A New Gateway to An Old World

By Shahzada Irfan Ahmed

Picture this. You enter the Walled City from Delhi Gate and find yourself in a ‘unique’ setting — one you are completely unfamiliar with. The Mughal era buildings you see on both sides of the road wear a majestic look. The ambience, the architecture, the colour scheme, the sweetness of the music on play and the artistic illumination of these buildings are stunning, to say the least.

The streets are clean and there are shops, courtyards and pavements where traditional food and drinks as well as crafts are on offer.

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You may also find small inns where you can sit back with your friends and enjoy a sip of indigenous ‘qahwa.’ A few steps away, you are likely to come across a place where you can see well-built men wrestling with each other in an earthen pit.

The biggest relief, perhaps, would be the absence of motorized vehicles and the noise and smoke that is generated thereof.

There are parts of the Walled City where the pedestrians can tread without fear of being crushed by a fast moving vehicle. For once, vehicles of all sorts are barred from entering the areas making them navigable on foot.

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All this may seem like a fairy tale but, in fact, it is not. Fortunately, for the people of Lahore in particular and Pakistan in general, an ongoing project promises all this and much more. Called ‘Sustainable Development of Walled City Lahore Project,’ it was launched in 2006 by the Punjab government in conjunction with the World Bank. The budget estimate for phase one is Rs70 crore, which will be shared equally by both the partners.

The Aga Khan Trust for Culture agreed to provide technical expertise and carry out surveys that cover topography, water quality, socio-economic conditions, geographical information system (GIS) etc of the Walled City.

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Initially, it was a project but later, in 2010, a body called the Walled City of Lahore Authority (WCLA) was set up under an Act by the Punjab Assembly. The main purpose of the move was to help sustain the restoration work irrespective of which party is in power.

The project suffered some delays in the past due to various reasons including shortage of funds, non-cooperation of locals, resistance by commercial interests etc. For long there was a feeling that the project will not go on as planned and may be abandoned altogether. However, some recent developments have infused hope among those involved directly or indirectly with the project.

One such development is the association of prominent bureaucrat Kamran Lashari with the project as director general of the WCLA. Having a significant track record of successfully carrying out heritage/conservation projects, many believe he is the best person to complete the task.

The project is of equal importance to all as heritage has to have common ownership, says Lashari. His point is that it is imperative for Pakistanis to have something which they can relate to with pride, especially when they are facing a crisis of identity.

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He explains that the Walled City project is not about merely setting up a food street, refurbishing a monument or repairing a trail. It is about comprehensive urban regeneration where every aspect of day-to-day life will be taken into account and displayed in totality.

“If we can properly showcase our history, food, architecture, culture and traditions at one place, it would be a great achievement,” he says.

The first phase of the project entails complete restoration of the heritage architecture along a 383-metre route and 57 streets falling on the main trail. A total population of 5,951 individuals and 513 houses will benefit from this phase which will be complete by November this year.

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Later, the Authority intends to start talking to donors for the next phase, says Lashari who is confident this dream will become a reality.

A major part of project money will be spent on laying of quality infrastructure for provision of gas, electricity, water and sanitation. The dangling electricity wires, which give an unpleasant look, will be concealed in pipes and the sanitation scheme will be kept underground.

Tariq Iqbal, a teacher in his early 40s, is relieved to find several encroachments removed from inside the Delhi Gate and the restoration work in progress. The WCLA has paid compensation to the encroachers along the boundary walls of Shahi Hamam and Wazir Khan Mosque and asked them to leave.

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Tariq has lived here for ages and seen how unplanned commercialization harmed the architecture and the social life of the Walled City. Even though he is not fully aware of the components of the project, he is in love with the idea of being able to relive his childhood or even that of his forefathers.

He says he cannot believe his eyes when told that the Authority shall regularly organize cultural festivals, display crafts, arrange wrestling bouts, poetry recitals (mushairas), food fairs, jewelry shows etc in this part of the Walled City. The spacious court of Wazir Khan Mosque has been marked as the point for this purpose.

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“We have involved National College of Arts (NCA), Pakistan Institute of Fashion Design (PIFD), several guilds and associations and are open to advice on how to bring the Walled City to its original shape,” says Lashari.

Once popular drinks such as ‘tukh malanga’ and ‘kanji’ will also be introduced to the new generation which does not know anything about them, he adds.

Besides, there are proposals about asking corporations to adopt a haveli, a heritage house or a monument.

Lashari is clear that the sustainability of the project lies in involving the residents and making them stakeholders. Once this part of the city attains the status of an international tourist attraction, they will be in a position to earn from the resulting economic activity.

Easy access to the Walled City is a major issue without solving which the very idea of making the place a tourist attraction will not materialise fully.

Lashari says he has written to TEPA and requested the organization to re-route the Circular Road from Azadi Chowk to Badami Bagh. This can be done by constructing an elevated semi-circular loop to give an alternative route to the traffic plying between these two points. Once the road between Iqbal Park and Lahore Fort/Badshahi Mosque is closed to traffic the whole area will turn tourist-friendly.

With congestion-free Lahore Ring Road lying in close vicinity, some options can also be mulled to connect the area with other parts of the city.

Secondly, he says, TEPA has been requested to study/survey the parking flow within the Walled City so as to identify areas that need to be restricted only to the non-motorized traffic. Exemption for emergency vehicles or facilitating the residents or timings could also be taken into consideration.

Lashari dispels the impression that he is being overambitious about the project, saying that there are several examples worldwide where heritage has been conserved in totality and many of them happen to be in the Muslim world — for instance, Isfahan in Iran, Fez in Morocco, Aleppo in Syria and Grand Bazar in Turkey.

 

Pakistan’s Identity Battle Plays Out in Lahore

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The battle for Pakistan’s identity is playing out in Lahore’s streets and – oddly, on its thoroughfares and intersections. On 23rd March, this year, a group of civil society representatives gathered at Lahore’s Shadman Chowk to commemorate the 82nd death anniversary of Bhagat Singh, a Sikh freedom fighter renowned for his revolutionary struggle as part of the independence movement, and who became stuff of legend when he was hanged by the British in 1931 after a brief but eventful insurrection against colonial rule. The gathering, however, was disrupted by members of a religious group which was holding a protest aimed at denouncing the idea of renaming the chowk after Bhagat Singh, simultaneously.

The chowk and the adjacent area used to be Lahore’s central jail during the British Raj, and Bhagat Singh is believed to have been hanged at the site of what is now Shadman Chowk.

Late last year, a group of Lahoris made progress in getting local officials to rename a busy traffic circle for Bhagat Singh, a Sikh revolutionary who. They see it as a chance to honor a local hero who they feel transcends the ethnic and sectarian tensions gripping the country today — and also as an important test of the boundaries of inclusiveness here.

But in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, questions of religious identity also become issues of patriotism, and the effort has raised alarm bells among conservatives and Islamists. The circle was named in 2010 for Chaudhry Rehmat Ali, a Muslim student who coined the name Pakistan in the 1930s, and there was an outcry at the news that it might be renamed for a non-Muslim.

“If a few people decide one day that the name has to be changed, why should the voice of the majority be ignored?” asked Zahid Butt, the head of a neighborhood business association here and a leader of the effort to block the renaming.

The fight over the traffic circle — which, when they are pressed, locals usually just call Shadman Circle, after the surrounding neighborhood — has become a showcase battle in a wider ideological war over nomenclature and identity here and in other Pakistani cities.

Although many of Lahore’s prominent buildings are named for non-Muslims, there has been a growing effort to “Islamize” the city’s architecture and landmarks, critics of the trend say. In that light, the effort to rename the circle for Mr. Singh becomes a cultural counteroffensive.

“Since the ’80s, the days of the dictator Gen. Zia ul-Haq, there has been an effort that everything should be Islamized — like the Mall should be called M. A. Jinnah Road,” said Taimur Rahman, a musician and academic from Lahore, referring to one of the city’s central roads and to the country’s founder. “They do not want to acknowledge that other people, from different religions, also lived here in the past.”

A recent nationwide surge in deadly attacks against religious minorities, particularly against Ahmadi and Hazara Shiites, has again put a debate over tolerance on the national agenda. Though most Sikhs fled Pakistan soon after the partition from India in 1947, the fight over whether to honor a member of that minority publicly bears closely on the headlines for many.

A push to honor Mr. Singh has been going on here for years. But it was not until the annual remembrance of his birth in September that things came to a head. A candlelight demonstration to support renaming the traffic circle had an effect, and a senior district official agreed to start the process. As part of it, he asked the public to come forward with any objections. The complaints started pouring in.

Traders of Shadman Market, the local trade group led by Mr. Butt, threatened a strike. Chillingly, warnings against the move were issued by leaders of the Islamic aid group Jamaat-ud-Dawa, largely believed to be a front for the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba. Clerics voiced their opposition during Friday Prayer.

The issue quickly became a case for the city’s High Court, which said it would deliberate on a petition, initiated by Mr. Butt and a coalition of religious conservatives, to block the name change. That was in November, and the case still awaits a hearing date. The provincial government has remained in tiptoe mode ever since. “It is a very delicate matter,” said Ajaz Anwar, an art historian and painter who is the vice chairman of a civic committee that is managing the renaming process.

Mr. Anwar said some committee members had proposed a compromise: renaming the circle after Habib Jalib, a widely popular postindependence poet. That move has been rejected out of hand by pro-Singh campaigners.

Mr. Rahman and other advocates for renaming the circle paint it as a test of resistance to intolerance and extremism, and they consider the government and much of Lahore society to have failed it.

“The government’s defense in the court has been very halfhearted,” said Yasser Latif Hamdani, a lawyer representing the activists. “The government lawyer did not even present his case during earlier court proceedings.”

The controversy threatens to become violent. On March 23, the anniversary of Mr. Singh’s death, police officers had to break up a heated exchange between opposing groups at the circle.

Mr. Rahman and the other supporters have vowed to continue fighting, saying it has become a war over who gets to own Pakistan’s history.

“There is a complete historical amnesia and black hole regarding the independence struggle from the British,” Mr. Rahman said, adding of the Islamists, “They want all memories to evaporate.”

