Lahore has been bench of every consecutive government in India and particularly the Punjab. Therefore one comes across an abundant of structures and monuments that mark the landscape of Lahore. But two specimens of Mogul architecture cannot escape the eye of a
nyone entering Lahore from Rawalpindi on the Grand Trunk Road; the Badshahi Mosque and the Shahi QIlla or the Royal Fort.
The fort was customized by Jehangir in 1618 and later damaged by the Sikhs and the British, though it has now been partly restored. Within it is a series of splendid palaces, halls and gardens built by Mughal emperors Akbar, Jehangir, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb, similar to and contemporary
with the other great Mughal buildings at Delhi and Agra in India. It’s believed that the site conceals some of Lahore’s most ancient ruins.
The fort has an attractive ‘abandoned’ ambiance (unless it’s packed with visitors) and although it’s not as detailed as most of India’s premier forts, it’s still a wonderful place to simply roam around.
The fort is entered on its western side through the massive Alamgiri Gate, built by Aurangzeb in 1674 as a private doorway to the royal residence. It was big enough to allow many elephants carrying members of the royal household to enter at one time. The small Moti Masjid (Pearl Mosque) was built by Shah Jahan in 1644 for the private use of the ladies of the royal family and was restored to its original fragility in 1904.
Diwan-e-Aam (Hall of Public spectators)
The Diwan-e-Aam (Hall of Public spectators) was built by Shah Jahan in 1631, with an upper terrace added by Akbar. It’s where the emperor would make a daily public appearance, receive official guests and review parades.
Khawabgah-e-Jahangir (Jahangir’s Sleeping Quarters)
Khawabgah-e-Jahangir (Jahangir’s Sleeping Quarters), a porch on the north side of his courtyard, now contains a small museum of Mughal antiquities. One delightful story about Jahangir is that he had a chain hanging outside the fort, which anybody unable to obtain justice through the normal channels might pull. A bell would ring in his private chambers and the appeal would receive his personal attention.
Diwan-e-Khas (Hall of Private Audience)
The Shish Mahal (Palace of Mirrors)
The Shish Mahal (Palace of Mirrors), built by Shah Jahan in 1631, Decorated with glass mirrors set into the stucco interior, it was built for the queen and her court and installed with screens to hide them from prying eyes. The walls were rebuilt in the Sikh era, but the original marble tracery screens and pietra dura (inlay work) are in outstanding state. The vision from here over the rest of the fort and Badshahi Mosque is rewarding.
Naulakha is the marble pavilion on the west side of the courtyard, bountifully decorated with pietra dura – studded with tiny gems in intricate floral motifs. It was built in 1631 and its name, meaning nine lakh (900,000), refers either to the price to build it or the amount of semiprecious stones used in its building.
You can depart from the fort from here, down the Hathi Paer (Elephant Path) and through Shah Burj Gate; if you do, look at the back to see the fine painted tile work of the external wall.
There are three small museums on site (photography prohibited): the Armory Gallery exhibits a variety of arms including pistols, swords, daggers, spears and arrows; the Sikh Gallery mainly houses rare oil paintings; and the Mughal Gallery includes among its displays old manuscripts, calligraphy, coins and miniature paintings, as well as an ivory miniature model of India’s Taj Mahal.