Before Babur won the battle of Panipat in 1526 he had invaded Lahore at least four times on one pretext or another. The battle of Panipat was his fifth attempt to defeat an Indian ruler and it was after this victory that he decided to stay for good in India, thus laying the foundations of Mughal rule there. Before this battle, a historians puts it, “the followers of Babur contemplated with dismay the prospect of a prolonged stay in the inhospitable regions of India. The happy recollections of the vale of Farghana and its neighbouring mountains made them anxious to return home”. But Babur impressed upon them the incalculable advantages of staying. His words had the desired effect.

The first town of importance that benefited by the establishment of the Mughal empire in the Punjab was naturally Lahore. Indeed, the early period of the Mughals can doubtless by regarded as the golden age of the history of Lahore. Once again it became the seat of a royal residence. The Mughal proved to be the most enlightened patrons of literature and fine arts and Lahore became a seat of learning under them. From the imperial courts of Bukhara and Samarqand learned men, poets, authors, orators, and men versed in science and technology gathered at Lahore. Fine gardens were laid out, canals were dug, spacious mosques were built, caravansary’s were constructed and palaces, domes and minarets were erected. In short a powerful impetus was given to architecture.

Babur(actual name Zaheer al-Din) was one of the most dynamic personalities in the history of Asia and it was his artistic ideals that laid the foundations of the style which was to follow. In his memoirs he notes that a considerable amount of building construction was undertaken, chiefly in the form of ornamental gardens. Unfortunately not much evidence of his building activity survives. There are however two mosques which have survived, one in the Kabuli Bagh at Panipat and the other a Jami Mosque at Sambhal. Both these mosques were built in 1526. Of a third mosque which he appears to have built within the old Lodhi fort at Agra Babur himself complains that “it is not well done, it is in the Hindustani fashion”. A garden called Aram Bagh was also laid by him in Agra.

Naseer al-Din Humayun, son of Babur, three days after the death of Babur, ascended the throne in the city of Agra on December 29th 1530 A.D. His brother at that time held Kabul and Qandahar. In order to seize power he rushed to Lahore and after political maneuvering entered the city with a strong force and took possession of the whole of the Punjab. Humayun was person of mild disposition; he confirmed the rule of his brother in the Punjab beside Kabul and Qandahar. Kamran laid a beautiful garden and constructed a baradari (summerhouse) on the right bank of the river Ravi outside Lahore. The garden has disappeared but the rebuilt baradari survives partially in mid stream.

When the trouble between Humayun and Shir Shah broke out, Humayun sought refuge at Lahore but Kamran made a truce with Shir Shah by ceding the Panjab to him. This compelled Humayun to quit Lahore along with his family. Shir Shah attempted to force Humayun into a military confrontation but Humayun fled to Sindh in November 1540, and from there he went to Iran.

Shir Shah was a magnificent monarch and with his command over great mercantile cites like Peshawar and Lahore he developed trade with the countries of central Asia and northern China. He connected the cities of Lahore and Multan by road and planted orchards on the way to refresh weary travelers. He unfortunately died long before his time, on May 22nd 1545A.D. Shir Shah on his deathbed regretted that he had not razed the city of Lahore to the ground, for according to him, “Such a large city should not exist on the very road of an invader, who immediately after capturing it on his arrival, could collect his supplies, and orgainse his resources there”.

Humayun, after an exile of nearly fifteen years, crossed the Indus unopposed on 2nd January 1555 and marched to Lahore which was abandoned on his approach. He entered the city on 24th February and then proceeded to Delhi. In July Humayun re-entered Delhi but he ascended the throne only to die. He died of and accident after falling down some steps in the Din-i Panah on January 25, 1556.

While a fugitive form India at the court of Shah Tahmasp, Humayun learnt a lot about Persian traditions. This enabled him to bring into India various Iranian architectural traditions. These traditions however matured only after his death.

Lahore was a place of great importance in Akbar’s time. Abu’l-Fadl speaking of Lahore writes, “Lahore is a large city. In size and population it is among the first. During the present reign the fortifications and citadel have been strengthened with brick masonry and many splendid buildings have been erected.” Akbar founded a royal mint, as well as a carpet manufactory. Skilful gardeners form Persia were invited to lay out gardens at Lahore.

Jalal al-Din Muhammad Akbar constructed two buildings outside Lahore for feeding poor Hindus and Muslims. One of them was called Dharampura and the other Khairpura. As a large number of jogis (sanits) also flocked to these houses a third house was built and was called Jogipura.

Akbar built the Lahore fort anew; a number of buildings were added within it and the whole complex was provided with a high bastioned wall. The architecture of Akbar which survives in this fort is very similar to the architecture of Agra fort. No reference to this fort would be complete without attention being drawn to the remarkable display of tile decoration which is so overwhelmingly displayed over the wall facing west. It extends from the present main entrance to the extreme north. The tile decoration and mosaic work cover and approximate area of 432x 15.30m. Masti Gate, which was during his time the main gate of the fort was also built by Akbar. His wife, the Queen of India built a mosque opposite this for her son Jahangir. This mosque still survives. It is called Begum Shahi Mosque. It is decorated with beautiful frescos.

Nur al-Din Muhammad Jahangir, son of Akbar, was fond of Lahore and on his way to Kabul and Kashmir held his court at Lahore. Under Jahangir Kalij Khan was the first governor of Lahore. In the fifth year of his reign he was replaced by Murtada Khan. Murtada Khan built a muhallah (colony) at Lahore bearing his name, as well as a large bath and a chauk (square). The garden of Dilawiz across the river Ravi and the garden of Mirza Kamran were in high favour with the king who passed many festive days there in company of his harem and umara’.

During his rule a new block was built in the palace of Lahore (Lahore Fort). This construction was carried out under the supervision of Ma’mur Khan. Jahangir writes in his memoirs that these buildings were finished handsomely by the exertions of Ma’mur Khan, “without exaggeration, charming residences and soul exciting sitting places had been erected in great beauty and delicacy”. Yamin al-Daulah (Asif khan) was the ablest of the governors of Lahore appointed by Jahangir. He had a special taste for architecture and embellished the town and the citadel (i.e. Lahore Fort). Jahangir added Pearl Mosque in the Fort. The Great mural wall is also ascribed to him and also a part of the Musamman Burj. One time his beloved Anarkali also died at Lahore. Jahangir also built her tomb. The building stands inside the Civil Secretariat today.

Jahangir’s last days were embittered by the treason of Nur Mahal (Nurjahan), his beloved consort, who planned to usurp power for her son-in-law Shahryar at the expense of Shahjahan, the rightful heir. Jahangir fell in Kashmir and was on his way to Lahore when he died at Rajauri in 1628, in the twenty-second year of his reign. His body was sent to Lahore, and according to the will of the Emperor was interred in the garden of his once beloved wife, Nurjahan on the right bank of the river Ravi on the outskirts of Lahore. Shihab al-Din Shahjahan succeeded his father.

Shahjahan was born at Lahore in 1000/1592. He received the title of Shahjahan (King of the World) from his father in 1616 when he was nominated successor. When Jahangir died Nurjahan wished to make Shihryar the successor. She had married her daughter by Shir Afgan to Shihryar. Shihryar was nicknamed nashudni (“good for nothing”). Encourged by Nurjahan and instigated by his intriguing wife (Ladli Begum daughter of Nurjahan), he proclaimed himself emperor at Lahore. Royal troops were sent by Shahjahan, and Shihryar was defeated in a short battle which took place outside Lahore.

Shahjahan was particularly attached to Lahore because it was his birthplace. The Padshahnama by Abd al-Hamid Lahari gives a very detailed account of the Emperor’s court at Lahore. He also refers to Wazir Khan as the viceroy of the Panjab who built the famous Wazir Khan mosque at Lahore and a Hammam inside Delhi Gate. According to Abd al-Hamid Lahauri the Emperor entertained much respect for fakirs (saints) and paid a visit to Hadrat-i Miyan Mir, whose tomb is also situated in Lahore.

As the building of the Daulat Khana (“fort” or “royal residence”) had been neglected for a long time, the Emperor ordered the reconstruction of various parts of it, such as the ghusal khana (bath room) and Khwabgah (sleeping chambers). The restoration work was planned and carried out under the supervision of skilful engineers. The Shahburj (the royal tower) had been built by Jahangir; this failed to impress Shahjahan and he ordered its demolition. A new tower was raised in its placed under the supervision of Yamin al-Daulah Asif Khan who had already displayed much tact and judgment in the embellishment of imperial buildings. After the completion of the block the emperor stayed in it for three days. Shahburj is famous for the Shish Mahal and the Naulakha pavilion. Both these buildings have exquisite examples of finest pietra-dura work.

At Hiran Minar (Shaikhupura), too, the Emperor did not think the buildings constructed by Jahangir sufficiently impressive. A new building was therefore ordered. Following the pattern set by the emperor many of the high officials decorated the city with beautiful edifices. Muhammad Salih Lahauri in his excellent work Amal-i Salih mentions among others the names of Wazir Khan and Allami Afdal Khan who each constructed spacious edifices at Lahore.

In 1631 Ali Madan Khan was made viceroy of Lahore. He was famous as a great canal engineer. He planned and dug a canal from the river Ravi to the famous Shalimar garden, and this supplied water to the garden for all its needs. The Shalimar Garden was laid in 1634. Fruit trees for this garden were brought from Kabul and Qandahar.

In the same year (1634) Yamin al-Daulah Asif Khan, brother of Nurjahan and fater-in-law of the emperor, died. By the order of Shahjahan his remains were interred in the land west of the mausoleum of Jahangir. A grand dome was ordered to be built over the grave.

In the following year (1635) Nurjahan also died. She was buried in a mausoleum which she had herself built close to the tomb of her brother Asif Khan. Shahjahan died at 74 in 1666 in captivity. Aurangzib, his son became the emperor of India.

Shahjahan’s strong interest in architecture extended to the designs and plans of the buildings. His first and most famous building was the Taj Mahl at Agra which was intended to contain the tomb of his wife.

“Augustus’s boast that he found Rome of brick and left it of marble has its counterpart in the building productions of Shah Jahan, who found the Muhgul cities of sandstone and left them of marble”. There is no boubt that Shahjahan demolished many structures of red sandstone built by his predecessors and in their place built marble palaces.

Owing to the prosecution of protracted wars in the Deccan Aurangzib had less time to hold his court at Lahore than his predecessors. But Lahore remained the dar al-saltanat (capital). His first visit to Lahore was in 1659 when he stayed in the garden of Fayd Bakhsh (Shalimar Bagh) and paid a brief visit to the Daulat Khana (the Fort). He also went to the Msjid-i Wazir khan and offered prayers there.

Even though he spent little time at Lahore, Muhiyy al-Din Muhammad Alamgir Aurangzib did not neglect it entirely. Thus in the year 1662 he ordered a protective embankment to be built to save Lahore form deluges. This was about 6.5km in length. Flights of steps were made at intervals for people to bathe. The Badshahi Mosque, a far more ambitious project, was completed in the year 1637. It is a magnificent structure and the finest architectural achievement of Aurangzib. He also the main gate of Lahore Fort: this is still called Alamgiri Darwaza after him.

The architectural productions of the Mughals during the later half of the 17th century were less numerous and of lower standard than those executed under the previous rulers of the same dynasty. A characteristic example of this dwindling interest in architecture is the mausoleum of Aurangzib’s wife, Rabi’ah Durrani, at Aurangbad, which is a grotesque reproduction of the Taj Mahal. In fact the Badshahi Mosque of Lahore is the only monument which reaches the highest standards of Mughal architecture. It was called Lal Masjid by the British because of the red sand-stone of which it was wholly built except the bulbous marble domes.

It is believed that Zib al-Nisa’ daughter of Aurangzib built a garden at Lahore. Chauburji was one of its gateways. Some historian say the garden was built by one of the daughter of Shahjahan. A small tomb in the Nawankot area is considered as the tomb of Zib al-Nisa’ but it is not correct.

After the death of Aurangzib in 1707 the collapse of the empire was only a matter of time, and the few buildings in the Mughal style that were erected after this date are a melancholy proof of the decadent architecture that ensued.

Dara Shikoh, the elder brother of Aurangzib, who was put to death in 1659, was a great lover of monuments just like his father and he possessed fine literary taste. He was fond of Lahore where he was extremely popular and he fixed his residence there. He adorned the city with beautiful buildings and market places. The Sultan ki Sara’i and Chauk Dara Shikoh were built by him. This chauk had four gates on each side, decorated with kansi work and in shape and sytle resembling the gateway of Wazir Kahn’s mosque. Dara was faithful disciple of Hadrat-i Miyan Mir and he had planned a grand mausoleum for the saint but his life did not allow him to do that. His wife Nadirah is also buried close to the mausoleum of Hadrat-i Miyan Mir.

Lahore was the first city in Pakistan to receive the attention of the sons of Timur and it was also the first to fall into decay. Practically no monument of imperial quality of status was added to this city after Aurangzib.