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News Nine
November 30, 2022 at 12:00:00 AM
Lahore: How the famous city in Pakistan prospered under Mughal Empire and became imperial capital during Akbar's reign

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Lahore: How the famous city in Pakistan prospered under Mughal Empire and became imperial capital during Akbar's reign

Akbar built the fort in 1575 to quell rebellions on his empire's northwest frontier, making Lahore his capital a decade later. (Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
 

If one questions why Lahore, once the heartbeat of one of the most powerful empires in history, is generally overlooked, then it can be answered that the exploits of the Mughals were mainly centred around India.

New Delhi: The city of Lahore in Pakistan bears the legacy of the Mughal Empire in the Indian subcontinent, quietly like a serene river. If one questions why Lahore, once the heartbeat of one of the most powerful empires in history, is generally overlooked, then it can be said that the exploits of the Mughals were mainly centred around India. And that has made us largely forget that Lahore has a grand history. By the 17th century, it was one of the world's most populous and cultured cities. And there was a time, when the Mughal Emperor Akbar, possibly the greatest ruler of the dynasty, made the city his capital.

 

 

The evolution of Lahore Until the early 11th century, Lahore was part of the early Hindu kingdoms, which had become tributaries to the Muslim rulers of the Indian subcontinent in the 10th century. In the late 12th century, Lahore came under the control of the Muhammad of Ghor, who established his dominance on the Indian subcontinent and made the entire region a part of his kingdom. Later, Lahore served as an important urban and commercial centre under the successive Turco–Afghan Muslim rulers of the Delhi Sultanate. Finally, in 1526, Lahore was conquered by the invading armies of a Central Asian invader, the founder of the Mughal dynasty and one who would change the course of the subcontinent's history, Babur. But it was during the reign of his grandson and the third Mughal Emperor Akbar, that Lahore began to flourish in the truest sense and become a hotbed of trade, commerce and culture.

 

 

Why did Akbar make Lahore his capital? A young Akbar was still trying to consolidate his empire with the aid of Bairam Khan when he had to face the challenge of Sikander Shah Suri, the last of the six Suri rulers, who was trying to recapture Lahore. Sikander Shah managed to fend off the Mughal forces under Mughal general Khizr-Khawaja Khan just outside Lahore. The city had already been captured in February 1555 by Humayun. Khan retreated to the city and sought help from an already besieged Akbar outside Delhi. There, the emperor was fighting Hemu, who is also known as Hemchandra Vikramaditya, a Suri general who had captured Delhi and Agra and declared himself the ruler of India. Hemu believed that the capture of Lahore was critical for a greater Indian empire. Apart from these two opponents, Akbar had to also deal with his ambitious cousins in Kabul descending towards Lahore. Bairam Khan and Akbar defeated Hemu and he was beheaded. Sikander Shah was also defeated and captured, but the sensitive Akbar allowed him to leave for Bengal where he died. According to Abul Fazl's 'Akbarnama', the image of Bairam Khan in Lahore became one of a man who was exceeding the limits of liberty that the Mughal emperor considered 'permissible'. After he beheaded Tardi Beg Khan, the governor of Delhi, Akbar decided to strip him of most of his powers. Also, the beheading of innocent elephant drivers on the smallest whims shows the emperor that Bairam Khan was getting out of hand. Akbar also moved to replace Mullah Pir Muhammad, from whom Bairam sought religious sanction, and it infuriated the latter, who collected a force on the pretext of fighting the Afghans of Bengal, but only to change track and move towards Lahore.

 


Was Lahore that important? Yes. Apparently, Bairam Khan had established excellent contacts among Lahore's business community, which it seems had been influential in the affairs of Lahore's politics. As the Mughals were preparing to tackle troubles to the west, Lahore was seen as the place to plan it from. Akbar sent a message to Bairam stamping his own authority and his mentor should go to Mecca and spend his life in prayers. A number of merchants in Lahore known to be close to Bairam Khan were arrested. He was later killed on his way to Mecca by an Afghan and Akbar became his own master at the age of 18. But the influence of Bairam Khan, who had earlier, without doubt, contributed considerably to Mughal fortunes, lived on, and a slave of one of his followers shot an arrow at Akbar. He was wounded and the shooter was put to death.

 

 

Lahore became the capital of the Mughal Empire After the fall of Bairam Khan, the emperor's own half-brother Hakim Mirza, marched from Kabul to capture Lahore. Akbar rushed to Lahore and surrounded the entire city and the far-flung areas with a huge army. Hakim Mirza's army panicked and headed home. Lahore became peaceful once again, but constant trouble from Kabul kept the city busy. In the end, Akbar collected a force at Lahore and headed towards Kabul. On March 11, 1579, Akbar entered Kabul and appointed a Rajput as its governor. On his way back to Lahore he made several other expeditions, all the time expanding his empire. Due to troubles from Kabul and the areas to its east, it was ultimately decided to move the imperial capital to Lahore. Abul Fazl writes, "So it was that Akbar the Great moved his capital from Fatehpur Sikri to Lahore with the procession having 5,000 elephants to the rear and the same amount in the front and on the sides, with each elephant with iron plates to protect against arrows or gunfire. The elephant tusks had huge sharp daggers mounted on them". The Portuguese priests who went with him described Lahore as the most 'delightful city' in the world. The first residence prepared for Akbar was "on an island in the River Ravi". No sooner had the emperor settled down that tragedy struck. The entire countryside was hit by a massive three-year famine. The famine started a new era in the history of Lahore, with the emperor holding public audiences for the poor and the influential inside the newly rebuilt fort at the Diwan-e-Aam and the Diwan-e-Khaas. At Lahore, the Mughal Empire under Akbar and Shah Jahan were to reach its zenith.

 

Lahore Fort Akbar built the fort in 1575 to quell rebellions on his empire's northwest frontier, making Lahore his capital a decade later. It became the hallmark of Mughal culture, a fusion of Hindu and Islamic traditions, which reached its zenith in the Taj Mahal. Akbar's son, Jahangir, and grandson, Shah Jahan, lavishly developed his architectural idiom, adding palaces, towers and gardens to the fort's 20 hectares. Their contributions have made the fort a trove of some of the Mughal world's most outstanding designs.


Badshahi Mosque The massive pink-red Badshahi Mosque, Pakistan's most iconic building, is located near the fort. One has to climb the high steps up to a grand vaulted gatehouse to enter it, which leads into a vast arcaded courtyard, built to accommodate 60,000 worshippers. Surrounded by merlon-capped walls embellished with stone carvings and marble inlay, the prayer hall lies across the courtyard floor under bulbous domes. Emperor Aurangzeb built the mosque in 1674, to commemorate great victories in the south of his empire. For centuries it was the world's largest mosque. Today, it's a monument to Mughal genius.

 

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