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Shahi Qila Rahguzar
Places to Visit >> Major Cities & Towns >> Lahore
Diwan-e-Aam Quadrangle

Maidan Diwan-e-Aam or Diwan-e-Aam Quadrangle

Located in the south of the citadel, this is the earliest and the most important element of Mughal court ceremonial spaces—the Maidan Diwan-e-Aam. Its generous dimensions of 730'x460' providing an arena of enormous scale once framed by a perimeter of cloisters, it allowed the pageantry of the Mughal court to be enacted with extraordinary splendor. The cloisters—numbering 114 according to historian al-Badayuni—and dated to Akbar's period, are no longer extant, their foundations alone defining the maidan today. Much damage was caused during the Sikh occupancy and Inter-Sikh wars, and after annexation many cloisters were demolished to construct European artillery and infantry barracks when the Mughal fort served as a British cantonment.

From the maidan you can see the British ceremonial steps lining the southern edge, leading down to the road considerably below its ground level. Although intended as a grand entrance to the fort when the Mughal wall was demolished to make way for the grand steps, this entrance is no longer used. If you have not seen the original Gateway of Akbar (Akbari Darwaza) located on the east, it is worth making a visit to this ponderous structure to acquaint yourself with the fortification architecture of the early Mughal Period.

Diwan-e-Aam

The centre of the north periphery of the maidan is dominated by the Diwan-e-Aam, carrying the focus of all activity, with the takht gallery projecting from its rear wall. The hypostyle is constructed on a raised platform bounded by a stone katehra or railing. During the reigns of Akbar and Jahangir, the Diwan-e-Aam, Lahore FortDiwan-e-Aam consisted of a triple canopy of velvet to provide protection from the sun while the floor was covered with rich carpets. However, among the first orders given by Shahjahan as emperor was the instruction to replace the velvet canopy by a wooden hall. Soon after, however, a sumptuous chihil stun (40-columned hall) was ordered both in Agra and Lahore. While Shahjahan's Agra Diwan-e-Aam survives, only the Columns and footprint of the one at Lahore are original—the superstructure arches and roof being a British reconstruction.

The takht-jharoka or throne gallery which is located a few feet above the ground and projects into the Diwan-e-Aam is Shahjahani structure, as is the structure in the rear, the Daulat Khana-e-Khass-o-Aam, overlooking the royal residential quad—Jahangir's Quadrangle situated in the north.

Today, the takht-jharoka is accessible to all. After climbing a few steps you might like to contemplate the aura of days gone by. In your imagination you could conjure up the scene of the Great Mughal's durbar—and bear in mind that he was the most powerful monarch in the world. For it is the Diwan-e-Aam, and its maidan that became the stage on which the pomp and grandeur of the Mughal Empire was exhibited. The cloisters were decorated with costly shawls and carpets, each of the omarah (grandees) competing to outdo the one next door, with the maidan itself dotted with silver pavilions of the princes and costly tents of the grandees, lined with velvet, damask and taffetas.

As the monarch sat in the takht-jharoka well above the Diwan-e-Aam floor "set above like a King in a Play" as noted by the English ambassador Sir Thomas Roe—the audience was kept in order. The nobles and ambassadors would stand within the silver railed area, while the ahadis etc. were confined to the area defined by the second rail of wood, and were controlled by active Mir Tuzuks bearing rods of gold and silver. Outside the two railed areas and separated by the red-stone barrier, milling around in the maidan were troops, infantry and servants of amirs.

The emperor, believed to be the reflection of the sun on earth, sat receiving sajida (homage paid while kneeling) and tasleem (greeting) from the emissaries of powerful rulers of the world, as he watched the parade of rare horses and bedecked elephants making their own tasleem or salami as they went past the takht-jharoka.

In the Diwan-e-Aam, a portion of the original Mughal floor—brick flooring of 'old Lakhauri brick'—is distinguishable from the remaining floor. The original red stone poly-faceted column shafts, and the multifoil arched bases that had supported the original roof have been re-used in the hypostyle. You will notice a great deal of similarity with those used in Akbari architecture when you visit Jahangir's Quadrangle. The comparatively simple faceted concave capitals that you see here were transformed into elaborate stalactite capitals beautifully rendered with inlay etc. when Shahjahan's Shah Burj was later built (see later part of this rahguzar).

The superstructure above the column capitals is a 19th century British interpretation of Shahjahan's architecture, as is the pink color to simulate red stone. It has little affinity with the architecture of the Diwan-e-Aam, Lahore Fortperiod. According to Shahjahan's preference, even the red stone column ensemble would ha ve been painted with white chunam or patyali plaster, giving the whole surface a shining white appearance.

