Royal Trail (Shahi Guzargah) is a heritage trail that leads from Delhi Gate to the Lahore Fort. This is the route once followed by Mughal Emperors when they came from Delhi to Lahore. The Royal Trail connects many of the heritage monuments like Shahi Hamam Turkish Bath), Wazir Khan Mosque, Sonehri (Golden) Mosque and tomb of Malik Ayaz, a Mughal governor of Lahore.
Delhi Gate - one of the most famous gates of Lahore - was built by the third Mughal Emperor, Akbar the Great. This gate is situated to the east of the city and faces Delhi, which used to be the capital of the Mughal dynasty.
This particular gate was considered to be the busiest one of Lahore. Within the Delhi gate are a number of old havelies or mansions that are marvels of traditional architectural design and artistic embellishment.
Shahi Hamam or the Turkish Bath also known as Wazir Khan Hamam was built by Wazir Khan in 1633 A.D. who lived during the era of Shah Jahan. His real name was Sheikh iImuddin Ansari.
The Hamam has a total of 21 rooms. Of these, eight with marble pools were used as fresh water baths. Eight others were hot water baths, while five rooms were for steam baths built on the style of Turkish baths. In an application of a very exact science, water was made to pass through a series of revolving brass pipes, heated by log fire. Water also flowed towards another set of brass pipes, where it was heated to form steam.
The walls and ceilings have exquisite floral paintings, while the roof centers have skylights to bring in natural light. Water ran in a cascade in specially designed sitting areas. There were special rooms where the servants lavished attention on the royal bathers and provided them services like scrub and oiling for enhancement of their personal grooming and beauty.
Chitta (White) Gate, Dina Nath Well and Kotwali Gate were once a prominent feature of Chowk Wazir Khan, the town square. These have suffered from the vagaries of time but their remains remind a visitor of when Kings and Emperors traversed this path on the way to their royal residence.
While they may no longer be in their stately splendor, they bear the time stamp of a very important period of history when attention to the arts and architecture was an integral part of the growth and development of cities.
The Wazir Khan Mosque was built between 1634-1635 AD, during the reign of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. It was built by Hakim Aliuddin (sometimes referred to as Hakim Ilmuddin), the Governor of Punjab, commonly known as Wazir Khan.
Wazir Khan Mosque is undoubtedly the most stunning Mosque of the Mughal era. It is famous for its beautiful and complex tile work and fresco paintings. It was built in a typical Mughal style with a relatively small prayer hall and large courtyard.
The ceiling of the prayer hall is decorated with eye catching tile work and walls have a combination of tile and fresco work. The exterior of the Mosque is much simpler, and is decorated with mosaic tiles. 107 feet high minarets on four corners of Mosque are also decorated with mosaic tiles.
The Sonehri Masjid, also known as Golden Mosque, in the Kashmiri Bazar stands on a masonry platform, one storey above the level of the road which it overlooks. It is a remarkably elegant building, and within its narrow confines, combines perfect symmetry of form. The founder of the Mosque was Nawab Syed Bhikari Khan. He built this mosque in 1749 A.D. It is located in Chowk Kashmiri Bazaar, off Rang Mahal, which is another palatial building.
Waan (cane) Market is situated near Kasera (metal utensils) Bazaar. This market has existed for over a 100 years. It is Lahore’s largest market of traditional furniture items like cots and stools. This market deals in cane, rattan, and plastic strips used in making traditional cots known as charpai, small stools, bread baskets etc.
It was established in the beginning of 1900 and presents a kaleidoscope of colours. The material is dyed before use to give the products a colourful look.
In 1021 A.D, when Mehmood of Ghazna (now in Afghanistan) conquered Lahore by defeating Trilochan Pala, King of Hindu Shahyia Dynasty of Kabul, he put his famous confidante slave Ayaz as in charge of the city. Ayaz was the person who actually built the city of Lahore and took it the level of a city fit for the royals from a humble town with a mud citadel around it.
Lahnga Mandi Bazar is the market of musical instruments. This market is situated alongside the Shahi Mohalla, which housed the courtesans who served the Royal Court at the Lahore Fort, just beyond the Taxali Gate. The musical instruments of the troupe of musicians associated with these courtesans were made and repaired here.
Badshahi Mosque is considered one of the largest mosques in the world. It was built in 1673, by the last of the Great Mughals, emperor Aurangzeb. It faces the imposing Lahore Fort, which served as the Royal Residence when the Emperor was in Lahore.
Opposite to the Fort entrance (Shah Burj Gate), to the West, is the Samadhi of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, where his funerary urns are interred. He was the Sikh ruler of Punjab who had come to power after defeating the Mughals. It is a mix of Hindu and Muslim architecture. It is a stone structure with images of Ganesh, Devi and Brahma, the Hindu deities, cut in red sandstone on its doorway.
The ceilings are decorated with small convex mirrors, set in white cement. The carved marble lotus flower in the central vault, set beneath a canopy, covers the ashes of the great Maharaja, and the smaller flowers of the same description are in memory of his four wives and seven slave girls, who immolated themselves on the funeral pyre of their deceased lord.
The knobs representing the queens are crowned, while plain knobs mark the sacrifices of the equally devoted but less legal wives, the slave girls.
Two more knobs are in honor of two pigeons who, were accidentally enveloped in the great mass of flames, and died of burns. They were also honoured for the satti, or self-sacrifice.
Curator — Shuaib Latif, Walled City of Lahore Authority