Fortress and Shalimar Gardens in Lahore (World Heritage)

The fortress and gardens are outstanding examples of the Mughal architecture. The fort was built in the 17th century and, with its audience halls, gardens and palaces, was a showplace and a symbol of wealth and power. The gardens are on three terraces. With over 400 fountains, waterfalls, pavilions and fruit trees, they are among the most beautiful oriental landscape gardens. The world heritage has been on the red list since 2000.

Fortress and Shalimar Gardens in Lahore: Facts

Official title: Fortress and Shalimar Gardens in Lahore
Cultural monument the fort in the northwest of the old town, including with the Hathi and Alamgiri gates, the Moti Masjid (pearl mosque), the Diwan-i-‘Amm (hall of 40 columns), in which the last 10 columns are actually pillars, the Daulat-Khana-i-Khas, in which Akbar received the nobles of his kingdom, the Shah Jahan Quadrangle, the Khilwat Khana, the court of the harem ladies, the Shish Mahal, the Palace of Mirrors, and the pavilion called “Naulakha”; the 0.16 km² large Schalimar Gardens, which were laid out on three terraces in 17 months and 4 days; one of three examples of magnificent oriental landscape architecture from the Mughal period with mango, cherry and orange trees and 412 fountains
continent Asia
country Pakistan, Punjab; See franciscogardening
location Lahore
appointment 1981; From 2000 to 2012 on the Red List of Endangered World Heritage, as 2 out of 3 cisterns were destroyed for road construction and because of slow erosion and the lack of funds for restoration in the meantime
meaning two outstanding examples of Mughal architecture

Fortress and Shalimar Gardens in Lahore: History

1556-1605 Reign of the Mughal ruler Akbar
1627-58 Reign of the Mughal ruler Shah Dschahan
1631 Construction of the mirror palace
1641/42 The gardens of Schalimar
1645 Construction of the Diwan-i-Khas and the Pearl Mosque
1659-1707 Reign of the Mughal ruler Aurangzeb
1673 Construction of the Alamgiri Gate
1767-1846 Rule of the Sikhs, partial destruction of the gardens of Schalimar
1849-1947 Capital of the British-Indian province of Punjab

“I don’t think that in seven regions of the world one sees more beautiful than the face of Lahore…” (Talib-i Amuli)

The visitor, who has known Lahore for decades, will agree with the praise of the Indopersian poet Talib-i Amuli, who sang about the city’s beauty around 1600. How clearly I remember my first visit to the fort in the spring of 1958: You stood speechless in front of the huge elephant gate opposite the great mosque and slowly walked up to walk through the extensive complex, which of course had been around since the Sikh rule at the turn of the 18th to 19th century had suffered irreparable damage. But still – how lovely were these wide lawns with blooming bougainvillea at the edge! And which of the buildings was the most beautiful? The Bangla Pavilion with its gently curved roof? Or the Shish Mahal, so named after the thousands of small mirrors, that covered its walls? At that time, the paintings that had once adorned the room and that gave it a special charm in later years had not yet been exposed. Other works of art were also rediscovered later: For example, depictions of angels unexpectedly came to light in Emperor Jahangir’s bedchamber.

The beauty of the fort unfolded more and more with each visit, similar to its history: The Mughal emperor Akbar had the current facility built on Ghaznavid foundations from the 11th century; under his son Dschahangir it was expanded and decorated with gardens, and Shah Dschahan had the forty-column Diwan-i-‘Amm, the reception hall, added. It must have been here in the fort where Akbar received his court poets, but above all his court painters, at the end of the 16th century – the most beautiful works of Mughal painting were created in those decades through the collaboration of Persian and Indian artists.

And where in the Islamic world had such a huge fortress wall been seen? You can’t believe your eyes when you see the surrounding walls facing the River Rawi: It seems as if the inner life of the palace is projected outwards, you see riders on horses and camels, animal fights, a few flowers and every now and then an angel – all in the tiles typical of the Punjab, mostly in shades of blue and yellow – a colorful picture sheet of a very special kind!

Since Babur, the founder of the Mughal dynasty, complained about the lack of gardens in India, gardens were laid out among his descendants all over their territory – Lahore also became a garden city. Shah Dschahan, “builder” of the Taj Mahal in Agra, had another garden added in 1641 – at that time outside the walled old town of Lahore – which was called Schalimar and became the favorite place of the Mughals.

The garden area extends over three wide terraces and only shows its full beauty when hundreds of fountains play. But the women who walk in brightly colored robes on the narrow, brick-paved paths look like additional flowers and make you think of the princesses who once visited the small pavilion and used the delightful bathhouse. Of course, the Schalimar Gardens have changed many times: after the fall of the Mughal dynasty, hundreds of mango trees stood where there are now extensive lawns.

What remained and what always delighted me was the small cascade over which the water falls from one terrace to the other: past a small wall with elegant niches, in which there used to be vases of flowers in the daytime, but oil lamps in the evening, whose light the water transformed into a silver, emerald embroidered veil. You can still hear an echo of the evening music, and perhaps it was here too that Princess Zebunnisa, Shah Dschahan’s niece, lamented her loneliness:

“O waterfall, who can you complain about? Do you frown at what plagues? What pain made you, like me, cry like this all night and hit your head on stones? ”

Fortress and Shalimar Gardens in Lahore (World Heritage)