Zaheer ud Din Babar, Badshah Ghazi, had the ambition to rule over Kabul and Kandahar, even before he set foot in India. This desire was not fulfilled during his lifetime. After him, Naseerud Din Humayun, Jalalud Din Akbar and Nurud Din Jahangir longed for the same. This dream came to fruition during the reign of Shah Jahan and that too, without his lifting a finger, when the Shah of Iran, Tahmasp Safavi and the governor of Qandahar, Ali Mardan Khan fell out among themselves.
Ali Mardan Khan was closely related to the Shah. He had taken over Qandahar from his father Aziz Ganj Khan whom the Shah used to call father. After his father’s death, Ali Mardan Khan was given the title, ‘Baba e Sani’, (the Second Father); but due to complex political machinations in the Iranian court and the Shah and Khan drifted apart. The governor had to send his grown up son, Mohammad Ali, to the Shah, as a hostage. However, the relations did not improve. The Shah ordered the execution of Ali Mardan. Ali Mardan approached the Timurid Court in India. The governor of Kabul, Saeed Khan acted as a go between. Through him it was conveyed to Shah Jahan, that if Ali Mardan Khan was given honours and status, he woud declare for the Mughal sovereign in Qandahar.
Shah Jahan, therefore showered his generosity upon him and as long his he lived, gave him wealth, status and support from the royal court. Ali Mardan Khan felt deeply indebted and stayed loyal to the Mughals, all his life. In 1630, the Friday sermon was read and coins were struck in Shah Jahan’s name. Mullah Saleh Kamboh writes in his book Shah Jahan Nama:
At the next stage, Ali Mardan Khan’s servant, Quli Khan brought his master’s application. His Majesty gave him and the twelve Turkish men who had accompanied Quli Khan a gift of royal attire and four thousand rupees. For Ali Mardan Khan, a mink outfit with an ivory palanquin with gold upholstery was sent.
This was not all. It was decided to appoint him the governor of Kashmir, as it was a temperate area, like Qandahar. Mullah Saleh Kamboh adds:
Since he first paid obeisance, he has been give two lakhs in cash and goods worth fifty thousand. Shah Safavi was sent an urn and a red goblet worth fifty thousand rupees. Zafar Khan was removed and he was appointed the governor of Kashmir.
Shah Jahan was on good terms with the Iranian king. He wrote a letter to the king in 1646, with respectful salutations and gifts worth two lakh rupees. In return, the king sent Muhammad Ali Khan, the son of Ali Mardan Khan to Hindustan. It seems that Ali Mardan Khan’s decision to cede Qandahar to India turned out to be a good one for him. On their part the the Mughal government found a governor who was an able general and a capable builder.
Ali Mardan Khan built across India and also dug canals at several places. The remains of his constructions can be seen in Kashmir, Kabul, Peshawar, Delhi and some other places. The building of Shalamar Gardens and the construction of an irrigation canal was a major achievement in those days. The canal has now disappeared but the three levels of the Shalamar Gardens can still be seen. Ali Mardan Khan died in 1657. His offspring had similar good ties with the scions of the Mughal court. Shah Jahan gave them important posts. The city Ibrahimabad was named after one of his sons. Ali Mardan Khan built a grand mausoleum, after his mother died. He himself was later buried in this mausoleum.
Ali Mardan Khan had a special knack of architecture. In Lahore, the Naulakha Garden was his handiwork. He was also commissioned to build Madhopur Canal to Lahore and to re-excavate and develop Delhi-Hansi canal.
His buildings reflect, the Iranian Kashi technique, a special flavour of Qandahar and the features of the traditional architecture of Hindustan. His mother’s mausoleum, which later became his place of burial, was the tallest mausoleum in India at the time. It was very spacious. It had many corridors, ponds, baradaris and other buildings. On all of these decorative Kashi and Pichi work had been done. The only comparable work in Lahore was in the Wazir Khan Mosque.
