Built on the banks of River Ravi, inside the walled garden of Bagh-e-Dil Kusha at Shahdra, the tomb of Emperor Jahangir is one of the most exquisite pieces of Mughal architecture. With red sandstone and marblework gracing the edifice’s façade and intricate floral patterns and frescos embellishing its interior, the mausoleum is considered only second to Agra’s Taj Mahal in magnificence. However, after facing centuries of neglect and being nicked from in various periods, the structure today stands as only but a fading remnant of its former glory.
The tomb, a work of architectural genius, came into being a decade after Emperor Nooruddin Jahangir’s death in 1627. Its elaborate minarets were adorned with the most precious of gemstones like sapphire, lazuli, coral and agate. On their either sides, the ninety-nine names of Allah were carved into stone, while a riot of colours and patterns on marblework festooned the mausoleum’s interior. At the time, the building’s construction is said to have costed a sum of Rs 1,000,000, under the authority of the deceased emperor’s son, Shah Jehan.
Per historical records, the 400-year old establishment was subject to most damage at the hands of Maharaja Ranjeet Singh. Under her rule, the edifice’s gemstone ornamentation, its ivory marble cushion and various other embellishments were callously nicked from the surface sent to Amritsar to grace Sikh architecture. Later, under the British Raj, the tomb was used as a storage venue for the Shahdara Coal Plant, while a British Army officer is also known to have temporary converted the mausoleum into his private residence.
Multiple floods throughout history were said to have weakened the establishment’s foundation. It had to be preserved to be prevented from collapsing, while restoration efforts first began under the British Rule in 1890. According to Punjab Archeology Project Director Naeem Iqbal, the Archeological Department had also initiated the site’s restoration work, after partition, in the 1960s, which is still intermittently going on to-date. “The project’s first priority was to preserve the building from structural damage.
The towers were too dilapidated and had to be installed with iron shutters to prevent them from collapsing. So far, two out of the tomb’s four towers have been secured and redecoration work will begin as soon as the rest of them are restored.”
Addressing the delay in restoration work, the project director said that restoration of historic sites is a complicated affair, which requires sourcing the exact material used in original construction.
“There is a lot of red sandstone used in the building’s construction, which needs to be imported from India. But the strained relations between the two countries has halted the process, while small pieces of old, local stones are being used to fill the gaps until then,” shared Iqbal.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 29th, 2020.