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Aam Khas Bag, Sirhind, Fatehgarh Sahib district, Punjab, India

Mirza Firuz Shah
Architectural and Building
Akbar 1556–1605

Aam Khas Bag, Sirhind, Fatehgarh Sahib district, Punjab, India



Background of Aam Khas Bag The earliest extant Mughal garden all over the Punjab and Haryana is the one at Sirhind, currently known as the Aani Khas Bugh. In fact, it is a garden, a palace and a royal sarat, all in one. The origin of this garden can be traced to the period of Akbar. Sultan Hafiz Rakhna of Herat, the then shiqdar (superintendent) of Sirhind, laid out this garden and erected many other buildings which according to Badaoni, had no parallel in Hind. In the Akbar Noma, his name appears in the list of officers who served the State during Humayun’s exile. The first reference to the garden that we come across, was made by Father S.J. Monserrate, the leader of the first Jesuit Mission to the court of Akbar. He visited Sirhind in 1580 A.D. and saw the garden for himself. Since Akbar who visited the city in 1556 A.D., does not make any mention of it, this garden appears to have been laid out, most probably, sometime between 1556 and 1580 A.D. After Hafiz Rakhna’s death in 1000 A.H./1592 A.D., this garden passed through many hands. In 1617 A.D., Jahangir appointed Khwaja Waisi, the karori (collector of reserved revenue) of Sirhind to keep up the garden, because he was well acquainted with the science of horticulture as well as of buildings, He was specially instructed by the emperor to remove all the trees that had no freshness and to put in fresh ones, to clean up the iraqbandi to repair the old buildings and to erect new ones in the shape of baths, etc., in appropriate places. In the Badshahnama, Abdul Hamid Lahori records Shah Jahan's five visits to Sirhind. On his visit in 1628 A.D. he stayed here for five days. During his stay, he ordered the erection of a few more buildings including Daulat Khana-i-Khas (personal palace), Jharokha Mubarik (lattice window), Khabgah (sleeping apartments) and Mehiabi Chabutara (moonlit platform) on the sides of the tank. With the advent of Aurangzeb, a puritan zealot an era of religious persecution commenced, After the martyrdom of Guru Gobind Singh's innocent children at the hands of Wazir Khan, the governor of Sirhind, in 1704 A.D., this city attracted the wrath of the Sikhs In 1708 A.D,, Banda Bahadur sacked Sirhind and killed Wazir Khan, Later, this city was plundered many times by the irate bands of the Sikhs, the last being in 1763 A.D. when Sirhind was annihilated. It is, therefore, obvious that the Aam Khas Bagh must also have suffered at the hands of the Sikhs. The northern gate served as the main entrance to the first and second enclosures. From this gate begins the first quadrangle of the garden complex, 179 m. by 122 m. in area. Il is enclosed by a four meter high wall of brick, adorned with serrated battlements. Each of the four corners of this enclosure is marked by a projected octagonal bastion surmounted by a domed pavilion. On the inner side of the gateway is an extension of the gate, in the form of a house. It appears to be a much later addition made probably when this gate was no longer in use as an entrance. In the centre of this first quadrangle is the Mehtabi Chabutara, raised under the orders of Shah Jahan. It is a double terraced square platform. On each of its sides is a water chute, down which water rippled from one level to the other As per its very name, from this platform the emperor may have used to enjoy the spectacle of a moonlit night. Also, here he may have held his court in the open. Through an opening in the southern wall of the first enclosure, we enter the second one which measures 183 m. by 145 m. In its centre is a tank, 98 m. by 85 m. in span with a flight of eight steps on all the four sides. An arched bridge passes over it. This bridge has an octagonal plat form in its centre and two screen wails on its eastern and western sides. Monserrate mentions a tower in the middle of the tank, from which a pleasant view of the tank and the surrounding garden could be enjoyed To William Finch, it was a 'summer house*. Fray Sebas tian Manrique who came here in 1641 A.D., describes it as a 'circular chapel'. All the above views considered, the only possibility of a structure in the midst of the tank can be that of a summer house. At present only an octagonal platform stands in the centre of the tank. But for Shah Jahan, who visited the garden in 1628 A.D. and also afterwards, visitors describe the tank to have been full of waler. However, Shah Jahan in the Badshahnama laments that it could never be filled with water. Sultan Firuz Shah Tughlaq had cut a canal to Sirhind in 1360 A.D. when he recast it into a separate district. Upto Jahangir's reign this tank was filled up, presumably, by the irrigation channels from this Sirhind canal of Firuz Tughlaq. The canal may have gone dead sometime before Shah Jahan’s ascending to the throne. Adjoining the northern wall of the second enclosure is a double destoreyed building, known as SheeshMahal (hall of mirrors), constructed under the orders o f Shah Jahan (Ulus. I & I). It has a simple arrangement of rooms on both the floors and is covered with three double domes. These domes were once embellished with coloured glazed tiles, traces of which still remain. This structure embodies al! the stylistic innovations of Shah Jahan's period, i.e., cusped arch, bent cornice and curved roof. Opposite to the SheeshMahal, across the tank, is a large suite of rooms, known as Naughara (lit. having nine rooms). This building completely identifies in location with the Khabgah, ordered to be constructed by Shah Jahan during his first visit n 1628 A.D. Adjoining the eastern and western walls that enclose the second part of the garden, are continuous suites of small rooms meant perhaps for the retinue that accompanied the emperor during his visit. Most of the rooms of this portion arc now in ruins and the remaining have been modified to provide quarters for government employees. It may be inferred from the preceding paragraphs that although the tank existed at this place, but both the first and the second enclosures were added to the garden by the orders of Shah Jahan, Coming out of the Naughara on the southern side, where the second enclosure ends, we enter the open garden which was once surrounded by a high wall. The garden was divided into four squares, There is a gateway in the northern wall of this open garden, at its present eastern extremity, h appears to have served as an original entrance to the remaining part of the garden in the complex. Manrique describes the existence of Tour majestic and splendid gateways'? However, no trace is found of the other gateways which were perhaps in the centre of the other three walls, not extant now. In front of the Naughara is a small tank and a few steps hence, runs a flagged causeway punctuated by a row of fountains. That really beautiful street or avenue* described by Manrique and Finch most probably existed in front of the northern gate of the garden. Later discussion about the buildings tends to confirm this view. At the end of the said causeway is a hammam (bath suite), most probably built under the orders of Jahangir. It is a block of three inter-connected rooms. Two furnaces still survive in the western side of the hammam. having chimney holes above. There is a water tank in the north-west comer of the hammam, from and to which lead a number of terracotta pipes, running through the masonry walls. However, nothing can be said with certainty about the working of the hammam. To the south-west of the hammam stands a double-storeyed building, known as Daulat Kfcana-i-Khan, now in ruins. It is a square building comprising a central room, two storeys high, surrounded by smaller rooms. To the middle of the central room is an octagonal tank. The south-west corner of the room is occupied by an alcove wall, used to place small lamps. When water fell from above in front of these lamps in the form of a plate, these reflected through it thus offering a panoramic view. The whole building was painted with graceful patterns in bright colours, the traces of which still survive. In the south west corner of the present garden are some traces of a structure, known as Rang Mahal. In all probability the palace described by William Finch, Jahangir and Manrique is the same building virtually reduced to a heap of bricks, William Finch describes it as “an eight square mohol with eight chambers for women, in the midst thereof a faire tank; over these, eight other rooms, with fairs galleries round about; on the top of all a faire jointer; the whole building curiously wrought in stone, with faire painting, rich carving, and rich pargetting......". The above inference is based on the fact that the ruins of this extinct Rang Mahal arc exactly in alignment with the northern gateway of the garden from which led the main causeway. William Finch indicates the location of this palace at the crossing of the two main causeways. The other causeway, then, most probably, was that which joined the eastern and the western gateways. Wells were the major source of water for the garden. Two of these still exist.

