Category Archives: Architecture

Akbari Sirai Lahore in ruins

Photos by Maaria Waseem
Back gate of Akbari Sirai, Jahangir Tomb Lahore needs desperate attention.

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Gulabi Bagh

Malik Omaid

Gulabi Bagh

One of the most significant Mughal structures, carrying some of the most spectacular tile mosaic examples, is the Gulabi Bagh Gateway. It is located on the northern side of G.T. Road, east of Buddhu’s Tomb, and past Begampura Road on the left. Although of considerable height (it is a two storey structure), it can be missed easily since it does not carry a dome, or other terminating elements, As is evident from its name, this remarkable gateway was originally the entrance to a garden known as Gulabi Bagh or (the rose garden), no longer extant. The name however, is also a chronogram, from which the date of construction of the gateway AH 1066 (1655) is obtained. Although the gateway has endured much damage to its decorative features, it is in a tolerably well-preserved state. It was constructed by or in memory of Mirza Sultan Beg, a Persian nobleman and cousin of Shah Jahan’s son-in-law Mirza Ghiyasuddin (married to princess Sultan Begam). Due to his cousin’s relationship with the royal family, Mirza Sultan Beg rose to the exalted position of Mir-ul-Bahar (Admiral of the Fleet). He was obviously on extremely good terms with the emperor, who, aware of his love of hunting, presented him with a much-admired English rifle. Just two months later, the firearm proved fatal for him due to the bursting of a shell during a hunting expedition at Hiran Minar at Sheikhupura. He died in 1063/1657. A lofty Timurid aiwan—a popular architectural rendering for gateways—rises to two-storey height, and incorporates a 40′ long covered walkway defined by a single storey cusped arch gateway. The aiwan is flanked on both sides with 5′ deep arched alcoves expressive of the two storeys of the structure. The covered walkway is lined on either sides with a 12’x12′ chamber, which no doubt provided accommodation to the guards, from where an internal staircase leads to the first floor. The 50′ wide facade, subdivided into slightly sunken panels presents one of the finest examples of kashi kari (tile mosaic). Continue reading

Photo of the Day: Victoria School in Danger

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This is a very serious issue , as this new cemented building might collapse on the Victoria Girls High School , it is tilting towards the school , however over the last few rains in this month the situation has worsen.
(Photo and words Tahir Yazdani Malik)

 

Photo of the Day: Nedous Hotel Lahore

Malik Omaid

The Avari Hotel Facebook page shared this post:

“Did you know that Avari Hotel Lahore building has been on Mall Lahore since 1880. Yes, it was Nedous Hotel from 1880 to 1910. The Hotel was founded by Michael Nedou in 1880, after partition it was used for Government Offices. In 1960, the building was demolished and new Park Luxury hotel was built (owned by Avari’s), that later, in 1970 was also demolished to raise the current Avari Hotel building which was called Hilton International at that time.”

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In 1961 Nedous was auctioned to the late Mr Dinshaw Avari and was renamed Park Luxury Hotel.

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 More details here

 

Photo of the Day: Paintings from Shalimar Gardens

Malik Omaid

From my recent visit to Shalimar Gardens I saw these paintings on doors on the rooms at the entrance of the garden. These paintings of Mughal period are still safe from visitors who write their names with phone numbers and many who literally destroy frescoes. I think these should be preserved in a manner that these are still in their place but safer from vigilantism of people.

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Photo of the Day: The Shalimar

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Photos by @ghalibwaseemimagery & @areeshzubair on Instagram.

Lahore: Future Of The Past

Lahore Nama is sharing this insightful video by Shah Salman Sirhindi on the deteriorating situation of Lahore’s heritage especially the houses of commoners. These are centuries old houses and have immense importance from heritage point of view but next generations may not be able to witness how their forefathers used to live in Lahore.

Future Of The Past – Directed by Shah Salman Sirhindi from Syed Salman Ahmed Sirhindi on Vimeo.