 {Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/31/world/asia/plan-to-rename-traffic-circle-provokes-outcry-in-lahore-pakistan.html?ref=global-home&_r=1&}

Iqbal Hussain: The agony and the ecstasy

DSC_1540 copy WITHOUT RIGHTSIqbal Hussain’s new work reveals a darkly poignant preoccupation with death, an artistic crisis born of the violence in our midst. But this work may yet survive the changing cultural topography of Pakistan, says Raza Rumi

Being stuck in an awful traffic jam on Lahore’s Mall Road is an everlasting nightmare. This was the road which once housed the tempestuous and famously poly-amorous painter Amrita Shergil, as well as the grand old man of Indian writing in English, the legendary Khushwant Sigh, among other lost symbols of our bygone past. But mine was not a fruitless journey: I was heading to the Zahoor ul Akhlaq Gallery at the National College of Arts (NCA), where Iqbal Hussain’s new work was being displayed. I would not hav e gone to see this exhibition had I not heard about the significance of the show from the proficient curator of the gallery Qudsia Raheem. I liked to meet Iqbal Hussain in the throes of the walled city where he has reinvented a space for himself among his own people — entertainers, artists, traders, sex workers and a multitude of local and global visitors. Iqbal Hussain has been successful through his personal endeavors to put Lahore’s old city and its infamous red light district on the world map. He has achieved this primarily through his stupendous paintings and sublime rooftop views of Mughal monuments from the Cooco’s Den Café he owns and manages.

DSC_1510 copy WITHOUT RIGHTSIqbal Hussain’s work over the decades has brought to life the shades and aspects of sex workers from Heera Mandi around whom Hussain grew up. Most importantly, he is proud of his heritage and origins and, unlike the hypocritical and self-denying society in which he lives, he has publicly claimed ownership of this background. His work has obsessively captured the many narratives about the women who are central to Heera Mandi. In doing this, Hussain has humanized the portraits of the “dancing girl”, the aging prostitute and the honorable livelihood earner. Contrary to the religious decrees on such women, or the excessive romanticization of dancing girls in our culture, Hussain’s subjects are nothing but human. They are real and vulnerable while blessed with the ability to sing, dance and celebrate life and sex. In our socially conservative culture, made even more so since the advent of Victorian values in what was then British India, such characters have been the recipients of much derision. Hussain, through his momentous collection of paintings, has countered every stereotype and cliché that comes to mind about such women. Continue reading

Early Lahore drawings to be auctioned soon

By Raza:

lahore.jpgTwo important 19th century drawings of Lahore European School signed by the artist inscribed in French verso – former dwelling of General Ventura – measure 51 cm x 39cm each. This is a rare pair of drawings on Lahore – the classic European building you see in the image was the headquarters of the Khalsa Army built by Ranjit Singh’s French Generals Allard and Ventura. The small domed building is the Anarkali Tomb and the large building with the archways is the Chauburji Gateway Anarkali the oldest Mughal tomb in Lahore was built between 1605 and 1615 by Emperor Jahangir. In 1799 Maharaja Ranjit Singh put up his headquarters there while besieging Lahore. Subsequently he offered Anarkali to his eldest son the heir apparent Kharak Singh. In 1822 Ranjit Singh gave this monument to his French generals Allard and Ventura as their personal residence and headquarters of the FaujiKhas. The generals soon built a new classical style residence between Anarkali`s tomb and a Mughal palace which has since disappeared. This new residence was embellished with paintings and mirrors inserted in golden frames descriptions of which have been left by numerous travellers (Jacquemont Hugel Barr Von Orlich etc) In another wing were the private apartments of General Allard and Bannou Pan Dei while General Ventura established his flourishing harem in the tomb itself. Outside the garden towards the east was the champ de manoeuvre (operational headquarters) of the Fauji Khas and further east were the French Lines or cantonments of the troops under Allard and Ventura. South of the champ de manoeuvre and the French lines was the small baradan of Allard and his wife profusely decorated by Punjabi artists that was the “country” seat of the Allard family. It is in this latter garden that Allard and his wife buried two of their children and in the same tomb Allard himself was buried in 1839. In 1846 Henry Lawrence the British Resident moved into the house of Allard and Ventura. The classic European building the headquarters of the Khalsa Fauj does not exist anymore. The drawings are of the highest quality and detail and represent an important part of Indian Sikh and Pakistan heritage. Both drawings have been Published in a French Newspaper in 1858. Early depictions of Lahore can be seen in Major institutions such as the British Library in London (2)
Guide Price: £2000 – £3000
Auction tales place 27th September at Mullocks Auction house United Kingdom

Lahore, how I love thee

By  ET:

I may not have seen the whole world yet,

But I have seen a lot of it.

Sure, I left my heart in Paris,

Yes I lost my self,

Wandering the sloping streets of San Francisco

True, my mind found solace at the top of Mont Blanc

Yet, my soul will always belong to Lahore

The city that still captivates me, like no other

Maybe I’m biased; maybe it is nostalgia,

But when I am in Lahore, my soul is alive,

The whole city pulsates with unabashed life

The sounds of New York,

The lights of Hollywood,

Even the grandiose of Las Vegas,

Nothing,

Nothing compares to this city of my childhood,

The city where my soul sings,

The air in Lahore,

Smells like a thousand rainbows of my childhood.

So what,

If that scent now has traces of gunfire in it?

The sunrise in Lahore,

Has colours like no other,

So what,

If those colours are now tainted with innocent blood?

The sound of a dozen Azans at once still leave me spellbound.

Even though I now hear,

Echoing with Allah-u-Akbar,

The wails of mothers who lost their sons

Yet, my soul refuses to let go,

It pulls me back to this city,

Again and again. And again.

This bloodied and broken;

Impossibly majestic city of mine;

Lahore.

You are home to my soul, may you survive and thrive.

For my soul will forever, belong to you.

Lahore Architechture

Akbari Serai (built 1640s)

Akbari SeraiThe so-called Akbari Serai is an 470 by 365 meter courtyard situated between Jahangir’s Tomb to the east and Asaf Khan’s tomb to the west. Although commonly referred to as a Serai, or caravan market, the courtyard was intended both as a staging area for official visits to the tomb and as a place of residence for the huffaz (caretakers) who worked at the mausoleums. The 180 hujra, or cells, around the courtyard were used as living areas and storage spaces for luggage, weapons, and other gear carried by visitors to the tombs. Its function and general design is similar to the jilaukhana (literally, ‘front of the house’) found at the Taj Mahal built by Jahangir’s son, Shah Jehan.

The most impressive feature of the courtyard is the gateway on its east side leading to Jahangir’s mausoleum. Opposite the gateway is a small mosque. The north and south ends of the courtyard are punctuated with gateways providing access to the whole ensemble.

Asaf Khan Tomb (built 1642)

Photo 2Asaf Khan was the brother of Nur Jahan, foremost of Emperor Jahangir’s twenty wives. He was also the father of Mumtaz Mahal, wife of Emperor Shah Jahan and the woman for whom the Taj Mahal was built.

Asaf Khan’s clan rose to power as his sister gained entry into Jahangir’s court. Jahangir had long been addicted to opium and alcohol, and as his addiction worsened he relied more and more on his close aides for day to day governing of the empire. Asif Khan’s sister, Nur Jahan, used the opportunity to take power for herself. In 1625 she used her influence to obtain the governorship of Lahore for her brother, Asaf Khan. He held the position for a mere two years before Emperor Jahangir died in 1627. In the struggle for succession that followed, Asaf Khan broke ranks with his sister and sided with his son in law, the future Shah Jahan, in his bid for succession. When Shah Jahan emerged victorious Nur Jahan was placed under comfortable house arrest and lived out the remainder of her days as a poetess and sponsor of the arts.

Asaf Khan was placed in command of an army attacking Bijapur in 1632 but he failed to take the city. Shah Jahan retained him in the court but he never reached the heights of power that he had previously enjoyed. He died in June 1642 while fighting the forces of the rebel Raja Jagat Singh Pathania. He was accorded high honors in the placement of his tomb just a few hundred meters to the west of Emperor Jahangir’s own tomb.

Octagonal tombs were never used for emperors but they were commonly employed for burial of high-ranking noblemen such as Asaf Khan. The bulbous dome that crowns the tomb is an innovation of Shah Jahan’s era that was used to great effect at other sites such as the Taj Mahal.

Ali Mardan Khan Tomb (built 1657)

Ali Mardan Khan TombAli Mardan Khan was a high official in the Mughal Empire under Shah Jahan. Born into a Kurdish family, he served as governor of Kandahar under Persia’s Safavid dynasty, becoming a close confidant of Shah Abbas. After the Shah’s death in 1629, he became fearful for his life as the Shah’s successor Shah Safi (Sam Mirza) purged courtiers that had been loyal to his grandfather. In 1637, Ali Mardan Khan offered to surrender Kandahar to the Mughal Empire in exchange for his safety. Shah Jahan agreed to the offer, probably with some enthusiam as Kandahar had been under the control of the Mughals during the reign of Jahangir, Shah Jahan’s father.

As a Mughal officer, Ali Mardan Khan provided guidance on canal instruction, especially in regard to the Shah Nahar canal of Shalimar Gardens. When he died in 1657, he was buried adjacent to his mother in the tomb prepared for her next to the canal at Mughalpura. Originally, the tomb sat amidst a large garden, but today only the large gateway survives.

As the tomb sits within the confines of a modern-day rail yard, the authorities have built a kilometer long passageway from the street to the tomb in an effort to prevent visitors from trespassing on the rail yard grounds.

Badshahi Mosque (built 1672-74)

Badshahi MosqueBadshahi mosque is one of the few significant architectural monuments built during Emperor Aurangzeb’s long rule from 1658 to 1707. It is presently the fifth largest mosque in the world and was indisputably the largest mosque in the world from 1673 to 1986 when the Faisal Mosque was constructed in Islamabad. Although it was built late in the Mughal era in a period of relative decline, its beauty, elegance, and scale epitomize Mughal cultural achievement like no other monument in Lahore.

Construction of the mosque began in 1671 under the direction of Muzaffar Hussain (Fida’i Khan Koka), Aurangzeb’s brother-in-law and the governor of Lahore. It was originally planned as a reliquary to safeguard a strand of the Prophet’s hair. Its grand scale is influenced by the Jama Mosque of Delhi which had been built by Aurangzeb’s father Shah Jahan. The plan of Badshahi mosque is essentially a square measuring 170 meters on each side. Since the north end of the mosque was built along the edge of the Ravi river, it was not possible to install a north gate like the one used in the Jama Mosque, and a south gate was also not constructed in order to maintain the overall symmetry. Within the courtyard, the prayer hall features four minarets that echo in minature the four minarets at each corner of the mosque’s perimeter.