The parapet of the wells was constructed very high so that their water flowed through the channels topping the enclosing wall of the garden. From these high channels water rippled down the chutes and gushed out of the fountains in solid plumes. Hence it flowed leisurely in the ground channels, finally falling into the main tank. Adition to the other decorations, the flower and fruit trees multiplied the charm of the garden. The Aam Khas Bagh abounded in the fruit trees so much so that it was rented yearly for fifty thousand rupees. Hafiz Sultan Muhammad Rakhna of Herat, then shiqdar (revenue collector) of Sirhind, built the garden in the 16th century. It was then known as Bagh-i-Hafiz Rakhna. In 1581, Emperor Akbar, in the quest for the governor of Kabul, encamped at Sirhind and rested in this walled garden. Emperor Jahangir also used to stay in this bagh. In 1634, Shah Jahan ordered the construction of a building named Daulat Khana-i-Khas in its premises to be used as his residence. The garden lies along the Grand Trunk Road, the imperial highway of the Mughals. Aam Khas Bagh is the remains of a highway-inn constructed for the use of royalty as well as common people. It was divided into two parts - the Aam for public use and the Khas for private use by the Royalty.This Royal inn was initially built by Akbar and planned by Mughal architect Hafiz Rakhna. It was rebuilt by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan along the Mughal military road between Delhi and Lahore, and The Royal couple used to stay here in the old building complex, while going to and coming back from Lahore. Princess nazar later on married kritik here. Later on, some additions were made to this monument by Jahangir. Aam Khas Bagh Complex The complex was famous for a perfect air-conditioning system called Sarad Khana. The Sheesh Mahal of the Daulat-Khana-e-Khas, the hamam and the tank had unique methods of heating water. The palace compound also had a set of fountains. Water for the fountains was drawn from a huge well nearby and circulated through underground conduits. A beautiful garden and the Nursery is being maintained. It is a Mugal type garden. The old complex, which has archaeological value, is being maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India. The area was maintained till a few years ago. Buildings in worst condition include Daulat Khana Khas, Sard Khana and Shahi Hamaam. Lack of upkeep has ruined these buildings. The complex also has an orchard spread over 11 acres of land. The orchard has mango, pear and guava plantations and some trees are more than 70 years old. To Read More Visit This Book Link Mughal Library

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Ismail Mazari

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Very good information.


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