Asif Khan’s tomb – a brief overview

I posted about Asif Khan’s tomb (also known as Asif Jah) last week in where in lahore series. Since history is one of my favorite subjects and this tomb has interesting enough details so I thought may be I should do a separate post about it and a little bit about the person.

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Photograph by Azra Hameed

Asif Khan or Mirza Abdul Hasan Asif Jah was the brother of Nur Jahan, the famous queen of India and Emperor Jahangir’s wife. He was also a wazir to the same emperor. History books don’t tell much about his personal contributions towards anything (what we call karnaame in Urdu) apart from him being a member of royal family but his tomb is no doubt another master piece of Mughal architecture. I am a huge fan of Mughal Architecture. They left us with some of the breathe taking architectural master pieces (Taj Mahal being wonder of the world). However, there is a lot to be criticized when history judges them overall. Let’s not go into this debate and focus on the specific tomb here.

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So the tomb is situated along the western bank of River Ravi in Shahdra (10 KM from main city of Lahore) and built to the west of Jahangir’s tomb, facing it. It’s part of the Jahangir’s complex which contains tombs of three people – Emperor Jahangir, his wife Nur Jahan, and Asif Khan. The entire complex was built by Shah Jahan (Asif Khan was also the father of Shah Jahan’s beloved Queen Arjumand Bano.), the same emperor who built Taj Mahal, forts in Delhi and Agra and Jamia Masjid Delhi. The tomb stands on a platform faced in red sandstone, with a reservoir of water at each corner. It must have been a great place to visit 50-60 years ago when the tomb was in a better shape and river Ravi had plenty of water :).

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The tomb is an example of the ‘subsidiary tomb’ type: built entirely of brick, it is a one-story regular octagon, with a large central double-layered bulbous dome. Each side has a deeply recessed Aiwan, or alcove, with a door and arched window looking into the tomb. Marble and blue kashi tiles typical of Lahore once covered the mausoleum; they have since been stripped off. The interior was renowned for its lavish use of white marble and precious stone inlay, which have been removed and reused in local temples. The inner dome ceiling is decorated in a high plaster relief of interlacing patterns. The tomb still contains the marble sarcophagus, carved with Quranic inscriptions.

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The site is in serious disrepair and nothing has been done since 1849 to conserve it. An in-depth research and planning is needed to conserve it. Last time I was talking to a friend, who is into this kind of research, and I came to know that such researchers are paid 200 rupees per day or so by govt. of Pakistan. This is what like 6000 rupees per month which is absolutely outrageous keeping in mind the skills and expertise required for this job. But then again in a struggling country like ours, there isn

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