For most of us, Anarkali was like Madhubala, as depicted in the epic film, Mughal-e-Azam. In fact, Anarkali was first mentioned by an English traveller, William Finch, who visited India in 1608 – 11, during Jahangir’s reign. Another British traveller, Edward Terry, corroborated this story.
However, she finds no mention in Abu Fazal’s Akbarnama or Jahangir’s autobiography, Tuzuk-e-Jahangiri (Jahangirnama).
Apparently, the lady in question was nick-named Anarkali, as her complexion resembled a pomegranate, although her name was Sharif un-Nissa, also known as Nadira Begum. It appears that she was a dancing girl in Akbar’s court, who caught the Prince’s eye.
While all these conjectures form a fascinating part of the sub-continent’s history, a magnificent mausoleum does exist in Lahore, which is known as Anarkali’s tomb, having equally fascinating story.
The sarcophagus inside are inscribed a Persian couplet:
_tā qiyāmat shukr gūyam kardigāre khīsh rā āh!
gar man bāz bīnam rūī yār-e khīsh rā_
“I would give thanks unto my God unto the day of resurrection
Ah! could I behold the face of my beloved once more.”
It is not clear who built the tomb and who is buried there, but the structure was occupied by Kharak Singh, the son of Ranjit Singh, in the early 1800s. It was later used as a residence for General Ventura, a French officer in the Sikh army.
The tomb was converted into a Protestant Church in 1851, during British rule. Later, it functioned as St. James’ Church, between 1857 to 1891. Since then, it is in use as Punjab Archives Museum.