Noor Jahan's Tomb

Empress Noor Jahan lies buried in a tomb not far from that of her husband, Emperor Jahangir. Once part of the Jahangiri cluster, the estate was bifurcated when the railway line was laid. To reach it today, you will need to travel west along the road that runs past Jahangiri Serai and the tomb of Asaf Khan. This road leads to a recently constructed underpass, traveling through which you will arrive at grade. However, instead of proceeding towards G.T. (Grand Trunk) Road you should take the turning to the left, which will lead you to your destination. Once Noor Jahan's chahar bagh had adjoined that of Asaf Khan's, but today Noor Jahan's tomb is situated across the railway line, to the southwest of the tombs of her brother and husband.

Noor Jahan's TombAs you walk the tree-lined street leading to the tomb garden, the sepulcher, a low key single-storey structure can be seen in the distance amidst a grove of date palms. This is the abode of the most powerful Mughal empress, constructed by herself before her death, today aloof from traffic and the noise and bustle of people.

Mehr-un-Nisa (1577-1645), titled Noor Jahan Begam (Light of the World) and later Noor Mahal (Light of the Palace), was the daughter of Khwaja Ghiyas-ud-Din Muhammad Ghiyas Beg Taharani, a migrant from Persia, who along with his family had fled to Hindustan, and rose to exalted positions in the cosmopolitan court of Akbar. She married Jahangir in the sixth year of his reign, and, because of her abilities, soon became the fountainhead of authority at the Mughal court. She is the only Mughal empress under whose name imperial receipts were issued and silver coins "struck in the name of the Queen Begam, Noor Jahan" were minted. She first became influential as a staunch ally of Prince Khurram (later Emperor Shah Jahan), the husband of her niece Arjumand Bano Begam or Mumtaz Mahal as she is better known.

A great patron of architecture, Noor Jahan had an abiding impact on the culture of the Mughal court. A poet and aesthete, she erected impressive edifices and gardens utilizing the enormous wealth at her disposal from the revenues of her jagirs (fiefs). Although she remained supremely powerful until the death of Jahangir, she lost to Shah Jahan in her struggle to maintain her ascendancy, in spite of the fact that she had Ladli Begam, her daughter from her first marriage married to Shahryar (1605-27), Jahangir's youngest son. As is well known, the last act of the drama for the acquisition of Mughal throne was played out in Lahore, when Shahryar was assassinated and Shah Jahan emerged victorious.

Noor Jahan, along with her widowed daughter Ladli Begam, lived in Lahore until her death in 1645, Shah Jahan having settled an annual allowance of two lakhs of rupees on her.

Although no longer evident due to filling around it, Noor Jahan's tomb was a chahar bagh rauza following the arrangement in the other two tombs of the group, and in the same manner it also stood on a podium.

Built on a smaller scale, the form of the sepulcher echoes the arrangement of Jahangir's mausoleum in its 20' high arcaded square marked with octagonal corners. The same arrangement of a slightly projecting central portion in each of its 134' sides is also reminiscent of the earlier edifice, though the corners, instead of rising like the impressive towers seen in the earlier structure, today stop short at the same height as the remaining building.

Early photographs of the mausoleum show its ravaged condition, where the bare shell, shorn of its decorative facing, with some traces of delicate fresco in internal muqarnas could be seen.

It was believed by 19th century writers that the marbles and other costly decorative items were removed from the sepulcher during the Sikh rule and utilized in the decoration of the Sikh temple at Amritsar. It is said that half the splendour of the Sikh temple in Amritsar is due to marble plundered from this mausoleum. Even the subterranean chamber containing the graves of Noor Jahan and her daughter Ladli Begam were desecrated, as was the marble and pietra dura of the sarcophagi. The original marble cenotaphs have disappeared. The existing cenotaphs and the marble platform are 20th century replacements.

In recent years, however, in an attempt to restore it, the monument has been made to look completely new, having lost the subtle traces of floral and geometric flourishes she so loved.

*Photo courtesy of Loh Kot Heritage and Cultural Society Lahore.

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