The Shahi Hammam is located inside Delhi Gate and provides an ideal context for welcoming visitors to the Walled City. In 2012, the Walled City Authority created an enabling environment for the restoration of the Shahi Hammam by removing commercial encroachments around the historic building. With the help of a generous grant from the Royal Norwegian Embassy (RNE), Aga Khan Cultural Service-Pakistan (AKCS-P), country affiliate of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC), is implementing the conservation of the Hammam. It is has been completed in May 2015.See Shahi Hammam and all Lahore has to offer by arranging your trip with our Lahore tour builder app .
The Shahi Hammam is the only monumental building in Pakistan which represents the Central Asian/Turkish/Irani tradition of public hot baths. It was designed as a public bathhouse to service both the visiting travelers as well as the inhabitants of the city. A caravanserai was also located nearby but it no longer exists. Hakim Ilm ud din Ansari, who was granted the title of Wazir Khan, was also responsible for the construction of the famous Wazir Khan Mosque further inside the Walled City.
The Hammam is a single storey building and covers an area of approximately1,050 square metres. Built on the pattern of Turkish and Iranian bathing establishments of its time (which consisted of hot, warm and cool plunges, sweat rooms and related facilities), the Hammam is a collection of 21 inter-connected rooms offering all the facilities found in a public bath, An additional room is set at an angle facing Mecca and has been used for offering prayers. Although remains found in the Lahore Fort, the Shalimar Gardens, Wah Gardens and some of the larger havelis in the Walled city indicate that smaller, private baths may have been popular during the Mughal and Sikh eras, the Shahi Hammam is the only monumental public bath in the Sub-continent from that period which still survives. The entrance gateway on the west and the main hall in the northern part of the building are exquisitely decorated with frescoed panels depicting angels, animals, birds, floral and geometric designs.
In 1955, Shahi Hammam was recognized as a cultural asset and declared a protected monument by the Department of Archaeology. In 1991, under the Punjab Urban Development Project (PUDP), a joint initiative of the Government of Punjab and the World Bank, infrastructure in a substantial part of the Walled City was upgraded. In addition to their habilitation of utility and social services infrastructure, selected assets of cultural value were conserved and put into adaptive re-use. Having been covered for decades, if not centuries, with successive layers of whitewash, the frescoes were uncovered in 1991 and were found to be unaltered specimens of Mughal era wall paintings.
Sometime during its history, the building was converted into a boys’ primary school, a girls’ vocational school, a dispensary and it has been used as offices by various government departments. Makeshift structures, to provide residential accommodation for some of the staff, were added on the roof. The northwestern rooms were rented out as shops by the Department of Auqaf while additional shops were allowed along the building’s northern, western and southern façades.
These occupations resulted in the structure of the Hammam being subjected to numerous alterations and modifications without any regard to its historic or cultural sanctity, besides leaving it without proper maintenance and upkeep. Additionally, the outer façades and part of the roof served as carriers of utility lines (trunk electricity and telephone cables, as well as distribution wires) haphazardly strung along the surfaces of its facades. The open drains, which originally ran along the outside walls, had either been built over or obstructed by commercial encroachments, causing water to percolate into foundations and walls and resulting in loss of wall finishes. Lack of maintenance also resulted in the deterioration of roof surfaces, thus allowing rainwater to seep into the walls and was the main factor in the exfoliation of lime plaster and deterioration of wall paintings.
In 2012, WCLA facilitated the removal of all commercial encroachments around the Shahi Hammam complex. A total of 52 shops were removed from the building’s external premises. The WCLA then carried out the requisite tasks to consolidate the structure of the northern façade and also added a retaining wall on the same side to protect the Hammam.
Currently, WCLA’s project partner AKTC-AKCSP carried out the restoration of the Shahi Hammam, with grant support from the Royal Norwegian Embassy. The conservation project been in the range of USD 1 million and the RNE contributed USD 650,000.
In 2013, the AKCS-P team in Lahore initiated the process of documenting the historic building with electronic distance measurement tools and photo ortho-rectification. Several phases of exploratory activities were then carried out to study the causes of decay to the building’s structure and architectural features. The building’s form along with its historic function was examined by removing all modern elements that concealed the underlying historical features of a functional bathhouse. This process revealed changes the building had been subjected to over its life. Further, sub-soil investigations were conducted to determine soil conditions and constructions. Throughout the excavation process, artefacts were collected and catalogued.
In order to enhance the present day experience of the Hammam’s historic function, the set of interventions comprise the preservation of extant elements, the exposure and display of original waterworks, drainage and heating networks as well as the original floor level that had been covered over in 1991. Water ingress into and further decay of the building’s structure has been arrested. On the western side, the Hammam’s original entrance has also been restored. The centuries old frescoes inside the Hammam has also been cleaned and restored with the help of fresco conservation expertise from Sri Lanka.
The conservation of the Shahi Hammam is a first of its kind in the Punjab province. A basic premise underlying its restoration and re-use as a museum pertains to the urban context in which historic sites are located in predominantly densely populated localities. Since 2007, the Punjab Government has directed its efforts to promote the improvement of urban infrastructure services in order to create enabling environments for urban rehabilitation as well as monument conservation. In order to enhance the quality of life of residents in the Walled City as well as to increase their associations with heritage sites, it was deemed imperative to address the range of problems directly linked to the provision of urban services in historic spaces. As a result, much of the effort has been to undertake area-wide development so as to synchronize the needs of particular historic sites such as the Hammam and the Wazir Khan Mosque with their larger urban setting.
The WCLA team sincerely hopes that the Shahi Hammam’s conservation will draw attention to the centuries old heritage that the Walled City offers to not only the residents of a fast expanding Lahore but to visitors from all corners of the world. Thus far, our collaboration with international organizations such as the Aga Khan Trust for Culture and the Royal Norwegian Embassy is a fine example in terms of fostering public-private partnerships for the sustainable development of cultural sites in historic cities. In the foreseeable future, we are directing our efforts to conserve the Wazir Khan Mosque in its entirety and to begin the documentation of the Lahore Fort complex.
Shahi Hammam Reviews
Shahi Hammam is one of the treasure of great old walled city, recently restored by Agha Khan trust. The Hammam is accessible through Dehli Gate by walk. The Royal Baths ( Shahi Hammam) are excellent p... more »
Shahi or Royal Hamam is accessible from Delhi gate in old Lahore, greatly restored by Agha Khan trust and Norwegian govt, it gives you a rare inside of the lives of the Mughal emperors of the past,bui... more »
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