Once I stepped into the Civil Secretariat building, my eyes fell upon the site of an octagonal structure. It turned out to be one of Lahore's national heritage sites — the Anarkali mausoleum. This is one of the earliest existing examples of a double domed structure in Pakistan. A sign of profound love, here the beauty that is at the centre of one of the most legendary love stories of all times, sleeps peacefully.

Presently, the structure houses rooms for Punjab Archives Department — the country's richest treasure house of historical documents. The 16th century tomb of Anarkali holds great attraction for visitors who want to pay homage to someone inspired such a powerful legend.

As the story goes, during the Mughal emperor Akbar's reign, Anarkali — the attributed name of Nadira Begum or Sharf-un-Nisa — was the favourite courtier of the Royal Court. She, when suspected of having a secret love affair with Prince Salim, provoked the emperor's wrath, and was thus punished by being walled alive within the palace.
Prince Salim felt intense remorse at her death and commanded a sumptuous monument to be built over her sepulchre as the sign of his irrepressible outburst and token of love.

It served as an office for the Punjab Board of Administration until 1851, when it was converted into St James Protestant Church of the Civil Station. In 1891, it reverted to the Punjab Government and was converted into a record office and later the Punjab Archives Headquarter.

The building currently houses a collection of documents, maps, mementoes, coins, arms, letters, drawings, sketches, portraits, rare paintings, photographs of viceroys, governors and political persons, including those in power in Pakistan, and a library. Documents of valuable interest include; the 'Mutiny Records' and the 'Persian Records', however, the oldest document is a petition written in Persian by Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib to the British government for a raise in his pension. An interesting section of records is the 'Delhi Papers', mainly concerned with the kings of Delhi and their relations with the British.

Now the physical status of the structure is under other government agency (the local government) and is a declared protected monument. Once a masterpiece of Mughal masonry work, the original decorations and architectural features have changed. The structure is mutilated by whitewashing and the damages depict the indifference and callous attitude of the authorities towards its restoration and maintenance.



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