Fresco and Mosaic work at Wazir Khan Mosque Lahore

Malik Omaid

I visited historic Wazir Khan Mosque with my friend in a tour to explore Lahore and what I found was a bit of tragedy of ruining frescoes and mosaic treasure. Many of whom had already vanished due to ignorance and incompetence of officials. It is a tragedy that such a historical site is being used by commoners with out the supervision of experts. Some of the still safe frescoes and mosaic are under with my comments from Instagram account. (Photos by the Author and Umer Khalid)

These are last photos for my ‪‎Wazir Khan‬ Mosque‬ series. This is of numerous frescoes in the mosque used as decoration on walls. These are masterpieces of Mughal‬ art each wort of millions of rupees dating back to 4 centuries.
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These mosaic and frescoes are ruining rapidly. When I went there I saw an empty wall but if you see just ten year old photos of Wazir Khan Mosque you find a fresco work there. Now it has vanished completely. This is the case with other frescoes.

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I tried my best to find details on these frescoes on internet but was unsuccessful. Would love it if someone can give me details.

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Imagine this wonderful piece of art is 400 years old left to ruin and fade away.

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Mosaic tiles forming the star of David. Back then it was halal. No one said there is a Jewish conspiracy behind this mosque.

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Sikh Maharaja Sher Singh’s baradari in pity condition

This is a three year old report from the Sikh Sangat News being posted in Lahore Nama as very little difference has been made since then. Sher Singh Baradari is being ruined like many other Sikh era relics.

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Lahore, Pakistan: Proposed conservation plan of Parks and Horticulture Authority (PHA) to preserve an important historical monument of 19th century Baradari of Sher Singh is in doldrums due to lack of funds and the existing structure can collapse any time, TheNation has learnt.

The sources said that the Archeology Department had prepared a feasibility report for the conservation and renovation of the Baradari’s structure on the request of PHA about three months back with the estimated amount of Rs 22 million. They further said that PHA also allocated Rs 32 million for the preservation of historical monument and also adjacent garden but despite lapse of three moths, the department could not manage the amount.
The monument, which is surviving with skeleton, was declared protected under Antiquity Act 1975 but not a single plan had been carried out to preserve it.

It may be mentioned here that the monument was badly damaged and set on fire by an angry mob in 1992 in retaliation to the demolition of the Babri Mosque in India and at that time the people had taken its precious wooden doors, as informed by the locals. Continue reading

Lahore Fort becomes inaccessible to public

This article was originally posted in The News

Lahore Fort

Ali Raza

LAHORE: Pakistan’s monument declared as the world heritage, Lahore Fort has turned into an inaccessible destination for local as well as international tourists after closure of the main link road and shifting of parking facilities far away.

Lahore Fort is one of the favourite visiting places of local and international tourists, especially in the winter season. Residents of the provincial metropolis also used to visit this marvellous building with their families to spend a whole day in lush green lawns. Mostly, school trips are also scheduled for winter season.

The main road dividing Minar-e-Pakistan (Iqbal Park ground) and Lahore Fort was closed for normal traffic during the construction of Azadi Interchange. This road links Azadi Chowk to Lorry Adda. During construction of the Azadi Interchange, heavy vehicles and machinery used this road to bring sand, mud, iron, bricks, concrete, etc, due to which it had broken. Continue reading

A walk through heritage

This article was originally published in The News on Sunday

Haroon Akram Gill

A walk through heritageAround 600 photographers from all over Pakistan and other countries i.e. Philippines, Bulgaria, Belgium, UK, USA, and Germany participated in the Walk. — Photos by the author

The Walled City is home to the cultural and architectural heritage of Lahore. Its blind arches and the pillars of its buildings, elegant havelis, multi-storey houses, wooden doors and windows and, above all, its famous Gates are some of the old city’s glorious features, all of which have long fascinated the tourists, especially those coming from outside the city/country. Though, terrorist incidents badly hit the tourism industry over the years, the Walled City of Lahore Authority (WCLA) is trying hard to pull the tourists back in, by organising cultural activities; ‘Photo Tourism Walk’ being one such event.

The WCLA claims to have introduced the concept of photo tourism by holding walks in 2012. The Photographic Society of Pakistan, having almost 20,000 members (all photographers) is a major partner and has contributed to projecting and saving the heritage. Continue reading

10 desolate monuments of Lahore

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Lahore, the cultural capital of Pakistan, is one of the epicenters of architecture, particularly that belonging to the Mughal period. Historical monuments and buildings serve as visual reminders of the past. They bring the general public closer to the relics of various civilizations that had once existed in the pre-historic times. The historical pieces are like safe vaults carrying centuries old secret treasures. Not only do they connect people with their history and cultural heritage, they also give them a better understanding of where they hail from and how they should appropriately define themselves today.

