Jehangir's Tomb - An Architectural Question From History

The flat roof of Jehangir's Tomb, some 200 feet square has a low platform (a Chabutra) at the center, which has raised a question of acute archaeological interest - was there at any date of an upper dome over the roof of the tomb chamber? Tradition, though tradition is in India no very certain guide, is strong on the existence of a dome.

The Traveler Moorcroft, writing in 1820, says that the dome was believed to have been taken off by Aurangzeb" that his grandfather's tomb might be exposed to the weather, as a mark of his reprobation of the loose morals of Jehangir."

Alexandar Burnes in 1832 and Von Orlich in 1843 attributed it's removal to Bahadur Shah; in their case the motive assumed was merely a desire that "the rain and dew might fall on the tomb of the Emperor's ancestor."

Later writers give other versions both of the date of the removal and its reason; the most interesting is the story that Ranjit Singh transferred the dome bodily to his baradari in the Hazori Bagh. As to this, it is perhaps sufficient to say that though there good evidence of pilfering by Ranjit Singh from the tomb of Jehangir (as the Lt. Barr's account of 1839) the story of removal of the dome was not known till about 1880.

There is a little of documented evidence to support these traditions. We know from Niccolao Manucci (always inclined to malice) that Aurangzeb did offer some indignity to the tomb; but the merely states that the Emperor removed some of the precious stones. It is indeed more than probable that the whole tradition is connected, somewhat obscurely, with the account given by an historian whose date gives his evidence real value. Mahomad Salih was a literary man, much interested in architecture, who held a post in the Lahore Court and died in 1674; he must frequently have visited the tomb. He says that the Emperor "had directed in his will that his resting place should be devoid of structural decorations, and that they should commit his body to the mercy of God in an open place, so that it migh ever commerce unimpeded with the clouds of God's infinite compassion; so verily his successor, acting on his will, constructed round his sleeping place a lofty "Takhtgah measuring 100 zira by 100 of hewn red stone carved. On the top that he placed a chabutra of marble, twenty by twenty, decorated with Parchinkari which is finer than Khatambandi." That passage would solve the problem, if there were certainly as to its exact measuring. The measurement of the Takhtgah corresponds t that of the plinth holding the main building; the measurement of the Chabutra corresponds closely enough with that of the low platform on the roof; but the interpretation of the rest is doubtful.

Sir J. P. Thompson, who has examined the whole question with minute and scholarly care, believes that what Mahmod Salih indicated was a closed roof, surmounted by a Chabutra, with "false tomb" on it, exposed to the air, and surrounded by a screen. The structural features of the chamber and the Chabutra offer no clear opposition to this view; there is nothing contrary to sentiment of practice in building a "false tomb" above the real burial place; and so far, this view seems to hold the field.

This Note is an excerpt from "Lahore and some of its historical monuments" 

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