Karachi 2014 South Asian Cities Conference is currently taking place at Frere Hall. A number of people from all around the world are attending this conference. This conference is basically about the urban planning and development. Where I began to link it to famous monuments in the Country that are in dire need of major restoration. Taking all these under consideration I go back to Emperor Jehangir, the third great Mughal to rule India from 1605-1627 who is buried in Lahore. Near his tomb are the tombs of his wife Nurjehan and her brother Asaf Khan. These tombs from the Jehangiri cluster. Nur Jehan was the emperor’s twentieth wife but his main companion and the power behind the throne. Jehangir was addicted to opium and liquor and thus not very capable of managing the affairs of the state.
Nur Jehan’s father had moved from Kandhar and worked in Akbar’s court. Here he moved to exalted positions. Mehr-un Nisa as Nur Jehan was earlier called, joined the court as the lady-in- waiting to Akbar’s first wife. In his sixth year of reign Jehangir met Mehr-un Nisa at the courts meenabazaar. He was taken in by her beauty and married her. Later, as she became powerful, Jehangir changed her name to NurJehan. Nur Jehan used her position to get her brother appointed as the governor of LAhore. Asaf Khan’s daughter, Mumtaz Mahal, was married to Shah Jehan, the Mughal emperor to follow Jehangir. He died in June 1642, fighting the forces of the rebel Jagat Singh. He was buried next to Jehangir’s tomb.
His tomb is built in an octagonal plan as was the rule of the day to build the tombs of notables in this design. Shah Jehan himself commissioned the construction of the tomb. The tomb is entirely built of bricks. It has a large central double-layered bulbous dome. The tomb was adorned by marble that has now been stripped. The interior, which was once laced with white marble and inlay, is now bare walls. The inner dome ceiling is decorated in a high plaster relief of interlacing patterns, but much of it has fallen off.
Though not the tomb of an emperor, it nevertheless has a character of its own and lends an aura to the Jehangiri cluster. Nur Jehan’s tomb has been affected by the bifurcation of the estate by the railway line. It no longer forms part of the cluster. If restored, Asaf Khan’s tomb will truly reflect its glory and speak of how a simple piece of architecture stood out so well with it’s marble and the dome. The historians Hargreaves says about the tomb, “Despite its simplicity, there is a sense of restful quietude at this site (Asaf Khan’s Tomb) which renders it one of the most fascinating monuments in the neighborhood of Lahore.”
The tomb has been ripped of its marble on the outside and the white marble inside. It is now in shambles. It must, therefore, be pulled down. The government would do well to spend money only on maintaining the two royal tombs. Not being a royal, Asaf Khan’s tomb is an intrusion. Let’s not forget, Asaf owed his position in life to his sister but later revolted against her.
The government of the day should order its demolition. When mosques have been pulled down to widen roads, why can the government not pull down this already crumbling structure? It would be far better to have a few well- maintained monuments than many neglected and worn-out historical structures, which the tourist would loathe to see.