Fakir Khana (The House of The Humble Ones) is one of the biggest private museums in Pakistan, and has been open to public since 1901.
The building originally belonged to Raja Todar Mal, Finance Minister of Akbar’s darbar (court) of the Mughal Empire.
It was later renovated in the 20th century as a mansion housing almost two centuries of history of the eventful life of some of the greatest personalities of the region and period.
Fakir Khana Museum is actually a house turned inside out in the sense that what is actually ‘private’ in the house, has been made ‘public’.
Access to all parts of the building is unhindered.
The Fakir Khana Museum is now being run by the 6th generation of the Fakir family. It is situated barely five minutes walk from Bhatti Gate, one of the famous 13 gates of the walled city of Lahore.
It is the only privately owned museum recognized by the Government of Pakistan. The history of the museum can be traced back to that of the Fakir family that settled in Lahore in 1730, where it established and ran a publishing house. Over the years, the family has acquired a collection of ten thousand manuscripts.
The Fakir Khana Museum currently houses over twenty thousand specimens of art and artifacts encompassing three centuries, from the 18th to the 20th.
The Miniature Hall is the most impressive of all the sections of Fakir Khana Museum, with exhibit arrangement having been maintained for three quarters of a century.
The hall represents a large room of a well-to-do family from a time when western influences had started penetrating the established ways of living in Lahore.
The principal charm of the Hall of Miniatures is a large collection of miniature paintings hung against the wall - all framed and glazed. These are either on paper or ivory, and belong to various schools - Irani, Mughal, Kangra, Rajput and Pahari. In all 160 miniatures are displayed.
The Museum's masterpiece is a 19th century miniature, a portrait of Portrait of Nawab Mumtaz Ali.
It is approximately 12 inches tall and 6 inches wide. The artist took 15 years to finish this painting, making it with a one hair brush.
A section of the museum is dedicated to the Buddhist Art of the Gandhara civilization. Reaching its peak between the 1st and 5th Centuries, this ancient civilization spread over an area of what is today North West Pakistan and part of Afghanistan. The sculptures of Gandhara bear strong influence of Greek art. Gandhara is also famous for producing the first known representation of Buddha in sculpture and spreading the Mahayana school of Buddhism across South Asia.
Calligraphy is considered an elevated form of Art in Islam. Initially used for writing Quran and Hadith, the earliest form of Islamic Calligraphy was done in Kufic script. The earliest work of calligraphy in Fakir Khana is the hand written Quran written in Kufic Script.
The textile collection almost entirely belongs to 19th century Sikh Period. Highlights include a fine Kashmiri shawl believed to have been owned by Maharani Jinda, the favourite wife of Maharajah Ranjit Singh, ruler of Punjab.
Raja Porus, the great king of the Kingdom of Paurava was well known for his heroism and courage in the Battle of Hydaspes River, with Alexander the Great known.
After his defeat, Porus served Alexander as a patron King.
The porcelain collection comprises of old Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Russian, French, German, English and Dutch crockery. The most ancient piece of the collection is the Japanese crackelein of the 18th Century.
The wooden frame work present in Fakir Khana Museum is designed by Bhai Ram Singh, the most influential architect of pre-Partitioned Punjab. He was also architect of the Aitchison College in Lahore.
The Hall of Carpets is originally the sitting room (Gol Kamra) of Fakir Khana Museum. In all there are 18 Carpets, falasies, shawls and other embroideries preserved in the museum.
Some of these are exhibited in this hall while others can be seen in the Hall of Miniature Paintings and the room of Calligraphy.
There are 16 carpets in the collection - 6 Irani, 8 Shirazi, one Iranian ‘gilm’ of flowered patterns and one currently displayed in the exhibit.
This treasure is from Shah Jehan’s weaving factory in Lahore, and is also known as “The General's Carpet.”
Upon initially focusing on its design, flowers, vases and birds are visible in the pattern. On further concentration, a human face woven in also becomes evident.
Curator — Farwa Bokhari