A view of Lahore Fort from the Badshahi Mosque. Image credits : Michael Foley, Flickr, All Creative Commons
The inception of Mughal rule in the Indian subcontinent not only established a lasting political entity but also brought with it a distinct cultural change. From the time of Akbar till the reign of Shahjahan, art transitioned as a means of political legitimisation to the display of opulence and royal taste. In modern times, these unparalleled architectural gems prove to be sources for both reconstructing history and understanding one’s heritage.
Lahore Fort. Image credits : Maham Tariq, Flickr, All Creative Commons
During the Mughal reign, three important urban areas developed - Agra, Lahore and Delhi. They served as important centres for administration, defence, trade; as well as for economic and artistic activities. Thus, they came to epitomise Mughal symbols of power, wealth and authority. Lahore known as the ‘city of gardens’ and the ‘Dar- al- Sultanate’ served as the crossroads between Central Asia and Hindustan. The Lahore Fort composed of small burnt bricks, an exception to the usual Mughal architectural material of red sandstone developed both as a defensive and administrative centre. Despite its irregular plan, it resembled a parallelogram where the structures placed within a high bastioned wall were divided into two section based on its purpose. On the north were the royal palaces while the official buildings were maintained in the south.
Structures at Lahore Fort displaying intricate jali work. Image credits : Farrukh, Flickr, All Creative Commons
During the reign of Jahangir, the Emperor made additions to the existing structures patronised by Akbar. His structures and pleasure parks incorporated the theme of light and light ideology. A unique aesthetic addition during the age of Jahangir were the glazed-tiles part of the ‘Picture-wall’ at Lahore. In the succeeding reign of Shahjahan the older structures were replaced by exquisite marble edifices. One of the greatest architectural units that was added to the Lahore Fort was the Shish Mahal or the Mirror Palace which lay within the Shah Burj quadrangle. Its interior ornamentation is replete with aleppo glass mirrors.
Jahangir's Picture Wall comprised of glazed tiles. Image credits : Farrukh, Flickr, All Creative Commons
After the downfall of the Mughal Empire, the Lahore fort, a symbol of power and authority was occupied by the succeeding kingdoms of the Sikh and the British. A need to legitimise their rule within this region resulted in the construction of varied structures within the fort. It was through this very tradition that the Lahore Fort came into fruition. It was a method to give tangibility to political power transcending religious lines.The structures of the Lahore Fort not only represent a linear history of the great reigns in the Indian subcontinent but aesthetically occupies the theme of unity in diversity.
Shish Mahal built by Shahjahan. Image credits : Shamraze/ Nuhaize, Flickr, All Creative Commons