The city of Lahore is a cultural fantasy that offers every religious sphere to historical era’s buildings and monuments. The circular road that runs along the western side of the old city is an exciting view of tall old narrow houses of roughly baked brick crammed together in a tightly twisted alley. On the right of the Badshahi mosque, the Iqbal Park, which houses Minar-e-Pakistan and the Great Lahore Fort is the tomb or Samadhi of Maharaja Ranjit Singh that honours the founder of the short-lived Sikh Empire, Maharaja Ranjit Singh. In the same compound lies the Gurdwara of Guru Arjan Dev.
Ranjit Singh ruled Punjab and Kashmir from 1799 to 1839 and was known as the one-eyed lion of Punjab. He was uneducated but had the steadfastness and direction of a great ruler. His sons, however, were unable to manage the throne that was taken over by the British in 1849. Ranjit Singh’s tomb or Samadhi’s construction was initiated by his son Kharak Singh immediately where Ranjit Singh was cremated, but it was completed by his other son Dalip Singh in 1848.
The tomb is an impressive example of Sikh architecture, with luxuriously caressed domes, cupolas and a baroque balustrade around the top. The marble laid inside has been taken from various Mughal monuments in Lahore. Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s ashes lie in a lotus-shaped marble urn, sheltered under a marble pavilion decorated with ‘Parchin Kari’ or pietra dura, in the centre of the tomb. Other tiny urns are the ashes of his four wives and seven concubines, who threw themselves on his funeral pyre. Two small monuments to the west of the main mausoleum commemorate Ranjit Singh’s son Kharak and grandson Nau Nihal, and their wives.
The Gurdwara of Guru Arjan Dev lies in the same compound as that of the mausoleum. Guru Arjan was known as the fifth Sikh guru who compiled the Sikh holy book of (Adi Granth). Guru Arjan is known to have parted ways to join Jahangir’s rebel son Khusrau during the struggle for succession after Akbar’s death. Jahangir in his rage confiscated Arjan Dev’s property in 1606 and sentenced him to death. Before, Guru Arjan’s execution he took permission from Jahangir to bathe in the Ravi River. Legend has it, that as soon as Guru Arjan stepped into the water, he miraculously disappeared. The tomb of Guru Arjan was built on the same spot where he had disappeared by the great Sikh leader Ranjit Singh.
The Gurdwara and the tomb of Ranjit Singh are a treasure trove and a unique architectural splendor. Though closed to the general public the Gurdwara and Samadhi are visited by thousands of Hindus and Sikhs every day.