The prominence of the mosque in the imperial vision was such that it was constructed just a few hundred meters to the west of Lahore Fort. A special gate facing the mosque was added to the fort and designated the Alamgiri gate. The space in between–the future Hazuri Bagh garden–was used as a parade ground where Aurangzeb would review his troops and courtiers. The Hazuri Bagh appears to be at a lower level than the mosque since the latter was built on a six meter plinth to help prevent flooding.

The mosque did not fare well during the rule of Ranjit Singh, the Maharaja of the Sikh Empire. When Ranjit Singh took control of Lahore in 1799 the mosque’s courtyard was used as a stable and the hujras (cells) around the perimeter were occupied by his soldiers. Ranjit Singh himself used the adjacent Hazuri Bagh as his official royal court. When William Moorcroft of England visited Lahore in 1820, he recorded that the mosque as being used as an exercise ground for the Sipahi infantry. Twenty years later, a moderate earthquake struck lahore and collapsed the delicate marble turrets at the tops of each minaret. The open turrets were used as gun emplacements a year later when Ranjit Singh’s son, Sher Singh, occupied the mosque to bombard Lahore Fort during the Sikh civil war.

After the British took control of Lahore in 1846 they continued to use Badshahi Mosque as a military garrison. It was not until 1852 that the British established the Badshahi Mosque Authority to oversee the restoration of the mosque so that it could be returned to Muslims as a place of worship. Although repairs were carried out, it was not until 1939 that extensive repairs began under the oversight of architect Nawab Zen Yar Jang Bahadur. The repairs continued until 1960 and were completed at a cost of 4.8 million rupees.

Buddu Tomb (built mid 17th-century)

Buddu TombTraditionally, this tomb is attributed to Buddu, a brick manufacturer during the reign of Emperor Shah Jahan (r. 1628-58). However, it may in fact be the tomb of the wife of Khan-i-dauran Bahadur Nusrat Jang, a high-ranking nobleman in the court of Shah Jahan. The domed tomb likely once stood amidst a garden, but all traces of landscaping have vanished.

Chauburji Gate (built 1646)

Photo 1The Chauburji gate is the only remnant of a large garden that has all but disappeared. It now stands alone in a grassy roundabout at the intersection of Multan Road and Bhawalpur Road. There is considerable uncertainty regarding who constructed it. An inscription on the monument gives the date 1056 AH (1646) and attributes it to “Sahib-e-Zebinda Begam-e-Dauran”. According to the 19th century historian Syad Muhammad Latif, the full inscription reads:

“This garden, in the pattern of the garden of paradise, has been founded…

(the second line has been effaced)

The garden has been bestowed on Mian Bai

By the bounty of Zebinda Begam, the lady of the age”.

Latif believed that Mian Bai was the favorite female attendent of Zebina Begam. He recounts a story from the Shah Jahan-nama that the garden was laid out on the orders of Zebina Begam with direct supervision delegated to a Mian Bai. As the princess approached the garden as it neared completion, she heard people saying that the princess was on her way to visit Mian Bai’s garden. Seeing that the garden was already being described as “Mian Bai’s garden”, the princess resolved to make a gift of it to Mian Bai. When she reached the garden, Mian Bai came forward and prayed for the princess’s long life. Zebina Begam took this as a positive omen and immediately bequeathed the garden to Mian Bai.

Regardless of the story’s truth, Latif may not be correct in assuming that the “Zebinda Begam” inscribed on the Chauburji refers to Zeb-un-Nisa, the daughter of Emperor Aurangzeb. Zeb-un-Nisa was born in 1637, so it is unlikely that she was given command of sufficient resources to construct a garden at the age of eight. A better candidate is Zeb-un-Nisa’s aunt, Jahan Ara Begam, one of Shah Jahan’s daughters.

The very word “Chauburji”, meaning “Four Towers” in Urdu, is likely a modern term for what would have been merely a monumental gateway to the vast garden at the site in the Mughal era. Due to flooding and neglect, the garden may not have long survived its completion. By the 19th century the monument was somewhat dilapidated, having lost its northwest tower to an earthquake in 1846. In the 1960s the Department of Archaeology supervised the reconstruction of the destroyed tower and also restored the surviving parts of the monument.

Cypress Tomb (Sarvwala Maqbara) (built mid-18th century)

Photo 3The so-called ‘Cypress Tomb’ (Sarvwala Maqbara) is located about 200 meters north of Dai Anga’s tomb. Its name derives from the cypress tree ornamentation on the upper portion of the tomb–four on each side–surrounded with flowering plants. The tomb is elevated about 5 meters off the ground to shield the grave from direct sight, and is only accessable using a ladder. The tomb holds the body of Sharfun Nisa Begum, the sister of Nawab Zakaria Khan. It was originally surrounded by a garden–perhaps one abutting Dai Anga’s tomb, but no evidence remains of its former boundaries or dimensions.

Dai Anga Mosque (built 1635)

Dai Anga served as Shah Jahan’s wet nurse and remained an influential force in the dynasty until her death in 1672. She is responsible for several monuments in Lahore that still survive, including her tomb near the Gulabi Bagh garden gate. Her mosque, seen here, was constructed in 1635. Although a relatively small structure, it is notable for its refined use of decoration and its stately three-bay facade. It remains in an excellent state of preservation since Dai Anga took care to donate a substantial waqf (endowment) to ensure its maintenance after her death. However, in spite of this, it was briefly converted into the residence of Henry Cope, a newspaper editor, during the rule of the British. It was restored to its original function in 1903 and has served as an active mosque ever since.

Dai Anga Tomb (built 1671)

Dai Anga’s tomb is located at the site of Bulabi Bagh, an earlier garden of which the only the gateway, Gulabi Bagh, survives. The tomb was built for Dai Anga, the wet nurse of Shah Jahan and the wife of Murad Khan, a magistrate of Bikaner under Emperor Jahangir. The tomb is rectangular in plan with eight perimeter rooms and a central chamber, surmounted by a low dome on a tall base. The space inside is empty, as the actual tomb of Dai Anga lies below in a subterranean chamber. Interior decoration includes inscriptions from the Q’uran. The exterior of the tomb was originally covered with mosaics, but in the manner of many tombs in Lahore, most of these have been worn or stripped away over the centuries. However, the tomb does retain its original four chattris (kiosks) at each of its corners, which contribute a certain lightness to the otherwise weighty structure.

Gulabi Bagh Gateway (built 1655)

The Gulabi Bagh Gateway is the last remnant of a pleasure garden built by the Persian noble Mirza Sultan Baig in 1655. In its heyday the garden measured 250 gaz on a side (according to the scholar Ebba Koch, 1 gaz is likely equal to 0.81 or 0.82 meters). The site could not have functioned as a garden for long, as it was converted in 1671 into a tomb for Dai Anga with her mausoleum occupying the center of the property. Gradually over the centuries the garden was encroached upon by urban development so that the only remaining portion of the garden is the narrow yard running from Gulabi Bagh to Dai Anga’s Mausoleum.

Hazrat Mian Mir Tomb (built 1630s)

Photo 2Mian Mir (c. 1550 – August 11, 1635) was a Sufi saint of the Qadiri order of Sufism. He rose to prominence as the spiritual advisor to prince Dara Shikoh, the eldest son and heir-apparent to Shah Jahan. Upon his death in 1635, Dara Shikoh delivered his funeral oration. The tomb remains popular with Muslims as well as Sikhs to the present day.

Hazuri Bagh Garden (built 1813)

Photo 2The Hazuri Bagh garden was built in 1813 by Maharajah Ranjit Singh to commemorate the capture of the Koh-i-Noor diamond from Shah Shujah of Afghanistan. The garden is bound on the east side by the Lahore Fort and to the west by Badshahi Mosque. This originally served as the Serai of Aurangzeb, a forecourt to the Badshahi Mosque where the Mughal ruler would approach and enter the mosque with great pomp and ceremony. By enclosing the north end with a gate and the south end with the Roshnai gate, Ranjit Singh’s architects were able to create a walled space adequately sized for a a commemorative garden.

The major monument in the garden is the baradari at its center. It is primarily constructed of marble stripped from numerous Mughal monuments in Lahore, many of which remain standing despite the removal of their marble cladding. Ranjit Singh used the pavilion as a place to hold court, and the mirrored ceiling in the central chamber is a testament to this function.

Old photographs of the baradari establish that it once supported a second level which collapsed in July 1932. There are presently no plans to reconstruct it.

Jahangir’s Tomb (built 1627-37)

Photo 19The tomb of Jahangir is located in Shahdara, a suburb of Lahore to the northwest of the city. The area had been a favorite spot of Jahangir and his wife Nur Jahan when they resided in Lahore, and the area was commonly used as a point of departure for travels to and from Kashmir and Lahore. When Jahangir died in 1627 he may have initially been buried in Shahdara in one of its many gardens. His son, Shah Jahan, ordered that a mausoleum befitting an Emperor be built as a permanent memorial.

Construction of the mausoleum lasted 10 years, from 1627 to 37, and was probably funded by the imperial treasury (though there is some evidence that Jahangir’s wife, Nur Jahan, may have financed the construction). It occupies a vast quadrangle measuring 600 gaz (approximately 500 meters) to a side and is subdivided into four chahar baghs (four-part gardens). A fountain occupies the center of each of the chahar baghs and the avenues in between, creating a ring of 8 fountains around the central tomb. Water for the fountains was supplied by wells outside of the garden and raised into channels atop of the walls using water wheels that are no longer extant. From there, the water flowed through terra cotta pipes and into the fountains, whereupon the water cascaded into shallow channels running throughout the garden.

