ARCHITECTURE

Architectural Landmark Chajju da Chaubara – 2

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THE administration of the Mayo Hospital Convalescence Home had tried to re-touch the Chaubara. Unfortunately, during 1980, because of bureaucratic apathy the whole structure was white washed, obliterating the immensely beautiful motifs and the gold work of the exterior and the interior. The structure was converted into a prayer room. Thick layers of plaster on the wall concealed the beautiful embellishments. Later, however, the Convalescence Home administration wanted to rennovate its lost grandeur.

The writer, Maria Asghar, is an M Phil scholar at the College of Art & Design, University of Punjab

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An old sketch taken from Sayed Muhammad Latif’s
Lahore,
Its History Architectural Remains & Antiquities

Efforts were made to clean off the whitewash which had covered the real beauty of the embellished walls. But only a few parts could be recovered and, because of rubbing the surface, most of the original form has worn off.

The Chaubara’s basic plan is square. The floor is cut like a squircle with a straight curve on the four sides. The purpose of this curve is to support the four pillars of the Chaubara. The length as well as the width of the floor is 16.7 feet. The original floor was made in red sandstone which is not visible now.

After partition of the south Asian subcontinent into two countries, India and Pakistan, the authorities of Mayo Hospital raised a 7-inch thick rubble plate on the original floor which was visible only near the main door. The total length of each side of the Chaubara is 20 feet. Its façade is simple and elegant. The main façade was erected at the centre of the Shams Shahabuddin Convalescence Home. It still looks very attractive even after more than 450 years. The original grandeur has been lost and the surface decoration of façade has now vanished.

The Chaubara has similar façade on all the four sides. The main façade has the entrance. Noor Ahmad Chishti, in his Tehqiqat-e-Chishti , writes that Chajju used this door to enter his Chaubara by a ladder. The main façade has two small niches. Remains of niches can also be seen in the interiorwalls.

The main façade can be divided into three portions: lower, middle and upper. The lower portion area starts from the ground level to the projected area where the door ends. The middle part has Sikh elements of design.

We can see in this drawing that this part has curved nave, and under it the area is divided into three sections with each section repeating three miniature arches. The middle part had extremely beautiful floral designs but they are now lost.

The Chaubara has similar façade on all the four sides. The author of Tehqiqat-e-Chishti , writes that Chajju used this the front door to enter his Chaubara by a ladder.

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Closer views of the dome, showing it in greater detail. The brick wall (on facing page)

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Luckily, on the middle section of north side, we can see some remnants of those designs which decorated the surface. The western side of the Chaubara has also lost all its surface embellishments. The middle section of west part has been treated very roughly and its marks show ugly scratches areas.

The north side is damaged, and converted into a flat wall.There are three windows each on the north, west and south sides. The Mughal forms appear to have been carried to the Sikh period. The religious architecture of the Sikhs represents an interesting development of the indigenous mainstream. Taken singly; each element of these buildings is derived from a Mughal standard.

The Dome

During Mughlal Emperor Shah Jahan’s era, the domes were usually painted in white, and rarely in gold. The domes of important gurdwaras were covered with gold-plated copper sheets. Some domes had been lined with marble slabs or white or colored with porcelain pieces. Apart from the large central dome, there were often four other cupolas, one at each corner and several small solid domes embellishing the parapet. The dome was invariably topped by an ornate finial, the kalas.

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The dome of the Chaubara is round and its base rests on an octagonal base, although the structure of the Chaubara is square. To support the base of the drum, four additional sup – porting bands had been made on the corners of the four walls of the room. This dome, typically influenced by the Sikh architectural domes, is made in white sandstone which has also been whitewashed. An aerial view of the domes reveals the design of a lotus flower. The lotus is known as the flower that blooms amidst stagnancy, signifying the need to create a unique identity by rising above the temporal issues and affairs of daily life. Each lotus-leaf shaped patterns converges in the center. The dome springs from a floral base and has an inverted lotus top from which rises the kalas or ornate finial.

The interior of the dome carries beautiful metal work which is rare. We can recall the use of mirrors in the Sheesh Mahal (the mirror palace) in Badshahi Masjid. This portion is, luckily, saved of any damage and we can see the original design pattern on it. The entire dome is filled with tree-like motifs (which is a Perso-Mughal element). Between every two motifs, there is a convex shining metal piece.

(Continued in the next issue)