The Shahi Hammam is the only monumental structure in Pakistan that reflects the history of public hot baths in Central Asia, Turkey, and Iran. The building was built to serve tourists and the people of the city as a public bathhouse.
There was also a caravanserai, but it does not exist anymore. Hakim Ilm-ud-din Ansari designed this bath; he was also the builder of the well-known Wazir Khan Mosque.
Lahore Governor, Ilm-ud-din Ansari, finished building Shahi Hammam in 1635. In his long years of devotion to the Mughal Empire, then Emperor Shah Jahan dedicated these Royal Baths to Ansari. The “Wazir Khan Hammam” is also known as Shahi Hammam.
The word “Wazir Khan” will be known by many tourists to Lahore, as that is one of the loved mosques in town. “Wazir Khan” means literally the “Officer of the high court” and it also refers to Ansari.
The Royal Baths have been built to support the nearby Wazir Khan Mosque, in addition to serving Mughal authorities. In the Walled City, quite close to Delhi Gate, both Shahi Hammam and Wazir Khan Mosque are situated.
The Hammam is a one-story building with an area of around 1050 sq. meters. Hammam is a series of 21 linked bathrooms with facilities for the public bath, and an extra room with an angle to the Mecca is set for prayers, built following the patterns of Turkish, Iranian, and Persian style.
The west front door and north main hall of the structure include frescoed panels portraying angels, animals, birds, and floral and geometric patterns. There is a separate room for men and women according to Muslim structures.
Everyone who understands the Islamic world’s architectural styles will notice Persian influences in Shahi Hammam quickly.
These Royal Baths were designed and decorated in totally Persian style. In Shahi Hammam, one of the key aspects of the Persian design is the main opening of the dome which allows natural sunlight.
Slowly people ceased utilizing these baths in the 18th century. After the Mughals fell to the Sikhs and later to the British, these baths became just a historical-cultural artifact.
In colonial times, these Royal Baths were changed by the British into offices of bureaucracy, a small children’s school, and a recreational zone. Also during the British rule, other shops started to rise near the Royal Baths.
It’s nestled within the historical Walled City of Lahore, which is the big feature of Shahi Hammam. All of Lahore’s important historic landmarks can be easily visible within walking distance.
There are also several signs throughout Shahi Hammam to assist you in grasping more clearly the historical background of these magnificent baths.
There has been also much assistance from the United Nations for the restoration of the Shahi Hammam. In particular in 2016, in the context of initiatives to conserve the history in Lahore, UNESCO awarded Shahi Hammam the merit award.
The restoration of Shahi Hammam is also a great example of Norway and Pakistan working together to restore ancient heritage.
The Hammam Shahi is the Mughal Empire’s only surviving bath. The Shahi Hammam is one of the best surviving Persian-style Royal Baths in the Islamic world, thanks to its extensive restoration effort. So if you want to see the marvelous architecture of the Mughal Era you must visit Shahi Hammam.