Author Archives: Raza Rumi

Old photographs of Lahore – what a discovery on New Year’s Eve

Raza Rumi

Happy New Year to all the Lahore Nama readers those who are interested in the magnificent city called Lahore. I discovered this amazing site with breathtaking photos of an undivided India and here are a few from Lahore:

Punjab Public Library, 1870s

Continue reading

New Rooftop Cafe – Jammae Mastan in Lahore

Jammae Mastan


Rooftop, Hast-o-Neest, 10 Commercial Building, Crossing Anarkali and the Mall, Lahore

Open 10 am to 8 pm daily

Tea, Coffee, Snacks, Dessert & Sheesha!



HAST-O-NEEST CENTRE FOR TRADITIONAL ART & CULTURE invites you for its inaugural exhibition showcasing Islamic calligraphy and illumination, miniature painting and traditional metal work, & a special showing of rare nastaliq calligraphy from the Fakir Khana Museum collection, on Sunday 14th November at 3:00 pm

Panel Discussion by Fakir Syed Saif-ud-Din, Kamil Khan Mumtaz & Irfan Ahmed Qureshi Continue reading

Lahore’s glorious past: Blossoms, bricks, bravura

Salma Mahmud

For those who love Lahore there is a mystical connection between themselves and the city. Regardless of its current ravaged and bereft condition, it continues to tug at the heartstrings with its lure and lustre.
And as you drive along the old Shalimar Road, the mist is thick, grey, smoky. You can almost eat it. This ancient road is withdrawn, remote, secretive, compressed within itself, surrounded by its dreary new townships.

Yet it is still full of magic, the magic of things half-seen in a dream, the magic of the barely visible or the partly remembered, which is the very stuff of dreams. Wily Raja Dina Nath’s legendary garden exists in this dream to the east of the old road, laden with fragrant blossoms, fruit trees, fountains, pleasure domes and pavilions. And the ruins of Shah Bilawal’s Baradari lie crumbling along the way, where Ranjit Singh’s heir Maharaja Sher Singh and his seven year old son and his retainers were brutally murdered by the Sandhanwalia conspirators. Surely all that blood must still exist somewhere under the earth? And perhaps it will cry out one day against the Qabza group’s encroachments on the Sher Singh family samadhs. Latrines have been constructed through the retaining wall, into the mound atop which stand the sacred chatthris. What further desecration could be possible? Recall the exquisite painting of the young Sher Singh after his bath, sitting with his curling hair spread out over his shoulders, and recoil from the current morass. Continue reading

Rai Bahadur Kanhaiya Lal’s Lahore is gone forever

This piece by Salma Mahmud first appeared in The Friday Times

So sad, so strange, the days that are no more…

Oh death in life, the days that are no more… Tennyson

Rai Bahadur Kanhaiya Lal was one of the most prominent engineers of his time, as well as being a well-known poet in Urdu and Persian and a cultural historian, who belonged to a Kayastha family of note.

The Kayasthas are an Indian caste group who are referred to as the direct blood progeny of the Vedic god Brahma in Hindu religious texts, having sprung from his kaya or body. It is said in the Vedas that they have a dual-caste status, being both Brahmin and Kshatriya, and they are mainly spread across North India. Their ancient profession was writing, and they have been noted for their ability to adapt and mingle with all around them. Many recent eminent Kayasthas have included Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Dr. Rajendra Prashad, the Bacchan family, and the Marxist actor Utpal Dutt. They have remained scribes, scholars and advisors to various administrations over a long period of time, and their sophistication and cosmopolitan attitude is legendary. That sophistication and its inherent elegance colours the mood of Kanhaiya Lal’s elegy on a city that he loved, so potently evident in his ‘Tarikh-e-Lahore’. Continue reading

A great son of the Punjab

Salma Mahmud traces the career of the amazing Sir Ganga Ram, engineer, agriculturalist and philanthropist

“He won like a hero, and spent like a saint,” said the Right Honourable Baron Hailey of Shahpur, Governor of the Punjab from 1924 to 1928, and a great admirer of Sir Ganga Ram.

My flagging faith in humanity was given a much needed shot in the arm after reading a March 10 news item datelined Faisalabad, describing how the residents of the village of Gangapur in Jaranwala, have revived the horse trolley train from their village to the  nearby Buchiana station. The trolley, pulled by one horse, can accommodate up to fifteen people, and once set in motion, moves of its own volition without much straining of the horse. The three kilometre track from Gangapur village was launched in 1903 in Chak 591-GB by the founder of the village, Sir Ganga Ram, and continued until 1993, when the track was stolen. Continue reading

The Lahore Railway Station…

Lahore Railway Station was literally the first purpose-built British imperial building, its foundation stone haying been laid by John Lawrence in 1859, and it cost half a million rupees to build.