The mausoleum itself is square in plan and exactly 100 gaz to a side. Except for the four corner minarets the layout is entirely horizontal with a flat roof covering the whole of the structure. It is likely that this derived from the example set by Jahangir’s grandfather, Babur, who preferred burial in a tomb open to the sky in keeping with Sunni Islam precident. Both Jahangir and Shah Jahan would have been familiar with Babur’s tomb garden in Kabul in which Babur’s wishes were carried out–a screen was erected around the grave site but the cenotaph was not roofed over. At Jahangir’s tomb, a compromise of sorts was arrived at by raising a roof over the cenotaph but not constructing any monumental embellishments such as domes. This design was apparently not very popular as it was replicated only once for the tomb of Nur Jahan, Jahangir’s wife, at her tomb garden also in Shahdara. Shah Jahan himself was buried in the Taj Mahal, a monument renowned for its use of domes as architectural elements.

At the center of the mausoleum is an octagonal tomb chamber about 8 meters in diameter. It is connected to the outside of the tomb by four hallways facing the four cardinal directions. The cenotaph at the center is carved from a single slab of white marble and decorated with pietra dura inlays of the 99 attributes of God. At its foot is an inscription in Persian recording that “This is the illuminated grave of His Majesty, the Asylum of Pardon, Nooruddin Muhammad Jahangir Padshah 1037 AH”.

The establishment of Jahangir’s tomb at Shahdara profoundly affected the character of the suburb. Whereas previously the area has been used as a place of relaxation, during Shah Jahan’s time the suburb was transformed into a monument to the Mughal’s imperial rule. This was only strengthened by the construction of a jilau khana (forecourt) to the west of the tomb and the subsequent construction of a tomb to Jahangir’s chief minister Asaf Khan to the west. The ensemble reached its peak when Nur Jahan herself was laid to rest in a tomb slightly to the southwest of the other tombs.

Today, the tomb of Jahangir holds special significance for Pakistanis as it is the only Mughal tomb located in present-day Pakistan. Its image appears on the 1,000 rupee banknote and it remains one of Lahore’s most popular attractions.

Kamran’s Baradari (built 1520s or mid 17th-century)

Photo 5Kamran’s Baradari is the ostensibly the earliest known Mughal monument in Lahore, said to have been built by Prince Kamran in the 1520s. However, the pavilion more likely dates to the reign of Shah Jahan (1627-58) as certain architectural features such as the use of cusped arches were not employed until Shah Jahan’s reign. The attribution of the structure to Prince Kamran likely derived from local oral traditions which were picked up by Latif when he collected material for his comprehensive book on Lahore’s architectural heritage in 1892.

The baradari originally stood at the edge of the Ravi river, but over time the course of the river changed and the site became an island. Sometime over the course of the centuries the river flooded, taking half the baradari along with it. As Mughal buildings are generally symmetrical, it was possible for historians to infer the design of the lost portion and it was rebuilt in 1989 at a cost of 19.6 million rupees (about $1 million USD at the time). Unfortunately, the restoration extended to the remaining half and resulted in the total effacement of its surface decoration including the few fragments of original decoration to have survived. Of the gardens, very few traces survived in the late 20th century and a new garden based partially on Mughal motifs was built to the west of the Baradari.

Khan-e-Jahan Bahadur Kokaltash Tomb (built ~1697)

Photo 4Khan-e-Jahan Bahadur Zafar Jhan Kokaltash was a high-ranking officer during the reign of Emperor Aurangzeb Alamigir. He served as subahdar (governor) of the Panjab from April 11th, 1691, but was dismissed from office in 1693. He died four years later on November 23, 1697, and was presumably interred here shortly thereafter.

His octagonal tomb is composed primarily of cut brick work without any use of red sandstone, in contrast to many other buildings of that period. The current appearance of the tomb is much denuded: the numerous holes in the façade and dome attest to marblework that was stripped away as late as the 19th century. Despite this, traces of the tomb’s original elegance are still evidenced in the beautifully carved stucco muqarnas (stalactite squinches) that embellish the tops of the outer alcoves. The design overall is similar to Ali Mardan Khan’s tomb, which is located just a few kilometers to the north.

Overall, the tomb is in a poor state of preservation. At some point in the past, most of the east façade collapsed. Fortunately, the dome was spared, but it is now supported by a brick pillar of modern design. The muqarnas at the tops of the alcoves are substantially damaged, revealing the underlying brickwork. Significant restoration is urgently needed to avoid further dilapidation.

Khwaja Mehmud Tomb (built mid 17th-century)

Photo 6Khwaja Mehmud (also known as Hazrat Eishan) was a Sufi religious leader from Bukhara who moved to Lahore during the reign of Shah Jahan. He was a contemporary with Hazrat Mian Mir and was also noted as a great scholar and physician.

Kos Minar (built early 17th century and earlier)

Photo 4The Kos Minar (Mile Pillars) are a series of milepost markers built during the reigns of Sher Shah Suri and later Mughal emperors. They were originally spaced roughly every three kilometers over major highway routes, particularly the Grand Trunk Road which connected Peshawar in the west to Bengal in the east (a span of over 3,000 kilometers). As the Kos Minars are utilitarian in design, they were not regarded as architecturally significant. Most of them have been torn down, dismantled for their bricks, or otherwise demolished. Only a handful remain in the Lahore area, including the Kos Minar shown here.

Lahore Fort (originally 11th century, current form from 16th century onward)

The fort at Lahore is the result of many centuries’ work. According to the Pakistani historian Wali Ullah Khan, the earliest reference to the fort comes in a history of Lahur (Lahore) compiled by Al-Biruni, which refers to a fort constructed in the early 11th century. He further notes that Munshi Sujan Rae Bhandari, author of the Khulasatut Tawarikh in 1695-96 A.D., records that Malik Ayaz, a favorite of Sultan Mahmud, built a masonry fort at Lahore and repopulated the city. Khan believes it is the same fort that was damaged by the Mongols in 1241 and again in 1398 by a detachment of Timur’s army, then rebuilt again in 1421 by Sayyid, son of Khizr Khan.

The early history of the fort is subject to debate, but it is known for certain that the fort was extensively upgraded during the reign of Emperor Akbar (mid-16th century). Sometime before 1566, the mud-brick fort was demolished and replaced with burnt bricks. The exact date is not known for certain since the records first refer to a fort at Lahore in connection with the rebellion of Muhammad Hakim in 1566.

The fort was greatly expanded during the reigns of Jahangir, Shah Jahan, and Aurangzeb. During the period of Sikh occupation, Ranjit Singh added several pavilions on the upper ramparts. Modifications to the fort were even made during the British colonial period beginning in 1846, but consisted mainly of converting older buildings into hospitals, barracks, and other colonial functions. Perhaps worst of all, portions of the gardens were converted into tennis courts, but abuses such as this have been corrected as preservationists have slowly restored portions of the fort to its pre-1846 appearance.

Mai Dai Tomb (likely built mid-18th century)

Photo 1The so-called “Mai Dai” tomb is located in an alley off the beaten path in the Kot Khwaja Saeed neighborhood of Lahore. In urdu, “Mai” and “Dai” are words that both mean “Respected Lady” and are polite titles used to refer to women. This oral tradition suggests the tomb is associated with a woman, but there is no definitive knowledge of who was buried here. It bears a strong resemblence to the nearby ‘Cypress Tomb’, which was built by a pious widow who wished to elevate her grave out of site of the public eye.

Unfortunately, the tomb is not a protected monument and it is currently occupied as part of a house.

Maryam Zamani Mosque (built 1614)

The Maryam Zamani Mosque is named after Queen Maryam Zamani, the wife of Emperor Akbar. It is the earliest surviving Mughal mosque in Lahore and is the first to exhibit the five-bay facade that would become typical of nearly all future mosques built by the Mughals. It is a comparatively small structure, measuring just 50 meters east-west and 50 meters north-south. Often called Begum Shahi Masjid, the mosque stands just opposite the Masjidi Gate of the Lahore fort.

Mian Khan Tomb (built 1670s)

Photo 1This is the tomb of Nawab Mian Khan, the son of Nawab Saadullah Khan who served as Prime Minister during the reign of Shah Jahan. It is built in the form of a baradari (literally, ‘twelve doors’) with a tripartite facade on four sides.

Nadira Begum Tomb (built 17th century)

Photo 1Nadira Begum was the wife of Dara Shikoh, the eldest son of Shah Jahan and heir-apparent to his throne. In 1657 a power struggle broke out between Dara Shikoh and his three brothers over succession to the throne after Shah Jahan fell ill. Initially, fate seemed to favor Dara Shikoh. He prevailed in battle against his brother Shah Shuja and gained signifiant support from his father, who recovered enough to assist Dara Shikoh in his bid for power. However, father and son could not overcome the combined strength of his two other brothers, Aurangzeb and Murad.

Dara Shikoh and his wife attempted to flee to the west and south, but they were betrayed by Malik Jiwan, a Baluch cheiftain, who turned them over to Aurangzeb’s army in June, 1659. Nadira died several months later prior to the assassination of her husband on August 30, 1659.

The tomb stands on a raised platform at the center of what used to be a vast water tank. The tank was dismantled during the British period.

Nau Nihal Singh Haveli (built mid-19th century)

Photo 1The word “Haveli” is used to refer to mansions in India and Pakistan. The word is derived from the Persian word “hawli”, meaning “an enclosed place”. Havelis typically were built by wealthy aristocrats to house themselves and their extended families, and were often constructed several stories high with one or more courtyards in the interior.

The haveli of Nau Nihal Singh is perhaps the grandest of the surviving havelis in Lahore. It is rectangular in plan and comprises two levels wrapped around a central courtyard. A tower at the northwest corner rises two additional stories and provides a panoramic view of Lahore from its roof. As the west side of the building includes the main entrance from the street, the tower is architecturally integrated with the first and second levels to present an eye-catching facade repleat with projecting fenestration and colorful surface detail.

The patron of the haveli, Nau Nihal Singh, reined as Maharaja of the Punjab for a mere month in October and early November, 1840. He had gained control of the Sikh Empire when his father, Kharak Singh, died from the effects of poisoning on November 5, 1840. The following day, when Nau Nihal was returning from his father’s funeral, a building collapsed onto the path his entourage was travelling. Nau Nihal sustained minor head injuries and was knocked unconscious. His courtiers pulled him into a tent to ostensibly treat his injuries, but when the tent was opened some time later it was discovered that Nau Nihal was dead–his head having been smashed in. It is not known even today if this resulted from the initial accident or if assassins took advantage of the situation to remove Nau Nihal from power.

