–One of the most important monuments on GT Road being used as resting spot by Railways’ workers
–Tomb’s once lush green gardens covered in waist-high shrubs; parts being used as industrial rail yard
–Archaeology deputy director assures taking up monument’s restoration within ongoing month
LAHORE: The Tomb of Ali Mardan, located on the Grand Trunk (GT) Road, is in shambles and its condition is worsening with every passing day while the authorities concerned bat no eye, Pakistan Today has learnt.
According to sources, the Punjab Archaeology Department, which had declared it as a “protected site”, is paying no heed to the preservation of the monument that is also suffering owing to the negligence of Pakistan Railways.
“Railways department now owns the piece of land the tomb is situated on,” they said and added that the historic site was only opened to the public for a little time every Thursday.
“The embellishments of Ali Mardan Khan’s tomb are also fading away with the passage of time,” sources said, adding that although it is one of the most important monuments on the GT Road, its antiquity is under threat.
“As the tomb is within the territory of Pakistan Railways, the authorities have built a kilometer long passageway from the street to the tomb in an effort to prevent visitors from trespassing on the rail yard grounds. The chambers having intricate pietra dura works have been hidden behind recklessly erected walls whereas the fresco paintings on the walls and ceilings of the structure have been ruined by railways workers, who use the site as a resting spot.”
The lush green gardens, they further said, which once surrounded the structure were under the Pakistan Railways as well, but no efforts had ever been made to maintain them.
“The graves of Ali Mardan and his mother are also in a dilapidated condition whereas the entire area is covered in waist-high shrubs and wild plantation.”
According to a tourist guide, Muhammad Javed, the tomb was built in the 1650s and reflected the decorative features of the 16th and 17th-century Mughal-era structures.
“The Tomb of Ali Mardan Khan was a beautiful burial structure and once it was surrounded by a lush garden like many other Mughal-era tombs. Unfortunately, now the lush green gardens are being used as an industrial rail yard.”
“The tomb is a huge brick construction with a high dome and kiosks on angular points. It was originally an outstanding construction as the dome was finished with white marble housing a floral design of black marble. On the sides, the structure had beautiful Timurid aiwans,” Javed said.
He added that the graves were built on a three-foot-high red sandstone platform beneath a larger dome decorated with inlaid precious stones and fresco patterns.
Speaking of the life and works of Ali Mardan, he said, “Other than being one of the key officials of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, Mardan was also known as a distinguished engineer who supervised the construction of numerous buildings.”
“The water supply system of Shalimar Gardens in Kashmir was also planned by him and his lasting contribution was the construction of a canal from Ravi to the Shalimar Gardens in Lahore,” he told this scribe.
“Mardan died in 1657 while on his way to Kashmir. His body was carried back to Lahore and buried in the magnificent tomb that he had built for his mother.”
Commenting on the monument’s derelict condition, Archaeology Deputy Director Malik Maqsood said that they will be taking up its conservation within the ongoing month.
“We will be carrying out the monument’s structural strengthening while the lime plasters, fresco, terrace, mosaic tiles, lawns, walkways and the fountains will be fully restored.” The tender of the restoration work will also be released in December, he added.
“The department will conserve the tomb to the fullest of its capabilities and make it a state-of-the-art monument for the tourists,” Maqsood said.