The most popular picnic spot around Lahore; however, is the Hiran Minar which is located in Sheikhupura district around 40 km. in the north west of Emperor Jahangir’s mausoleum. Hiran Minar, Deer tower is the monument to an antelope which the emperor loved dearly. In beauty and grandeur it surpasses the tomb of his beloved queen Nur Jahan Ironical though it may seem, but it is not surprising, because Jahangir had no hand in the building of Nur Jahan’s tomb.
The Emperor Jahangir, known as Prince Salim, before he ascended the throne, was affectionately called “Sheikhu” by his father, the Great Mughal, Akbar. He was a great lover of beauty and his romantic disposition gave birth to many legends like that of his love for Anarkali and Nur Jahan. But the Hiran Minar perpetuates yet another legend, his love for animals. From the 130 feet high tower one can have a panoramic view of the area which was once a fertile jungle across the River Ravi, and it was the favourite hunting ground of Jahangir.
With the advance of the peasant’s plough, the jungles have long since vanished and with them the antelopes and other flora and fauna. But even today the ‘Deer Tower’ beckons the tourists to charmingly peaceful surroundings of green woods and smiling fields.
An hour’s comfortable drive from the bustling city of Lahore on a metalled road brings the visitors to the massive Minar surrounded by green trees. The top of the five storied tower has succumbed to the vicissitudes of time. But what remains of the tower still speaks of the beauty of the Mughal construction. A winding staircase takes the visitors to the circular top of the tower standing on its octagonal base.
An artificial lake covering 6,418,000 sq. feet reflects the image of the tower, its three tiered octagonal “Baradari” and the four small pavilions at the corners of the lake. Visitors can row and fish in the sparkling waters, far away from the tensions of city life.
Hiran Minar is yet another testimony to the Mughal genius for construction. Unique in design, pattern and setting, Hiran Minar adds a glorious chapter to the Mughals, their love for building edifices of great strength and grandeur of noble simplicity and elegance. Sometimes they reflected their gracious way of life or their journey to the other world. On other occasions they were erected as an apotheosis of masculine chivalry or feminine grace.
The spacious ‘Baradari’, (Twelve gates) stands in the center of the artificial lake. A causeway supported by 20 arches leads to the ‘Baradari’ built on a platform emerging from the deep blue water. With the cool breeze whistling through the arches, the visitors enter the ‘Baradari’ through a simple but impressive square porch. The ‘Baradari’ is artfully designed to beat off the heat and humidity outside.
It is believed that in the old days Hiran Minar served as an excellent watch-tower to spot and shoot game. A lot of shooting takes place there even today but it is shooting with a difference. Instead of using bows and arrows, the visitors now use their sophisticated cameras to capture the enchanting views of the peaceful countryside.
After the death of Mansraj, it is believed that, the Emperor prohibited hunting of this species in the area. In 1959 while excavating at the foot of the tower, the head of an antelope carved out of red sandstone was found at the depth of 1 m. This head is, without doubt, a part of the large-size statue of Mansraj which Jahangir had ordered to be placed at the tomb of his favourite antelope. The Sheikhupura district also produced two greatest poets of the Punjabi i.e. Guru Nanak and Waris Shah.