Hiran Minar: In the memory of royal deer “Mansraj”

Hiran Minar: In the memory of royal deer “Mansraj”

by Arslan Zaheer

Hiran Minar is a popular tourist attraction with an amazing piece of history attached to it. The famous Hiran Minar has a grand water tank in the middle of which stands Daulat Khana giving the masterpiece of construction a spectacular look.

All the monuments of this complex were built under the orders of Emperor Jahangir (1605 to 1627)  in the city of Sheikhupura. Old name of Sheikhupura was Jahangirpura and it was founded by Emperor Jahangir, in 1607. As Jahangir was affectionately addressed Sheikhu by his father, Jalaludin Muhammad Akbar, hence, during Sikh rule in 1818 the new city was named as Sheikhupura which is situated about 40 kilometers north-west of Lahore.

Hunting grounds were an important part of the physical environment of the Mughal emperors so the king declared the barren jungles adjoining the palace as royal hunting grounds. Sheikhupura got the status of a royal hunting ground this way.

In this royal hunting place, an antelope came into the net of the God-knowing ruler Nural-Din Jahangir. The animal showed instant affection, seating itself down at Jahangir’s feet, as if pleading to be adopted. Jahangir liked the gesture and named it Mansraj. Within a month, that antelope overcome the king’s wild fierceness and became the head of the special antelopes.

In 1620, in the area where Hiran Minar was later built, Jahangir with his friends spotted a deer and tried to kill, but accidentally killed his own favorite Mansraj. The emperor went so sad that he ordered to bury the deer in the ground where it died. He also asked to prepare a gravestone in the shape of an antelope and build a tower at that place called Hiran Minar. After that incident, this hunting ground was changed into a protected sanctuary and hunting was prohibited.

The HiraN Minar is circular in plan and tapers towards the top. Its diameter at the base is a little over 9m and at top 6.9m. In the circular walls of the minaret there are 14 rows of holes, each row containing 15 holes. The holes are square of 15cm in each side. Total height of the minaret is 30.6m having no canopy or pavilion at the top, 108 steps on a spiral staircase lead to the summit of the minaret where rest the remains of Mansraj. The cost incurred in those times on the construction of the minaret was Rs.150, 000.

On the east of minaret, at a distance of 82.5m, is situated, a huge water tank of unusual design, measures 890 by 750 feet, an octagonal structure (daulat-khana) in the middle of the tank. The causeway is 102.6m long, 3.15m wide with a parapet wall 50cm high. A square platform is exactly in the middle of the causeway. At each corner of the tank, there are square pavilions having flights of steps going down into the tank, a brick ramp that was used to provide access for royal animals and wild game. The tank is rectangular in plan 260.5m x 225.6m. The daulat-khana is built upon an octagonal platform measuring 12m per side. This structure has two-stories with an open pavilion on top which are arched pillars and a beautiful cupola.

The romantic daulat-khana furnishes a delightful spot for repose and diversion. The daulat-khana is also called baradari which is a misnomer. A baradari is essentially a structure with 12 openings, (Bara means 12, dar means door), while the daulat-khana has only eight, being an octagon with only one opening on each side. The daulat-khana was built by Jahangir in 1620 and alterations and renovation work were carried out by Shahjahan in 1634.

A beautiful thick jungle flanks the northern side of the pool and opposite side of the pool a tree-lined garden. One can see a patch of forest which is similar to the scrub forest vegetation of Mughal times.

The main attraction of the Sheikhupura town is a Hiran Minar which has always drawn a crowd of picnickers, especially during spring and winter. On Sundays and public holidays, families from nearby areas and towns come to the Hiran Minar.

Unfortunately, the monument is not being maintained properly and local population is not benefiting from this great historical place. Lack of quality food and public toilets has posed problems for the regular visitors, especially women and children. Another disappointment for the visitors is the closure of the Mughal tower which gives a pretty bird’s eye view of the naturally green environs.

An official placed at the site said the tower had been closed “to stop suicides”. He further said that funds were needed for the conservation of the Hiran Minar.

“There have been efforts to get the monument registered with the UNESCO’s World Heritage List, but in the absence of an extensive management plan and measures to improve the monument, the objective has not been achieved,” said an expert.

Hiran Minar really needs proper care, completion of walls and roads, proper development and a strong management thus can easily be turned into a restful facility for locals as well as foreigners.

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