(Last Updated on : 25/07/2013)
The undivided Punjab was the first state where Indo-Islamic architecture emerged as a provincial style with the Muslim invasion to Indian subcontinent. Islamic architecture made its way to the cities of Multan and Lahore through separate routes during different periods. Multan was the city of undivided Punjab of India and became a part of Pakistan in 1947. Earlier the architecture in Multan region was mainly of timber construction. However, there are no complete examples of Islamic architecture of this period in Lahore, but in Multan there is a group of the five tombs of an ancient date on Indo-Islamic architecture. The construction of these five tombs extends over a period of one hundred and seventy years, from the middle of the twelfth to the beginning of the fourteenth centuries. These tombs are Shah Yusuf Gardizi's tomb, Shah Bahau-1-Haqq's tomb, Shadna Shahid's tomb, Shah Shams-ud-din Tikrizi's tomb and Shah Rukn-i-Ala'm's tomb. These are made up of brick and wood, decorated with glazed tiles.
Multan was the city when Arab invasion took place in its Sindh area in the eighth century. Due to the early penetration, it was linked with the Southern Persia through road, river and sea and later became the capital of an independent Arab. However, Lahore in undivided Punjab received the Islamic influence and its architecture later from Afghanistan in the tenth century when Mahmud Ghazni captured Punjab. Later Ghazni was defeated by the rival power Ghor, and Lahore became an important centre and the capital of the Ghaznavide kingdom. In the twelfth century, the city was known mainly for the royal residences of the princes of that dynasty. It can be said that Indo Islamic architecture in Punjab initiated in that era.
Both the Lahore's and Multan's architecture were of Ghaznavide-Saljuqian and of Arab-Persian derivation respectively. It can be said that the Indo Islamic architecture in Punjab was influenced by such Ghaznavide-Saljuqian building arts and is believed as one of the style. In the pre medieval period the architecture of the Punjab province was constructed of brick. The buildings were timber framed with the wooden beams inserted in the walls. Arches were absent in these buildings in which the brick and timber walls were sloped to offer better solidity. The brickworks in the Indo-Islamic architecture of Punjab province were of fine quality that produced highly decorated building arts. The horizontally placed beams were embedded with brickwork and other substantial wooden elements, especially doorways, windows and also hanging balconies providing a very artistic wooden portico. The half timbered construction of buildings were decorated with painted plaster with paneling of glazed tiles in dazzling colours. Doors were framed and carved with wooden designs resembling heavy tassels and knotted fringes, by cords on each side to form the opening. These were the major Islamic architectures developed during the medieval period. Due to the sloping construction in the buildings, they appeared like tents. These buildings were basically Islamic impregnated with the imaginative genius of the indigenous craftsman.
The presence of five tombs in Multan region depicts the saga of Indo-Islamic architecture in Punjab region. Each is the mausoleum of a saintly person related with the history of the city. The first four are square in plan, but the largest one is the tomb of Shah Rukn-i-Alam. It is the most important tomb and is octagonal in shape with a pronounced sloping in its lower storey. The mausoleum of Shah Yusuf Gardizi was the oldest mausoleum constructed in the twelfth century. It is a rectangular, one storey, flat roofed cubical building standing within an enclosed courtyard. Its elevation consists of the steady surfaces of four vertical walls. The sole relief, an oblong portion is slightly projected to frame the doorway and the other portion contains the "mihrab" in the inner side. The floral designs present in the tomb are rare. While most of the faces of the tiles are simply painted, few are moulded that represents a rich plastic appearance of spotted colour.
The other three tombs were built after the thirteenth century. Although they are rectangular in plan, their architecture varies from the previous one. They are in built in three stages. The lowest portion is square shaped; on top of it is an octagonal second storey while the above portion is a hemispherical dome. The tomb of the Shah Bahau-i-Haqq is the best example of the indo Islamic architecture in Punjab. It is forty feet tall foundational storey without any ornament. The facade is a well-designed arched with a doorway in thinning planes. The second storey of this tomb has an octagonal drum forming with an arched opening, above which is the hemispherical dome.
One of the most important and impressive building of Indo-Islamic architectural in Punjab is the tomb of saint Shah Rukn-i-Alam. It is famous for its unique architecture. The tomb was constructed by the Delhi ruler Ghiyas-ud-din Tughlaq between the years 1320 and 1324. It is octagonal, measures 90 feet in diameter. The total height including its finial is 115 feet; the heights of the first and second storey are 50 feet and 25 feet respectively, while the dome measures 50 ft. The bricks are carved deep into the timbering walls at appropriate intervals and their brickwork is ornately chiseled with glazed tiles. The tiles present in the tombs represent a bright colour into the deserted place where it is located, while its walls of thirteen feet of solid brickwork through which the submissive light passes along the tunnels of the grilles provides a cool and sombre sanctuary for the saint's last repose.
The Islamic architecture in Punjab province represents three patterns in their construction. They represents the amalgamation of Islamic, Arabian, Iranian, and Indian culture, something of the best has been taken from the building traditions of each, to produce a memorial of a specific architectural character. They imply an unusual derivation and are unique in their design and mode of treatment, especially in the handling of the woodwork.