Zeb-un-Nisa's Tomb

To locate this 17th century Mughal tomb, you will need to travel south on Multan Road, well past the junction known as Samanabad Mor, or Samanabad Junction. Since it is hemmed in between shops on the left (east) of the road, it is easy to miss the tomb attributed to the eldest and most celebrated daughter of Emperor Aurangzeb Alamgir. The tomb itself is set back from the road, behind an iron fence with a large tree standing guard.Zeb-un-Nisa's Tomb

The tomb is rare for its plan and design of roof. The pyramidal dome, curvilinear externally and hemispherical internally, is a specimen of its own class.

Originally, the tomb was constructed in the centre of a garden furnished with handsome buildings and summer house, about five kilometres south of the walled city. There are other pieces of the garden composition such as two corner towers and a central gateway, all three of which will need a bit of sleuthing to discover, hidden and dispersed as they are in view of the residential area that has sprung up in the intervening space of the garden. The ten-acre garden would have been enclosed by another set of two corner towers and a central gateway, none of which is extant.

The area is known as Nawankot (the village of Nawankot), which attained much prominence during the late 18th century, when it fell to the share of Sobha Singh, one of the Sikh triumvirate governors ruling Lahore. The Nawankot village was founded by Mehr Mukham Din who also looked after the garden on behalf of Sobha Singh. In 1763, Mehr Mukham raised a fortified brick fort, remains of which still exist. Prior to it, a garden and a tomb had existed on the site built by the end of Shah Jehan's rule.

There is some controversy as to who is buried in this tomb which is commonly ascribed to Zeb-un-Nisa, the eldest daughter of Aurangzeb. Zeb-un-Nisa would have been only eight years old during the last days of Shah Jehan and could not have conceived and executed the construction of a garden tomb of this scale. Besides, there is evidence that Zeb-un-Nisa had died in the Salim Garh Fort, a residential area of the Red Fort at Delhi in 1701 and was buried in the garden of "Thirty Thousand Trees" outside Kabuli Gate. In 1885, her tomb was shifted to Akbar's mausoleum at Sikandra when the railway like was laid out in Delhi. Most historians suggest that the tomb may actually belong to the same Mian Bai (also known as Fakhr-un-Nisa) who was gifted the Chauburgi garden by Jahan Ara, the daughter of Shah Jehan. In addition to Chauburji garden, she was also entrusted to look after the Mughal garden in Nawankot and upon her death; she was buried in this tomb in Lahore.

Square on plan, the tomb stands on an elevated brick platform. The chamber measuring 26 feet 9 inches on each side, is crowned with a double dome, pyramidal from the outside and hemispherical on the inside. Each facade of the square tomb is punctured with a central peshtaq cusped arch in the centre, flanked by cusped arch insets and low height doorways, through which the internal chamber containing the unmarked grave is visible.

No contemporary source records the original decoration executed on the tomb. However, it is related that the edifice was once among "the most beautiful Mughal edifices at Lahore, decorated with costly stones, and furnished with pavilions, fountains and reseervoir." Latif believes that Ranjit Singh removed its costly materials to construct his summer house in Hazuri Bagh (adjacent to Lahore Fort).

Although once accessible from the tomb, today, with dense development surrounding it, to view the remaining extant architectural elements of the garden tomb, you should be prepared to begin a journey of discovery to locate them. Traveling a couple of hundred meters further south on the main road a turning to the left (north) at the Chappar Bus Stop leads into the main bazaar of Gulzeb Colony leading to the monuments. It is best to stop the car in the bazaar, from where the pedestrian street on the left leads you to the first tower, which is in the form of an octagonal burj (tower). This tower which has hardly a few meters detaching it from the surrounding houses, marks the southeast end of the original Mughal garden. The corner towers are octagonal with one arched opening in the basement. These are surmounted by octagonal domed pavilions with eight sides in golden yellow enameled terracotta tiles separated with thin lines of green colour. The distance between the two towers once forming the northeast and southeast corner of the vanished garden is 600 feet and gives an idea of the extent of the old garden, which no longer exists.

A considerable walk down (north) carrying on along the same narrow street, you will arrive at the gateway, which is located directly at the rear (east) of the tomb, however, because of the concentration of houses in the intervening space, this relationship is not clear. The gateway is slightly set back, and, even though much ravaged and hardly looked after, you are struck by its magnificence and elegant proportions. Employing the popular architectural vocabulary of a lofty Timurid aiwan gateway rising to two storeys, flanked by peshtaq alcoves on each level, the facade displays panels of finely chiseled scintillating tile mosaic, with which the whole facade and internal surfaces were once decorated. The brick kangura (crenellated) edging at the roof, imitating earlier Mughal examples in red stone, adds a fine touch. The noteworthy feature is the domed pavilion or kiosk, square in plan with each side being, 6 feet 10 inches on each corner of the gateway. These pavilions are supported on brick built square pillars, four on each side similar in shape as in Dai Anga’s Tomb. The domes of these pavilions are covered with green tiles. The stage on each side of the passage has terracotta screens in complex patterns. The gateway, which is 43 feet 3 inches x 36 feet 9 inches and 30 feet 2 inches high, is decorated with enameled mosaic tiles in green blue, yellow and orange, laid in framed panels. The interior is richly embellished with fresco paintings in floral designs such as tendrils, lower vases and cypress in rich colour scheme. It is worth going round the gateway to its rear, where you can see some fine fresco and beautifully rendered muqurnas squinches or kalib kari.

To reach the extreme northern end of the garden and the second corner tower, you will need to carry on in the same direction (north), and take the left fork a little further down. An octagonal tower, similar to the one already examined at the beginning of the narrow street, is located here. The remnants of tile mosaic and fresco panels, indicate the beautifully rendered tower that it originally was.

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