–One of fort’s oldest monuments discovered after removal of around 100,000 cubic feet of debris
–WCLA official says will take up royal bath’s conservation as soon as documentation process is completed
LAHORE: A Shahi Hammam [royal bath] aging back to Mughal Emperor Akbar’s reign has been discovered at the Lahore Fort while clearing debris from a neglected section behind the Jahangiri Quadrangle and near the fort’s Akbari Gate.
Walled City of Lahore Authority (WCLA) experts say the structure is a mark of the earliest settlement inside the fort during Akbar’s era and it was revealed after removing almost 100,000 cubic feet of debris.
According to sources, the Shahi Hammam was a part of the Akbari Palace and the later constructions or expansions by Mughal emperors Jahangir, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb were made on other sides.
“Previously, the area was neglected and had been turned into a junkyard where piles of debris and garbage could be seen,” sources said.
They added that the Archaeology Department never took up maintenance of different parts of the fort and so important places like the Barood Khana [British-era arsenal] and Royal Kitchens were also buried under debris and wild plantation. “New structures are being revealed since after WCLA took up the task to clean the fort.”
Many times the question of looking into the age of Lahore fort arose but no steps were taken for any excavation or studies, they said while speaking of the negligence of the authorities’ concerned.
“The fort had been lying abandoned and only the main monuments that include Deewane Aam, Sheesh Mahal, Jahangir’s Quadrangle and Shah Jahan’s Quadrangle were open for tourists. As WCLA took the control of the fort, it started cleaning the no-go zones. Previously, the fort was in a pitiable condition but now prominent change can be seen,” sources said.
A tourist at Lahore Fort, Humayun Ehsan, while talking to Pakistan Today said he had been to the place several times and was only familiar with the major attractions.
“I got to know about the Summer Palace, Royal Kitchen and Barood Khana from social media and decided to visit it again with my family. It is unfortunate that all these places had previously been kept in such poor condition,” he added.
WCLA Conservation and Planning Director Najam Saquib told this scribe that the royal bath had been revealed during the removing of ages-old debris lying at the backside of the Jahangiri Quadrangle and fortunately the construction was well intact.
“It is evident from the plan of the fort that this structure was a part of the Akbari Palace and is among the earliest constructions there.”
He said that red sandstone, kankar lime plaster and layout of the royal bath is similar to the one in Delhi Gate area of the Walled City. “There are proper water and steam channels inside the bath and the décor is also simple. The chimneys can also be seen.”
Saquib added that the area was among the neglected parts of the fort, however, now that it has been discovered, the authority will take up its conservation and restoration as soon as the documentation process is completed.