Nawankot Monuments (built 1646)

Photo 1The so-called Nawankot Monuments are the remains of the eastern wall of the tomb garden of Zeb-un-Nisa, comprising two corner turrets and the eastern gate. This relationship is difficult to distinguish in the crowded district, as the monuments are hemmed in on all sides by contemporary houses and roads. In the Mughal era, the three Nawankot monuments were linked together by a brick wall forming the eastern edge of the garden, and were in turn linked to two turrets that deliniated a square area of greenery with Zeb-un-Nisa’s tomb at the center. No trace of the western turrets and walls survive and the gardens have disappeared under urban sprawl. The Nawankot monuments themselves are in considerable danger from the effects of neglect, urban encroachment, vandalism and environmental stress.

The eastern gate is the most impressive of the monuments. It is a two story structure measuring 11.1 meters east-west and 13.0 meters north-south. It was once almost entirely covered by kashikari (enameled mosaic work) but large areas have worn away.

Nur Jahan Tomb (built 1640s)

Photo 4Nur Jahan was the daughter of I’timad-ud-Daula, Jahangir’s prime minister. Meaning “Light of the World”, she was born in 1577 to Persian parents and was given the name Mehr-un-Nisaa. At the age of 17 she married Sher Afghan, a Mughal courtier. The marriage lasted thirteen years and resulted in the birth of one daughter, the only child Mehr-un-Nisaa was to ever have. After her husbands’s death in 1607, Mehr-un-Nisaa entered Emperor Jahangir’s harem as a lady-in-waiting to one of his stepmothers. She remained in the harem for four years until Jahangir happened to notice her during the Nowruz spring festival in March 1611. Infatuated by her beauty, he immediately proposed to her. She wedded in May of that year, becoming Jahangir’s twentieth wife.

Jahangir’s attention to matters of state was seriously compromised by his addiction to opium and alcohol. As he aged, he relied more and more on his close advisers to manage the empire’s administration. Mehr-un-Nisaa–now known as Nur Jahan–used this as an opportunity to take power for herself and for many years became the de-facto ruler behind the throne. In an unusual step, Jahangir even allowed her to have coinage minted in her name–traditionally a prerogative of the emperor alone.

In 1626 the emperor was captured by rebels while on his way to Kashmir. Although Nur Jahan was able to secure his release, he died on October 28, 1627. In the struggle for succession that followed, Nur Jahan’s own brother Asaf Khan sided against her and allied with his son-in-law Khurrum who was angling for the throne. Khurrum succeeded and became the next Mughal Emperor with the reign name Shah Jahan. Nur Jahan lost favor and was confined to house arrest, but was not stripped of her finances. Throughout the remainder of her life she engaged in artisic activities, including composing Persian poems under the pen name Makhfi. Her greatest legacy, however, was the construction of the I’timad-ud-Daulah Tomb in honor of her father, which ranks second only to the Taj Mahal as the finest example of Mughal architecture in the subcontinent. She also oversaw the construction of her own tomb and was interred there when she died in 1645 at age 68.

Nur Jahan’s tomb is stylistically similar to Jahangir’s tomb, but is about half the size and lacks corner minarets. The tomb suffered substantial damage in the 19th century when its marble decoration was plundered for use in other monuments. The destruction extended even to the sarcophagus, which is no longer extant. The present cenotaph at the center of the tomb is a modern restoration. More recently, over-zealous rehabilitation of the tomb has resulted in the loss of some of the remaining fragments of original ornamentation.

Prince Pervez Tomb (built early 16th century)

Photo 1Traditionally, this tomb is attributed to Prince Pervez, one of the sons of Emperor Jahangir. The historian Latif, who actively documented architectural sites in Lahore in the late 1800s, holds a different view, writing:

‘In the time of Shah Jahan, a market flourished at this place, which was called Parewzabad. The spot is still known by the old inhabitants as Perwezabad.

The dome is known as the Maqbara of Prince Parwez, second son of Jahangir, and both Chishti and Mufti Ghulam Sarwar ascribe it to that prince. But Parwez died of delirium tremens in 1036 A.H. (1626 AD) in Burhanpur (Deccan). The Emperor heard this news at Cabul [Kabul], on his deliverance from captivity through the unwearied exertions of his faithful wife Nur Jahan, and Shah Jahan became the most probable heir to the Crown.

I think it probable, judging from the fact that the place is still called Parwezabad, that this is the burial-place of Parwez’s two sons who, we are informed, were murdered at Lahore along with the other Princes of royal blood, by order of Shah Jahan, on his ascession to the throne, ‘their bodies being buried in a garden at Lahore’.

In any case, the tomb is in a deplorable state of conservation. This is all the more unfortunate as its octagonal plan suggests that a high-ranking nobleman or member of the royal family was buried here. Originally, the tomb likely stood at the center of a large garden with gateways on four sides (similar to the layout of Asaf Khan’s tomb tomb and landscape ensemble). No traces of the gates or gardens survive and modern housing has encroached nearly to the edge of the tomb itself. The remaining portion of the tomb stands denuded of much of its surface decoration which likely included marble cladding and bas reliefs. The marble sarcophagus it once housed was removed in the 19th century or earlier and replaced with a crude brick replica.

Sunehri Masjid (Golden Mosque) (built 1749)

Photo 3The Sunehri Masjid is a relative latecomer to Lahore’s traditional cityscape, having been built in 1753 during the waning years of the Mughal empire by Nawab Bhikari Khan, the Deputy of Lahore during the tenure of Governor Mir Mu’in al-Mulk Mir Munoo. It stands on a small plot of land where one street diverges into two. When Nawab Bhikari Khan acquired the property, it was a vacant parcel of land at the chowk (square) of Kashmiri Bazaar. He was required to obtain a special fatwa from Muslim scholars to construct the mosque, as the local authorities has been concerned that the construction of a building in the square would interrupt the flow of traffic.

The pre-eminent architectural historian Kamil Khan Mumtaz is highly critical of the design, writing:

“On close inspection the corruption of Mughal forms is revealed in every detail. The bulbous Mughal domes are now exaggerated into the form of grotesque vegetables capped with slender drooping leaves. The merlons have become naga hoods, and the column stalks growing out of cabbages that blossom into life-like lotuses.”

Shahi Hammam Bathhouse (built 1634)

Shahi Hammam BathhouseThe Shahi Hammam bathhouse, also known as Hammam Wazir Khan, is the only remaining bathhouse of its type in Lahore. During the Mughal era, hammams (public baths) were introduced based on Persian models and flourished for a time, though their popularity never reached the level maintained in Persia as public baths were not an established cultural institution in the Punjab. Today, the Shahi Hammam is no longer in use and has been converted into a tourist information center.

The hammam was first established in 1634 by Sheikh Ilmuddin Ansari who built it just inside the Delhi Gate along the path to Wazir Khan mosque, under construction at the time. It contained separate facilities for men and women to bathe and also included amenities such as a reception chamber and a small prayer room. In keeping with Persian precident, virtually the entire hammam was illuminated from above with small openings on the roof which also aided ventilation by allowing hot air to flow out from the facility. Since the walls had relatively few windows, merchants were able to set up shops directly abutting the hammam. Although the hammam is no longer in operation, the merchant shops have remained open and even today make it difficult to discern the facades of the hammam.

The interior of the hammam is mostly intact and preserves frescos dating from the Mughal era. Unfortunately, the actual bathing facilities were filled in and tiled over in the mid 1990s when the building was briefly converted to another purpose by its private owners. In recent years the site has been acquired by the Tourist Information Center of Lahore and is being conserved. About 75% of the interior area is now open to the public.

SHALAMAR GARDENS (BUILT 1633-42)

Photo 2BACKGROUND

Lahore is often described as the “city of gardens”. Although deserving of this title, few of its historic gardens survive to the present day and even fewer are preserved in something close to their original state. Shalamar is a grand exception to this trend. Comprising nearly forty acres on three broad terraces, its majesty brings to life the Mughal genius for landscape architecture like no other monument in Lahore.

Prior to Shalamar, the Mughal emperors had been no strangers to garden building. Babur, the founder of the dynasty, had constructed a number of gardens during and after his invasion of the Indian subcontinent. Judging by his memoirs, he held a consumate interest in cataloging and describing the flora and fauna of the Indian landscape, and his gardens often incorporated varieties of native plants. Despite this, Babur never felt at home in the arid climate of Hindustan, preferring the cool weather of the Afghan mountains which had been his boyhood home. When he died, Babur left instructions to be interred in an earth covered grave in present-day Kabul rather than in a garden tomb on the subcontinent.

As Babur’s successors assembled a larger and more diverse empire, the gardens they founded served multiple purposes. In a practical sense, they provided an environment where the imperial court could camp in relative comfort as the emperor and his entourage traveled from site to site. At the end of a long day’s journey, imperial gardens along the Grand Trunk Road and other roads would have been a welcome refuge from the overwhelmingly arid landscape of North India. In a political sense, such gardens also served as landmarks of imperial conquest. Mughal gardens were easily distinguishable from earlier varieties in north India as they were both grander in scale than prior gardens and placed a great emphasis on axis, symmetry, and balance. Such char bagh gardens (literally, “four gardens”) referenced the paradise gardens described in the Q’uran and Persian models to the west. Both were like nothing India had seen before, and their presence testified to the Mughal’s dominion over the landscape.

The origins of Shalamar Garden are directly attributable to another garden of the same name built by Jahangir in Kashmir. The Kashmir area had long been of interest to the Mughals, and Babur himself had attempted to visit the area in 1554 but had been unable to do so due to the political situation. In 1586 the area was finally conquered by Akbar and its capital Srinagar taken in 1589. Akbar was immediately struck by the beauty of Kashmir. Geographically, it comprised a 150 kilometer long valley with stunning views of the Himalayas. Its climate was moderated by the Pir Panjal mountain range, which served as a buffer against the monsoon climate to the south. Down the middle of the valley flowed the Jhelum river which was amply watered by seasonal snowfall in the surrounding mountains. In the midst of this verdant landscape, Akbar established a number of gardens which may have included the Garden of Breezes (Nasim Bagh) along the western edge of Dal Lake. He may also have constructed floating gardens on boats which he used when travelling along the Jhelum river.