Internship opportunities with Citizens Archive of Pakistan

The Citizens Archive of Pakistan (CAP), a Karachi based NGO, has just opened its doors to Lahore! CAP is a renowned educational institution and cultural heritage center dedicated to preserving and commemorating the country’s history. As part of this initiative, CAP’s Oral History Project has become its calling card- a symbol of the willingness to welcome the memories of the people as valid archival material and to recognize individuals from diverse communities as makers of history. Since the project’s launch in 2008, CAP has collected over 500 hours of interviews with people from every rank and file of the country, including collections of Quaid-e-Azam’s funeral, life in refugee camps, social events and interactions, the Pakistan movement and life in Pakistan’s major cities before and after partition. Continue reading

Hindu mythology cartoons

Punjab govt goes after Hindu mythology cartoons.

According to the 1998 census, 1.6 per cent of Pakistan’s population is Hindu.

Eminent artist and former principal of Lahore’s National College of Arts Salima Hashmi questioned the decision to form a committee for this purpose.

“Why doesn’t the government make a committee to know the root cause of militancy and why doesn’t it set up committees to find reasons of young children becoming suicide attackers?” she questioned.

Hashmi said that in India the number of Muslims was greater than the number of Muslims in Pakistan, so if Muslim children in India were not affected by mythology cartoons, why would children in Pakistan be affected? Hashmi told The Express Tribune, “Isn’t there anything constructive that they can work on? Why waste time on setting up such committees and inquiring into such matters which are not pertinent in the current situation?”

The scarlet secrets of old Lahore

We mustn’t forget that there are humans living here and we should treat them as humans.Zohaib Saleem Butt (writing for Express-Tribune blogs)

There is a bazaar in Taxali Gate called Heera Mandi. A few decades ago this place was famous for dancing and music. People used to go here for a visual and musical treat. Beautiful girls (kanjiries) used to sit in stall shaped balconies, called kothas, and ply their trade, the oldest profession in the world. The place was perhaps even more famous for singing and dancing. However, slowly the aesthetic pursuit became less arty and more tarty. The area became the centre of prostitution in Lahore.

Most people have the misconception that the Diamond Market got its because of the beautiful girls who worked there, inimitably like diamonds. However, that is not the real meaning or origin of the name. Actually this mandi is named after Heera Singh, who was the son of a minister of Ranjit Singh’s royal court. Heera Singh was also a minister of Sher Singh’s court during the Sikh period. The Mughals were the founders of that trend of dancing and singing, but as far as I know they never promoted prostitution publicly. Continue reading

Lohari gate – entrance with anti-itch remedies

Revisions to the ‘facts’ on Mubarak Haveli of Lahore

M has sent this piece for Lahore Nama shedding light on the well-known Mubarak Haveli located in old Lahore. This piece was written in response to the information found on this blog. I am publishing this ‘correction’ of facts for the readers. No wonder there is not a single history but several narratives of the past. Raza Rumi

•    During the rule of Muhammad Shah, three amirs namely Bahadur Ali, Nadir Ali, and Babur Ali constructed a haveli in Mochi Gate area. Coinciding with its completion Bahadur Ali was blessed with a son and thus the haveli was named Mubarak Haveli. Prince Shah Shuja ul-Mulk was made to stay at this haveli by Ranjeet Singh, who later forced the prince to surrender Koh-i-Noor to him. Continue reading

Time Report on Lahore – March 30, 1953

PAKISTAN: The Mad Mullahs

For two days last week, a wild mob ruled the Pakistan city of Lahore (pop. 849,000). Surging through the streets, hungry Moslems stoned and stabbed police, burned buses and automobiles, ripped up railroad tracks, cut telegraph wires, smashed traffic lights and forcibly blackened the faces of anyone caught riding a bicycle or automobile. All shops closed and public officials fled. The city’s 300 police, disarmed by the mob, were withdrawn from the streets. All communication with the outside world was cut off.

It was a minor revolution which swept this capital of the fertile Punjab province—a revolution engineered by fanatical mullahs against the Pakistan government. Five and a half years ago, when millions of frightened refugees were pouring into newly created Pakistan, the mullahs were the people’s leaders. They had a strong voice in the government. But when the country began establishing industries, hospitals, schools and banks, the mullahs protested that these innovations clashed with Islamic law. When Pakistani women shed their veils and emerged from purdah (complete seclusion in the home), the more fanatic mullahs were outraged. When the time came for Pakistan to draw up a constitution, the mullahs demanded that it be based on the Koran. (Result: Pakistan, a nation of 76 million, is still without a constitution.) The government of Prime Minister Kwaja Nazimuddin avoided an open clash with religious leaders, but paid less attention to their counsel. Continue reading

