Chauburji the Garden Gate
The ‘Chauburji Gate’ is the remnant of the Mughal era garden that once was at the intersection of the now Multan and Bhawalpur
Road. It is an awe-inspiring architectural ruin for the art lovers of the Mughal architecture.
The word “Chauburji”, means “Four Towers” in Urdu, a modern term for what would have been merely a monumental gateway to the vast garden at the site in the Mughal period. In time, the garden lost its beauty due to neglect and flooding, and may not have long survived its completion. By the 19th century, the monument was somewhat dilapidated, having lost its northwest tower to an earthquake in 1846. In the 1960s, the Department of Archaeology reconstructed the damaged tower and also restored some of the surviving parts of the monument.The Chauburji is still a mystery to many historians concerning who constructed this beautiful monument. It carries an inscription that is dated 1056 AH (1646) and attributes to ‘Sahib-e-Zebinda Begum-e-Dauran’.
The Chauburji is still a mystery to many historians concerning who constructed this beautiful monument. It carries an inscription that is dated 1056 AH (1646) and attributes to ‘Sahib-e-Zebinda Begum-e-Dauran’. According to the 19th century historian, Syed Muhammad Latif, the inscription read as below.
Chauburji Gate Built 1646
The Chauburji gate is the only remnant of a large garden that has all but disappeared. It now stands alone in a grassy roundabout at the intersection of Multan
Road and Bhawalpur Road. There is considerable uncertainty regarding who constructed it. An inscription on the monument gives the date 1056 AH (1646) and attributes it to "Sahib-e-Zebinda Begam-e-Dauran". According to the 19th century historian Syad Muhammad Latif, the full inscription reads:
"This garden, in the pattern of the garden of paradise, has been founded...
(the second line has been effaced)
The garden has been bestowed on Mian Bai
By the bounty of Zebinda Begam, the lady of the age".
Recounts a Story
Latif believed that Mian Bai was the favorite female attendent of Zebina Begam. He recounts a story from the Shah Jahan-nama that the garden was laid out on the orders of Zebina Begam with direct supervision delegated to a Mian Bai. As the princess approached the garden as it neared completion, she heard people saying that the princess was on her way to visit Mian Bai's garden. Seeing that the garden was already being described as "Mian Bai's garden", the princess resolved to make a gift of it to Mian Bai. When she reached the garden, Mian Bai came forward and prayed for the princess's long life. Zebina Begam took this as a positive omen and immediately bequeathed the garden to Mian Bai.
Regardless of the story's truth, Latif may not be correct in assuming that the "Zebinda Begam" inscribed on the Chauburji refers to Zeb-un-Nisa, the daughter of Emperor Aurangzeb. Zeb-un-Nisa was born in 1637, so it is unlikely that she was given command of sufficient resources to construct a garden at the age of eight. A better candidate is Zeb-un-Nisa's aunt, Jahan Ara Begam, one of Shah Jahan's daughters.
The very word "Chauburji", meaning "Four Towers" in Urdu, is likely a modern term for what would have been merely a monumental gateway to the vast garden at the site in the Mughal era. Due to flooding and neglect, the garden may not have long survived its completion. By the 19th century the monument was somewhat dilapidated, having lost its northwest tower to an earthquake in 1846. In the 1960s the Department of Archaeology supervised the reconstruction of the destroyed tower and also restored the surviving parts of the monument.
Design of the Minarets
The design of the minarets with their distinctive flairing capitals is a stylistic variant found only in Lahore.
This gateway, known as Chauburji because of its four lofty corner towers (chau=4 and burji=tower) dominates the surrounding landscape. Travelling south from the centre of the city, you will find it located at the centre of a roundabout formed at the junction of Multan Road and Bahawalpur Road (formerly Lake Road), and it is visible from some distance due to the large open ground in its vicinity.
Chauburji The uppermost part of the building has a passage from the Holy Quran inscribed on it in Arabic letters of blue colour worked in porcelain and the kashi kari inscription at the top of the lofty aiwan gateway dates it to 1056 AH/1646 AD and attributes it to 'Sahib-e-Zebinda Begam-e-Dawran' (the one endowed with elegance, the lady of the age), who had bestowed the edifice upon Mian Bai.
Although Latif credits Zeb-un-Nisa Begam, daughter of Emperor Aurangzeb, with the construction of this structure, equating Zabinda with Zeb-un-Nisa, archaeologist Waliullah points out that Zeb-un-Nisa would have been only eight years old at the time, and that the builder of the monument is more likely to have been Jahan Ara Begam, aunt of Zeb-un-Nisa and daughter of Emperor Shah Jahan. If any one could claim to be 'the lady of the age', it would be Jahan Ara, the Begam Sahib or first lady of the empire. Waliullah reinforces his contention by pointing out the existence of Jahan Ara's garden, referred to by Aurangzeb in his letters addressed to her.
According to the inscription, the garden, of which only the gateway Chauburji is now extant, was gifted to a Mian Bai. However, since the chronicles are silent about the identity of Mian Bai, Latif conjectures that she was a maid. On the other hand, Waliullah may be correct in his contention, that in the inscription 'Mian Bai' followed by 'Fakhrunnisa' or 'the pride of women' in the text, indicates 'a lady of status'.
With handsome proportions, the gateway was once "brilliantly enamelled and decorated with blue and green encaustic tiles and fresco of exquisite beauty." The extant kashi kari (tile mosaic) of Chauburji is among the finest examples of its kind. Although the monument has suffered loss of much of its decorative features and is but a shadow of the grand gateway it once was, it is an extremely impressive structure. Its octagonal corner towers, fully decorated with kashi kari rising above the roof, would have once carried pavilion-like belvederes affording uninterrupted view of the surrounding area.
Aurangzebs Reign River Ravi Floods
During Aurangzeb's reign River Ravi floods were destructive to the garden, as to other parts of Lahore, forcing the emperor to order the construction of an eight kilometer dyke around the city. During the Sikh Period, the monument underwent destruction once again because of the rising Ravi waters. The top part of the northwest tower which had collapsed at the time was rebuilt in 1979.
Gateways East and West Facades
The gateway's east and west facades are faced with grand and lofty Timurid aiwan entrance, rising to two storeys and flanked by smaller peshtaq alcoves on the two floors, an architectural mode often employed in Shahjahani gateways. There would have been at least one other gateway—jawab or echo—punctuating the centre of the opposite side of the garden, which the inscription records, was laid out "in the pattern of the garden of paradise." The porcelain mosaic which decorates the walls, though most of it has been chipped away, is of high quality. The outer walls are brilliantly enameled and decorated with blue and green encaustic tiles and frescoes of exquisite beauty. The motifs most used are those of willowy cypresses, bowls of fruit, and winding trellises.