By Ashraf Naushahi
“Nau” has two different and distinct meanings in the Persian and Urdu languages. In Persian “nau” means “new”. But in Urdu, “nau” means the number nine 9.
The word “naulakha” is a compound word of “nau” and “lakha”. Here “nau” means “nine”, “lakha” means “hundred thousand” and “naulakha” means constructed with an expenditure of “nine hundred thousand rupees”.
Word “Naulakha” was initially used for a small pavilion constructed near Sheesh Mahal in the Lahore Fort. It is one of the 21 constructions in the fort. Its construction started in 1631 and concluded in 1633.
Naulakha Pavilion was constructed in a rectangular shape.
Lahore Fort was built on the site where an ancient fort made of mud-bricks had become weakened. The ancient fort was almost 500 years old during the 16th century when the Mughal Emperor Akbar wished to fortify the old mud fort with new bricks construction. Construction of Lahore Fort thus started in 1566 and concluded in 1575.
After Emperor Akbar, Maktab Khana was constructed in 1612, during the period of Emperor Jahangir. Construction of a Picture Wall which was 1,450 feet long and 50 feet high, also started during the period of Emperor Jahangir. Construction of Picture Wall was concluded in the period of Emperor Shah Jahan. Diwan-e-Aam, Sheesh Mahal and Naulakha Pavilion were constructed during the period of Emperor Shah Jahan.
Some historians have an opinion that Naulakha Pavilion was constructed decades later after the period of Emperor Shah Jahan. However, according to most historians, Naulakha Pavilion was constructed in 1633 during the period of Emperor Shah Jahan. White marble was used in its construction and it was designed to have a curvilinear roof. Expenditure on the construction of this pavilion was estimated 900,000 rupees hence it was known as Naulakha Baradari. “Baradari” means “Pavilion”.
The most spectacular construction in Naulakha Pavilion, till today, has been its slopping roof. Such roof was not built in any other construction in Lahore Fort and its style brought a glimpse of Bengali style of construction in Lahore.
While staying and working in the city of Lahore, prominent writer Rudyard Kipling was influenced by the word “Naulakha” significantly. For instance, The Naulakha: A Story of West and East was a fiction story or novel co-authored by Rudyard Kipling and Wolcott Balestier, in English. It was a story set in fictional town of “Rahore” and was about a precious necklace. It was published as a series of stories published in The Century Magazine from November 1891 to July 1892.
Rudyard Kipling had resided and worked in Lahore from 1882 to 1887. In 1892, he built a house in Vermont (USA) and named that house as “Naulakha”. The house was designed and built having combined building features of both the American and South Asian styles of houses.While staying at Naulakha Vermont for four years, from 1892 to 1896, Rudyard Kipling wrote several of his notable literary works including The Jungle Book, Just So Stories, Kim, The Day’s Work and The Seven Seas.