Jahangir was a Mughal emperor who, like all good Mughal emperors, loved to hunt antelope. He also loved his cherished pet Mansraj (meaning “Light of the Mind”) who was an antelope. Something was bound to go wrong.
And wrong something did indeed go, when Jahangir was hunting with friends on his game preserve near Sheikhupura when he espied an antelope that proved to be a tempting quarry. The whys and wherefores — errant shot? mistaken identity? logistical difficulties of cervine pet ownership? — have been lost to the mists of time, but what is certain is that poor Mansraj was cut down that day in 1606.
Stricken by the loss, Jahangir paid tribute to the memory of his pet by constructing the 100-foot-tall Hiran Minar (meaning “Deer Tower”). The top of the tower includes a place to inter Mansraj’s remains, while the perimeter of the tower features holes that were most likely used to mount the heads of animal trophies taken by the emperor. An odd way to honor an animal friend killed in a hunting mishap? Sure, but grief does strange things to a man.
In 1634, Jahangir’s successor Shah Jahan visited his father’s favorite hunting preserve and decided to add to the complex by constructing a large water tank and octagonal pavilion to the east of the memorial tower (for context, this was two years after Shah Jahan started building the Taj Mahal – guy liked to build). The rectangular water tank measures 750 feet by 895 feet and features a sophisticated series of channels and catchment basins to maintain the water level. Brick ramps in the middle of each side of the tank provide access to the water for animals living in the preserve.
The octagonal pavilion, which served as a royal retreat, sits in the middle of the tank and is accessible via an arched stone bridge that leads directly from the pavilion to the tower. Despite being upstaged by these newer structures, the original tower still provides the name for the site as a whole, and Hiran Minar remains a testament to a heartwarming — if slightly eccentric — interspecial friendship.