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Tomb of Zaib-un-Nissa


Mudassar Bashir

Translation: Muttahir Ahmed Khan

Zaib-un-Nissa, the eldest daughter of the Emperor Aurangzeb, passed away in 1702 and her tomb and the adjacent mosque was built during Aurangzeb’s rule. This tomb was in the vicinity of Delhi’s Kabli gate.  The both tomb and the mosque were demolished when the railway track was installed. So far as Lahore’s this tomb is concerned, it is a mystery as to who has been buried here. Some researchers worked on this mystery and opined that this tomb is probably of one noble Afzal Khan Ghulam who existed during Shah Jahan’s period. We can agree with the researchers because the architectural patterns of the tombs are quite different from those building built in Aurangzeb era. 



The princess was born on 20th of Shawal 1048 AH. Her mother Dilras Begum bint-e-Badee-ul-Zaman Safvi was of Iranian origin. Mr. Safvi came from Iran and joined the court of the Jahangeer.Zaib-un-Nissa’s other sisters Zeenat-un-Nissa, Zubaida-un-Nissa and Sangi Begum are buried in Delhi. Sangi Begum’s grave is situated beside Dara Shakoh’s grave inside Humayun’s tomb. Zaib-un-Nissa was an educated and learned woman of her times and possessed great interest in architecture as well. Some historians are of the view that she wrote a book of Persian poetry titled as “Dewaan-e-Makhfi”. In this book, she writes about herself in these words:

“I am the daughter of a king, but i am a Dervish and my heart and soul know the fact that I am Zaib-un-Nissa”. 

Some historians claim that the princess died in 114 AH. (1702 AD.). I also approve the latter one although a few historians have mentioned that she passed away in 113 AH (1702 AD.)

Let us, now, discuss the tomb situated in Nawan Kot Lahore. Some of the prominent writers of the past, including Syed Mohammad Lateef, Kanhaiya Laal Hindi, Moulvi Noor Ahmed Chishti and Bhola Naath Waris have dubbed this tomb as the final abode of Princess Zaib-un-Nissa. But there exists another group of historians that negates this point. They say that the princess is buried in Delhi. The first detailed discussion on thios point is found in Kanhaiya Laal Hindi’s book “Tareekh-e-Lahor” published by Majlis Taraqi-e-Adab. Later on, it was discussed in Naqoosh, Lahore (page 313). Apart from that, if we have a cursory glance at Timurid dynasty’s traditions, they would bury their departed souls in the capital cities and if they buried any of them elsewhere, they did it on temporary basis. Moreover, their dead ones, especially the females, were buried in the basements. For instance, we can refer to the graves of Empress Noor Jahan, Laadli Begum, and Nadra Begum (in Lahore), Mumtaz Mahal’s (in Aagra) and the tomb of Jodha Bai (in Fateh Pur Sikri). On the contrary, there isn’t any basement in this tomb, neither is any mentioning of any basement in history books. Here, I would like to refer to a book titled “Ser Almanazil” focusing on Delhi. It has been translated into Urdu from Persian by Dr Shareef Hussain Qasmi and has been published by Ghalib Institute Delhi. Its page 192 reads;

“Right in front of the Kabli Gate, in the general passage, there is the seat of Bholay Shah Faqir, Behind this, there is a red-brick mosque and the tomb of Zaib-un-Nissa Begum beside two Hujras (cabins/chalets). There is a stone plaque at the front side of Zaib-un-Nissa’s Hujra and the inscription on it reads;



Everyone is a mortal. This is the final resting place of the sinner and the transgressor, hopeful of the mercy and blessing of God, the Beneficent and Merciful. The Lady, the Hafizah, Zebunnisa, urging all the folk to pray for her deliverance and salvation. She died on the following date, (1701-2 CE), according to the verse of Quran ‘Wadkhuli Jannati’. 



The mentioning of the tomb of Zaib-un-Nissa is found in the first volume of Sir Syed’s book titled “Asar-ul-Sanadid while a handmade sketch of the tomb’s plaque is presented in the 3rd volume of the same book. This volume provides further details on page 388 that reads;

“Zaib-un-Nissa was the eldest daughter of the Emperor Aurangzaib. She passed away in 1702 and her tomb, along with a mosque, was built during Aurangzaib’s era. This tomb was near the Kabli Gate of Delhi city”, When the railway track was installed, both mosque and the tomb were demolished. It is a mysterious question as to who is buried in the tomb in Lahore. Some researchers worked on this mystery and opined that this tomb is probably of one noble Afzal Khan Ghulam who existed during Shah Jahan’s period. We can agree with the researchers because the architectural patterns of the tombs are quite different from those building built in Aurangzeb era.