Akbar’s son, Jahangir, built the first Shalamar garden in the Kashmiri landscape. He selected the site in 1620 and involved his son, the future Shah Jehan, in a project to dam up a stream used to irrigate the garden. One can imagine that this experience left a deep impression on the future Shah, as he continued to build gardens throughout his lifetime that were generally similar in design to the Shalamar of Kashmir.

Here, Shah Jehan witnessed the construction of a garden that rivalled any built previously by the Mughals. The garden took advantage of the spectacular backdrop of the Himalaya mountains, which provided water year-round and views of snow-capped peaks that persisted into the warmer months. The garden was laid out on three broad terraces on the gently sloping landscape, and the change in elevation allowed fountains to be built with sufficient water pressure to produce stunning hydraulic effects. Several magnificent marble pavilions studded the garden and provided places to contemplate the landscape or engage in the business of the court.

Kashmir may have been an eartly paradise, but it was not suitable as a permanent capital for the Mughal empire. Fatehpur-Sikri had held this role, but was replaced in the 1590s by Lahore in present-day Pakistan. The climate of Lahore is nothing like Kashmir. Although it is irrigated by a river–the Ravi–the climate is much hotter than Kashmir and the landscape is almost unrelentingly flat. Akbar and Jahangir had done their best to build gardens here on a grand scale (for example, the Shahdara garden), but any hydraulic effects were constrained by the absence of water pressure that could only be achieved, in absence of machine power, by a change in elevation.

Establishment of the Garden

Sometime in the 1620s or 1630s, a large flood swept through Lahore and exposed a low bluff at the edge of the Ravi river. Although the bluff averaged only a few meters higher than the surrounding floodplain, it presented the best opportunity in the Lahore area to create a garden in the Kashmiri variety. The site was relatively remote–about a day’s ride to the east of Lahore fort–but it was chosen as the site of the future Shalamar garden by Kalil Ullah Khan, an imperial nobleman who had been ordered by Shah Jahan to find an appropriate site for a garden. At this point, in 1641, the narrative of the site becomes entangled with the life of Ali Mardan Khan, the former governor of Kandahar who had surrendered the city to the Mughals in exchange for riches and safe conduct. Ali Mardan Khan claimed to have expertise in the construction of qanats (underground canals) and Shah Jahan tasked him with constructing a canal from Rajpur, at the foot of the Himalayas, all the way to Lahore. Such a canal would span over 160 kilometers and provide ample water to encourage settlement in the Punjab northeast of Lahore (a relatively underpopulated area at the time). The terminus of the canal would reach the upper terrace of Shalamar garden and its remaining water would provide sufficient flow to animate hundreds of fountains.

Shalamar garden did not fare well in the years after Shah Jahan’s death. Architectural patronage as a whole declined during the reign of Shah Jahan’s successor Aurangzeb, who gave little to Lahore apart from the spectacular Badshahi Mosque which survives to the present day. After Aurangzeb, Lahore’s fortunes declined in tandem with the greater Mughal Empire. By the early 1800s, the gardens were looted of much of their marble decoration. Many of the present structures are largely reconstructions in plaster and brick.

Sher Singh Baradari (1840s)

Photo 5Maharaja Sher Singh (December 1807 – September 16, 1843) ruled the Sikh Empire from 1841 until his death. He was the the son of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the founder of the Sikh Empire, and his Queen Rani Mehtab Kaur. His reign–brought to a brief end through treachery–produced few lasting architectural vestiges in Lahore apart from this baradari.

Neglected for many decades, the baradari was nearly destroyed in 1992 when mobs set it afire in misdirected retaliation for the destruction of the Babri Mosque in India in 1992. Currently, the baradari is threatened by ongoing construction and waste refuse from the Solid Waste Management Company which operates in the vicinity.

Immediately to the west of the Baradari are the ruins of several samadhi where domed enclosures onced housed the ashes of Sher Singh and his son.

Wazir Khan Baradari (built 1635)

Photo 3This baradari (literally, 12-door pavilion) originally served as the centerpiece of the Nakhlia Garden built by Wazir Khan, a benefactor of numerous buildings throughout Lahore including the mosque and hammam (bath house) which bear his name. It is among the finest of such monuments in the city, having been incorporated into the grounds of the Punjab Public Library as early as 1860, where it serves as a reading room. During the 19th and early 20th centuries it also served as a museum and as the Settlement and Telegraph Office under the British.

Wazir Khan Mosque (built 1634)

Wazir Khan mosque was built in 1634 by Shaikh Ilm-ud-din Ansari, Viceroy of Punjab under Shah Jahan. Ansari hailed from humble origins in the town of Chiniot in the Jhang district of the Punjab. He studied medicine under Hakim Dawi and was hired by the Mughal court as the personal physician of Prince Kuram, the future Shah Jehan. The young prince was so taken with Ansari’s competence that he awarded him with the title Wazir Khan in 1620. Wazir is a title meaning “Minister” in Urdu.

Wazir Khan acquired a large tract of land in Lahore bounded by the Delhi Gate to the east and the Lahore Fort to the west. He founded the mosque that now bears his name on the site of the tomb of Syed Muhammed Ishaq (also known as Miran Badshah), a saint who had migrated from Iran in the 13th century. Wazir Khan also established a bathhouse (Shahi Hammam) and other commercial establishments along the road to the mosque whose income was intended to ensure maintenance of the mosque into perpetuity. Although the bathhouse did not provide as much income as intended, the bazaar to the east of the mosque was quite successful and remains a flourishing market even to the present day.

The mosque’s distinguishing architectural feature is the use of minarets at each of its four corners–the first time such a design was employed in Lahore. The prayer hall follows the one-aisle five-bay motif that was first established in Lahore a generation earlier at the Maryam Zamani Mosque, which was later to find its full expression in the Badshahi Mosque built by Emperor Aurangzeb a half century later. Much of the mosque is constructed of cut and dressed brick decorated with glazed tile mosaics.

A curious feature of the mosque is the incorporation of 22 shops into its ground plan. Situated on either side of the entrance hall, these shops form a bazaar with a brick-paved passage in between. This commercial area extends east beyond the mosque into the Chowk Wazir Khan (Wazir Khan Square) which remains a vibrant commerical district to the present day.

Zeb-un-Nisa Tomb (built late 17th century)

Zeb-un-Nisa, meaning “most beautiful of all women”, was a daughter of Emperor Aurangzeb who lived from 1637 to 1702. She gained renowned for her Sufi faith and passionate interest in poetry. However, it is not known if this in fact her tomb. Some sources indicate that she died in Delhi and is buried outside the Kabuli gate. If this is true, another candidate for the tomb’s occupant is Mian Bai Fakhrunnisa (Pride of Women), a favored female attendent of Zeb-un-Nisa who was given the Chauburji garden by her patron.

 

 

 

 

 

Indian actor Shyama’s Arain roots in Lahore

By Ishtiaq Ahmed:

For a legend to evolve, it needs people who for some emotional and psychological reasons need to associate themselves with an individual.

The beautiful Indian film industry actress of yesteryears, Shyama now lives a reclusive life in Mumbai, but in her heyday, she was a much sought after artiste. She played the lead role in many films, notably Aar Paar (1954), but her forte was as a supportive actress in which she excelled in many great films. Among them I include Shabnam (1949), Patanga (1949), Tarana (1951), Sazaa (1951), Chhoo Mantar (1956), Chhoti Bahen (1959), Barsaat ki Raat (1960), Bahu Rani (1963), Dil diya Dard liya (1966) and many more. In Sharada (1957), she won the Filmfare Best Supporting Actress Award. Personally for me, her role as Shipalee, who loves the rebel, Raj (Balraj Sahni) in Zia Sarhadi’s Marxist classic, Hum Log (1951), is unforgettable, especially the picturisation on her of the song Chhun, chhun, chhun baje payal mori, which Roshan had composed so sweetly.

Shyama was born as Khurshid Akhtar in Baghbanpura, Lahore on June 7, 1935. She hails from Lahore’s most populous biradari of Arains, who before the partition of India were the main Muslim landowning biradari in Lahore district besides the Sikh Jatts who were almost entirely in the rural tehsils of Lahore district. The pioneer of the Lahore film industry and later, a legendary filmmaker in Bombay, A R Kardar was also a Lahore Arain belonging to the Zaildar family of Bhaati Gate. Another Arain at Bombay film industry was the gorgeous Begum Para. Her father, Mian Ehsan-ul-Haq of Jullundur, was a judge who joined the princely state of Bikaner, now northern Rajasthan, where he became chief justice of its highest court.

For several reasons, the Arains were radicalised towards fundamentalist Islam and that created extremely conservative values among them. I know this because I myself was born in that group. I shall probe this and the overall trend of other Punjabi Muslim castes and biradaris towards ‘Arabisation’ in a forthcoming series.

Anyhow, among old-timers of Lahore, Shyama remained a legend. For a legend to evolve, it needs people who for some emotional and psychological reasons need to associate themselves with an individual. Each time I am in Lahore, I find some addition to the legend of Shyama. Yet, all this happens in gossip and whispers and not in media where there is a hush-up, even among those who write in films about Shyama.

This is because her fans, especially those from her biradari, cannot disown her because she attained fame and ruled hearts once upon a time. That in itself does not sit well with Islamism, but she violated some more taboos. She married the famous Bombay cinematographer, Fali Mistry, a Parsee. Her two sons have been raised as Parsees. One lives in New York and the other in London.
I talked to her in her Mumbai home on June 2, 2012 from Stockholm. The same day I had spoken to Kamini Kaushal who also lives in Mumbai. Shyama’s father Chaudhry Mehr Din was a fruit merchant who set up business in Bombay. Shyama’s family shifted to Bombay when she was only two. The megastar Dilip Kumar’s father was also a fruit merchant in Bombay, so those who are into novelty hunting can probe the connection between fruit and films. I would only stick to the facts.

Shyama was only a child when she left Lahore so she has no personal association or memories of Lahore. By the way, the same is true of the late Suraiya who died in Mumbai some years ago. In 2001, I was in Mumbai and knocked on her door, pleading for an interview but Suraiya refused it. On that occasion, Shyama was not in town.

