Fort and Shalamar Gardens in Lahore
Fort And Shalamar Gardens In Lahore
Cultural Pakistan Asia And The Pacific Lahore, Punjab

The Fort and Shalamar Gardens in Lahore are a unique artistic realization which, while bearing exceptional testimony to the Mughal civilization, has exercised a considerable influence, long after its creation in the Punjab and throughout the Indian subcontinent.

Lahore Fort, situated north-west of the city, has the same mythical origins as the city because its foundation is attributed to Prince Lob, son of Rama. Yet the first historic references to the fort date from before the 11th century. Destroyed and rebuilt several times by the Mughals from the 13th to the 15th centuries, it was definitively rebuilt and reorganized starting with the reign of Emperor Akbar (1542-1605). Based on the 21 monuments preserved within its boundaries, it comprises the most beautiful repertory of the forms of Mughal architecture, whose evolution may be followed over more than two centuries. The monuments from the reign of Akbar are characterized by the use of regular wall masonry consisting of baked bricks and blocks of red sandstone. Hindu influence may be noted, especially in the zoomorphic corbels which do not belong to the Mughal tradition.

Among the testimonies to this first series of structures, the Masjidi Gate flanked by two bastions and the Khana-e-Khas-o-Am (Public and Private Audience Hall) may be cited. The style of Akbar's constructions was not appreciably altered by his successor, Jahangir, who finished the large north court in 1617-18 that had been begun by Akbar and, in 1624-25, undertook the decoration of the north and north-west walls of the Fort.

On the other hand, the buildings constructed by Shah Jahan (1627-58), the prince-architect with sumptuous tastes, differ from their antecedents given the luxururious materials, marble, hard stone, and mosaics, and their exuberant decorative repertory, which is alive with motifs borrowed from Iranian art. The entire complex of fairy-like buildings surrounding the Court of Shah Jahan (Diwan-e-Kas, Lal Burj, Khwabgah-e-Jahangiri, etc.) and especially the Shah Burj or Shish Mahal, make it one of the most beautiful palaces in the world. Built in 1631-32, it sparkles with mosaics of glass, gilt, semi-precious stones and marble screening. All these monuments, and those, no less attractive, built under the reign of Aurangzeb, suffered greatly after the fall of the Mughal dynasty. The wars and sieges undergone by the Sikhs in the 19th century, and the British occupation, considerably reduced the monumental heritage of Lahore. Since 1927, a reorganization plan has been under study. It took effect in 1973 and suitable preservation measures were declared by the Government of Pakistan in 1975.