–Structures found during ongoing excavation process at Musamam Gate may be escape routes
–WCLA conservation director says sites will be opened for public after successful restoration
LAHORE: A tunnel, structures with chambers and a ramp have been discovered during the conservation and excavation process at the Musamam Gate of Lahore Fort while the Walled City of Lahore Authority (WCLA) is of the view that both the discoveries age to the Mughal Era.
On visiting the location, Pakistan Today learnt that the Musamam Gate was situated behind the Alamgiri Gate and was built during Shah Jahan’s rule as an entrance to the fort. The gate was being conserved by WCLA and after the removal of almost 150,000 cubic feet debris from that area, which had gathered over the passage of time, the structure and the tunnel were revealed.
Previously, two British-era cannons were also discovered from the spot as the Barood Khana (arsenal depot) was also close to the vicinity.
WCLA Media and Marketing Deputy Director Tania Qureshi told Pakistan Today that Musamam Gate and later the Alamgiri Gate were connected with the Shah Burj or Sheesh Mahal area with a garden. “Several changes inside the fort were made during the Sikh rule but prominent changes were made by the British as they added structures to accommodate the army and military soldiers.”
She said that the garden connecting the Alamgiri and Musamam gates was converted into a road – the same that was used to enter the fort via the British-built Postern Gate today. “This separated the gates, the Royal Kitchen and other areas from the Sheesh Mahal or Shah Burj Gate. The structures around the Musamam Gate were also damaged by the British,” Tania said.
WCLA Conservation Director Najamus Saqib informed Pakistan Today that the entire place was linked to the Shah Burj Gate also known as Hathi Pol (elephant stairs) during the Mughal Era. “We see a similar square in the Agra Fort too. The gates were erected in a manner that on the front was a plain wall and then the chambers of the guards were built on the other side.”
“We can see that it was a low lying area as more than half of the building of Barood Khana was buried under the ground and debris. We cleared almost 4 feet high debris from the area and revealed these amazing structures. We have found some chambers, tunnels and a ramp next to the Musamam Gate beside foundations of other structures,” he said, adding that it could be a continuity of the chambers near the Alamgiri Gate as well.
He further said that the geometrical analysis of the structure would be carried out by WCLA to see how the entire structure looked in its days of glory.
“The tunnel is an amazing thing that has been revealed and it must be leading to the Alamgiri Gate but that can’t be said with surety unless the geometrical analysis of the area is done and excavation is completed. Tunnels inside the fort have been a mystery for all and discovering one is an achievement. It could be a passage to the Huzoori Bagh or an escape tunnel as well,” Najam said.
“WCLA will be restoring these amazing sites and complete the conservation of the Musamam gate soon, after which we will illuminate it and open it for tourists,” he added.