Nur Sarai in Jalandhar

Nurmahal, a town located in Jalandhar, Punjab, derives its name from Nur Jahan, the wife of Mughal emperor Jahangir, who was also known as Nur Mahal.

A sarai, or inn, serves as a place of rest for travelers and pilgrims along the roads. The construction of sarais on a large scale was initiated by Sher Shah Suri, and during the Mughal era, sarais were established throughout India.

The town Nurmahal is famous for a Sarai built there by Nur Jahan in 1620-21. This building provided accommodation for about 100 people. There is another Nurmahal sarai at Agra, also built by Nur Jahan, which may have been modeled after the original sarai in Jalandhar.

The Nurmahal Sarai is an impressive structure measuring 551 feet square, featuring octagonal towers at each corner. The western gateway, known as the Lahore gate, is a double storeyed structure adorned with a striking red sandstone coating. The front of the gateway is divided into relief panels, each beautifully ornamented with sculptures depicting angels, lotuses, fairies, elephants, riders, lion fights, rhinoceroses, camels, monkeys, peacocks, men on horseback, and more.

The sides of the gateway are embellished with foliated scroll-work showcasing birds sitting on branches, along with intricate geometrical patterns.

While the eastern gateway once boasted similar decorations, it now lies in ruins. There was an inscription over this gateway, which was provided to Cunningham by a local resident.

Over the East or Delhi Gate:

During the reign of Jahangir Badshah, Lord of the Universe, King of Kings of this world and his time, the shadow of God.
The fame of whose goodness and justice overspread the earth. Until it reached even the highest heavens above.
His wife and trusted companion, Nur Jahan, commended the erection of this sarai wide as the heavens.
When this fortunate building rose upon the face of the earth, May its walls last for ever and ever!
The date of its foundation wisdom found in the words "This sarai was founded by Nur Jahan Begum."

Located in the courtyard of the sarai are a well, a bathhouse (Hammam), and a mosque covered by a single dome. Surrounding the courtyard are 32 rooms on each side, each measuring 10 feet 10 inches square, with a verandah in front. In each corner of the sarai, there were three rooms - one large and two smaller ones. The three-story apartment in the center of the southern side was reserved for the emperor. The main room was oblong in shape, with a semi-octagonal recess on two sides, similar to the large rooms in the corners of the sarai.

The majority of the imperial followers stayed in quarters outside in an exterior court approximately 2,000 square feet in size. Some of the walls of this exterior court were pointed out in November 1838, but have since disappeared, as noted by Cunningham in his report.

Over the West of Lahore Gate:

During the just rule of Jahangir Shah son of Akbar Shah whose like neither heaven nor earth remembers.
The Nur Sarai was founded in the district of Phillaur; by command of the angel-like Nur Jahan Begum.
The date of its foundation the poet happily discovered; 'The Sarai was founded by Nur Jahan Begum' (1028 A.H - 1618 A.D).
The date of its completion wisdom found in the words; 'This Sarai was erected by Nur Jahan Begum' (1030 A.H - 1620 A.D).

A second inscription on the western gateway references Zakaria Khan, the Nazim of the subah of Jalandhar, added at a later date. Nawab Zakaria Khan, who received the title of Khan Bahadur in 1737, served as the governor of Lahore and Multan. It seems that during his peaceful rule, sarai taxes were abolished. The inscription reads:

"Taking payment from travelers is forbidden, the Nawab Zakaria Khan Bahadur, Governor of the District having exempted them. Should any Faujdar of the Doab collect these dues, may his wife be divorced."

Jahangir mentions this sarai in his Memoirs:

"On the twenty-first [January 2, 1621] camp was made in Nur Sarai. Here Nur Jahan Begum's agents had built a fine palace and regal garden. Since it had recently been completed, the begum requested that I attend an entertainment. She arranged a splendid and very elaborate party at which she presented all sorts of rare items and objects. To please her some things 1 liked were taken. We halted at this station for two days."


Mughal Monuments in the Punjab and Haryana By Subhash Parihar
Serai Nur Mahal By R. B. Pandit Sheo Narain