He was a bright star on the firmament of Hindustan, a hero of romantic tales. He was born Saleem, named after the spiritual mentor of his father. Later in history, both had cities named after them. To honour Hazrat Saleem Chishti, the Emperor Akbar had founded Fatehpur Sikri, which was at a small distance from his home. Another city that Akbar founded was called Sheikhupura, after Sheikhu, the nickname of Saleem.
Prince Saleem was born on 13th August, 1569, to Akbar and Maharani Jodha Bai. When he ascended the throne, he adopted the titles of the Khlaeefa e Ilahi, (The Viceregent of God) and Jahangir, (the Conqueror of the World). So the full name is stated as:
‘Of heavenly abode, Nuruddin Mohammad Jahangir son of Jalaluddin Mohammad Akbar, Knight at Arms, esconced in the throne of heaven.’
He describes his lineage as such in Tuzk e Jahangiri:
‘Abul Muzaffer Nuruddin Mohammad Jahangir, bin Jalauddin Mohammad Akbar bin Naseeruddin Humayun bin Zaheeruddin Babar bin Umar Sheikh bin Abu Saeed bin Sultan Mohammad bin Meera Shah bin Qutbuddin, Lord of the Auspicious Conjunction, Emir Taimur of Gurgan.’
For training in politics and in warfare, the Emperor Akbar sent Prince Saleem to various parts of India. He was married for the first time to the daughter of Raja Bhagwan Das. Raja Bhagwan Das was a relative of his mother Jodha Bai. Afterwords, his second marriage was to the daughter of Raja Udhay Singh. She bore him a son called Khurram, who was later called Shah Jahan.
Jahangir is famous for his justice. He did not let religion come in the way of dispensing justice. He married Mehrun Nisa after ascending the throne. She became famous as the legendary queen, Nur Jahan. Jahangir was interested in comparative religions, therefore he would arrange debates between Muslim, Hindu and Christian scholars. Because of this interest, some western historians have speculated that he wanted to convert to Christianity. The fact that he was fond of European wine may have fueled this speculation. To acquire manuscripts he would pay a substantive sum of up to three thousand gold pieces.
He was reputed to be very generous. Once he asked one of his viziers to put a lakh rupees in a pile, so that he could get some idea of the amount. The vizier was pleased as he thought the king would come to know that it is an enormous sum that he is giving away every month. But after seeing the pile, the king was not impressed and ordered an even larger sum to be given away. Sometimes, he would gift his elephants to his friends and associates.
Jahangir was a keen builder. Many of the buildings he built can be seen in the forts of Lahore, Agra and Delhi. In addition, the mausoleum of Anarkali in Lahore, the Fort of Sheikhupura, The Hiran Minar in Sheikhupura, the mausoleum of Akbar in Fatehpur Sikri, and the mausoleum of Jodha Bai, nearby, and many more.
He was fond of riding an elephant. He liked to eat fish. For high quality Rohoo fish, he would give the highest price. Among fruits, he liked mangoes and his favourite flowers were roses. He liked to live in Lahore and in Kashmir. He spent most of the summer in Kashmir and most of the winters in Lahore. About his death, Mullah Mohammad Saleh Kamboh writes thus in Shah Jahan Namah, (volume 2):
‘In 1628 he was visiting Kashmir that his asthma of seven years duration started playing up and steadily got worse. He set off for Lahore, but deteriorated further in the Rajori area. Things got even worse at Changtarhi and he left this world on 28 Safar, 1037 AH, (1628 CE).
The Emperor Jahangir was buried in the borough of Shahdara in the garden of Mehdi Qasim Khan. Its management was in the hands of Nur Jahan. She called it Dilkusha Garden. The description of the mausoleum is given by Mullah Mohammad Saleh Kamboh in Shah Jahan Namah (vol 1), as follows:
‘When he died, he was fifty nine years, eleven months and eleven days old, according to the lunar calendar and fifty eight years and one month old according to the Indian calendar. The body was brought to Lahore and laid to rest in a scenic place across Ravi. The grave was under the open sky. According to his will, Shahjahan built a one hundred yards square platform and on this he built another twenty yards square marble platform, on which there were made beautiful ceramic designs. In the middle of this, the tomb was built. It took ten years to build the mausoleum at a cost of ten lakh rupees.’
In his later life, Jahangir was confronted by Prince Khurram. But once he became king, Shahjahan made special arrangements to look after his father’s mausoleum. The income from numerous fiefs and villages were reserved to meet the expenses of this mausoleum. A traveller’s inn was maintained nearby.
He made use of sand stone, marble, granite and many other excellent stones in the building of this mausoleum. According to the tradition of the Timurids, the actual grave was in the basement and a mound was built on the floor above. This mound does not have a joint and it is made out of one slab. On the headstone it is written:
هو الله الذي لا إله إلا هو عالم الغيب و الشهاده هو الرحيم
مرقد منور اعلی حضرت غفران پناہ نور الدین محمد جہنگیر بادشاہ غازی ١٠٣٧ ہجری
About the beautiful mausoleum building, Kanhayya Lal Hindi writes in his book ‘Tareekh e Lahore’, (p 331),
‘The technique, execution and durability of this building is awe inspiring. This edifice was built at the order of Emperor Shahjahan in 1037 and a large number of chandeliers, lanterns, torches, carpets and royal tents are kept here. They are worth lakhs of rupees.’