Daulat Khana-e-Khass-o-Aam

Following the steps to takht-jharoka you are led to the Daulat Khana-e-Khass-o-Aam, a building cleverly placed to provide transition from the highly public area of the Diwan-e-Aam to the private residential apartments of the imperial harem.

The throne jharoka, overlooking the Diwan-e-Aam in the south, is set above the human height to ensure an elevated position for the emperor. 8'6" in length and projecting 4' from the wall, the elegant and regal jharoka, with its railing of delicate sang-i-murmur (white marble) is roofed over with an elegant sloping chajja and saddle-backed dome. The 4' wide galleries on the two sides of the jharoka, seem to have extended the whole length of the Daulat Khana, acting as a viewing gallery for court proceedings by the imperial female entourage, no doubt seated behind screens.

The building dated to the Shahjahani period was much mutilated during later rules. Consisting of a core of vaulted chambers—the central one an elongated octagon opening into an open-fronted iwan—the Daulat Khana is bordered by an arcaded verandah circumambulating its three sides. It is a largely arcuate structure sporting, from a simple coved roof, shallow domes on squinches in verandah bays to more complex vaults.

From the first floor of the building you can enjoy the freshness of the quad on the north, a chahar bagh bounded by royal pavilions— the zenana of Emperor Akbar. Originally there may have been an access staircase to descend into the quad. However, it is no longer extant.

Few of the original decorative elements in the building are now extant—indiscriminate Sikh overpainting and British 'military whitewash' having camouflaged most of the Mughal evidence. There is little doubt that at one time all surfaces were profusely ornamented.

In spite of the loss of surface decoration, evidence of the sumptuous rendering of structure and surfaces can still be seen. On the north verandah, keep a lookout for 2 sets of beautifully sculpted seh-dara (3-bay) ensembles consisting of a combination of white marble double-column shafts, and grey-black stone base and ornamental brackets. They are original Shahjahani elements, as are the marble dadoes (izara) with courtly inlay borders of double black lines and of multi-colored inlaid zigzag (chevron) design.

Makatib Khana

There is no access to any quadrangles from the Daulat Khana-e-Khass-o-Aam, and you will need to climb down the royal throne steps to return to the Diwan-e-Aam.

Across the maidan, its northwest corner is occupied by a Jahangiri structure, referred to as Makatib Diwan-e-Aam, Lahore FortKhana. This is the only inscribed Jahangiri building (1027/1617-18) in the fort, and is well worth a careful examination. It was designed by one of the most accomplished Mughal architects—Abdul Karim titled Mamur Khan, a favourite of both Jahangir and Shahjahan. We will come across his name again when discussing other Jahangiri buildings in the fort and especially Shahjahan's Shah Burj (Royal Tower) discussed later in this rahguzar.

Placed ingeniously, this introverted building on the one hand faces the highly public maidan (Maidan-e-Diwan-e-Aam) to the east, and on the other provides access to the select quad-precinct of the Moti Masjid located to the north, an area also accessible from several royal apartments located in the northern belt of the citadel.

The eastern facade, with its low level arcade, no doubt designed to relate to the height of extinct cloisters bordering the maidan, carries a tall /wan-portal in its centre. The inscription above the portal, while ascribing the building's construction to 1027/1617-18, "the twelfth year ofJahangir's accession (basal dwaz daham azjaloos-iMuqaddas) by the devoted servant (fidwi) Mamur Khan," describes it as "the building of this daulat khana (imarat een 'daulat khana')". This structure is conjectured to be part of a group of royal mansions on which the princely sum of Rs. seven lakhs was expended, and which were much accia imed by Emperor Jahangir in his delightful memoirs.

The east arcade facing the maidan incorporates raised platforms likely to have been used as sitting places—indicating their use for waqai nawees or news writers, mentioned by the traveler Montserrat as noting down the daily court events.

As you step down into 62 ' square internal sahn (courtyard), you will find it framed by low-height arcade-like bays on all four sides. The centers of two of these are accented by tall arched recesses and the remaining two by gateways, providing access to east and north mentioned earlier. The arcaded bays employ single-storey, wide pointed arches and accommodate platforms a couple of feet above the courtyard floor, possibly also for the use of scribes.

You will find no trace of stone, since Mamur Khan selected the common brick as his basic building material, which once treated with chunam, a polished lime plaster, lent itself to a remarkable array of surface decoration. However, today little of the once dazzling decoration employed as an integral part of the architectural countenance is in evidence. Keep a look out for a few decorative fragments of colorful fresco based on floral and vegetal themes—some in the ailvan-portal ceiling and mucfarnas (stalactite squinches) as well as some in the courtyard alcoves.

Diwan-e-Aam Quadrangle

Moti Masjid Quadrangle

Jahangir's Quadrangle

Shahjahan's Quadrangle

Paien Bagh & Khilwat Khana Quadrangle

Shah Burj or Royal Tower

 
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