Unfortunately, most of the monuments in Lahore are facing a host of issues ranging from human neglect, environment degradation to factors as aging and natural decay. Despite conservation efforts, the Department of Archaeology and Government of Pakistan have failed to preserve various monuments that possess sheer historical importance.

Chauburji

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Situated on the Multan Road, the monument was actually a gateway to a garden that has now disappeared. It is called Chauburji (the four minarets) because of its four corner minarets, out of which one on the north west corner was actually lost. The fragmentary inscription on its eastern archway records that the garden was founded in 1664 A.D by a lady, mentioned metaphorically as “Sahib-e-Zebinda.

The reference is most probably to Jahan Ara Begum, the eldest daughter of Emperor Shah Jahan who was entitled as “Begum Sahib “.

The main architectural merit of the building is its rich mosaic decoration with which its entire façade including the octagonal corner minarets are brilliantly embellished

Tomb of Anarkali

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Anarkali, a beautiful girl brought up in Akbars Tharam was suspected by the Emperor of having a secret love affair with prince Salim (Emperor Jahangir). According to the legend, she was executed for her amorous folly in 1599 A.D. Six years later, when Salim came to the throne, he in the memory of his beloved, constructed a monument known as Anarkali Tomb. The mausoleum which stands within the enclosure of the Punjab Civil Secretariat, was completed in 1615 A.D. It has undergone great changes from time to time that it has lost all its original decorations. In 1891 A.D. it was converted into Punjab Records office and still serves the same purpose.

Hazuri Bagh and Baradari

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The quadrangle now occupied by the garden called Hazuri Bagh with a marble Baradari (1818 A.D.) in its center, was originally a Sarai built by Aurangzeb, where during the Mughal rule thronged the Imperial cavalcade and armed retainers.

The two storied building adjoining the southern gateway (Hazuri bagh Gate) was also originally built in the time of Aurangazeb as a boarding house for scholars. Later on it was used as Abdar-Khana or place for keeping refreshing drinks. During the reign of Ranjit Singh it came to be called Gulabkhana or “Rose water House”. During the British period it was again used as a boarding house for students.

The marble baradari was constructed in 1818A.D. by Ranjit Singh.

The Sikh Maharaja used to sit in state and transact business of his kingdom, and it was also in this baradari that Sher Singh received the British Embassy sent by Lord Ellenborough in 1843 A.D.

Dai Anga Tomb

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Behind the Gulabi Bagh Gateway and on the site of the former garden lies the mausoleum of Dai Anga, nurse of Shahjahan. She was the wife of Murad Khan, a Mughal Magistrate of Bikaner. She also founded Dai Anga’s Mosque, one of the well known ancient mosques of Lahore. The Quranic inscription on the walls of the tomb chamber ends in the name of the scribe, Muhammad Salih. According to the date inscribed on the tomb, it was constructed in 1671 A.D. The mausoleum comprising a central tomb chamber and eight rooms around it, was once beautifully decorated with mosaic work.

Samadhi of Ranjit Singh

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Ranjit Singh, the Sikh ruler, ruled Punjab from 1799 to 1839 A.D. His Samadhi occupying the spot where he was cremated lies just opposite the Lahore Fort. It was commenced by his son Kharak Singh and completed in 1848 A.D. Built in bricks with a sprinkling of red sandstone and marble, it is a mixture of Hindu and Muslim architecture composed and constructed in conformity with Hindu tastes. The ceilings are decorated with class mosaic or plain glass work. Eleven smaller marble knobs placed all around hold ashes of four queens and seven slave girls. The interior of the Samadhi chamber is also decorated with frescoes depicting mostly the stories of the Sikh Gurus.

Haveli Maharaja Naunihal Singh

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Haveli Nau Nihal Singh is reckoned among the most magnificent buildings of Lahore constructed during the Sikh period. It was built by Nau Nihal Singh, son of Maharaja Kharak Singh, and was used as his private residence. It contains numerous spacious chambers, halls and balconies. The roofs are decorated with paintings and mirrors decorated with gold. The walls are richly ornamented with glasses and artificial flowers.

