Anarkali or “Pomegranate Blossom” was the nickname of an attractive girl who was brought up in Akbar’s harem and was suspected by the emperor of carrying on an intrigue with prince Salim, afterwards the emperor Jahangir. The story of Anarkali tomb Lahore is variously told, but it would appear that the girl was barbarously executed in the year A.D. 1599. When Salim came to the throne, he strove to make some amends for the tragedy by building a large tomb over her grave. This tomb stands in the grounds of the Punjab Secretariat to the south of the old city, and has passed through vicissitudes which have concealed all its original decoration. It is hexagonal on plan, with a domed octagonal tower at each corner, and is crowned by a central dome on a tall cylindrical drum. After 1851 Anarkali tomb was used as a Christian church, and for this purpose the arched openings in the eight sides were wholly or partially walled in, a gallery (now removed) was constructed in the interior with an external staircase, and the whole structure was whitewashed internally and externally. The large monolithic marble gravestone had already been moved out of the building in the Sikh period, when the tomb was turned into a residence, amongst the occupants being General Ventura, the famous Italian officer of the Sikh Government. The stone was subsequently replaced by the British within the Anarkali tomb, but in one of the side bays, not in its original central position. It has been stated that the actual grave was also moved to the present site of the gravestone, but digging in 1940 in the middle of the building revealed the former still intact five feet below the present floor, in its proper place. From accounts of the discovery, the grave would appear to be of plastered brickwork. The building was also used as the Punjab Record Office.
The gravestone bears well-cut inscriptions which include the date of the death of Anarkali with the words “In Lahore” and the date of the construction of the Anarkali tomb (A.D. 1615). It also bears the ninety-nine attributes of God, and a poignant couplet, obviously composed by Jahangir himself, which may be translated thus:
“Ah, could I behold the face of my beloved once more,
I would give thanks unto my God until the day of resurrection.”
Elsewhere on the marble are the words: “The profoundly enamoured Salim, son of Akbar”.
It is for these inscriptions, and for the vast size of the building which reinforces their sincerity, that the Anarkali tomb is noteworthy, rather than for any special architectural quality.