When the Mughal rule crumbled and the Sikh era came, all the gold and precious materials was taken away. All the stones were removed and sent to Darbar Sahib. Afterwards, it became the residence of a French officer called M. Ames and later of Sultan Mohammad Khan. May a times, Its building was set on fire. Towards the easter perimeter wall, there was once an imposing barah dari. This barah dari and the door facing it were washed away in flood.
In the original construction, there were twelve ponds. The eastern most of these, again, was eroded into by the River Ravi. When the British established the railways, it was proposed to turn this mausoleum into a railway station, due to the availability of a hundred and sixty rooms in the adjoining inn, but fortunately, this did not transpire. The Government maintained the mausoleum and gave twelve thousand rupees for its repairs. Unfortunately the decision to pass the railway line through the mausoleum complex was not reversed. As the railway bisected the complex, Noor Jahan’s mausoleum and adjacent buildings were separated. This sorry tale of disasters continues to this day. The wells dug for the mausoleum are now located outside the perimeter walls.
On crossing the old Ravi bridge, the mausoleum is seen in the northern direction of Shahdara. Till 1980s, one had to take a tonga, beyond Shahdara. There were two main kinds, the Lahori and Peshawari tonga but nowadays, they are not used any more and have become part of history.
The minarets can be seen from a distance. Although this area has become commercialised, on seeing this buildings one has a feeling of living in the times of Shahjahan. The northern gate is in ruins and does not provide access. Near this gate some marble work can be seen.
To the enter the mausoleum, the Inn door is used. At the main gate, the management has opened the ticketing office. This gate benefits from all the maintenance and repairs, and the rest of the receive a perfunctory treatment. This entrance gate is used for access to the Inn, its mosque, Jahangir and Asif Jah’s mausloleum.
After this entrance gate, on the eastern side of the Inn, there is another gate to reach the mausoleum. This has been built from sandstone. Behind this, the walls are in a state of disrepair. In these walls, one can see the arched doors, some of them leading into rooms. Further ahead, a path leads to the platform of the mausoleum, with fountains on each side. Alongside, there are cypress trees. On all four sides of the platform, one can see ponds which have now dried up.
There are four steps on each of the four sides of the platform to ascend to the actual tomb. These used to lead to four entrance doors. These have been closed, with the exception of the western door. Adjacent to these doors are rooms which were originally meant to house those who had memorised the Quran,(huffaz). The old arabesques can still be seen. On the floor, elegant marble work can be seen. The mound is surrounded by marble grills. In spite of all the ravages suffered by this building, the first sight of it is still breathtaking. It still seems befitting of the King Emperor of Hindoostan. The headstone bears the following inscription:
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
هو الغفار الذنوب - قال الله تبارك و تعالى يا عبادي الذين أسرفوا على أنفسهم لا تقنطوا من رحمة الله - ان الله يغفر الذنوب جميعا هو الغفور الرحيم
It continues as follows:
كل نفس ذائقة الموت
On all four sides of the mound, Allah’s names are inscribed, surrounded by intricate arabesque.
In the four corners, one can see four minarets, with spiral staircases leading upwards, containing sixty one steps. One interesting feature of this minarets is that from any one of them, only three minarets of the Badshahi Mosque can be seen at one time. Similarly, from the each one of the Shahi Mosque minarets, only three minarets of the Jahangir’s mausoleum can be seen. This mystery of architecture is still remains a conundrum.
From the top of these minarets, the tall and wide ramparts of this construction can be seen, with space provided for water supply and drainage. These sluices were fed by old wells. There are nine existing wells in the vicinity of this buildings complex. It is possible that there were more previously.
The general public is not allowed on the roof of the mausoleum. That honour is reerved for the privileged. Thousands of people visit this mausoleum every day, with a sizable income in ticket sales. The United Nations offices also bring in substantial sums but the expense on the maintenance does not seem proportionate.
There are information plaques installed at various places. In this portion, one does not see the degradation,§ as in the tombs of Asif Jah and Noor Jahan. One can see school trips which arrive every day. The teachers are usually bereft of any historical knowledge.
Till 1990, there used to be a lot of visitors during the month of Sawan who came for picnic. They would eat rotis of gram flour, qeema and aloo naans. Lassi and mangoes were also consumed in large quantities. These have been replaced with crisps and fizzy drinks.
This mausoleum is in a comparatively better shape as compared to the other historic monuments of Lahore. The main reason are the visiting Arab rulers. They are taken to see this mausoleum, in addition to the Shahi Fort and the Shalamar Gardens. In spite of this, the repair and maintenance of this building needs to be reviewed. This building needs to be linked with Noor Jahan’s mausoleum through some kind of overhead link bridge. The Noor Jahan mausoleum and the Dilkusha Bagh need to be brought together. These iconic buildings are this city’s heritage. These tasks require urgent attention. The original materials need to be used in any repairs. If care and attention is not forthcoming, this mausoleum may also be damaged like the ones of Zebun Nisa, Ali Mardan Khan and Mullah Mohammed Saleh Kamboh.
اک دن تینوں سپنا تھیسن گلیاں بابل والیاں ہو
One day, these alleyways will be a distant dream