Gul Begum Bagh Garden

Gul Begum Bagh Garden, Lahore. Pakistan.

Gul Begum was the wife of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, whom she married in 1831 when he was 51 years old. Gul Begum had first attracted the Maharaja's attention when he saw her performing a dance for a number of his guests.

When learning she was from Amritsar, the Maharaja rode there personally and requested that the girl appear before him, which she did. Even when learning that she was a Muslim (the Maharaja was a Sikh), he was so captivated by her that he chose to defy social convention by marrying her. He first went to the Golden Temple at Amritsar to pray forgiveness for his actions then proceeded with his plan. He announced that Gul Begum would be his queen but that her faith would be respected. For the next few years after their marriage Gul Begum--who was henceforth known as Maharani Gulbahar Begum--collaborated closely with the Maharaja and even rode on the same elephant as him when appearing in public.

While living in Lahore Gul Begum was provided with a detached palace between the Rang Mahal and Haveli Mian Khan, not far from the site of the garden shown here which she had built in 1856 (17 years after the Maharaja's death). She spent the remainder of her life in this area (known as Mozang) and built a tomb-like building on the south side in which she was interred in 1865or 1866. Although she had no children she was survived by her adopted son Sardar Khan who cared for the gardens and is also buried here.

Curiously, although the garden was relatively small by Lahore standards, nearly a square kilometer of present-day Lahore is known as the Bagh Bul Begum neighborhood. One hopes that this now-dilapidated garden may one day be refurbished to make it an integral part of the neighborhood that has taken its name.

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