|Fort and Shalamar Gardens in Lahore|
|Name as inscribed on the World Heritage List|
|Criteria||i, ii, iii|
|Inscription||1981 (5th Session)|
The Lahore Fort, locally referred to as Shahi Qila (Punjabi, Urdu: شاہی قلعہ) is citadel of the city of Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan. It is located in the northwestern corner of the Walled City of Lahore in Iqbal Park which is one of the largest urban parks in Pakistan. The trapezoidal composition is spread over 20 hectares.
Origins of the fort go as far back as antiquity, however, the existing base structure was built during the reign of Mughal Emperor Akbar between 1556–1605 and was regularly upgraded by subsequent Mughal, Sikh and British rulers. It has two gates. One is known as Alamgiri Gate build by Emperor Aurangzeb which opens towards Badshahi Mosque and other, older one known as Maseeti (Punjabi language word means of Masjid) or Masjidi Gate which opens towards Maseeti Gate Area of Walled City and was built by Emperor Akbar. Currently Alamgiri Gate is used as the principal entrance while Maseeti Gate is permanently closed. The fort manifests the rich traditions of Mughal architecture. Some of the famous sites inside the fort include: Sheesh Mahal, Alamgiri Gate, Naulakha Pavilion, and Moti Masjid. In 1981, the fort was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with the Shalimar Gardens.
Mughal and pre-Mughal era
The origins of Lahore Fort are obscure and are traditionally based on various myths. Its foundation is attributed to Loh, the mythical son of Lord Rama. It is unknown who and when constructed the fort. The earliest reference about this fort is that in around 1240s, it was destroyed by Mongols. After nearly 50 years, it was reconstructed by Balban of Mamluk dynasty. In around 1399, it was again destroyed, this time by the invading forces of Timur only to be rebuilt again by Sultan Mubark Shah Syed after 20 years. In 1430s, the fort was occupied by Shaikh Ali of Kabul. In 1575, Mughal emperor Akbar occupied the fort, which was used to guard the northwest frontier of the kingdom. He rebuilt the fort with solid bricks and lime and over time "lofty palaces were built to which additional beauty was lent by luxariant gardens". He added the Doulat Khana-e-Khas-o-Am, Jharoka-e-Darshan , Masjidi Gate among other structures. However the structures built by him "were replaced by subsequent rulers".
Akbar's successors made more additions to the fort. Shah Jahan built the Shah Burj and Sheesh Mahal. He also added the Naulakha Pavilion, which is his private quarters. His son Aurangzeb built the entrance, Alamgiri Gate which is flanked by semicircular towers "with domes pavilions".
Then the Bhangi Sikh Dynasty (1716–1810), one of the 12 Sikh Kingdoms (Misl) of Punjab ruled Lahore City from 1760s until 1799 and expanded the City of Lahore. When Ranjit Singh, another Sikh chief from the Gujranwala area, took Lahore from the Bhangi Misl the Lahore Fort fell to Ranjit Singh and in 1801 he was crowned as the emperor of all of the Punjab. Lahore Fort and the city from (1799–1849) remained under the control of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Sher-e-Panjab, and his sons, grandsons, and wives, until the fall of the last Sikh empire or the Lahore Darbar in 1849.
Excavations in 1959 in front of Diwan-i-Am, a gold coin dated 1025AD belonging to Mahmud of Ghazni was found. The coin was unaerthed at a depth of 25 feet (7.6 m) from the lawn. Besides, "cultural layers continued to a further depth of 15 feet (4.6 m)" which indicates that the fort was inhabited by people even before the conquest by him.
While relaying the deteriorated floor of Akbari Gate in April 2007, three floors in the fort were unearthed, belonging to the British, Sikh and Mughal period. The British period floor is constructed of bricks, the Sikh period of burnt bricks and pebbles were used in making the floor belonging to the Mughal era, a trademark of Mughal era. The Mughal floor was either built during Jahangir or Shah Jahan's rule.
In April 2006, it was reported that officials had urged UNESCO to remove the name of the fort from the list of endangered World Heritage Sites. This is because of extensive restoration work done of $ 9 million funded by Norway, Hong Kong, United Kingdom and France.
Though in 1990, UNESCO had ordered the Punjab Archaeological Department not to use "the Fort for state or private functions because" of its historical importance. However in 23 December 2010, a wedding reception was held at the fort. Also in the next month, in the Deewan-i-Khas a dinner was held which violated the Antiquities Act of 1975 as it was expected that the building could be damaged during such an activity.
