Lahore Fort was built in the first place in order to have complete control over the city of Lahore and its surrounding area. Although the fort is no longer used for military purposes the city is still a major military stronghold as it borders with India with whom Pakistan has fought a few wars, one of which saw heavy fighting and attacks on Lahore.
There have been fortifications in and around Lahore since the Stone Age, with coins found there from the fifth century AD. No one knows the exact date of when the fort was first built but the earliest available records show this was more than 1000 years ago.
Lahore fort is located somewhere in the northern part of the walled city. The walled city consists of older parts of Lahore and has a lot of historical structures, mostly dating back from the Mughal era.
The local population of Lahore have called the fort Shahi Qila for several centuries, a name of combined Punjabi and Urdu origins.
There have been various fortifications where the fort is, most of the earlier forts being either partially destroyed, or completely destroyed when sieges of the city were successful.
Destroyers of previous forts have included the Mongols in 1241, and then the army of Amir Tamir in 1398.
In the years between sieges, or being attacked the fort had to be repaired to make it harder for the next attackers to take it. For example it was reconstructed under the orders of Ghiyas ud bin Balban in 1267.
By 1432 it had been so badly damaged that the ruler of Kabul, Shaikh Ali ordered urgent repairs.
Those repairs came eleven years after Sultan Mubarak Shah Syed had reconstructed the entire fortification in mud.
The Mughals responsible for building the present incarnation of Lahore Fort noted the strategic importance of the area, and it is still considered to be important down to the present day.
The Lahore Fort was constructed during the reign of the Mughal Emperor Akbar, who ordered its extensive rebuilding from 1566.
In terms of architecture it has all the elegance and style normally associated with the Mughals. Whilst it looks elegant Lahore Fort was also designed to be a formidable fortress.
Akbar ordered such features as the royal balcony (Jharoka-e-Darshan) and the Masjidi Gate.
Akbar’s successors, especially Jehangir and Shahjahan added other features to the fort. The former added Doulat Khana-e-Jaghanir(Treasury Room of Jehangir), the latter being responsible for the Shish Mahal (Palace of Mirrors), Khawabgah (Sleeping Quarters), and the Khilwat Khana (Place of Isolation).
Shahjahan even added a mosque in the grounds of the fort, namely the Moti Masjid, or Pearl Mosque, built in 1633.
The fort did not change hands again until 1758, when it was captured by Raghunathrao who led the Maratha forces to victory.
Within several years the Maratha had made way for the city and fort to be ruled by the Bhangi Sikh Dynasty. They in turn were ousted by the Maharaja Ranjit Sigh. Singh and his successors remained in charge until the British invaded the whole of the Punjab in 1849.
After the end of the Mughal empire the British also considered the maintaining of control over the Lahore Fort as important for the security of the Indian Raj.
The British knew from first hand experience how difficult it was to gain control of this citadel. When the British conquered the fort they found out that the Sikhs had further strengthened the fortress as they had expected conflict with the British. After all they had to do to take control of the fort from the Sikhs, the English rulers knew its strategic importance.
The British controlled Lahore Fort from 1849 through to 1947. They used Lahore as a base for unsuccessful attempts to take control of Afghanistan.
The Fort has been under Pakistan’s control since the country’s independence in 1947.