Anarkali’s Tomb

SimpleViewer requires JavaScript and the Flash Player. Get Flash.

On the lower Mall Road, inside the grounds of Punjab Secretrariat towards the south of the old city in Lahore, lies one of the more unexpected Mughal tombs, that of Anarkali, the former slave and lover of Prince Salim.

According to legend, the slave girl Nadeera, later given the title Anarkali or ‘Pomegranate Blossom’, a favourite in the harem of the Emperor Akbar, began an affair with the young Prince Salim, who later became the Emperor Jehangir. The exact beginnings of their first meeting is shrouded in mystery although most sources point to a festival celebrating the return of the prince to Lahore saw Anarkali perform a mujra, or dance. The prince, on seeing her, was infatuated, and began a clandestine affair. It is said that the Emperor Akbar discovered the affair when he saw the reflection of Anarkali returning the smile of his son.  Anarkali was arrested, placed upright between two walls, and buried alive in 1599 AD. Prince Salim, distraught at her death, raised a monument over her sepulchre when he became emperor.

The tomb was once surrounded by a garden but has lost most of its original décor although the original double-storeyed gateway still exists. An ingeniously planned octagonal building, the tomb’s sides alternatively measure 44 and 30 feet. At each corner, there is a domed octagonal tower, surrounding the central larger minaret. Another notable feature is the monolithic sarcophagus housed within the building inscribed on which are the 99 names of Allah. Two Arabic dates are inscribed on the sarcophagus, 1008 (1599-1600 AD) on the eastern side, and 1024 (1615-1616 AD) on the western side, said to refer to when Anarkali died and when the edifice was erected although, like with much of the legend, there is conjecture amongst scholars.

Just as with other Mughal tombs, the mausoleum has been ransacked and used by various groups. During Maharajah Ranjit Singh’s reign, the building was occupied by his son Kharak Singh, who in turn allowed his Italian born general, Jean Baptiste Ventura, to convert and use it as a private residence with his Armenian wife. The first British resident, Henry Lawrence, used the building as office for his clerical staff in 1847 and in 1851, after the annexation of the Punjab, the tomb was converted into a Protestant church, later to be returned to the Punjab government in 1891.

The monument today is a simple, whitewashed structure, devoid of the majesty and grandeur which once adorned it. A visit here is rewarding for those interested in Punjabi history for, along with rare images and other documents, there are files dating back to the earliest days of British administration in the Indian subcontinent which have been meticulously maintained. Furthermore, one of the oldest surviving markets in South Asia, dating back at least 200 years, is to be found on the Mall Road. Contemporary historians believe the tomb to belong to that of Sahab-e-Jamal, one of the wives of Jehangir, who died in Lahore in 1599 although the legend of the forbidden love between prince and servant remains popular.

Related posts:

  1. The tomb of the Empress Nur Jahan The tomb of the Empress Nur Jehan, wife of the...
  2. Tomb of Asaf Khan In the same complex as the mausoleum of the Mughal...
  3. Wazir Khan Mosque A walk through the old city of Lahore in Pakistan...
  4. Tomb of the Emperor Jehangir ...
  5. Qila Sheikhupura Built by Emperor Jahangir in 1619 AD. This Fort was...
This entry was posted in Colonial Punjab, Mughal Sites, Pak>Lahore and surrounding areas, Sikh History, Tombs and Samadhs and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply