Gul Begum was better known as 'Rani Gul Begum'. She was one of the courtesans of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. The Maharaja decided to marry her in 1831, and dressed as a bridegroom and went through all the rituals of marriage. The wedding was attended by prominent sardars, British and French generals and the rajahs of other states. The Maharajah took the wedding party to Amritsar. the wedding celebrations included both Sikh customs and Muslim traditions. Gul Begum moved to Lahore from Amritsar, and was given the title ‘Rani Gul Begum’. Maharaja got a big haveli (palatial house), furbished for her in the Kashmiri Gate area of the Rang Mehal bazaar. Now a days, the haveli hosts a girls’ school. Even today, the residential area is called ‘Haveli Gul Begum’. Gul Begum was also passionate about building estates. She built an excellent garden in Mozang, Lahore. This garden came to be called, the ‘Bagh Gul Begum’
Pools, fountains and corridors were built; in the midst of these an elegant mosque was constructed. Gul Begum started the construction of the garden in 1272AH/1855 AD and finished it in her lifetime. The Rani had no children. She adopted one Sardar Khan as her son in her life time. She passed away in 1282AH/1866 AD.
Gul Begum owned a big estate during the times of the Maharaja. After the fall of the Sikh Government, the British gave her a stipend of Rs 1200 per month. This was a large amount in those days. In addition, she would receive income from the inherited estates of Ranjit Singh. All this wealth was inherited by Sardar Khan and his descendants who still live in houses on this estate. The irony is that although all the residents benefit from living here and proudly proclaim Sardar Khan as their ancestor, nobody is willing to express any affiliation with Sardar Begum.
As regards the garden itself, in this congested area, it is incumbent upon the government to look after it. The public should have access to it, so that people can see the old building and can offer prayers for the Rani and others in buried in the mausoleum.
Details of the Building:
If you walk down the road alongside Chauburji Crossing, you will pass the building of Surrayya Azeem Trust Hospital on your left. If you continue ahead past the hospital the road will lead to Miani Sahib Graveyard. A little way down this road the enclosure of Mirza Tahir Bandahgi’s shrine skirts the edge of the road. Behind it is the area of Gul Begum Garden. If you come from Mozang Square to Chauburji, the shrine of Wasif Ali Wasif is on roadside.
Adjacent to the tomb a street leads toward the right and after some distance there is another street on the right. As you approach the end of this street the walls of Gul Begum Garden become visible.
There is a door within these walls which has been sealed with mud bricks. Close by, on an inner street there is the main gate of the east side of the garden. The gate stretches across two storeys; the lower part has been sealed with bricks while on the upper storey, brick sun-shades can be seen.
Article by: Mr. Mudassir Bashir @justicedeniedpk
Photos by: Mr. Aown Ali/Oriental Architecture