in the same chamber along with the copy of the holy Quran and her jewelled sword. The unusual tower-like tomb is 16 feet above the ground and was made inaccessible by blocking up all openings in 1745. It is located near to the north of Dai Anga’s tomb in the Begumpura neighbourhood of Lahore. The structure of the tomb is unique in itself for its unusual shape and decoration of the cypress motif as a jewel of Mughal architecture.
Dai Anga’s Tomb
Dai Anga, the wet nurse of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan and his daughter (Princess Sultan Begum), was the name given to Zeb-un-Nisa (1671 AD). She was the wife of a Mughal noble Murad Khan, magistrate of Biknar under Jahangir. Her splendid mausoleum lies near the Gulabi Bagh gateway in Begampura, outside the Walled City. The rectangular shaped mausoleum with eight rooms encircling the perimeter of a central chamber lies on a raised plinth. A dome with frescoes is directly above the central empty chamber as the actual tomb of Dai Anga lies below in the basement just next to her daughter, Sultana Begum. The interior of the tomb is richly decorated with carved inscriptions from the holy Quran while the exterior with rich Kashi Kari or Qashani tile-work but lost much of its charm.
Dai Anga Mosque
The real name of Dai Anga was Zaib-u-Nisa, the wife of Mughal noble Murad Khan. She was the wet nurse of Shah Jahan and his daughter and remained a powerful figure in the Mughal dynasty. Several charming monuments associated in her name are still surviving in Lahore. Dai Anga Mosque was constructed in 1635 AD and is located near Lahore Railway station. Small in size yet rich in decor, the Dai Anga Mosque is embellished with multicolored mosaic on floral themes and remained in excellent condition since Dai Anga donated a substantial endowment to ensure its maintenance even after her death. Sadly, during the British rule, it was converted into the residence of a newspaper editor called Henry Cope. However, it was restored to its original state in 1903 and began to serve as a mosque.
Tomb of French General Allard and his Daughter
General Jean Allard (1785-1839) was a French General in the Army of Maharaja Ranjit Singh who made the Sikh army invincible by training on European pattern. He was died in 1839 in Peshawar and was buried alongside his daughter’s tomb in Lahore. His tomb is located to the east of the main road leading to Jain Mandir from old Anarkali. It was built by Maharaja Ranjit Singh to honour him, especially with a typical Sikh era cupola dome structure. His daughter, Marie Charlotte, died on 5th April 1827 in Lahore, and she was laid on a mound.
The Kamran’s Baradari (pavilion with twelve doors) and Garden is the oldest Mughal structure in Lahore often gets bypassed. It was said to have built in 1540 by Mirza Kamran who ruled over Lahore from 1535-40. He was the son of Babar and the stepbrother of Emperor Humayun. Humayun ascended to the throne immediately following the death of Babur and Kamran captured Lahore in 1530 while built this Baradari in 1540. The picturesque Baradari was built as a summer house and used as a place for relaxation of Mughal rulers and recreational place for the Mughal family during summers. It was the time when Ravi flowed at a considerable distance but following the change of river course, it became an island. During the British rule, the red sandstone Baradari was used as a toll house to collect tolls from boats. It was renovated after independence and serving as a tourist attraction. It is about 15 min drive from the walled city.
Zebunnisa’s Tomb and Garden
Zeb-un-Nisa (1637 to 1702), literally meaning “most beautiful of all women”, was the talented and learned daughter of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. She was a passionate poetess and wrote under the pen name of “Makhfi”. She loved Lahore so much and built a garden at Nawankot where she was laid to rest in 1669. Her tomb was embellished with precious stones, pavilions and fountains now only the remains of the garden can be seen. It is located across a junction known as Samanabad Mor on Multan road. However, there are still conflicting accounts about her burial place as some believe she was buried in Agra, India.
Dara Shikoh’s Mosque
Dara Shikoh (20 March 1615 – 30 August 1659) was the eldest son of the fifth Emperor Shah Jahan and the brother of Aurangzeb Alamgir and Jahanara Begum. He held a great affection for Lahore due to his deep devotion for Sufism, particularly for the Sufi mystic Hazrat Mian Mir. The area around the shrine of Hazrat Mian Mir was called ‘Darapur’, where Dara Shikoh built a beautiful mosque. The mosque has an exquisitely styled ‘Palki’ domes and has been extended, making the heart of Mian Mir Village. The high tower mosque is decorated artistically and known as ‘Khawaja Behari Mosque’ because of the nearby tomb of Hazrat Khawaja Behari who was a devout disciple of Hazrat Mian Mir.
Nadira Begum’s Tomb & Garden
Nadira Banu Begum (14 March 1618 – 6 June 1659) was the wife of Dara Shikoh. She was a famous poet and remained the Governor of Punjab during the 1640s. Aurangzeb’s rise to power posed as a grave danger to Dara Shukoh’s immediate family and supporters. Nadira died in 1659, several months before her husband’s execution, and was buried near the shrine of Hazrat Mian Mir in a square shape tomb whom she and Dara Shikoh were spiritually attached. It is a two storey Baradari constructed with massive brick masonry and is surrounded by an enormous water tank.
The octagonal Tomb of Anarkali (Nadira Begum who belonged to the harem of Emperor Akbar and was given the title Anar Kali meaning the pomegranate bud) is one of the most significant buildings of the Mughal period and was built in 1615 by Emperor Jahangir (Saleem) when he ascended to the throne. It was built in the memory of his beloved who was buried alive behind the walls by Emperor Akbar in 1599 for her romantic folly with Saleem. Her tomb arrogantly stands in the enclosure of the Punjab Civil Secretariat. It has lost all original decorations as it underwent changes from time to time. It was surrounded by a fine garden called “Anarkali Garden” but was put to several uses. The mausoleum was occupied by Kharak Singh during the Sikh regime and it remained the residence of General Ventura, the Italian General of Ranjit Singh’s Army. Later, it was converted into a Christian Church during British rule. The mausoleum serves as Punjab Records Office since 1891.
Qutbuddin Aibak’s Tomb
Qutbuddin Aibak originally was a Turkish slave who was brought to Ghazni by Shahabuddin Ghauri. He rose to the heights of Commander in Chief of the forces of Shahabuddin Ghauri and was crowned in Lahore on the death of Shahabuddin Ghauri in 1206. He then established the Slave Dynasty and became the king who was followed by nine other kings. He had a palace in Lahore in what is known as Anarkali today. It was then called Mohallah Kuttab Ghauri. He was fond of playing polo and died in 1210 while playing polo. His tomb was built by Shamsuddin Altumash. The Qutub Minar in Dehli was built by the great king.
Tomb of Malik Ayyaz
The Georgian slave, Malik Ayaz, became the favourite and trusted general of Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni. In 1021 AD, Sultan Mahmud Ghazni raised Ayaz to kingship and awarded him the throne of Lahore. The city was burnt and depopulated, and taken after a long siege by Mahmud, Ayaz rebuilt and repopulated Lahore. On the ruins of a previous fort, Ayaz built the masonry fort during 1037-1040 on which today’s Lahore Fort stands. During his reign, the city became a cultural and academic centre. His tomb is situated in Rang Mahal on Royal Trail, inside Shah Alam Gate in the walled city. It was ruined during the Sikh era and was rebuilt after independence.