Credits: Saad Zahid
The Story of Anarkali Tomb
Dastaan-e-Mohabbat Salim Anarkali
Tomb of Anarkali
The tomb of Anarkali (anarkali mazar) is one of the most fascinating and significant structures from the Mughal period. Nadira Begum, the lover of Crown Prince Saleem and future emperor, is reputed to be buried in the ingeniously built octagonal structure.
According to some historians, this ingenious eight-sided structure represents infinity, like dastaan e mohabbat salim anarkali, the timeless love story between the courtesan and the prince. There is also a marble dome on top of the building, another hallmark of Islamic architecture, as well as a garden known as the Anarkali garden, which was used for many purposes over the centuries. Although the tomb of Anarkali has undergone many changes, it still remains a historic monument from the Mughal era.
Anarkali is believed to have been a member of Akbar’s harem by some historians. The monarch accused her of luring the crown prince into an illicit relationship. This led to her execution in 1599. Six years later, Emperor Jahangir, better known as Prince Saleem, ascended to the throne and ordered the construction of a tomb of Anarkali in memory of his beloved.
The tomb of Anarkali was completed in 1615. In original plan, this tomb occupied a central position within a monumental garden, similar to the Asif Khan Tomb. Maharaja Kharak Singh, the son of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, occupied the area in the early 1800s and converted it into a residence for General Jean Baptiste Ventura, a French officer in the Sikh army.
After the British colonized Lahore in 1851, the building was reportedly converted into a protestant church. He remodeled it substantially, and he blocked off most of the arched openings. As a Christian place of worship, some historians claim that the tomb of Anarkali was painted white when it was converted from being red and white. A cross was also placed on top.
It was, in fact, the first changes made to the original style of Anarkali’s tomb. In 1857, it became St. James’ Church, and remained that way until 1891. This building became the Punjab Archives Museum with an incredible collection of artifacts relating to the history of the Sikh and British rule in Punjab.
Local residents also claim that Anarkali’s grave is located in the Punjab secretariat precincts and not in her tomb, contrary to what historians claim. She also died in mysterious circumstances. The majority believe she died by natural causes, while the rest claim she was executed by Akbar.
A note written by William Finch, a British traveler to Lahore in 1608, three years after Prince Saleem took over the Mughal Empire, reads: “The King (Jahangir), in token of his love, commands a sumptuous tomb to be built of stone in the midst of a four-square garden richly walled, with a gate and diverse rooms over it.” However, the traveller failed to provide any other detail; there is a possibility that the note was a figment of his imagination rather than actual history.