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Lahore Fort (Shahi Qila)

Lahore Fort (Shahi Qila) is a majestic fort located in the middle of the ancient city of Lahaur. It certainly can be called a true encyclopaedia of the architecture of a splendid empire ruled by the Mughals, a dynasty which reigned over a vast area of North India for several centuries. There are 20 monumental buildings on the Lahore Fort premises that were constructed in the city’s golden age as a symbol of the countless wealth and unlimited power of padeshahs from the Mughal dynasty. After the empire declined, the Mughal city lost its former splendour to a great extent, and the wonderful palaces, gardens and mosques of Lahore Fort emptied. This architectural work of art was saved from terminal decline and oblivion by art historians, thanks to them this fort was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.

History of Lahore Fort

The construction of the fort in the city of Lahaur, which is mentioned as early as in the 2nd century AD in Ptolemy’s works, started in the second half of the 16th century, in the time of Akbar I, the third padeshah of the Mughal Empire. This rich trade city where important trade routes from Persia, India and Tibet met was the capital city of the influential Ghaznavid and Ghurid dynasties for a long time. The Citadel was built on the shore of the Ravi River, now dried up, for Mahmud of the Ghaznavid dynasty as early as in 1021. The huge Lahore Fort was constructed on its foundations. This clay-mud fort faced many difficulties; it was damaged due to an invasion of the Mongols in 1241, it was destroyed by Timur Chromy's forces in 1398, and finally it was conquered by a descendant of Timur Chromy, Padeshah Babur, the founder of the Mughal dynasty, in 1526.

A grandson of Babur, Padeshah Akbar I, ordered to build a huge fort in the place of the old and semi-destroyed stronghold. Slightly stronger materials were used for its construction – baked brick and red sandstone blocks. The construction of numerous facilities in the fort took the whole period of the reign of Akbar I (1556-1605), who wished to strengthen the north-west borders of his empire and wanted to show everybody the wealth of the Mughal dynasty. Then you could enter the fort through a gate in the east wall that is now called the Maseeti or Masjidi Gate. (more)

What can you see there?

Among the numerous buildings of the Lahore complex, the most famous are the ones which were constructed in the first half of the 17th century, in the time of Shah Jahan’s reign. The Palace of Mirrors (Sheesh Mahal) was built in 1631 as private chambers for the padeshah's wife but it was also used as a harem. Not many wonderful palace decorations have survived until today but if you just look at the remains of these magnificent mosaics made from mirrors of different colours, carved stucco and perforated arched ceilings, you can imagine the great splendour in the golden age of the Palace of Mirrors. The Naulakha Pavilion with its curvilinear roof, built more or less in the same period as the Palace of Mirror, was elaborately inlaid with precious stones on carved and patterned marble.

In the west part of the fort, not far from the Alamgiri Gate, is a Pearl Mosque that was built in 1635. This wonderful building, made from snowy-white marble and topped by three domes, is different from the majority of mosques as it has not three but five arches on the front facade. In the time of the Sikhs the Pearl Mosque was called Moti Mandir and used as a state treasury for some time. Undoubtedly, another building that is noteworthy, Diwan-i-Am or the Audience Hall, originates from the time of Shah Jahan’s reign. In terms of architectural forms it is similar to a hall behind the walls of the Red Fort in Agra.

Lal Burj (Red Tower) also looks attractive, this octagonal building is part of the system of defensive walls. The tower was built in the time of Padeshah Jahangir, Shah Jahan's father, but later it was reconstructed and decorated with a filigree sculpture and mosaic designs. In Jahangir's Dream Hall, padeshah's private rooms, is now a museum with displays dedicated to the history of the Mughal Empire. One of the exhibit items in the museum is a miniature copy of the famous Taj Mahal, which was made from ivory. The time of Sikhism in the history of Lahore Fort is reflected in the exhibit items in the museum located behind the walls of Jahangir's Hammam.

You can visit Lahore Fort:

From 10:00 am to 6:00 pm (Monday-Friday).