Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan is known for constructing beautiful structures, not to mention the gorgeous Taj Mahal that is one of the wonders of the world. Similarly, Shah Jahan is attributed for building several structures inside the Lahore Fort and in other areas of the city, like the famous Shalimar Gardens. However, according to historians, the place that Shah Jahan was in love with the most was Naulakha and the emperor spent most of his time there whenever he was in Lahore. Most of you must have visited this majestic structure but I am sure are unfamiliar with why it was constructed? Well this small structure is located inside the Sheesh Mahal area and as you enter the main gate the building on your left is this pavilion which would at once capture your attention. This is the Naulakha Pavilion which was named so because it was constructed with Rs Nine Lakhs, at that time, and is one of the twenty one buildings inside the Lahore Fort. It has also been recognised as a world heritage site by UNESCO. As you see this structure you will notice that the pavilion is rectangular in shape, situated in the west of Sheesh Mahal, and is prominent because of its centrally arched and extraordinarily curved roof. This unique feature is symbolic of Shahjahani architecture. Historians and architects claim that this small structure built with white marble, reflects a mixture of contemporary traditions of sloping-roof from Bengal, and Baldachin from Europe. This also demonstrates the majestic as well as religious image of the subject. Some researchers and historians say that the original roof was probably gilded, which means it was coated with gold and the golden roof remained intact until the Mughal rule lasted in Lahore. Naulakha was built in 1663 on the orders of Shah Jahan, for his beloved wife Arjumand Banu Begum also known as Mumtaz Mahal. The building was designed as the emperor’s summer resting house. It is said that Mumtaz Mahal passed away before residing in the pavilion which made Shah Jahan extremely sad but that was not the end of their love story. At the same time Shah Jahan ordered the construction of the Taj Mahal, where Mumtaz Mahal was later reburied and their love is celebrated till today by the people who visit the monument. It is also said that the shape of Naulakha was inspired by the empress’s crown. Many experts are of the opinion that it was designed by Ustad Ahmed Lahauri, the same man who later designed the Taj Mahal. Historians write that the Naulakha design is also attributed to an Italian by the name of Geronimo Veroneo, a famous jeweler from Italy who many ascribe as also being involved in the Taj Mahal design. As unique and impressive monument of Mughal architecture, the building became a source of inspiration for the famous writer Rudyard Kipling during his early days in Lahore and he titled one of his novels The Naulakha. It is also said that the shape of Naulakha was inspired by the empress’s crown. Many experts are of the opinion that it was designed by Ustad Ahmed Lahauri, the same man who later designed the Taj Mahal The most distinguishing feature of Naulakha Pavilion is the tiny and intricate marble and stone inlay work found inside it. If you ever visit this place, do take a closer look and you will see some of the precious stones. It is said that stones like agate, jade, goldstone, lapis lazuli and other precious stones were vigilantly worked into the marble in the forms of delicate floral and geometric designs. Would you believe that in one of the niches, a tiny floral pattern measuring only two and a quarter by one and three quarters an inch contains 102 pieces of inlaid gems. This sort of artistic and difficult work is hard to find in modern buildings and reflects the taste of the artisans and passion of the builder. The windows of Naulakha are screened with exquisite marble screens (jali) to allow the cool breezes in. While standing there you can see the walls of the Lahore Fort and the city streets. The feeling of the breeze blowing through the jali is a source of fascination for the tourists. One can imagine the peace and tranquility of this place in the past when the pavilion was at the peak of its majesty. Historians have written that the screens or jali were once covered with silver lining in the exquisite and delicate ‘parchin kari’ ornamentation, which is even today considered among the finest artwork in the world. Lahore was even then known for this art but today we do not find any artisan who can do this. According to historic references after the death of Shah Jahan the pavilion was used by emperor Aurangzeb for his prayers as the pavilion faces towards Mecca. The following years brought damage and deterioration to the building. During the Afghan rule further damage was done to the building as the semi precious stones and gems were pulled out and the entire structure was damaged. Later, under the Sikh rule, many soldiers plundered the golden roof and pulled out semi precious stones from the pavilion. As the British took over the fort, Naulakha was occupied by soldiers of the East India Company. The first soldiers are known to have stolen a lot of semi-precious stones, with some even scrapping out some gold left in the crevices in the rooftop. After 1947 the pavilion was further damaged by wall chalking and weathering. Even today you will see graffiti on the walls of Naulakha and this makes me sad that we as a nation were unable to properly preserve this architectural masterpiece. In 1964 the Pakistani one-rupee note had a picture of Naulakha on it, which was later replaced by the tomb of the poet Iqbal. I must say that in the past this place must have been a source of peace and harmony. The emperor would have felt tranquility among the beautiful structures and small fountains playing their soothing tunes in the courtyard. Today the fountains are not functional but the aura of the place is the same. It is a stunning sight if you go there on a full moon night and now that the Walled City of Lahore Authority has illuminated this place, tourists too can feel that sense of peace and serenity. Published in Daily Times, September 30th 2018.