Re-Christening Lahore?

By Usma Iftikhar
Lahore, its name rooted in Hindu Mythology, from one of the sons of Lord Ram, the city itself harbouring within itself, centuries and centuries of folklore and heritage, embedded in its every nook and corner.

From the various invasions and subsequent destruction which the city has borne witness to from the time of the Mongols to the Sikhs, no event has been successful in eradicating the vigour and the joie de vivre of the city and its inhabitants are known for.

Spread across the banks of Old Ravi where queens used to take rides in its waters, to the Walled City, the cultural metropolis spreads out like and embroided work of art, guarding bits and pieces of history like embedded jewels. One has to appreciate the beauty and glory of each site before deciphering its time meaning and its cultural significance.

Each place has its own story to tell relating to a unique episode in its history, from the medieval monuments like Old Hindu temples to the Moghul monuments, amendments by the Sikhs and of course its Colonial Heritage.
One the various enchanting aspects of the City were the names by which the citizens associated themselves with and by which the City swore its allegiance with History’s milestones.
While much has been written about the Gates of the Old City, visible and invisible, much is needed to be written about the rapidly evolving practice of re-naming the old locations of the city.
While localities like Krishan Nagar and Kot Radha Kishan are reminder of our combined past, the areas developed on and along the Mall Road bear testament to our Colonial Masters.
What is sad that after gaining freedom as an independent state, in our attempt to establish our identity or in our zeal to prove ourselves zealous Muslims, the practice of re-naming of the old city and replacing it with the names of prominent Islamic icons or personalities taking part in Independence Movement.
While these people should be recognized for their due diligence, it is unfair to this old maid to strip off its old names and attempt to dress it in gawdy new clothes.
Thus Krishan Nagar becomes Islampura, Chairing Cross becomes Faisal Square, Davis Road becomes Sir Agha Khan Road, Cooper road becomes Khawaja Nazimuddin Road, Race Course becomes Jilani Park. Egerton Road, Victoria Bridge, Montgomery Road and the list does not end. Some proposed names are Al-Munawwar Road for Shaamnagar, Abdul-Rahman Chughtai for Turner Roadand Al-Faiz town for Rajhgarh. Who is aware of the significance of roads like Napier Road and Thoronton Road??
In their over-zealous pursuits of Islam, our rulers are attempting to thwart the identity of this cultural hub.
Ask any Old Lahori, living here /abroad and they will reminisce about the old names and streets with its particular identity. Tell them the newer names and they will stare at you questioningly.
While historians and civil activists have condemned this practice started in 2005, little has been done to undo the damage caused.
Sadly, the new generation who has not read/heard these names will be oblivious to this chapter in the history of this city. If I, as a Lahori who has spent three decades of her life in this city has confusion associating herself to this ‘pure’ city, what does this entail for the older generation who would consider themselves ill at ease with the ‘new’ Lahore?
In our attempt to bring puritan Islam to our previously pluralistic society, should we go ahead and re-name the city itself?

7 responses to “Re-Christening Lahore?

  1. being the part of the society and culture where changing name is the norm on the name of religion i used to consider it good but i guess due to getting some rational and due to the nature of observing and learning things i started to realize that this is not the way to do the things and the best lesson i got from my UK based, son of a Pakistani, Professor that if it is the way to relive your culture and identity than why india never changed the names of places like Ahmed abad. Ilah abad etc.
    yes giving due respect to the religion and religious icon is a good and must things but hurting the feelings is also not a good approach.

  2. In our zeal to implement purity, we are stripping off the very things this city is know for: Its Culture.

  3. The throbbing and pulsating life and colourful culture of present day Lahore draws its roots from centuries of evolution. It is the amalgmataion & blending of variants that enriched its history and culture along the course_ A natural course or flow like a flowing stream or river that if intervened only loses its originality and charm. Resulting in a rich heritage that we inherited today only needs to be conserved for the future generations.

    There is a natural connect between our genertaion and the (original) names of the places that we have been familiar with. They constitute a part of our treasured memories and form the basis of our bond and emotional attachment with our heart throbbing city. Any attempt to change the names sort of creates a degree of alienation and disassociation.

    Goes without saying that it is our rich heritage that we feel proud of and if presented to the world in its true colours has immense potential to attract tourisits and recover the image deficit that we are suffering from today.

  4. Namaskar/ Salaam,

    While, it is understandable that such things do take place, but these need to kept under a check.
    Certainly, it is saddening to think that one day Lahore will no more remain Lahore. Why do I say so? For me Lahore is a part of my Heritage. though, none of my ancestors were settled at lahore nor did we have any relation in particular with Lahore. But, lahore to me epitomises what was the true undivided nation of ours. Only by reading your passage I got to know that its name has been derived from lord ram’s son’s name.

    Recently, someone whom I know had visited lahore. I told him to say my handfolded pranams to that land.

    It is sad, very sad.

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