And now, some gossip about Shyama’s Lahore connection. One is that she was at college in Lahore and then went to Bombay. Another, that she was engaged to Chaudhry Abdullah, popularly known as Chaudhry Thhailla of Mozang, Lahore. Another is that she visited Lahore in 1960 and was given a rousing reception.
According to Shyama, she visited Lahore only in the 1990s and stayed with Madam Noorjahan, whom she met in Bombay at the age of 10 when she visited the sets of Zeenat (1945). She was recruited to take part in the famous qawwali Aahein naa bhareen shikwa naa kiya by Noorjahan’s first husband, Syed Shaukat Hussain Rizvi. She had come to the sets to watch the shooting with a bunch of schoolgirls and was offered the job. That gradually paved the way for more roles.

Shyama told me she had an older sister and brother who were settled in Lahore, but when she came in the 1990s, they were not alive anymore. Therefore she did not meet any relatives in Lahore. I know, however, that her cousin, Naseer Maliki, who worked at the Lahore Television Station, used to talk about her. He was a good friend of my brother-in-law.

On March 26, 2004, I met Ripudamman Singh in his shop at Rambagh Bazaar, Amritsar. He gave me an eyewitness account of what happened in that town in the 1947 riots (The Punjab Bloodied, Partitioned and Cleansed; Oxford University Press, Karachi, 2012). He told me that in the early 1960s, he met a Muslim woman and her daughter who wanted to see their old home in Amritsar They had come from Lahore and were going to take the train to Bombay next day. He brought them home. She told him that she was a relative of Shyama and was going there to meet her. Hence, until then at least, Shyama did have contact with her Lahore relatives. All this had faded from her memory when I talked to her.

Ayodhya, learn a lesson in peace from Lahore

SHAEED GANJ

Here is a lesson from history for those insisting that the Babri Mosque site be handed over to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad party who insist on building a temple in its place because they believe a Ram temple existed there, Times of India reported.
In Lahore’s famous Naulakha Bazar there still exists the Gurdwara Shaheed Ganj Singhnian which earlier housed a mosque built in 1722. Though the existence of the mosque — demolished in 1935 — had never been doubted, the Privy Council ruled in 1940 that Muslim rights over the property had ceased since the 12-year time during which it could have been restored to them had elapsed.
The judgment of the Privy Council survived Partition.
In rejecting the demand of Anjuman Islamia for restitution, the Privy Council said that since no one had sued within a statutory period to eject the person possessing adversely the property belonging to the wakf, plaintiffs “born 100 years later” could not claim any rights. “The land cannot be recovered by or for the mutawali and the terms of endowment can no longer be enforced,” it said.
The litigation over Shaheed Ganj was very similar to the one being contested over ‘Ramjanambhoomi’. Shaheed Ganj came under the Sikhs after Lahore was occupied by them in 1762. Sikh rule ended only in 1849, after British annexation. A part of the mosque was turned into a shrine for Bhai Taru Singh, who had suffered religious persecution. When the British came in 1849, the mosque was still with Sikhs.
Then litigation began. In 1850, a case by Nur Ahmad, claiming to be a descendant caretaker of the masjid, came to nothing as he had been long out of possession. On June 25, 1855 Ahmad brought another suit against the Sikhs, which was also dismissed.
In 1925, the Sikh Gurdwaras Act was passed and the Shaheed Ganj Gurdwara included as a Sikh shrine. Various parties made claims to the gurdwara but the Sikh Gurdwaras Tribunal held that it stay with a committee of management for the notified Sikh Gurdwaras at Lahore. But on July 7, 1935, the building of Shaheed Ganj was demolished, the minutes of Privy Council saying “by or with the connivance of its Sikh custodians”, leading to riots and disorder in Lahore.
Another plaint was made on October 30, 1935, against the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee. But this was a curious plaint for it made no claim for possession of the property or ejectment of the defendants or for restoring it to its hereditary owners. It asked for a relief “claiming a declaration that the building was a mosque in which the plaintiffs and all followers of Islam had a right to worship, an injunction restraining any improper use of the building and any interference with the plaintiffs right of worship and a mandatory injunction to reconstruct the building.” This was dismissed by the district judge and later by the high court in 1938. Finally, it came to the Privy Council.
The Babri Mosque, was a mosque in Ayodhya, a city in the Faizabad district of Uttar Pradesh, India, on Ramkot Hill (Rama’s fort). It was destroyed in 1992 when a political rally developed into a riot involving 150,000 people, despite a commitment to the Indian Supreme Court by the rally organisers that the mosque would not be harmed. More than 2,000 people were killed in ensuing riots in many major cities in India including Mumbai and Delhi.
The mosque was constructed in 1527 by order of Babur, the first Mughal emperor of India and was named after him. Before the 1940s, the mosque was also called Masjid-i-Janmasthan. The Babri Mosque was one of the largest mosques in Uttar Pradesh, a state in India with some 31 million Muslims. Although there were several older mosques in the surrounding district, including the Hazrat Bal Mosque constructed by the Shariqi kings, the Babri Mosque became the largest, due to the importance of the disputed site.
It is still a disputed site.

 

Kamini Kaushal: Lahore is home

By  Ishtiaq Ahmed:


In spite of her 85 years, Kamini Kaushal was exceptionally eloquent as she shared her phenomenal down-the-memory-lane fund of stories about Lahore.


As I continue probing the Lahore-Bombay film industry linkage, the pre-partition Lahore legend grows larger and more fascinating. “It was the city of cycles; everywhere you could see people on cycles, we girls went around on cycles”, recalled the famous Lahore-born Indian film industry actress, Kamini Kaushal (born Uma Kashyap on January 16, 1927) when I spoke to her on the phone from Stockholm on Wednesday, July 4, 2012. I spoke to another Lahorite, Shyama as well. This week, we look at Kamini Kaushal’s roots in Lahore. I must acknowledge with gratitude the kind help of Ajay Deshpande who arranged the interviews for me.The interview with Kamini Kaushal alternated between Lahore Punjabi and that very familiar English accent that many generations acquired who went to one of the English-medium schools and colleges in pre-partition Lahore and well into the early decades afterwards and perhaps, still do.

Kamini Kaushal made her debut Neecha Nagar (1946) directed by the old Ravian and elder brother of Dev Anand, Chetan Anand. It was the very first Indian film based on social realism to gain international recognition. It shared the best film award, the Grand Prix du Festival International du Film, at the first Cannes Film Festival in 1946. Thereafter followed memorable hits like Ziddi (1948) with Dev Anand; Aag with Raj Kapoor and four with the thespian Dilip Kumar: Shaheed (1948), Nadiya Ke Paar (1949), Shabnam (1949) and Arzoo (1950). She was awarded the 1956 Filmfare award for best actress in Biraj Babu. In the 1960s, Kamini Kaushal began to play character roles and that stint continued till 2003. She has continued to appear in television serials up until now. She also became famous as an author of children’s books.

In spite of her 85 years, Kamini Kaushal was exceptionally eloquent as she shared her phenomenal down-the-memory-lane fund of stories about Lahore. Her love for Lahore came out forcefully, yet most gentling, when she said “Lahore is home, will always be. It always remains with me as a constant companion wherever I am. Often times, I wander away in my thoughts to Lahore because so many of the finest memories are associated with that petite city. My father was a professor of botany at the Government College, Lahore. We lived at Chauburji. I studied at the Lady Mc Clagan Girls’ High School, which was not far from where we lived and later at the Kinnaird College from where I did my BA honours in English Literature”, she told me.
Kamini Kaushal has visited Lahore thrice after India was divided in mid-August 1947. About her longing for Lahore, she said, “Since Lahore was always in my thoughts, my mother and brother told me to visit Lahore, and in 1962, I got the first chance to return to my roots. I went to our house. The new residents were our old neighbours who used to live across the road, and whom we knew very well. They met me with great kindness and emotions. They had known my father and respected him, as he was a famous academician of Lahore. In those days, people had great respect for educators and doctors. Society was so much more humane. We never thought in terms of Hindu or Muslim. I was amazed that the sculptures, pictures and many furniture items that we had left behind were exactly in the same place after all those years. I had a very close friend, Jamila, who lived close to our home in Chauburji. She had moved to Karachi. Jamila was contacted and she immediately came to Lahore and we met again. It was a very moving reunion.”
About her second and third visits — Kamini Kaushal could not ascertain the exact years — but on both occasions, it had to do with celebrations at Government College, Lahore and her alma mater, Kinnaird College. She told me that Mian Nawaz Sharif, a Ravian, was in power when she visited Government College. She said, “We went to my father’s office. All his things he had left behind were still there including the inkpot. After a while, they left me alone so that I could feel for myself the old atmosphere. It was amazing really. It almost felt he was somewhere in the room and would come back any time. As a child, I used to visit him and then played around in the corridors, and also went swimming. It was truly spiritual. I felt he would walk in any time.
During the Kinnaird College celebrations, many former students from India also came. It was a very emotional reunion as many of us had lost contact. Before partition, there were a few Muslim girls at the Kinnaird College. However, some of them who used to study with us were also there. It was truly a very important event in my life.
My daughter went to Lahore in 2004 to attend the famous cricket match. She was also keen to see our house since she was born there. Alas, by that time, it had been demolished and instead, a shopping mall had popped up. Our house is no more but home, Lahore, is still there and will always be.”
I called Kamini Kaushal twice later to ascertain the years of her second and third visit to Lahore, but she could not remember exactly. She believed the second trip was to Government College and the third to Kinnaird College. My own hunch is that it was the other way round. She invited me to visit her next time I came to India.

Foodistan (Lahore, Pakistan)

Irfan Rydhan

Recently, I came back from a month long trip to Lahore – the culinary capital of Pakistan.

Lahore, has a wide variety of cuisine, from fancy upscale Italian restaurants to the simple Pakistani village food and everything in between.

A few tips for those of you who may be traveling to Pakistan soon:

1. Get Your Shots – Before you Travel (Currently Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Polio and Malaria are the main diseases in Pakistan)

2. Don’t Drink The Water – unless it’s Bottled and Sealed (Nestle PureLife is the most reliable brand)

3. Don’t Eat Street Food – unless it is fried up, steaming hot, or cooked well done!  Avoid eating anything cold or something made with water.

If you follow those 3 simple rules, you should be fine and not get sick!

Below is a short slideshow of my trip through “Foodistan” aka Lahore this past February.  I hope you enjoy the pictures, as much as I enjoyed eating all the delicious food:)!

