Feb 15, 2009

Remains of another day

Although situated in the middle of smoke-emitting traffic-packed road, Chauburji still appears gloriousThere are a lot of edifices in the subcontinent that have lost their splendour and beauty with the passage of time. Chauburji is one such structure that stands erect in the centre of a busy roundabout at Multan Road.Chauburji was a gateway to some enormous gardens which exists no more. It is known as Chauburji because it has four minarets or burjis at its four corners.Many a people are accredited with its construction. A plethora of historical accounts are available about who originally commissioned the construction of Chauburji. However, most historians agree on the name of princess Zebunnisa, the accomplished daughter of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb Alamgir. But some historians state that as Chauburji was built in 1056AH (AD 1646), Zebunnisa would have been a young child at that time that could not plan or order the building such an edifice.It is said that the gardens for which Chauburji served as a gateway were expanded to vast areas of the city, up to River Ravi in the west. Though no concrete historical record about the design and shape of gardens is found, the beautiful gateway itself indicates that the gardens must have been splendid. It is recorded that in 1647, soon after the construction of gardens, Emperor Alamgir visited it and ordered for water tanks and other buildings to be part of this garden.A severe earthquake hit the area in 1843 and one of the minarets on the north-western side collapsed. It was in 1960 that the department of archaeology carried out restoration work and restored it to its original shape.The minarets and outer surfaces of Chauburji are embellished with exquisite calligraphy, floral designs, blue and green glazed tiles and frescoes. At the top of the front of gateway, Ayat-ul-Kursi is inscribed in Arabic, with the letters in blue worked in porcelain. The end of this inscription bears the year of foundation of this building.Alongside, there is an inscription written in Persian containing four lines, the second of which has effaced since long. Translated into English, it reads:“This garden, in the pattern of the garden of Paradise, has been founded (line missing)... The garden has been bestowed on Mian Bai… by the bounty of Zebinda Begum, the lady of the age.”From these lines, it is considered that the gardens were constructed by Zebinda Begum (Zebunnisa) and was gifted to Mian Bai, the favourite female attendant of the princess. On either side of each of the arches, enclosed in a circle is inscribed Allah in Arabic letters.This monument is now home to labourers who come to Lahore from other cities of Pakistan to find work, drug addicts and beggars. These homeless people sleep on the small grassy area that makes up the round about. Successive governments have taken steps to remove these homeless souls and commercial encroachments from the area but little success is achieved. However, it is not as much surrounded by commercial buildings as some other historical buildings in Lahore. The yellow bright lights switched on during night give a beautiful ambiance to the monument.

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