The Architecture of the Tomb

This tomb was one of the most fascinating and rich structures of its time in Lahore. The entrance of the tomb greatly resembles the entrance of the Chauburji Bagh, another famous building of Shah Jahan era. If we cast a look on the overall structure, we come to know that it has been built on the pattern of Dai Anga’s tomb that was found beside the rear walls of the Gulabi Bagh. This tomb, too, has been built at the ending portion of the garden in the direction of Multan Road. Kanhaiya Laal writes on the page 333 of his book “Taarikh-e-Lahore”:

“This btomb was erected in a square shape. There three doors, with a vault with each of them, and two small windows in a corner of the tomb. It is surrounded by twelve gates that were, once, open towards four directions. Every gate had two square panes of marble grill each. Presently, there is a door and a window in the Southern direction while all other doors and windows have been closed and replaced by mud-walls. The old artistic work can be found at some parts of the floor under the tomb. The grave is made of marble in the centre and is surrounded by vertical grills and hooks. It seemed that the place was covered and veiled from all sides. But, the grave has been into a pile of dust now. There was a glorious pedestal on the rooftop. Now, the feudal have erected houses on it and the tomb has been packed by the houses from all sides. In short the condition of the tomb is very poor.”

This tomb, originally, was a charming premises with a pedestal and mound made of marble. There were many beautiful structures, corridors and porches in the garden. There were big minarets on the corners of the splendid walls of the tomb. These kinds of summits can be seen in Shalamar Garden today. But, they had the work of gold and bronze too. When the Mughal Empire fell to decline and the Multan Road area of Lahore was taken over by Soobha Singh, the tomb was ruined and Maharaja Ranjeet Singh added to its miseries by extracting all the marble toppings out of this tomb and Asif Jah’s tomb in order to build Bara Dari in front of the Lahore Fort.

Presently, if we go to Navan Kot area of Multan Road, we have to go towards Samanabad Square via Chowburji Square. On this point a road turns to the right and approaches Gulshan Ravi and the other one, turning towards left, takes you to Gulzeb Colony, Samanabad. The old name of this place is Janak Nagar and the next stop, from here, is “Chhappar Stop” that has been, recently, changed as “Super Stop.” At a few yards’ distance, on the left side, this tomb is present relating the stories of its ruins, heavy odds and, miseries.

There is an iron-grill on the edge of the road and it, now, looks as a part of the surrounding shops. During early post-partition phase, the premises was not in such a sordid condition and its ground was, once, used by the students of MAO College for playing Badminton. The traffic flow, too, was very slow on the road, but, presently, it presents the scene of a doomsday and panic. There is a big old tree in the open field of the tomb that has covered the whole area. Besides, some other trees of various types are discernible. In the right direction, there is a banana tree beside a well that is found in the form of its ruins and broken walls now. A kiln owner has started using the space under walls as its godown. The nearby residents have created doors in the walls and use them as pathways. To add to the miseries, they park their bikes and cars in the tomb’s ground. One door, towards the East, has been closed, now, with the clay-bricks. This premises, that was, once, a huge and vast garden, has, now been reduced to a small area of hardly two kanals. In the rear street, there is a structure similar to the entrance of Chauburji Garden. It is assumed that it used to serve a pathway to the tomb, in past. The residents of the area call it “Little Chauburji”. Around this small Chauburji, at a little distance, the ruined small minarets with golden artistic work are still discernible in the corners of the tomb walls.

The watchmen have made their rooms under these minarets and one cannot even dream of the awe-inspiring and grand walls existed in the past. A few scattered water-channels can be seen in this ground. There are four stairs to access the pedestal of the tomb. Some black and white stones/tiles are still perceptible on the floor. In all the four directions of the tomb, there are vaulting walls under a dome-shaped ceiling. The inner condition is just like the interior of Jahangir’s tomb. The traces of carving art are still evident at some spots under the walls. The grave is right in the centre of the floor, under the dome, and is covered with a sheet of cloth. There are a few lamps kept to the head-side of the grave. Apart from the history lovers and students, some old men, too, visit the tomb occasionally.

Even a cursory glance at the premises makes us feel that the whole area is a sole property of the illegal residents and shopkeepers. The more painful fact is that the pedestal of the tomb is being used by the mechanics for the repair of room coolers. Despite all these heavy odds, this grand structure is still standing with courage and hope and is looking forward to the state and the government.






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