Ahata Madhuram losing importance due to authorities’ neglect
By Ali Usman
LAHORE: Ahata Madhu-ram (Madhu-ram Compound) is an old site of archaeological importance situated in Old Anarkali’s Food Street. However, it has been losing its grandeur due to the negligence of the authorities concerned.
The ahata is more than 150 years old and has historic structures. Few people recognise it through its original name, as now it is popularly known as Butta Da Ahata (The Compound of Butts). A side lane of the Food Street leads into the ahata. Once the ahata used to have a wooden gate, which has now been replaced by a concrete gate. The structure of the wooden gate resembled the gates of the Walled City.
The corridor of the compound opens into a courtyard around which houses have been built in a circle. Around 17 families reside in the ahata, mostly Kashmiris who settled in it after 1947, when houses were allotted to them. The walls of the corridor have holes in which earthen-lamps could be found, when the ahata did not have electricity, as it is situated outside the city, resident Muhammad Anwar told Daily Times.
Anwar is 50 years old and was born and brought up in the ahata. His family settled here in 1947 when they migrated from India. He said, “Food Street has affected the importance of the ahata. Lots of tourists used to come here before the Food Street was established, but now this area is not kept clean and the tourists don’t bother to step into the ahata’s corridor.”
An ahata resident told Daily Times that when the Food Street was established, the floor of the ahata’s corridor had also been tiled. Its walls were also renovated and during the process, a plate that bore the ahata’s name and date in Hindi was covered. He said that the wooden gate of the ahata had been beautiful but it rusted gradually and ultimately had to be removed.
Neglected: Nazir Butt, another resident, said that the place was of historical importance as it reflected the culture and heritage of Lahore. He said that the Food Street had been maintained but the ahata had been neglected. He said that there used to be a well in the middle of the ahata where people could wash clothes and take baths. He said that this well had existed until 1970, when it had been closed, out of fear that children could fall into it. Nazir said that he had been seven or eight years old at the time of the partition of India and Pakistan and had been living in the place ever since. He said that the ahata had been the property of a Hindu named Madhuram. He said that few people today knew about the history and importance of the place, as the government had not done anything in this regard. He said that the people of the ahata had special affection for the place. He said that once a politician of the area had tried to name the ahata after his son, and had put up a board outside the gate. He said, “He wrote Bilal Ahata on the board, but the residents threw the board away.” He said that rainwater now gathered in the ahata and the gutters never worked, as shopkeepers in Food Street would block them with waste. He said that the Food Street gates were kept closed in the evening, which resulted in a lot of difficulty for the people, as they could not bring a vehicle into the place in case of emergency. He said, “Food Street is a valuable addition, but for the ahata and its residents it has proved to be a misery.”
Another resident of the area said that some symbols from Hinduism had also been found years ago in the place, which people had kept safe. He said that the Archaeology Department should do something for the betterment of the ahata.
NCA: Former National College of Arts (NCA) principal and noted architect Sajida Vandal said that the government should make a list of important historical buildings and they should not be neglected. She said that such buildings should be renovated, as they were a part of the history and culture of Pakistan.