BY TANIA QURESHI
It’s at the Lahore Fort
The Wall is one of the most important parts of the Lahore Fort but many of the tourists are unaware of its importance. If we look at it closely, we would get to know many stories of the Mughals through the scenes on it
The Lahore Fort, also known as Shahi Qila, is a reflection of many centuries. The earliest reference to the fort comes in a history of Lahur (Lahore) compiled by Al-Biruni, which refers to a fort constructed in the early 11th century. He further notes that Munshi Sujan Rae Bhandari, author of the Khulasatut Tawarikh in 1695-96 AD, records that Malik Ayaz, a favourite of Sultan Mahmud, built a masonry fort at Lahore and repopulated the city. Khan believes it is the same fort that was destroyed by the Mongols in 1241 and in 1398 by a detachment of Timur’s army after which it was rebuilt in 1421 by Sayyid, son of Khizr Khan.
Lahore Fort is located in north-western corner of the Walled City of Lahore. Though irregular in scheme the fort measures about 427 meters east-west and 335 meters north-south excluding the fortification wall added later during the Sikh rule of Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1799–1839 A.D). It is enclosed within a strong fortification wall, built in small burnt bricks. The main gates are located in the middle of the east and the west walls. A gateway, providing access to the private apartment of the royalty, exists in the northwest corner. The Fort was essentially a fortress-palace, but it also served as an abode for the royal treasury, and a stronghold in the event of war.
Mughal Emperor Akbar the great demolished the earlier mud fort and re-built it in burnt brick in 1566. Akbar’s successors, Jahangir, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb, added several buildings to the Fort. It is formed of layers and layers of cultural remains depicting various ages that left their mark. Following him was a succession of Mughal kings who added their own architectural legacy to the rich complex.
After the fall of the Mughal dynasty in the Punjab in the 18th century, the Sikhs occupied the Fort. Maharaja Ranjit Singh added several pavilions on the upper ramparts. In 1849, the fort came under British military occupation. Modifications to the fort were made during the British colonial period but consisted mainly of converting older buildings into hospitals, barracks, and other colonial functions.
Till today, the Lahore Fort stands as a citadel of Pakistan and one cannot ignore the beauty of it. One is lost in the beauty of maze like structures which are still intact and provide the best recreational point for all types of tourists. As you enter the Lahore Fort you will come across a strange wall, The Picture Wall. This is the world’s largest picture wall. The gorgeous wall being elaborated and vivid mosaic decoration in pleasing colours on plaster base is the main feature of the wall that was commenced by Emperor Jahangir in 1624-25 AD but accomplished by Shah Jahan in 1631-32 AD. The wall measuring nearly 450 meters in length and 17 meters in height is the most representative relic of the Mughal period. It mainly reflects the sports and pastimes of Mughal emperors; nevertheless it exposes a variety of geometrical and floral patterns. The human figures on this presents a clear vision of the various styles of the mosaic are adorned in some hunting, fighting, dancing and mythological scenes. It forms the longest mural wall in the world, decorated in fine embellishment of glazed tile mosaics, giving the Lahore Fort a world heritage status.
The wall envelops the Summer Palace and the Shah Jahan quadrangle, which includes the exquisite Sheesh Mahal and Naulakha Pavilion. The Hathi Pol gate forms an extension of the wall and entrance to the rest of the fort and latter structures, whereas the entrance to the surrounding context is served by the Postern Gate. A rich historical immediate context to the Picture Wall also includes the Sikh religious building of the Samadhi of Ranjit Singh; additionally adjacent are the Huzoori Bagh, Badshahi Mosque and Roshnai Gate. All these sites form a complex of momentous heritage as well as religious sites of various ages and reigns in close proximity with one another.
The Picture Wall was constructed of small brick masonry with lime mortar; the bricks used were a special size specific to the Mughal period. There are various decorative schemes used on the facade including the typologies of glazed tile mosaic work, filigree work, fresco painting, brick imitation work, glazed lime plaster, pietra dura work, stone fret work, cut and dressed brick work and terracotta screens.
The Wall is one of the most important parts of the Lahore Fort but many of the tourists are unaware of its importance. If we look at it closely, we would get to know many stories of the Mughals through the scenes on it. The Wall over the period of time has deteriorated and the murals and artwork have become dull due to aging and weathering. The Walled City of Lahore Authority and Aga Khan Trust for Culture are trying to preserve it. In September 2015 the documentation of the Wall started with the funding from the Royal Norwegian Embassy. The study was carried out by using laser electronic measurement and photo-ortho-rectification technologies; an accurate and highly detailed scaled record was created, depicting the walls present condition. This documentation was done according to high standards of precision, in compliance with the relevant international legal and technical requirements. The formal geometry of the buildings of the Picture Wall along with larger salient features in detail were depicted in architectural drawings including sections, plans, elevations and axonometric. The buildings documentation of the of the Summer Palace and adjacent structures to the wall such as the Hathi Pol gate and Sheesh Mahal are also carried and included to provide an account of the context in detail and so that wall is not seen in isolation.
Various tests were carried out on glazed tile mosaic samples from the Picture Wall façade to ascertain the composition and materials. These included visual investigation, x-ray diffractometery test, and petro graphic analysis. The findings of these tests depicted three layers of the glaze tile and the composition of various colours being metallic oxides, including the percentage of the composition of materials as well as their relative proportions. Further on the process of manufacturing these tiles according to the original process was studied including the use of traditional kilns and baking the tiles. Prototypes were developed on the basis of the research, matching the original tiles closely.
The authorities say that proper conservation of the Wall will start soon. This could be one of the most gorgeous places in the world if it is conserved to its original glory and grandeur. In my opinion, the largest picture wall of the world exists in Pakistan and this is a pride for us. We must try to develop it as a tourist spot once it is conserved, with some small cafes, sitting places and souvenir shops around it. So far the area is abandoned and not much visitors understand the importance of the Wall. Gatherings and social activities can be held against the backdrop of this wall which will surely help in regaining the importance of this Wall. I hope this dream comes true!
Source: http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk