This gateway, known as Chauburji because of its four
lofty corner towers (chau=4 and burji=tower)
dominates the surrounding landscape. Travelling
south from the centre of the city, you will find it
located at the centre of a roundabout formed at the
junction of Multan Road and Bahawalpur Road (formerly
Lake Road), and it is visible from some distance due
to the large open ground in its vicinity.
The uppermost part of the building has a passage
from the Holy Quran inscribed on it in Arabic
letters of blue colour worked in porcelain and the
kashi kari inscription at the top of the lofty aiwan
gateway dates it to 1056 AH/1646 AD and attributes
it to 'Sahib-e-Zebinda Begam-e-Dawran' (the one
endowed with elegance, the lady of the age), who had
bestowed the edifice upon Mian Bai.
Although Latif credits Zeb-un-Nisa Begam, daughter
of Emperor Aurangzeb, with the construction of this
structure, equating Zabinda with Zeb-un-Nisa,
archaeologist Waliullah points out that Zeb-un-Nisa
would have been only eight years old at the time,
and that the builder of the monument is more likely
to have been Jahan Ara Begam, aunt of Zeb-un-Nisa
and daughter of Emperor Shah Jahan. If any one could
claim to be 'the lady of the age', it would be Jahan
Ara, the Begam Sahib or first lady of the empire.
Waliullah reinforces his contention by pointing out
the existence of Jahan Ara's garden, referred to by
Aurangzeb in his letters addressed to her.
According to the inscription, the garden, of which
only the gateway Chauburji is now extant, was gifted
to a Mian Bai. However, since the chronicles are
silent about the identity of Mian Bai, Latif
conjectures that she was a maid. On the other hand,
Waliullah may be correct in his contention, that in
the inscription 'Mian Bai' followed by 'Fakhrunnisa'
or 'the pride of women' in the text, indicates 'a
lady of status'.
With handsome proportions, the gateway was once
"brilliantly enamelled and decorated with blue and
green encaustic tiles and fresco of exquisite
beauty." The extant kashi kari (tile mosaic) of
Chauburji is among the finest examples of its kind.
Although the monument has suffered loss of much of
its decorative features and is but a shadow of the
grand gateway it once was, it is an extremely
impressive structure. Its octagonal corner towers,
fully decorated with kashi kari rising above the
roof, would have once carried pavilion-like
belvederes affording uninterrupted view of the
During Aurangzeb's reign River Ravi floods were
destructive to the garden, as to other parts of
Lahore, forcing the emperor to order the
construction of an eight kilometer dyke around the
city. During the Sikh Period, the monument underwent
destruction once again because of the rising Ravi
waters. The top part of the northwest tower which
had collapsed at the time was rebuilt in 1979.
The gateway's east and west facades are faced with
grand and lofty Timurid aiwan entrance, rising to two
storeys and flanked by smaller peshtaq alcoves on
the two floors, an architectural mode often employed
in Shahjahani gateways. There would have been at
least one other gateway—jawab or echo—punctuating
the centre of the opposite side of the garden, which
the inscription records, was laid out "in the
pattern of the garden of paradise."
The porcelain mosaic which decorates the walls,
though most of it has been chipped away, is of high
quality. The outer walls are brilliantly enameled
and decorated with blue and green encaustic tiles
and frescoes of exquisite beauty. The motifs most
used are those of willowy cypresses, bowls of fruit,
and winding trellises.