Ranpreet Bal a visitor to Lahore has shared his impressions in an exclusive article for the Lahore Nama.
I was thinking to visit and explore the Historical City of Lahore for a long time. My first visit was very short with excitement and I tried to visit as many places as I can visit.
I am grateful to my friend and elder brother Jamil Ahmed Mir who received me warmly and made me feel at home and his sons Bilal and Avais who assisted me to see some of the places which I would never be able to see without their support.
Lahore is a City of Gardens, Colleges, British era buildings and Mughal and Sikh architecture old monuments and Havelis.
Some of the places of my interest were Shahi Quila, Samadh Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Kharak Singh and Naunihal Singh, Samadh Maharaja Sher Singh and Baradari,Gurdwara Dehra Sahib, Lahore Museum, Shalamar Gardens, Punjab University, Landa Bazar, Dayal Singh College, Mall Road, Hall Road, Lakhmi Building, Sardar Dina Singh building built in 1927 on Mall Road, and Gawal Mandi Food Court. The other interesting place is the Canal which passes through Lahore and during Basant Festival it is decorated beautifully.
The British built some important buildings like General Post Office, High Court, Punjab University, Museum, Railway Station, Chief’s College, Government College, King Edward Medical College, National College, Forman Christian College, Dayal Singh College and so many other Victorian style architecture heritage buildings.
The city was famous for its Educational Institutions. Punjab University has the largest campus in the city. Aitcheson College is still the most expensive educational institute The Maharajas and some Chieftains of Punjab got their education from this college.
Some medical institutes and hospitals like King Edward Medical College and Hospital, Mayo Hospital, Gulab Devi Hospital and Sir Ganga Ram Hospital were established during the British period.
The Lahore Museum established by the British displays the culture and history from Budhist period and vast treasures from Mughal and Sikh History, a collection of arms and Miniature oil paintings.
‘Zamzama Cannon’ of Bhangi Sikh Sardars who ruled Lahore from 1792 to 1799 is situated outside Lahore Museum.
The Sikh Museum in Lahore Fort is a collection of Princess Bamba, the granddaughter of Ranjit Singh which is situated in Haveli Rani Jindan, has paintings worth crores of rupees. The museum is protected by the Government of Pakistan.
There are many Havelis inside the walled city of Lahore which are a fine example of Mughal and Sikh Architecture. One of them is Haveli Naunihal Singh, Mubarak Haveli, where Kohinoor Diamond was kept before it was given to Maharaja Ranjit Singh and Haveli of Nawab Immam-Ud Din Governor of Kashmir, had all the paintings till the end of Sikh rule in 1849.
The walled city of Lahore has twelve gates constructed during the reign of Akbar some of the surviving gates are Delhi Gate, Sheranwala Gate, Lahori Gate, Bhatti Gate, Masti Gate, Mori Gate and Kashmiri Gate.
Data Darbar is a tomb of a famous Sufi Saint where hundreds of people come every day to pay their respect.
From 1524 to 1752 Lahore was part of Mughal Empire. During the rules of Emperor Akbar, Jahangir, Shahjahan and Aurangzeb several architectural monuments were built by the Mughals like Lahore Fort, Shalamar Gardens, Tomb of Jahangir and Noorjahan, Chauburji and several mosques and tombs were built in the city with glazed tile work in Persian art.
The Badshahi Masjid built by Emperor Aurangzeb in Lahore is one of the best landmarks in the city. The architecture and design of Badshahi Masjid is closely related with Jama Masjid in Delhi which was built by Emperor Shahjahan.
There are some well known mosques in the city like Sunehri Masjid, Moti Masjid and Wazir Khan Masjid.
From 1752 to 1792 Lahore was often invaded by many rulers. The Afghan, Iranian and Turk invasions damaged the city and Lahore Fort. During this period the Governors appointed by Ahmed Shah Abdali, who invaded Lahore eight times did not care much about the city. High ranking Muslim families, Hindu merchants, bankers and traders took refuge in Delhi, Lucknow, Hyderabad and other cities.
From 1792 to 1849 Lahore was part of the Sikh Empire. After 1799 when Maharaja Ranjit Singh captured Lahore. He started renovation of the Lahore Fort and other buildings. The Sheesh Mahal was repaired and a new Baradari Hazuri Bagh was erected in 1818. He also built the shrine of Guru Arjun Dev with its golden dome next to the Roshnai Darwaza. The maharaja also entirely restored the Shalamar gardens after cleaning and repairing the canal.
The Sikh and European Generals in the Ranjit Singh’s army had big gardens and Havelis which can be found on the miniature paintings of Imam Bakhsh Lahori who was Kotwal of Lahore. There was another personality in Maharaja’s army General Illahi Bakhsh who was the most trusted man of Ranjit Singh.
All Sardars and Generals of the kingdom to whatever religion they belonged, including French officers had their residences and gardens in the city which were decorated and embellished with beautiful paintings and gold inlay.
The Havelis of Jamadar Khushal Singh, Raja Dhyan Singh, the garden of Raja Teja Singh and Diwan Dina Nath, residence of General Court in Naulakha rivaled in splendour and beauty. General Ventura and General Allard had their own residence cum headquarters in Anarkali. General Evitable army was stationed at Budhu -ka awa.
General Allard had his last wish; “when I die my grave to be built in Lahore and my funeral should pass through Anarkali Bazaar”. When he died according to his wish he was buried in a garden close to Anarkali beside his daughter’s grave.
During Sikh rule Cannons were made locally in different areas of Lahore. There were four factories in Shahdara, Mozang, Anarkali area and Lahore fort under the supervision of Mian Kadar Bakhash and Sardar Anoop Singh.
General Court’s army was stationed at Begumpura. There were some beautiful old buildings during Mughal period, which were destroyed by British contractors to sell off bricks.
Some parts of Lahore are somewhat similar to Amritsar’s Hussainpura, Sharifpura, Maqbulpura and Shivala
In Lahore they are Begumpura, Singhpura, Mughalpura, Baghwanpura, Dharmpura, Wasanpura, Makhanpura, Harbanspura and Sivala.
I guess these names were given by Muslim and Sikh population of the city.
The walled city of Lahore is fascinating; the streets are packed with people, who are busy in shopping, and some are visitors from other cities.
Lahore and Amritsar were the oldest Historical cities in Hindustan, but Lahore is Lahore, because, it was capital city of Mughals, Sikhs and later British.
Lahore railway station is one of the oldest railway stations; the building is an excellent example of architecture.
Lahore still holds the old glory, there are gardens where people enjoy with families and the children enjoy bathing in the canal during the summer.
Basant Festival “Festival of kites” is celebrated in the city with great excitement.
Lahore’s food is fantastic with lots of variety of pure Punjabi food vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. People of Lahore enjoy eating. Food markets remain open till midnight. Gawal Mandi Food Street is one of the best places to visit.
Lahore is famous for its kababs, nans, lassi, milk, puri, halwa, baryani, ghosht (different types of goat meat) and a lot more to say.
Lahore is a cultural and artistic centre of Punjab. The busy streets and bazaars like Hall Road; good for electronics, Mall Road, Anarkali Bazar, Akbari Mandi,; famous for dry fruits, Heera Mandi; once a heritage of classical music Landa Bazar, Gulberg Market, and Liberty Market for shopping etc. make it a city of rich heritage.
Above all Lahorias are well known for their traditional hospitality.
I hope in my next visit I can find more about people, city, bazaars, food, shopping and a lot more to tell.