In April 2013 an exhibition of Sikh artifacts took place at the fort premises. It was titled "Glorious Sikh Heritage under One Roof". Rare artifacts belonging to Ranjit Singh's reign, agreement documents between British and the Sikh, weapons are jewellery were amongst the exhibits.
The strategic location of Lahore city between the Mughal territories and the strongholds of Kabul, Multan, and Kashmir required the dismantling of the old mud-fort and fortification with solid brick masonry. The structure is dominated by Persian gardens influence that deepened with the successive refurbishments by subsequent emperors. The fort is clearly divided into two sections: first the administrative section, which is well connected with main entrances, and comprises larger garden areas and Diwan-e-khas for royal audiences. The second - a private and concealed residential section - is divided into courts in the northern part, accessible through 'elephant gate'. It also contains Shish Mahal (Hall of Mirrors of Mirror Palace), and spacious bedrooms and smaller gardens. On the outside, the walls are decorated with blue Persian kashi tiles. The original entrance faces the Maryam Zamani Mosque, whereas the larger Alamgiri Gate opens to the Hazuri Bagh through to the majestic Badshahi Mosque. Influence of Hindu architecture is seen in the zoomorphic corbels which does not show Mughal ones.
The Sheesh Mahal was built by Mirza Ghiyas Begh (father of Mumtaz Mahal) in around 1631 during the rule of Mughal ruler Shah Jahan. It consists of a "spacious hall" with several halls behind. This was the harem of the fort. There is a marble perforated screen in the rear chamber which is carved of "tendril, floral and geometrical patterns." Pietra dura work can be seen on the walls of it.
The pavilion was built during the reign of Shah Jahan for a cost of 9 lakh rupees. Situated in the west of Sheesh Mahal, the pavilion is rectangular in shape, and is prominent because of its centrally arched and extraordinarily curved roof which is a unique feature is symbolic of Shajahani architecture. It reflects a mixture of contemporary traditions at the time of its construction of sloping-roof from Bengal, and Baldachin from Europe which demonstrates the imperial as well as religious image of the pavilion. The marble screens of the pavilion are crowned with merlons to prevent inmates being seen from the grounds in between the Fort and the river.
Moti Masjid, or Pearl Mosque is a 17th-century mosque inside the fort built during the reign of Shah Jahan. It is constructed of white marble brought from Makrana. The facade is "composed of cusped arches and engaged baluster columns" which has smooth and fine contours. It also has three domes, a raised central pishtaq and two aisles of five bays. Unlike other contemporary mosques, which has three arches, this mosque has fove arches in the facade. During the rule of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, it was forcibly converted into a Sikh temple and was called Moti Mandir.
Akbari Gate was built by Mughal emperor Akbar in 1566. It however was later called as Masti. One of Akbar's wife built a mosque outside the gate in around 1614. There were two gates built by him. The second one was replaced later by the Alamgiri gate.
The Naag temple is a Sikh temple near Sheesh Mahal, built during the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh by Chand Kaur who was the wife of Kharak Singh. The temple is "square in plan" and is built on a raised platform and its exterior walls are covered with fresco paintings. The temple also has a water-melon shaped dome. As of September 2011, it is a no-go area for the public, as officials apprehend that they could vandalize it by writing on the walls. Also more secuirity staffs would be required which the government was unable to provide.
Kala Burj is a watch tower. It is located in the northwest from Khilwat Khana.This was used as a summer pavilion. The topmost storey was built during the British era which was "used as bar". Its eave is interlocked with brick work.
World Heritage status
In 1980, Pakistani government nominated the fort for inclusion in UNESCO World Heritage Site based on the 1, 2 and 3 no criteria along with the Shalimar. In the fifth meeting session of the World Heritage Site committee, held at Sydney, Australia in October 1981, it was announced that both of the monuments were added to the list. However in 2000, Pakistan sent a letter to the organization to include both the sites in List of World Heritage in Danger and also asked for their help to "restore the damaged part of the outer walls and hydraulic works of Shalamar Gardens". It was later included in the said list. In June 2012, after years of extensive renovation and restoration work, they were removed from the list.
Other Imperial Mughal forts
- Alamgiri Gate
- Hazuri Bagh
- Naulakha pavilion
- Roshnai Gate
- List of forts in Pakistan
- List of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Pakistan
- List of parks and gardens in Lahore
- List of museums in Pakistan
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