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Sarai Nurmahal : Western Gateway

Mirza Firuz Shah
Architectural and Building
Jahangir 1605–1627

Sarai Nurmahal : Western Gateway



History The Mughal age was an age of development in almost every field including economy. The growing importance of trade and commerce and politics, led to the construction of a network of roads that connected places of commercial and political interests. Along the sides of these roads shady trees were planted, wells dug out and resting places for travellers called serais were constructed. The serai was constructed on the orders of Noor Jahan, wife of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir under the supervision of Zakariya Khan in 1618AD, then Governor of the Doab. Nurmahal got its name from Noor Jahan, who is said to have been brought up here. Location And Design Nurmahal is situated 16 miles south of Jalandhar, 25 miles east south-east of Sultanpur and 13 miles west of Pahlor. The Sarai was built on a site measuring 551 square feet. It had octagonal towers at the corners. The western gateway, called Lahore gate is double-storied and built in red sandstone. Its front is divided into panels ornamented in sculptured relief. There were figures of angels, lotuses, nymphs, lions, elephants, birds, peacocks, men on horseback, etc. The scenes represented by many of these had scenes of elephant fight or four horsemen playing Chauhan. Over the entrance to the gateway is an inscription, flanked by scenes of fighting animals and sculpted lotus mounds. The inscription written in four rhyming verses, reads as follows : 1- During the just rule of Jahangir Shah, son of Akbar Shah, whose neither heaven nor earth remembers. 2- The Nur Saray was founded in the district of Phalor by command of that angel, Nur Jahan Begam. 3- The poet happily discovered this date of its foundation: this Saray was founded by Nur Jahan Begam in 1028. 4- Knowledge of the date of its completion was found in the words: "This Saray was erected by Nur Jahan Begam" 1030. There were plenty of rooms, Emperor's quarters, a well and a mosque inside the serai area. Jahangir mentions this serai in his memoirs when he says: ...I took up my quarters in Nur-Saray. At this spot the Vakils of Nur Jahan Begam had built a lofty house, and made a royal garden. It was now completed.

On this account the Begam, having begged for an entertainment, prepared a grand feast, and by the way of offering, with great pains produced all kinds of delicate and rare things. In order to please her I took what I approved. I halted two days at this place. In his memoirs, Jahangir mentions this place at another time also. Nur Jahan's Serai was quite famous during those times and "Serai Noor Mahal" in local usage came to mean some spacious and important edifice. Background of Sarai Nurmahal The Sarai is 168 m. square from outside including octagonal bastions at corners. The western gateway of the sarai has a grace both of conception and execution (Ulus. Il & 6). This three storeyed structure has a veneer of red sandstone, with its surface marked into panels. These panels are filled with scenes depicting elephant-riders, fairies, peacocks, elephant-lion fights, camels, rhinos, human beings, etc., all executed in low relief (Ulus. Ill, 7 & 8). This gateway has the pride of place being the only one in India so profusely decorated with such carvings. The sides of the gateway are embellished with foliated scroll-work with birds sitting in branches (Ulus. 9). In addition to these, there are geometrical patterns also (Ulus. 10). Angles of the gateway are softened with graceful pilasters, terminating above parapet into open flower pinnacles. These pilasters have chevron pattern carved on them. Projected medallions adorn the spandrels. What imparts elegance to the whole is perhaps the presence of three beautifully designed balconies, a large one on cither side and a smaller one in the center. These balconies arc supported on elephant and peacock shaped brackets. Over the central balcony runs an inscription which furnishes the date of beginning and the completion of the erection of the Sarai, i.e., 1618 and 1620 A.D. respectively. The time-torn eastern gateway also perhaps bore similar decoration. The traces of painted designs can still be seen inside it. On this gateway, too, there was an inscription, a copy of which was fortunately preserved by one of the inhabitants from whom Cunningham procured and recorded it in his Report. In the courtyard of the Sarai is a well and a mosque covered with a single dome. On each side of the courtyard, there were thirty-two rooms,19 each 3.3 m. square, with a verandah in front of it. In each corner of the Sarai were three rooms—one large and two smaller ones—which are still extant in the south west corner. Three-stored apartments in the center of the southern side were reserved for the emperor.20 The main room was oblong in shape with a semi octagonal recess in two sides, similar to that in the corner of the section, At present this section has been appropriated for a school. The inscription engraved on the right jamb of the western gateway (Ulus. 1 1), has been translated as follows : "Taking payment from travellers is forbidden, the Nawab Zakariya Khan, Bahadur, Governor of the district, having exempted them. Should any Fojdar of the Doab collect these dues, may his wives be divorced". Two of Jahangir's visits to this Sarai arc on record in the Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri, the first during his sixteenth regnal year and the second one during the subsequent year. To Read More Visit This Book Link Mughal Library

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Shah Sharaf Barlas


The Mughal Images immediately took a much greater interest in realistic portraiture than was typical of Persian miniatures. Animals and plants were the main subject of many miniatures for albums and were more realistically depicted. To upload your images click here.

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