Monday, August 31, 2009

Hiran Minar

Hiran Minar is a brick minaret built over the grave of the favourite antelope of emperor Nooruddin Mahmood Jahangir in Sheikhupura. In 1605 he laid the foundation stone of Jahangirpura, also called Sheikhupura (as Jahangir was affectionately called Sheikhu by his father, Jalaludin Muhammad Akbar). Sheikhupura became Jahangir's favourite hunting ground. Here, he built a beautiful fort, complete with a castle. He frequently visited this place and enjoyed hunting in the lush green forest. Legend has it that once Jahangir went there for his usual recluse and captured a beautiful wild antelope. This antelope was tamed in the brief span of one month. Jahangir named it Mansraj (King of the Antelopes). Whenever Jahangir came to Jahangirpura, Mansraj was the focus of special royal attention. But once, when Jahangir went on a hunt, he accidently shot Mansraj, and killed him. Jahangir, profoundly grieved, decided to build a tomb for his favorite pet and in 1607 forbade hunting in the area.He ordered a minaret to be built over the grave of Mansraj under the guidance of Sikander Mueen. The statue adorning the grave was shaped like an antelope, a fact recorded in the Tuzk-e-Jahangiri (Memoirs of Jahangir), although no stone is discernable over it now. Excavations in 1959 unearthed the head of the statue.
Jahangir came to inspect the tomb and was not satisfied. He ordered a baradari and a pond to be constructed. These were completed under the supervision of Iradat Khan in 1620. Shah Jahan, the next Mughal ruler, made some important alterations to the building in 1638. A common legend narrates that once a Sikh ruler came to see the Minar, which at that time was double its present height. When he climbed to the top, he accidently saw his daughter taking a bath. Infuriated, he ordered the minar to be cut to half its size. This was done.The Hiran Minar complex is spread over sixteen acres. The fish pond, measuring 750 feet by 890 feet, is fed by a canal. The minaret is 110 feet high and is approached by 110 steps. The pond is surrounded by a typical Mughal-style garden with rows of trees and pathways. However, the entire site is in a dilapidated condition. The baradari and minar are crumbling, the garden is untended, and the fish pond is a dirty green, although there are still fish in it.

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