Tomb of Ali Mardan Khan – Lahore


Lahore, the largest city of Bari Doab, can be called incomparable due to its vastness and large population. There is an area in Lahore where once the luxurious residences of the Mughal princes were located, this area is now called “Mughalpura”. Even today, if we go out into this area, we will find some tombs or Mughal-era mosques in its densely populated streets. One of these tombs is that of Ali Mardan Khan, Shah Jahan’s construction advisor, and engineer, and it was written that this tomb resembled Jahangir’s tomb in its lavish decorations and magnificence.

Who Was Ali Madan Khan

Born into a Kurdish family, Ali Mardan was the son of “Ganj Ali Khan”, a military officer attached to the court of Shah Abbas I, the emperor of Iran, who was the ruler of Kerman for about thirty years. After Ganj Ali’s death, Shah Abbas gave his son Ali Mardan Khan the title of “Khan” including the state of Kandahar.

After the death of Shah Abbas in 1629, the throne passed to his nephew Shah Safi, who began to expel those loyal to Shah Abbas from the court. When Ali Mardan saw this sword hanging over himself, he decided to leave the side of Shah Safi and join the service of Shah Jahan along with his kingdom of Kandahar. Shah Jahan also took him by the hand that he wanted Mughal control of Kandahar and thus Ali Mardan Khan became a part of the Mughal Empire.

Ali Mardan soon became the emperor’s favorite due to his ability. Shah Jahan rewarded him with great honors and based on his extensive experience, he was also given the governorship of Kashmir, Kabul, and Lahore in different periods. In 1639, Ali Mardan Khan was awarded the title of “Ameer Al-Umra”. He was made the governor of Punjab extending from Kabul to Delhi.

Masterpieces of Ali Mardan Khan

Ali Mardan Khan’s fame was due to his excellent architectural taste and high planning of royal buildings. Historian Kanhaiya Lal writes that Ali Mardan Khan was such a master in building work that millions of rupees were spent on him. Ali Mardan’s famous garden, Nav Lakha Bagh, the canal of Delhi which flows through the old part of the city, and the Red Fort were dug by this man. He repaired the Ferozepur canal from Delhi to Hansi Hisar and also dug the Hansli Madhopur canal from the Ravi river, which was brought to Lahore and irrigated by Shalamar Bagh. The irrigation system of Shalamar Bagh also owes its credit to Ali Mardan Khan (which also includes the efforts of a few others). Apart from this, Ali Mardan constructed many buildings and gardens in Kashmir, Lahore, Peshawar, and Kabul.

According to an inscription on the tomb, he built huge monuments in the Mughal court for more than eighteen years, the well-known experts would have been surprised to see their elegance and stability.

More About Ali Mardan Khan’s Tomb

I don’t know why, but most of the local people consider the owner of the grave to be an elderly person and call his tomb the Darbar of Mardan Khan and also come here to pray. When I visited, the underground shrine room was fragrant with the fragrance of candles, and Makhanas (Makhana is a sweet snack) were kept nearby as a blessing.

This beautiful mausoleum of Lahore city is hidden in the human forest of Mughalpura, the way of which is through a dreamy tunnel built by the Railway Department.

Beside Mughalpura’s railway loco workshop, a long tunnel-like passage with dilapidated buildings runs deep, topped with iron railings, making it even more mysterious. Due to the vines above and the forest covered with green leaves, the intensity of the cold here is felt even more. Reaching the middle of this long and narrow tunnel, somewhere you feel a strange fear and silence. Walking through this tunnel, a small path on the left side opens into a wide compound where the shrine of Hazrat Sheikh Hamid-ul-Qadri Suhrawardi and the mosque of Ali Mardan Khan are located. If you go ahead in the same tunnel, a door on the right side will take you to this tomb.

When I entered through this small gate, there was an overgrown meadow in front of me, where wild plants and bushes had grown. There was neither a servant nor the caste of a servant. I was surprised. I was surprised at how dreamy it was to have such a deserted place in the middle of such a big city with a population of millions where I could clearly hear my own breathing and heartbeat. These are the special places that capture your imagination, that compel you to pay attention, that take you noisily back in time, and make you relax and take a breath. I blow all my tiredness into the air. This is the specialty of Lahore, its beauty.

By the way, in order to avoid this loneliness and to discuss the structure of the tomb, I also invited two more friends, Mirza Usman Baig and Professor Zeeshan Hashmi, who were present there after a while.

