Fakir Khana Museum, Lahore, Pakistan

Fakir Khana (The House of The Humble Ones, Urdu: فقیر خانہ‎) is a private museum and house located in Lahore, Pakistan, owned by the Fakir family. Fakir Khana Museum is the largest private collection in South Asia. Its is a hidden treasure of Miniature paintings, Islamic art, Chinese Porcelain, Persian Carpets, Wood work, Coin collections, Fabric housed in a building that has uniqueness within itself. The museum contains over 20,000 objects.

Fakir Khana is located within Lahore’s Walled City, along the Hakimaan Bazaar, near the Bhati Gate. is one of the biggest private museums in Pakistan, and has been open to public since 1901. The building originally belonged to Raja Todar Mal, Finance Minister of Akbar’s darbar (court) of the Mughal Empire.

The Fakir family settled in Lahore around 1730, and established a publishing house. Their status in Lahore society derived from its connections to the Sikh Empire – three of the family’s ancestors, Fakir Nooruddin, Fakir Azizuddin, and Fakir Imamuddin, served as emissaries to Maharaja Ranjit Singh. The family amassed a collection of objects, including many bestowed to the family by Ranjit Singh. The family opened their house as a museum open to the public in 1901, and the site receives some government funds for its maintenance.

The house in which the museum is located offers insight into the lifestyles of upper class Lahori families during the Sikh and British eras. It was originally owned by Raja Todar Mal, finance minister to the Mughal Emperor Akbar.

It was later renovated in the 20th century as a mansion housing almost two centuries of history of the eventful life of some of the greatest personalities of the region and period. Fakir Khana Museum is actually a house turned inside out in the sense that what is actually ‘private’ in the house, has been made ‘public’. Access to all parts of the building is unhindered.

The Fakir Khana Museum is now being run by the 6th generation of the Fakir family. It is situated barely five minutes walk from Bhatti Gate, one of the famous 13 gates of the walled city of Lahore.

It is the only privately owned museum recognized by the Government of Pakistan. The history of the museum can be traced back to that of the Fakir family that settled in Lahore in 1730, where it established and ran a publishing house. Over the years, the family has acquired a collection of ten thousand manuscripts. The Fakir Khana Museum currently houses over twenty thousand specimens of art and artifacts encompassing three centuries, from the 18th to the 20th.

The Miniature Hall is the most impressive of all the sections of Fakir Khana Museum, with exhibit arrangement having been maintained for three quarters of a century. The hall represents a large room of a well-to-do family from a time when western influences had started penetrating the established ways of living in Lahore.

The museum’s collection consists of approximately 20,000 pieces of art and artifacts mostly from the 18th to 20th centuries, including a small collection of Gandharan artifacts. The collection also contains numerous gifts bestowed to the Fakir family by Ranjit Singh, as well as 10,000 manuscripts, 180 displayed miniature paintings, Sikh era textiles, statuary, pottery, and carved ivory pieces. The collection also includes a 12 by 6 inch painting of Nawab Mumtaz Ali, that was painted with a single hair and required 15 years to be completed.

The principal charm of the Hall of Miniatures is a large collection of miniature paintings hung against the wall – all framed and glazed. These are either on paper or ivory, and belong to various schools – Irani, Mughal, Kangra, Rajput and Pahari. In all 160 miniatures are displayed.

A section of the museum is dedicated to the Buddhist Art of the Gandhara civilization. Reaching its peak between the 1st and 5th Centuries, this ancient civilization spread over an area of what is today North West Pakistan and part of Afghanistan. The sculptures of Gandhara bear strong influence of Greek art. Gandhara is also famous for producing the first known representation of Buddha in sculpture and spreading the Mahayana school of Buddhism across South Asia.

Calligraphy is considered an elevated form of Art in Islam. Initially used for writing Quran and Hadith, the earliest form of Islamic Calligraphy was done in Kufic script. The earliest work of calligraphy in Fakir Khana is the hand written Quran written in Kufic Script.

The textile collection almost entirely belongs to 19th century Sikh Period. Highlights include a fine Kashmiri shawl believed to have been owned by Maharani Jinda, the favourite wife of Maharajah Ranjit Singh, ruler of Punjab.

Raja Porus, the great king of the Kingdom of Paurava was well known for his heroism and courage in the Battle of Hydaspes River, with Alexander the Great known. After his defeat, Porus served Alexander as a patron King.

The porcelain collection comprises of old Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Russian, French, German, English and Dutch crockery. The most ancient piece of the collection is the Japanese crackelein of the 18th Century.

The wooden frame work present in Fakir Khana Museum is designed by Bhai Ram Singh, the most influential architect of pre-Partitioned Punjab. He was also architect of the Aitchison College in Lahore.

The Hall of Carpets is originally the sitting room (Gol Kamra) of Fakir Khana Museum. In all there are 18 Carpets, falasies, shawls and other embroideries preserved in the museum.

Some of these are exhibited in this hall while others can be seen in the Hall of Miniature Paintings and the room of Calligraphy.

There are 16 carpets in the collection – 6 Irani, 8 Shirazi, one Iranian ‘gilm’ of flowered patterns and one currently displayed in the exhibit.

Shah Jahan’s Era This treasure is from Shah Jehan’s weaving factory in Lahore, and is also known as “The General’s Carpet.” Upon initially focusing on its design, flowers, vases and birds are visible in the pattern. On further concentration, a human face woven in also becomes evident.

There are 7000 antiques in the Poorkhana Museum, besides 6000 coins. Combining the coins, they become more than 13,000. Faqir Syed Nooruddin also collected about 7000 books, whose evidence was received from date.

Fakir Khana Museum is open for every special and general. Scientists, researchers, tourists, students and historians come to see this museum. This is a personalized museum home in Pakistan, where there is also details of their judicial proceedings in Maharaja Ranjeet Singh’s government and his friends. Four hundred years ago, there are also artifacts of acne and wheat art.