Monday, 4 March 2013

Reflections from Pakistan X: Lahore’s Mogul heritage

"His eyes might there command whatever stood
City of old or modern fame, the seat
Of mightiest empire, from the destined walls
Of Cambalu, seat of Cathian Can,
And Samarcand by Oxus, Temir's throne,
To Paquin of Sinaen Kings, and thence
To Agra and Lahore of Great Mogul..."

John Milton, Paradise Lost.

Lahore is more than just the city of my mother's birth. It is one city in Pakistan which inherited a significant heritage from the Mogul Empire. The numbers of major and minor Mogul monuments in the city are counted by the dozens. The major architectural sites include the Shalimar Gardens, the Lahore Fort with its Sheesh Mahal (Palace of Mirrors) and Emperor Jahangir's tomb.

From the time that Central Asian warlord, Babur, found his way to Delhi's throne in 1526, it was some years before Lahore got the attention it deserved. Lahore perhaps first came into prominence during Emperor Jahangir's rule (1605-27). Jahangir was the fourth king and son of the Mogul-e-Azam, Akbar.

Emperor Jahangir, the fourth Mogul Emperor and son of Mogul-e-Azam Akbar
One of the lesser known Moguls, perhaps Jahangir's wisest act of state was not to interfere too much with the Empire's machinery he inherited from his father, Akbar. In 1605, the year Jahangir ascended the throne, the Mogul Empire was well established although still expanding its borders geographically. The treasury's coffers were well supplied with revenue from taxation and tributes received from vassal states.

A financially stable empire permitted Jahangir to pursue his interests in arts and culture – and remain inebriated for most of his waking hours! Consequently, while Jahangir's wife (or mother) was running affairs of state Jahangir remained busy enjoying nature, hunting and patronizing the arts.

Possibly due to his love of nature, Jahangir travelled frequently from the Empire's administrative capital in Delhi to Srinagar, Kashmir. Fortunately for Lahoris, the most convenient route to the Kashmiri city went through Lahore. Consequently, Lahore received a fair amount of time and attention from the Jahangir.  

In 1606, some of the King's time was spent constructing 'Hiran Minar' or 'The Deer / Antelope Minaret.' Hiran Minar is a pavilion set in a body of water. The site is dedicated to honouring the memory of the Emperor's pet antelope, Mansraj. To Lahoris, Hiran Minar is just another picnic spot.

Hiran Minar: located on the outskirts of Lahore

In 1627, while en route to Kashmir, Jahangir died at the age of 57. Fittingly, Jahangir is buried in Lahore. In Mogul style, Jahangir's mausoleum is surrounded by lavish gardens creating another recreation spot for Lahoris and tourists alike.

The Mogul fascination with Lahore did not die with Jahangir. It lasted until near the end of the empire. The last of the 'Great Moguls,' Aurangzeb, built the famous Badshahi Masjid – an icon and landmark for modern Lahore. The mosque can accommodate 100,000 worshippers in its prayer halls and courtyard.

Lahore is neither Pakistan's capital nor its commercial hub. However, the capital of Punjab province has rightfully staked a claim as the country's cultural center. One hopes the present generation of Lahoris will do justice to the deeds of their ancestors.
Imran is a business and management consultant. Through his work at Deodar Advisors and the Deodar Diagnostic, Imran improves profits of businesses operating in Singapore and the region. He can be reached at

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