Tale as old as time: Labyrinth of tunnels discovered under Lahore Fort

Experts say all tunnels lead to places within the citadel

Asif Mehmood January 04, 2019
A combination of pictures show a view of Lahore Fort before (above) and after excavation work. PHOTOS: EXPRESS

LAHORE: A labyrinth of underground tunnels, as well as hidden basements, has been discovered under Lahore Fort. Immortalised in short stories, these passages have always been hidden from the naked eye. However, during excavation, the Walled City of Lahore Authority (WCLA) has discovered two underground tunnels and an arsenal which are currently under restoration.

A symbol of the opulence of the Mughals, Lahore Fort has kept many a secret for hundreds of years; secrets which are now slowly being revealed.

During excavation and restoration work, WCLA recently discovered a passage of underground tunnels which run underneath the fortress. This has caused tourists, hungry for information on the underground tunnels, to throng to the citadel and present their own theories on how the passages were used.

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“Ever since I heard about the tunnels, I have been itching to know the length of the passages and their destination,” says Maham, a student at a local university.

“I heard that some of these tunnels go all the way to Shalimar Gardens and Delhi,” says Khadija, a student residing in Lahore. Someone also told me that one of the tunnels lead to the tomb of Mughal Emperor Jahangir while others were used by princes and princesses to come and go as they pleased, she adds.

Archaeological Expert Rashid Makhdoom dismisses all these theories as fairy tales. “Lahore Fort is a massive structure. Only a small part of it has been opened to the public,” he explains.

Ever after all these years, a large part of the fort still remains a mystery, he states adding that no such tunnel leading to places outside the citadel have been discovered, he added. All tunnels lead to places within the fort, he says.

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On the other hand, it is entirely possible that basements were not part of the original master plan, he states. “Numerous changes were made to Lahore Fort during Sikh and British rule. These could have resulted in some rooms being concealed underneath the ground,” he theorises.

In addition to the web of tunnels, an arsenal, dating back to British rule, was also discovered during excavation. According to the information inscribed on the structure, it was built in 1857 and was used for housing arms and ammunition.

Currently, WCLA is occupied with restoring the arsenal so that it can soon be opened up for tourists. Experts say that they are currently investigating the uses of these tunnels and basements. However, even after so many years, the mysterious Lahore Fort continues to elude historians.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 4th, 2019.


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