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History of the Lahore Fortress

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.

Each subsequent ruler of the Mughal Empire fortified and improved the fort so the fort premises were enriched with numerous buildings being the real works of Islamic culture. However, the most luxurious buildings were constructed in the time of Shah Jahan’s reign (1627-58) who was born behind the walls of Lahore Citadel. The name of Shah Jahan is known to Eastern architecture enthusiasts thanks to the wonderful Taj Mahal that was constructed on his order. However, Lahore Fort gained many wonderful buildings at the request of that padeshah. The Palace of Mirrors (Sheesh Mahal), Naulakha Pavillon, Pearl Mosque, Audience Hall (Diwan-i-Am) and many more. In the time of Shah Jahan the Shalimar gardens were built nearby the fort walls, located on three terraces and full of hundreds of fountains, ponds, shadowy alleys and pavilions for having a rest.

After Shah Jahan was overthrown, his own son Aurangzeb sat on the throne of the Mughal Empire. In the time of his rule in 1674 a new front gate was built in Lahore Fort - Alamgiri, with two semi-circular towers topped by domes. At the beginning of the 18th century the Mughal Empire, weakened internally by conflicts, the Sikh and Marath uprisings, suffered significantly because of plundering invasions by the Persians and the Afghans. Lahore Fort changed hands several times until 1760, when the city was conquered by the Sikhs. In 1801 a coronation of the Punjab's maharaja, Ranjit Singh, who was the founder of the Sikh state, was held in the fort. Lahaur was the capital of this country for almost four decades but when the second war between the British and the Sikhs ended, the former became a new host of this ancient fort.

In 1849 a garrison was established behind the fort walls, the fort fortifications were restored but many architecture buildings lost its historical appearance as they were constantly adjusted to military requirements. Thus, one of the marble pavilions was transformed into a garrison church. As a result, its elegant fountain, which was not useful any more, was simply filled with concrete. The artistic marble parts of the buildings with carved ornaments, silver decorations in the pavilions and garden houses were sometimes sold by the fort commandant at auctions. Over several decades, this once wonderful fort emptied and slowly started to deteriorate. Its renovation began only in the second half of the 20th century; when Pakistan gained its independence after the division of British India. In 1981 Lahore Fort was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. In recent years extensive renovation work has been carried out many times in this architectural and historical complex.