THE MOST UNIQUE PICTURE GALLERY OF THE WORLD
LAHORE FORT’S EXCEPTIONAL HERITAGE
STORY OF NEGLECT AND DESTRUCTION
Shamelessness of our caretakers and apathy of leaders
William Finch is supposed to have walked in the Lahore Fort around 1615, and was wonder struck at the most magnificent gallery of pictures in the world. The whole open space and verandahs, and each verandah had a number of hand made paintings on the wall. There were pictures of the Emperor and his ancestors and family, as well as his courtiers. But there was also pictures of other kind. To our view the gallery exhibited most of the pictures of DASTAN AMIR HAMZAH, commisioned by Emperor Humayoun and Emperor Akbar in large size format, mostly on cloth rather than on paper. But the Mughals were not just content with visuals they could see, they had to have drawn all that they had not seen in life. And that meant all things! Unfortunately for us this record is gone. The list given by William Finch is extensive, but looks exaggerated, as perhaps he never even entered the Lahore Fort. These travelers were often gossip makers from bazari tales.
But outside the walls of the Lahore Fort, the Mughals did another thing. They had a gallery of frescos painted as tile mosaics, which also exhibited all kinds of subjects. But hold on, one thing is missing! There are hardly any women in the same. And that is a strange phenomena. These pictures would be visible to the soldiers standing on the ramparts on the outside walls, including the King and the Generals. No women! The Mughals loved women in all ways, then why? In fact here the inner world was for the King, the outer world was for all see. The plan perhaps was not to excite the warriors in any way with images of women. That is why we have elephants, camels, antelopes, courtiers, domestic scenes, professionals a work, but no women at all.
The one thing which has puzzled researchers for centuries is that the Tile Mosaics of Lahore Fort exist to this day, but no Mughal or even Western writer has ever mentioned them. Slight references are made in the Sikh times by travelers like William Barr (who ridiculed Sikh paintings as well as thought of the tile mosaics as “Passing through gateway decorated with paintings of figures,wild animals, etc, fashioned in the most grotesque style” ) and Dr Honigberger (only notices them), but no time before that. It is agreed that the mosaics were started in the last period of Emperor Jahangeer and were finished in the initial period of Emperor Shah Jahan. Why are the Mughals silent about their own creation? To this day no satisfactory answer is there.
But even today people do not listen to their aesthetics calling. No one observes them to this day, and that is why the neglect is phenomenal. Decay surrounds the Tile Mosaics to this day and many have disappeared with time, except for the kind drawing recordings of Vogel. It is a must requirement that a tour be made of visitors and they be allowed to climb the ramparts to see this WONDER OF THE WORLD at closest possible sight. Let us call it is a Gallery Tour of Mughal Paintings. Anybody listening!
A strange fact is mentioned by E. D. Maclagan in his writings, when he says that Angels appearing in Lahore Fort Tile Mosaics are also made on the gateway of the GOLA SERAI in Lahore. I find this mention nowhere else. What was this Gola Serai? We find similar angels in the hammam of Wazeer Khan and immediately come to the conclusion hat we are here talking of the Serai of Nawab Wazeer Khan. E.D. Maclagan points out that the Serai has been dismantled now, that is around 1910. But we do have photographs of the Serai dated 1904 and instead of myself, I find that mentioned by no one else. That in a separate blog.