Tomb of French Officer’s Daughter

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The tomb exists on a mound to the east of main road from old Anarkali to Jain Mandir. Still this area is known as Kuri Da Bagh (Daughter’s Garden) named after the French officer’s daughter.

Originally this garden was laid by General Venture a coach to Sikh army. Another French General M. Allard an officer in the services of Maharaja Ranjgit Singh was also residing in the same garden who remained in service from 1822 to 1889.

The daughter of General M. Allard named Marie Charlotte died on April 5 in 1827 in Lahore and she was buried on a mound in the north west corner of this garden. General H. Allard also died due to heart attack in January, 1889 during the campaign of Peshawar and his body was brought to Lahore and buried by the side of his daughter in the same tomb.

It is small tomb with a dome octagonal in plan. On the top of the main entrance, a tablet with Persian script is fixed bearing the name of the bidder and the death date of Marie Charlotte.

Gulabi Bagh Gateway

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Known for its excellence of rich and vivid mosaic tile work and superb calligraphy on plaster base, this was the entrance gate to a garden which like many others in Lahore has now disappeared. It was constructed by a Persian noble, Mirza Sultan Baig, who was Aminul Bahr (admiral of fleet). It is said that in 1657 A.D while on a hunting excursion to the royal hunting reserve at Hiran Minar near Sheikhupura, he died from the bursting of an English gun given to him by Shahjahan. The title “Gulabi Bagh” (Rose garden) occurs in the last line of the inscription of over the archway which not only describes the kind of the garden, but as a chronogram, also gives the date of its construction, 1655 A.D.
Kos Minar

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In 1609 the Emperor Jahangir ordered a small minaret like monuments to be built at every kos along the Grand Trunk Road. Kos was an ancient measure of the territory distance which varied from time to time. It was derived from Kross meaning a “cry” used as an indication of distance as early as 300 BC. It was probably known also to Hiuen Tsang in the seventh century AD. During the period of Emperor Jahangir the conventional Kos, was measured between 2 miles 3 furlongs to 2 miles 5 furlongs. Remians of a 4 Kos Minars of Mughal period still exist in the environs of Lahore, among which the typical example at Shahu-ki-Garhi near the railway line just outside Lahore station is prominent. It is built of burnt bricks about 27 feet high, with an octagonal base and cone-shaped super structure not having any inscription.

The other Kos Minars exist in the most miserable condition.

Bhadrakali Mandir

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Bhardrakali Mandir, an ancient Hindu temple is situated inside the famous Thokar Niaz Baig. The temple dedicated to an incarnation of the Hindu deity, Durga Mata was once a grand complex comprising various smadhs (stupas), baoli (well), banyan tree, a pool and two temples. According to the writer Kanhiya Lal, the largest Hindu festival of Lahore used to be held in this temple. Unfortunately, historical account regarding the main temple can’t be found. However, another structure created by Maharaja Ranjit Singh during his reign still stands there and is being used as government primary school.

This article was originally posted at Dunya News Urdu Website

بھیرو کا استھان، ہندوؤں کی قدیم تاریخی عبادت گاہ جو رہائش گاہ بن گئی

This article was originally posted in The Daily Express

مندر کی عمارت میں رہائشی لوگ بہت ساری طلسماتی اور ماورائی کہانیوں کے اسیر ہیں۔ فوٹو: فائل

قدیم لاہور کے مقام کے بارے میں مؤرخین کی ایک رائے یہ بھی ہے کہ اس وقت کے پرانے لاہور سے کچھ فاصلے پر واقع اچھرے کو قدیم لاہور کہا جا سکتا ہے۔ہندوستان میں کئی قدیم شہروں کے گرد فصیلوں میں موجود دروازوں کے نام نسبتی ہونے کے ساتھ ساتھ دوسرے شہروں کے رخ کی جانب ہونے کے باعث ان شہروں کے ناموں پر بھی دکھائی دیتے ہیں۔ جس طرح پرانے لاہور میں دہلی اور کشمیری دروازوں کے رخ ان شہروں اور مقامات کی جانب ہیں۔ اسی طرح اگر لاہوری دروازے کی سیدھ میں دیکھا جائے تو اچھرہ کا علاقہ دکھائی دیتا ہے۔

