Harking back : Lahore’s oldest Mughal monument stands alone

By Majid Sheikh

Dawn, May 11 , 2014


On Saturday (yesterday) morning I walked from the western bank of the River Ravi at Shahdara along the sandy beach and through green fields to the ‘Baradari’- pavilion - of Mirza Kamran and stood at the place where Mughal emperor Jahangir uttered the immortal words: “No person, not even a son, is a relative of a king”.

The story of this earliest of Mughal structures in Lahore has a lot of romance attached to it. Mirza Kamran was the son of the first Mughal invader Babar, who appointed him the governor of Lahore.

It was in this garden that he received his father with pomp and show after he had ravaged this old city. Kamran was the stepbrother of Emperor Humayun.

Legend has it that Mirza Kamran converted an already existing garden, which then existed on the western bank of the river opposite the old city of Lahore.

The city was joined to Shahdara by a boat bridge, photographs of which exist when the British took over in 1849. This boat bridge continued to function until 1866 when the railway bridge across the river came about.

The boat bridge alignment can still be seen if you move towards the Ravi coming from Sheikhupura.

Instead of heading towards Shahdara crossing, take the old Begumpura crossing where the famous Shahbaz Hotel exists, head towards the river, and you will come across two solid pieces of boat anchors, now damaged by time and neglect.

If you look across the river, now a tenth of its original size, you can spot two similar stones near the Ravi Park side. Across this span the boat bridge existed.

A map of 1867 shows the boat bridge, and it is evident that the garden then existed on the western bank.

The river changed its alignment between 1790 and 1810, and in this period the garden came to exist in the middle of the river.

The 1867 map clearly shows the edge of the island as ‘Turgurhwalla’, and below is the ‘telegraph office’. The word ‘turgurhwalla’ is simple English corruption of the word ‘tar’ (wire) and ‘gurh’ is Urdu for ‘house’.

This telegraph house is where in 1857 the very first information of the Sepoy’s Mutiny – the first War of Independence - in Meerut came through.

Based on this information the British disarmed the Indian sepoys at Mian Mir Cantonment (where today is the Fortress Stadium), and then followed a reign of terror in which 372 sepoys were killed by blowing them up by cannon, shooting and hanging in Lahore’s Sadar Bazaar, as well as along the river at Mahmood Booti and at the Wagah Police Post, where almost 156 were stuffed in one small room, suffocating them all. They were then all thrown into a well next to a ‘gurdwara’.

These freedom fighters remain, even today, unrecognised for their contribution to the freedom of the sub-continent.

Such is the power of the way we have misrepresented our past. If you walk a few hundred yards away from the ‘baradari’, you can still see traces of this old ‘targarh’.

Our interest is in the pavilion of Mirza Kamran. It was here that when Prince Khusrau, who had rebelled against his father in 1606, was brought in chains in true ‘Chengazi’ style his father Jahangir declared that a “king has no relatives”.

On Jahangir’s orders he was blinded and handed over to Asaf Khan, the governor of Lahore, whose tomb exists nearby next to that of Jahangir.

In 1620 he was handed over to his brother Shah Jehan, who in 1622 ordered that his brother be put to death.

Ironically, Asaf Khan also put to death Khusrau’s sons and cousins. The words uttered at Kamran’s Pavilion held true in all struggles for power among the Mughal rulers.

During the British rule this pavilion became a resort, and after 1947 it continued to attract local tourists.

Almost ten years ago its walls were painted over in a most crude manner, destroying centuries old floral designs. This oldest of Moghal structures, perhaps with a history few others have in and around Lahore, is now the scene of complete neglect.

Almost 32 years ago a major portion of this structure was washed away by floods. The main garden, earlier damaged when the river changed its course in the 18th century, was also lost forever.

The government rebuilt the destroyed portion, seriously compromising the main structure. It seems time has proven that Mirza Kamran’s ‘baradari’ has no relatives, for it stand alone in the middle of a river that itself has virtually stopped flowing.




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