In the midst of the deep silence of the field lies Shah Jahan’s most able engineer, Maho-e-Sawat. Like some other tombs in Lahore, Ali Mardan’s tomb is a Hasht-Pahlu (eight-cornered) structure built on a mud brick plinth. . A small tank has been built around the tomb on the platform, which is now filled with grass and trash.

The mausoleum, made of red sandstone, is flanked by magnificent high-arched doorways (all but one of which are now apparently closed). There is no high tomb in Lahore whose arches are so high. The lower structure of the mausoleum has double domes which appear to be large domes from the outside.

Along with the dome, small domed canopies/domes were built on all eight sides, most of which have disappeared while some still remain. These small arched canopies were a striking feature of Mughal tombs built in the 16th and 17th centuries.

When we go inside the tomb and there is a grave in the center under the dome. To the right of the entrance, there are stairs that lead to the roof while on the other side a path leads down to the basement where there are three tombs. The grave in the middle is a bit bigger and Nawab Ali Mardan Khan son of Amir Ganj Ali Khan is written on it. The grave on one side is his mother’s while the third grave is said to be his mother’s servant. There is also a Pag (a type of hat), which is usually seen at shrines.

There are long tunnel-like windows on the eight sides of the dark basement, through which the dim light of the sun comes in, while the lamps placed here also seem to be trying unsuccessfully to fight the darkness of the room. On the ceiling of the room, the various geometric designs and floral work still remain. The magnificent fresco artwork of the mausoleum is breathing its last in an arch somewhere, which is enough to tell the grandeur of the place.

If we climb the stairs on the other side, through the door on the east side of the dome, we go to the roof of the tomb, where a grand dome was waiting for us, as if it wanted to show its beauty to someone for decades. What a wonderful view of the sunset from this tomb which was slowly fading away like life.

On the roof, you can also take a closer look at the domes above (small octagonal arches topped by a dome). Some of the domes that were broken now have platforms left. A few more steps rise from the roof which takes you through the entrance on the west side of the central dome to the inner dome, which has a space to walk around. It is a high platform with half-burnt lamps lying on its edges. It is a strange and unique architectural style that one dome of the tomb is built on top of another while you can see the first dome by going up.

Historian Noor Ahmed Chishti has described this tomb as follows: “Eight-faced tomb, surrounded by eight doors, only one of which is open and the rest was closed by Gulab Singh Phuwandia to keep a magazine.” When you go inside the mausoleum, you will see a bright dome that shows that the basement of this mausoleum is below.

Above each arch, the dome is eight-sided, high, and eight-eighth. In the middle of the dome, there is a raised platform on top of the ground and a grave and two signs are visible on it towards the east.

It is said that this tomb was built in a huge garden, at the northern end of which a two-storied arched door still exists. It is believed that a similar type of door existed in the south, east, and west of Chokur Bagh, which is no longer there. The entrance to the north is across a patch of grass and bushes. There is a big arch and an arched door in the middle of it, while there is an arch above and below on both sides. Small domes are built around it. Beautiful mosaic and inlay work can still be seen on the door which is a testament to the skill of the artists of that time. The interior of the mihrab has a dome and other arches which are a rare example of architectural style.

The Sikhs also damaged this tomb a lot. The big bricks of red stone and cloud stone in its three floors were removed and the one in the north was also finished. Lahori brick sellers also made a big contribution and blew the bricks off the four walls.

Leave the past, the condition of this unfortunate building is not very good. The building, which has been closed for years, has been disputed between the Department of Archeology and the Pakistan Railways, both of which claim ownership of it. Maybe that’s why its door was locked for a long time. Sadly, we are killing our own living heritage. This is an appeal to my current government and the Department of Archeology to repair and renovate this beautiful tomb so that it can be opened to the public immediately. Its gardens and reservoirs should be rehabilitated and activated. Just as the Department of Parks and Horticulture has beautified Dai Anga’s tomb, the same work should be seen here. It is hoped that tomorrow some officer will think of its rehabilitation.

This magnificent building is made of discolored and dilapidated bricks, from the cracks of which various plants are sticking out as if they are the guardians of all its secrets, the pigeons fluttering on its domes and arches, which are now its friends, December. Seeing the sharp cold wind, empty reservoir, setting sun, and desolation, a single poem came to mind;

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