یہ قرین قیاس ہے کہ قدیم لاہور کا مقام اچھرہ ہی ہو۔ اچھرہ میں ہمیں دو قدیم مندروں کے حوالہ جات بھی تاریخ کی کتب میں ملتے ہیں۔ ایک مندر ’’چاند رات مندر‘‘ تھا جس کا رقبہ کئی کنال پر محیط تھا۔ لیکن اب اس مندر کے آثار ڈھونڈنے سے مل نہ پائیں گے۔ دوسرا مندر ’’بھیرو کا استھان‘‘ تھا۔ تاریخ کی کچھ کتب میں اسے ’’بھیرو استھان‘‘ بھی کہا گیا ہے۔

’’استھان‘‘ ہندی زبان کا لفظ ہے جس کے معنی مقام‘ جگہ‘ حالت‘ رہائش گاہ‘ مندر‘ مزار کے ہیں۔ ’’تھان‘‘ بھی ہندی زبان کا لفظ ہے جس کے معنی مقام اور جگہ کے ہیں۔ چونکہ یہ مندر بھیرو سے منسوب ہے تو یہ مندر بھیرو کا مندر‘ یا بھیرو کی رہائش گاہ کے معنی میں لیا جاسکتا ہے ۔ اب ایک نگاہ بھیرو پر بھی ڈال لی جائے۔

ہندو اساطیر کی روشنی میں بھیرو نامی ایک دیوی کا تذکرہ ملتا ہے جو ہندوئوں کے لیے اپنے تقدس کے باعث مشہور ہے۔ اس کے بھگت کامیابی کے لئے اس کی پوجا کرتے ہیں۔ سید لطیف نے اپنی کتاب ’’تاریخ لاہور‘‘ میں اس مندر کے حوالے سے دیوی ہی کا ذکر کیا ہے۔

دیوی کے ساتھ ساتھ بھیرو نامی دیوتا بھی دیو مالائی کہانیوں کا ایک مشہور اور خاص کردار ہے۔ ہندوستان میں کئی مقامات پر اسی دیوتا کے نام سے بڑے بڑے مندر اور پوجا گھر دکھائی دیتے ہیں۔ ہندو روایات میں یہ دیوتا اپنے غیض و غضب کے حوالے سے مشہور ہے۔ اس کے بھگت عموماً اس کی پوجا اپنے دشمنوں پر کامیابی حاصل کرنے کی غرض سے کرتے ہیں۔ لاہور کی تاریخ کے حوالے سے کئی کتب میں یہ مندر اسی دیوتا سے منسوب ہے۔ یہ دیوتا شیوا جی اور دیوی ستی کا اوتار ہے۔

دیوی ستی کا باپ دکھشا نامی دیوتا تھا۔ دکھشا نے ایک بار بہت عظیم الشان یوجنا کا اہتمام کیا جس میں تمام دیوتاؤں کو مدعو کیا گیا لیکن شیوا کو نہ بلایا گیا۔ ستی دیوی کو اپنے شوہر کی بے عزتی کا گہرا رنج ہوا اور وہ اسی یوجنا کی آگ میں جل کر مر گئی۔ شیوا نے ستی دیوی کی موت کے باعث اس کے باپ دکھشا کو مار ڈالا اور یوجنا کی آگ سے اس کا جسم اٹھا لیا تاکہ وہ تاندوا کی رسم پوری کر سکے۔ اس کتھا کے آخر میں دھرتی کا پالن کرنے کے لئے وشنو دیوتا نے ستی کے جسم کے ٹکڑے پرتھوی (زمین) پر گرا دیئے جو کہ ہندوستان کے مختلف علاقوں میں گرے۔

جہاں جہاں وہ ٹکڑے گرے وہیں وہیں پر بھگتی کے مندر تعمیر ہوتے گئے۔ شیوا ان مندروں کی حفاظت کے لئے بھیرو کی شکل میں آتا ہے اور بھیرو کوتوال کے نام سے جانا جاتا ہے۔ کوتوال کے علاوہ بھیرو راہو اور یوگیوں کے دیوتا کے نام سے بھی جانا جاتا ہے۔ یوگی اور تانترک بھگت شدھی حاصل کرنے کے لئے خاص منتروں کی پڑھائی کے ساتھ ساتھ کئی طرح کی جسمانی مشقتیں بھی کرتے ہیں۔ یوگا اور تانترک یہ مشقیں نروان حاصل کرنے کے لئے کی جاتی ہیں۔ ان مشقوں کا ذکر بارہا گرو رجنیش المعروف اوشو نے بھی کیا ہے۔