The roof of this mausoleum is similar to the mausoleum of the Asif Khan’s mausoleum. The dome of Asif Khan was also renowned in the whole of India, because of its height and style. It fell into bad times after the end of the Mughal rule. It was ruined like the rest of the city of Lahore. At one time, its walls were like the ramparts of a fort. The bricks in the walls were ripped out by the Kashmiri brick sellers. Afterwards, Saradar Gulab Singh Bhoondia uprooted many buildings in the mausoleum complex. The rubble was used to construct a cantonment. The irony of fate is that this cantonment was also wiped out in turn.
Kanhayya Lal Hindi writes thus in his book about this mausoleum:
The original building of the Mausoleum of Ali Mardan Khan had three storeys, including one basement. The basement is very spacious. It contains three graves. The ceiling is oval shaped. If you climb the stairs from this basement, you see a solid platform and a magnificent dome. It’s shape is octagonal. In eight directions, one can see eight magnificent arches. This wonderful building was used to store gunpowder during the days of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. The army was under the command Gulab Singh Bhoondia. At the first floor, were affixed slabs of red sandstone and onyx. The Sikhs pulled out these slabs without compunction. At the first floor, there are four staircases to access upstairs. On one side, are arched doors and a magnificent dome in the middle. When one reaches the top floor, one sees the grand arched dome. This mausoleum is matchless in it’s glory. There is no defr taller mausoleum in Lahore. Recently, the English government has honoured the writer with the task of it’s repairs. It was made proof to earthquakes, the stairs were rebuilt and the basement was also cleaned.
The British are guilty of two major crimes against Lahore. The first crime was that they completely demolished the Naulakha Bagh and the Mohallah Dara Shikoh, outside Delhi Gate. Secondly, when they established the Railways, they vandalised many mausoleums, including the Sardar Khan’s masoleum, Nawab Abul Hasan’s mausoleum, Begum Nawab Abul Hasan’s mausoleum, Nur Jahan’s mausoleum and Ali Mardan Khan’s mausoleum in a way that they even surpassed the Sikhs. The old mansions and the mosques were not spared either. It is for this reason that the Dai Anga Mosque is seen next to the Platform One of the Railway Station.
With the passage of time the spacious Ali Mardan Khan’s mausoleum has also been swallowed up by the high walls of the Railway Carriage Factory. Apart from its dome and one portico, all its buildings have been completely dug out.
There are two ways to access this mausoleum. One is from the GT Road, just past the Engineering University. Near the Singh Pura Chowk, there were many remains of ancient mansions and estates. They have all disappeared. This is the area of the Loco Workshop within the high walls of which one can find the narrow passage leading to the mausoleum.
The other way is from the Canal via Griffin Road.
The inhabitants of this area consider this tomb to be of a holy man and not of a chieftain of the Mughal court. People offer prayers and light lamps in devotion. They say that the third floor of this building is inhabited by jinns. Next to the southern door, there are stairs to the lower floor. This basement contains two additional graves in addition to that of Ali Mardan Khan. There is a headstone with an inscription on the grave of Ali Mardan Khan. This plaque has been installed two or three years ago. There is no sign of the original plaque. It says:
There are ventilators on all four sides of this basement. There were some tunnels in its corners which have been bricked over. There no details available of these. The ground floor has a very high oblong ceiling. The stairs lead to the third floor. The third and the highest floor has eight turrets. Four of these are well preserved. The other four are in a very bad state of repair. These turrets have eight pillars each. On these, kashi work can still be seen. The dome of the mausoleum, along with its sturdy platform is still standing after nearly four centuries.
Towards the north is a large field, overgrown with weeds and at the other end is a grand annexe. Kashi work can be seen on one of its balconies.
The door is currently locked. The Railway Colony is next door.
The access to this mausoleum is only on thursdays, so that people can come and visit the tomb of the Pir Hamid Qadri. It is closed during the rest of the week. The Punjab Government and the Railways should provide access throughout the week and should take steps to preserve this heritage.