Fresh Butter on hand-made Aloo Paratha (Bread stuffed with Potato) in the Pind (Village)
Fresh Butter on hand-made Aloo Paratha (Bread stuffed with Potato) in the Pind (Village) Continue reading

‘I belong to Ranjha’ – the syncreticism of Lahore’s Shah Hussain

Raza Rumi

I am cross posting my piece here.

Lahore, the ancient city of Loh, the age-old halt for invaders, is also the home to eclectic Sufis. Men and women who shed conventions and discovered newer planes of spirituality found a home in this city. The merging of centuries’ old Indus valley bastion – the Punjab and its primordial language – with core strands of Islamic Sufism was a unique moment in South Asia’s cultural evolution. And, no one can better represent the composite soul of Lahore than its poet and Sufi master Shah Hussain, whose identity has forever fused with his Hindu disciple Madhu Lal. Those who seek Lahore’s Mela Chiraghaan or Festival of Lights still frequent the 16th century shrine of Madhu Lal Hussain.

Shah Hussain’s father, Shaykh Usman, was a loom weaver, and his grandfather Kaljas Rai (Kalsarai) was a convert to Islam who gained the confidence of the state during the reign of Emperor Firoz Shah Tughlaq. Shah Hussain Lahori was born in 1538 AD near Taxali Gate, Lahore. His early religious education was followed by induction into the Qadiriya order by Hazrat Bahlul Daryavi at a very young age. As a devout Muslim in his early years, he gained a formal outward knowledge and imbibed the spiritual moorings of Lahore, including the blessings of Hazrat Usman Ali Hajvery, aka Data Saheb, whose shrine has guided scores of saints, fakirs and yogis for nearly a millennium.

Read the full post here

A line drawn a couple of kilometres from Ludhiana may have defined borders and changed the world for most people. But on either sides there are some things that have become vestiges of another time, another place. TOI traces a few of these legacies of Partition in the city that trigger memories on this side of the border
Walking zig zag between vehicles and people at Lajpat Rai Market near Clock Tower, it is easy to walk past the Lahore Book Shop without much incidence. But, that is only for the uninitiated. For everyone else, the not-so-fancy bookstore is a legacy of the Partition and a destination in itself.
Ludhiana’s literature lovers file into the shop, go through the piles of books stacked one on another and find their pick before heading out with a smile. They say the store is a faithful witness of change while sticking to its roots.
The year was 1940, the place Lahore and Jiwan Singh, who had just finished post graduation in English, had many career opportunities staring him. He could have a cushy government job or work as English professor in any college of the time. But Jiwan decided differently and started the ”dicey” business of publishing Punjabi literature. His motivation was the desire to promote Punjabi and help students easily get books in the language.

Read the complete piece at:

http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2012/05/28/city/lahore/a-little-piece-of-lahore-in-india/

Lahore – a short poem

By Gohar Sadaf Qureshi

Image

Missing Lahore and the years there.
years had been from home,
And now, before the door,
I dared not open, lest a face
I never saw before

Stare vacant into mine
And ask my business there.
My business, — just a life I left,
Was such still dwelling there?

Photo by Saad Alvie

Lahore: Lets Visit Urdu Bazaar!!

Text and Photos by: Shiraz Hassan

Urdu Bazaar is one of the busiest markets of Lahore, Pakistan. It is situated at opposite side of Mori Gate of walled city, near Anarkali bazaar.

This bazaar is known for Book selling, publishing, printing, paper and books related material. From school, college course books to world classics literature books are available here. You can get old and new books on the topic of history, science, religion, music, geography, any topic you name.

There Urdu Bazaar starts from Circuler Road, opposite of Mori Gate and ends at Chatterjee Road, Back side of Govt College University Lahore.

Before partition this bazaar was known as Mohan Lal road and just a few book publishers were settled there, at that time Kashmiri bazaar of Delhi Gate area was the home of book publishers, after partitions they started establishing their business here at Mohan Lal road. Within few years this road appeared as big market of books and books related stuff.

In early 1950s traders of Mohan Lal road decided to change the name of Mohan Lal road, they must thought that now they have a separate homeland for Muslims, and non-Muslim road name should be changed. So they called couple of meetings and ended at the name; Urdu Bazaar. Hazeen Kashmiri, one of the oldest Book sellers of Urdu Bazaar, claims that he suggested this name.

Ex-Mohan Lal road was a small road, with few shops, with passage of time the bazaar expended and now there are more than 500 shops.

There were few old buildings here, especially the publishing press of Gulab Singh, which is now known as Printing Corporation of Pakistan Press, a Govt controlled organization.

In good old times, there was also couple of Hindu temples here .Hari Gayan Temple was one of them. It was one of the most beautiful temples of Lahore city. According to Historian Kanhiya Laal Hindi this temple was built by Shri Prasad Kasith, during Sikh era and religious scholar Pandit Sardha Ram Phulwari used to deliver lecture here.

A Walk inside Lohari Gate, Lahore

Write up and Photo Credits: Shiraz Hassan 

The Lohari Gate is one of the 13 gates of the walled city of Lahore. Being one of the oldest gates of the old city, Lohari Gate is also known as Lahori gate.

According to some historians, the original (old) city of Lahore was originally located near Ichhra, and this gate opened towards that side. Hence the name, Lahori gate.

Continue reading

Lahore circa 1933, II

By Raza Rumi:
I am grateful to Naeem Ahsan Jamil for sending more old pictures of Lahore from his private collection.

Photo 1:

Kim's Gun, The Mall Lahore

Photo 2

An aerial view of Lahore Airport with the GOC House.

Soon: Bhagat Singh Chowk in Lahore

CHANDIGARH: The Shadman Chowk of Lahore is likely to be officially named Bhagat Singh Chowk this year, two years after democratic, secular and socialistic organizations of Pakistan on their own named the place after the martyr.

“Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharief’s spokesman and senator Parvez Rashid, during a meeting with members of Bhagat Singh Foundation of Pakistan, recently assured that a bill to name the chowk after Bhagat Singh will be passed in the House,” foundation’s president and legal and human rights adviser to Punjab governor, Abdullah Malik, told TOI over phone from Lahore.

Senator Shaukat Basra, along with others, has already sent a bill to this effect to the house, but it has to be officially moved and adopted for the change to happen, Malik said. Within a few years, the revolutionary youth icon against oppression has now become a point of discussion in Pakistani discourse.Click here to read complete article.

Basant: Lahore’s lost spring

Raza Rumi

Cross posted from my website

Lahore, a centre for the arts and learning in the early 20th century, has been the custodian of a plural, vibrant culture for decades. Its walled city, unlike several other old settlements, has continued to survive despite the expansion of the city. So have its peculiar features: its dialects, cuisine, community linkages and, of course, rich festivals such as Basant. As the capital of Punjab, Lahore used to celebrate Basant — the arrival of spring — in a colourful manner.

Since the medieval times, Basant was acknowledged and celebrated by the Chishti saints. Nizamuddin Auliya of Delhi turned it into an act of devotion, and Amir Khusrau’s songs captured the multi-layered evolution of this festival.

Punjabi poets such as Shah Hussain gave a Sufi flavour to it. Hussain, in one of his kaafis, says: “The Beloved holds the string in his hand, and I am His kite.” The festival offered a meaning to all and sundry: from playful kids to lovers and Sufis; from profit-seekers who developed livelihoods around the festival to the community as a whole.

Basant was celebrated by all communities prior to Partition: Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs treated it as a Lahori festival with an identity linked to the city. In this milieu, Allama Iqbal was known to be an avid kite flier. But the post-1947 rise of clerics meant that inclusive cultural practices were to be treated with suspicion. For many decades, the Pakistani mullahs have ranted against Basant as an “unIslamic” festival and one that endangered public morality.

Unfazed by these fatwas, Lahoris continued with the festival. It even received state patronage on various occasions. A citizen of Lahore, Mian Yousaf Salahuddin (the grandson of Iqbal), turned his old Lahore haveli into a cultural hub and, over time, Basant celebrations became an international attraction. By the 1990s, proactive civil servants turned Basant into a great regional festival. Lahore’s then deputy commissioner, Kamran Lashari, provided full backing to the holding of this event in the 1990s. That was perhaps the time when Basant also became most controversial due to its scale and the increased hazards of unregulated kite-flying in which metallic or chemical-coated string was used.

The use of this string instead of the traditional dor caused many deaths each year and the local government was unable to enforce regulations on its usage. The metallic wire would get entangled in electricity cables in the old city, leading to electrocution. The courts intervened and asked the Punjab government to ban the festival in 2007.

Ironically, the banning of Basant did not take place in the name of religion but through a public interest litigation. However, the ideological opponents of Basant have been happy with the outcome and have created an uproar each time someone raised the question of reviving Basant after putting safety measures in place. But Lahore is a poorer place now. It is devoid of this public celebration, especially for thousands of impoverished workers in the old city and neighbouring towns where Basant was celebrated with great fervour.

Read the full post here

The images are Mahboob Ali’s works (an eminent artist from Lahore also known for his woodcuts)

Asif Khan’s whithering tomb

Monitoring Desk – Asif Khan’s tomb is situated among a group of monuments situated in what was once the Mughal Dilkusha Bagh (Heart-expanding Garden) in Shahdara.

The group includes a cluster of interlinked monuments of a serai forming the forecourt which leads on the east to the spectacular tomb of Emperor Jahangir, built by his celebrated wife Empress Noor Jahan, and on the west to a mosque and the tomb of Asaf Khan or Asaf Jah, one of the most powerful grandees at the courts of Jahangir and Shah Jahan. Close by is situated the tomb built to house the mortal remains of Empress Noor Jahan and her daughter Princess Ladli Begam.

A left turning from the Maqbara Road leads to the cluster marked by a double-storey imposing Mughal gateway. From here the route is by foot since the direct access since the entrances on three sides of his Chahar Bagh Rauza (paradisal garden mausoleum) were blocked in recent times. The route is to turn left towards the mosque in Chowk-i-Jilau Kham (Jahangiri Serai quadrangle).Click here to read complete article.

Lahore in 1933 – an aerial view

These original aerial photographs of old Lahore or the Inner City were shot in 1933. Zahra Mahmoodah has generously contributed them from a recently acquired album for Lahore Nama.

We invite the readers to identify the landmarks and buildings that are captured in the above photograph. Lahore remains the most beautiful city and in the 1930s it was surely a splendour!