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Urban rehabilitation: The rebirth of Lahore’s Gali Surjan Singh

An exciting report has been published on The Express Tribune about the renovation of Surjan Singh Street by the Punjab Govt with the help of Aga Khan Trust for Culture and World bank. Walled street is a gift of our ancestors with rich heritage to be proud of. We hope more such projects start and preserve this invaluable heritage.

Plaque of the renovated lane fixed next to an old lamp. A view of the street from the Delhi Gate. Residents of Surjan Singh Gali sip tea in their lane. PHOTO: EXPRESS TRIBUNE/HASSAN NAQVI

Plaque of the renovated lane fixed next to an old lamp. A view of the street from the Delhi Gate. Residents of Surjan Singh Gali sip tea in their lane. PHOTO: EXPRESS TRIBUNE/HASSAN NAQVI

Lahore: Located inside the Walled City’s Delhi Gate, Gali Surjan Singh is home to 13 residences. This week, conservation work on these homes and in the area received an ‘honourable mention’ from the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation for “efforts of private individuals and organisations that have successfully restored and conserved structures and buildings of heritage value”.
The Gali Surjan Singh project includes a restoration of heritage architecture, replacement of infrastructure and services, including underground telecommunications, electricity, gas, water and sewerage. A total of 23 houses have been restored as part of the project, 13 of which were fully restored, and encroachments removed. Approximately Rs20 million was spent in the restoration of these 13 homes.
Gali Surjan Singh is named after Hakim Surjan Singh and it is believed that it dates back to the period of Maharaja Ranjeet Singh in 1849. In 2007, the Punjab government received financial support from the World Bank and technical and financial assistance from the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) in order to begin a project of urban rehabilitation here that took into consideration the area’s historic nature and the lives of current residents. Continue reading

My Eternal City

Lahore, Lahore aye.
By Pran Nevile

My Eternal City

No city in the subcontinent can boast of a more stirring or more turbulent history, or a stronger vitality, than Lahore—a city ruled by Hindu kings, Mughal emperors, Sikh monarchs, British sovereigns. Scholars, historians, and travelers passing through Lahore were enchanted by its majesty and grandeur. In the heyday of its glory as the capital of the Mughals, the city rose from semi-obscurity to eminence. It became the city of historical monuments and gardens. Lahore finds mention in John Milton’s classic, Paradise Lost. Thomas Moore in his celebrated Lalla Rookh describes the glittering life and pageantry of the palaces, domes, and gilded minarets of Lahore. Rudyard Kipling, the Nobel laureate who was raised in Lahore, immortalized the city in his writings.

The British rulers took active steps to safeguard and preserve old monuments and buildings of national interest and historical value. I remember that many new residential areas were developed in different parts of the city: Krishan Nagar, Sant Nagar, Ram Nagar, Ram Gullies, Krishna Gullies, Gowalmandi, Gandhi Square, Nisbet Road, Mozang and Quila Gujjar Singh. The most novel experiment was the construction of a modern township, Model Town, about six miles from the center, with spacious bungalow-type houses owned by the upper middle class of all communities. Continue reading

Photo of the Day: Neveein Maseet (Deep Level Mosque)

Malik Omaid

Badshahi Mosque may be the crown of Lahore’s heritage but there are dozens of historic mosques in Lahore, mainly inside walled city with amazing architecture. These mosques are not only old but many also have historic importance. One of those is Neevein Maseet of Deep level Mosque located between Lohari Gate and Shah Almi Gate inside Mati Chowk in Dograan Street. This Mosque is 12 Feet Deep from Ground Level .This Mosque was built by Nawab Zulifqar Khan . He was a man from Ladhi Family . This Mosque is one of oldest Mosques of Lahore.
Neevein Maseet

 

Photo and details by Liaquat Ali Vance

Walking Through History | The Walled City of Lahore

Saira A Nizami

The Old City, or the Walled City of Lahore is in the northwestern part of Lahore, Punjab. The visitor is given access to the city by 13 gates, few of them being Bhati Gate, Lahori Gate and Roshnai Gate.

