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Mughal era: Lahore’s neglected heritage is a sad shadow of its glorious past

The second story from Herald’s annual supplement on heritage

As the second Mughal capital, Lahore was home to emperors and noblemen during the 16th and 17th centuries. Emperor Jehangir and his wife Nurjehan were married in Lahore and their legacy survives today in the form of several monuments.

Perhaps the finest remnant of that era is the tomb of Jehangir, located at Shahdara Bagh near the town of the same name. It is said that Nurjehan supervised its construction and sought her stepson Shahjehan’s permission to stay in Lahore after her husband’s death.

The hallmarks of Jehangir’s tomb are the embellishments of interiors with exquisite frescoes, the pietra dura inlay work and the inventive use of coloured marble. The garden around the tomb also houses the dilapidated tomb of Asif Khan, Nurjehan’s brother.

Situated to the west of Jehangir’s tomb is the neglected grave of Nurjehan. The epitaph on her grave, which some say she composed herself, reads: “Pity us, for at our tomb no lamp shall light, no flowers seen/ No moth wings shall burn, no nightingales sing.”

In the1980s, when the Punjab government ordered cattle-pens to be moved “outside” Lahore, many of them shifted dangerously close to these monuments. Consequently, the main entrance to Asif Khan’s tomb is an ungainly sight. For decades, the tomb remained neglected; initial efforts at serious restoration began in 1999, signs of which are visible with new tile work completed. But it is far from over: the overall appearance of the building remains dilapidated. Other great monuments – the Lahore Fort and the Shalimar Gardens – situated at a distance of seven kilometres from each other, are grand statements of artistic expression nurtured by the Mughals. Both the monuments are World Heritage sites but United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) missions in 2003, 2005 and 2009 noted that the Badshahi Masjid and the Tomb of Ranjit Singh, although located outside the Fort, form an integral part of the fort’s physical and historical context and may, therefore, be included within the heritage site.

The Lahore Fort or Shahi Qila, situated in the north-west corner of the Walled City, was rebuilt in the period of the Mughal emperor Akbar in 1566. Although the exact date of its original construction is not known, historians have noted that the fort was destroyed several times: starting from the 11th century, when it was destroyed by the Mongols. […]

Asma Jahangir – A formidable fighter

Fearless and a formidable fighter, Asma Jahangir personifies the struggles Pakistanis have initiated against shameful cultural practices, discriminatory legislation and executive excess. A frail woman has kept the torch of public liberties, freedom and democracy alive for decades. Born on January 27, 1952, in Karachi, Asma Jahangir during the last forty years has become a champion of women, child and minority rights and in many ways the conscience of Pakistan.

A leading Pakistani lawyer and an advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, Jahangir is most renowned for her role as a human rights activist, a role which has made her confront military dictatorships of General Zia-ul-Haq and General Pervez Musharraf and the civilian autocrats. In 1972, Asma Jahangir was only 18 when she filed her first petition to have her father — who had been arrested for denouncing the genocide in Bangladesh — released from prison. In a landmark judgment ten years later, she won the case. In fact, the earliest and perhaps the only judgment against a military coup is now attributed to her name. Her resistance to army’s role in politics […]

November 8th, 2010|governance, human rights, Published in the NEWS|4 Comments

Asma Jahangir’s election: A step towards a progressive Pakistan

Asma Jahangir’s victory in the Supreme Court Bar Association elections is a momentous event in the country’s political and legal landscape. Even the worst of her critics grudgingly admit that her principled stance has remained consistent in a country where intellectual honesty and integrity are in short supply. More importantly, her reasoned approach to recent bouts of judicial activism has been a source of strength for stakeholders in the democratic process. Almost every progressive Pakistani has been overjoyed with her election as head of a professional body which was on the verge of losing its credibility due to indulgence in partisan politics.

Since the lawyers’ movement created a stir in 2007, the bars had started to assume the role of a political party with an exaggerated notion of their power. Instead of focusing on what ailed legal education and the maligned profession, the regulators had turned into rowdy mobs, televangelists and spokespersons of the free and restored judges. Encouraged, a Supreme Court judge reportedly remarked how ‘popular will’ was above the Constitution. The pinnacle of this approach was the judgment in the NRO case. Asma Jahangir and a few other sensible lawyers highlighted the problematic aspects of the verdict. This was a game-changer and Jahangir was at the centre of this rational discourse. […]

The Feast Of Roses

The Feast Of Roses is a sequel to Indu Sundaresan’s widely appraised novel The Twentieth Wife. As can be expected it is the story of Mehrunnisa, the powerful woman in Indian history as well as in Mughal dynasty. The novel begins where the other novel ended with the marriage of the long separated lovers Emperor […]

September 12th, 2008|books, History, Personal|0 Comments