Stop Lahore’s Talibanisation

Raza Rumi

The worst has happened. Data Darbar, which defined the contours of peaceful Islam for a millennium, has been desecrated in Lahore. Its markets have been attacked and its minorities live in fear after the Ahmadi massacre. Last year, the petrified traders of Lahore’s Hall Road burnt objectionable CDs after receiving threats from extremists. A year later, low-intensity blasts took place in the crowded Hall Road — a market for electronics and kosher and non-kosher DVDs. This week, two internet cafes were targeted in densely populated areas of Lahore and some time back Peeru’s was also bombed. Reports have suggested that the cafes had received threats from unidentifiable numbers asking them to stop their businesses as they were turning into hubs of ‘immoral activities’. Just because no one died there, media attention has been patchy. A younger female colleague told me how tailors are hesitant to take orders for sleeveless shirts and other designs that may offend the purist dress code. The militants are employing tactics of social control used in Swat. It cannot be brushed under the carpet anymore. Prior to 1947, Lahore was a cosmopolitan city with a discrete culture of inter-faith harmony, with a reputation for the best education and socio-cultural movements. After its provincialisation, the resilient city re-emerged as a vibrant centre of progressive politics, avant-garde art and extraordinary literature. Since the 1980s, Lahore is a city with formidable infrastructure and boasts of great public spaces, especially parks. The innate openness and tolerance of this metropolis could not be subjugated by growing extremism. Continue reading

Chauburji in Lahore

Chauburji in Lahore, originally uploaded by Jahane Rumi.

Zebunnisa’s tender gardens – now ruins

A hurried picture taken of Chauburji, Lahore. I wish someone would plant more trees around this dying monument. Raza

Lahore to be home to 11.25m come 2020

LAHORE: Lahore’s population has almost doubled over the last 12 years (from 5.14 million in 1998 to about 9 million at present) and is expected to cross 11.25 million by 2020 if it keeps growing at the current rate – 2.05 per cent. It was only 2.9 million in 1981 census.

On average, 547 children are born in the six teaching hospitals of Lahore everyday. The provision of basic healthcare and education facilities to these children however remains questionable. Though the government officials claim that the unregulated growth of population has stopped, the statistics say otherwise. Continue reading

Midsummer nightmares

Syed Rizwan Mahboob spins a magical yarn about his childhood in Lahore’s Chauburji

It was sweltering in early June when not a single leaf stirred. Teenage students were back from school and the more enterprising of them were already out of their homes after a quick meal. Their combined focus was a medium sized ground somewhere in old Lahore which had many mango, Beri, Neem, Sumbul and Labernum trees. The ground was located at the confluence of several narrow streets in a government colony, populated by clerks and lower-grade government employees.

As soon as troops of urchins reached the ground, there was a rush of activity, as if life had been injected into a drab landscape painting. Several doors around the central ground opened and closed in quick succession with colourful dupattas withdrawn in haste. From around these doors would emerge several good-looking young lads, with bright handkerchiefs around their necks, betokening the early, heady days of first love.

The ground, for the next few hours, was to be the stage for a string of events including fights among the strapping lads for the acquisition of sour ambis (unripe mangoes downed with the skilful use of catapults) and garlands (made from streamers of bright yellow Labernum flowers), both of which were meant to be presented to the coy owners of fluttering dupattas later in the evening. Continue reading

How a sacred space and a haven of peace was brutalised

Image by Arif Ali/Getty found on the Guardian website

A Lament For Lahore – May its lights always shine!


picture by AP – Data Darbar, after the blasts on July 1, 2010 night -Data Darbar
C.M. Naim writing for Outlook:

“Once I, ‘Ali bin ‘Uthman al-Jullabi, found myself in a difficulty. After many devotional exercises undertaken in the hope of clearing it away, I repaired—as I had done with success on a former occasion—to the tomb of Abu Yazid, and stayed beside it for a space of three months, performing every day three ablutions and thirty purifications in the hope that my difficulty might be removed. It was not, however; so I departed and journeyed towards Khurasan. One night I arrived at a village in that country where there was a convent (khānaqāh) inhabited by a number of aspirants to Sufism. I was wearing a dark-blue [robe], such as is prescribed by the Sunna; but I had with me nothing of the Sufi’s regular equipment except a staff and a leathern water-bottle. I appeared very contemptible in the eyes of these Sufis, who did not know me. They regarded only my external habit and said to one another, ‘This fellow is not one of us.’ And so in truth it was: I was not one of them, but I had to pass the night in that place. They lodged me on a roof, while they themselves went up to a roof above mine, and set before me dry bread which had turned green, while I was drawing into my nostrils the savour of the viands with which they regaled themselves. All the time they were addressing derisive remarks to me from the roof. When they finished the food, they began to pelt me with the skins of the melons which they had eaten, by way of showing how pleased they were with themselves and how lightly they thought of me. I said in my heart: ‘O Lord God, were it not that they are wearing the dress of Thy friends, I would not have borne this from them.’ And the more they scoffed at me the more glad became my heart, so that the endurance of this burden was the means of delivering me from that difficulty which I have mentioned; and forthwith I perceived why the Shaykhs have always given fools leave to associate with them and for what reason they submit to their annoyance.” Continue reading