As he visits the Walled City, Razi Rumi shares these rich moments and his thoughts while walking through streets of Lahore:

FortMughal architecture: Lahore Fort’s beautiful wall with original frescoes. Has survived amid history’s atrocities and government’s negligence.

Faqir Khana Museum

Lahore’s heritage: Inside the Faqir Khana Museum, Bhatti Gate. Some of the carpets are from the Emperor Shah Jahan’s era.

Haveli Naunehal Singh

Imagine living in a room with such amazing frescos – A hidden corner of Haveli Naunehal Singh, walled city of Lahore.

Balcony

Wouldn’t you love to have balcony like this? Spotted in walled city Lahore.

Little Girl in Hijab

Met this young girl in walled city Lahore last week.

Wall

Unfortunate graffiti on one of the 17th century walls of Lahore fort. However there is a guy out there who loves US.

Twinkle School

Twinkle Scholar (private) school has great advertising. Also shows what is valued as success.

School in walled city

Clever combination of modern and traditional education: Madrassa Safeena-tul Quran.

Spices

Ready for artwork? Look again, these are walled city Lahore’s colorful spices

Victoria School

A majestic structure that survives the vagaries of time .With those breathtaking frescos — Haveli Nonehal Singh, Lahore

Victoria School2

A hidden jewel in the densely populated walled city of #Lahore. Haveli Nonehal Singh, Victoria School since 150 years.

GraveStone

When I was procuring old plates, saw this too. The guy got the sign made and only 22 years later had to leave Lahore.

Colonial Plate

A spode plate – India Tree- found in the rubble of Lahore‘s colonial past.

Building with the inscription

The half-burnt building in Shah Alam Market tells the story of a bank that was never meant to be

From the foundation stone to the very inch of the complete structure – every building encompasses a journey. But some stories always remain untold like the story of Gobind Ram and Hindustan Commercial Bank. Sixty years since the partition of India and the building with the inscription ‘Gobind Ram Kahan’ and ‘Hindustan Commercial Bank Established 1805′ still remains amidst the hustle bustle of vendors, gold and crockery traders of Rang Mahal in the walled city.

Badar Munir Butt of AL-Sadiq Jewellers was four years old in 1947. Though he faintly remembers the partition violence he has heard stories about Gobind Ram and the building. His shop is adjacent to the half burnt building. According to him, Gobind Ram owned a shop at the ground floor of the present building. Trader of achaar, chatni and sharbat, Gobind Ram’s sharbat was very famous in this area. Supposedly, one of the richest men in this area he was well-respected too. And, with money comes influence. When he, with his family, left Lahore for India he had put the money and jewellery in the basement of this same building. Some years after the partition he came here with Army officials from both India and Pakistan and took away all the jewellery and money that they had kept safe in the basement. To the neighbours’ dismay, the loads of gold and money kept lying there all those years without them knowing about it.

According to an elderly man who owns a shop in the basement of the building.and also one of the oldest residents of the area, Gobind Ram’s sharbat was “famous and if one bought it for one takka, one would reach Amritsar but the sharbat wouldn’t finish.”

All the gates of Lahore survived the violence of partition except the Shah Alam Gate which was destroyed along with other buildings in this area. From Shah Alam to Rang Mahal, this was the sole building that survived and that only because it was a new building. Some myths follow the existence of a trench in the basement that goes to the Lahore Fort.

The branch of Hindustan Commercial Bank for which the new building was made never saw the light of the day. Established in 1805 one branch of the bank was supposed to be opened here in Lahore and Gobind Ram was among the partners.

Majeed Sheikh, a renowned historian, informed that The Hindustan Commercial Bank Lahore was to be one of the five branches of the bank that was established in 1805 and whose first branch was opened in Amritsar. The bank opened in Bengal on January 2, 1809. Two branches were to be opened in Lahore, one here in the walled city and the other in Neela Gumbad. “After 1965 war with India the building was declared enemy property.”

During the partition the present area of Rang Mahal, Suha Bazaar and the adjoining area was a Hindu majority area. A Baowli, a reminiscence of the Sikh history in Lahore, was also situated in this area. The Baowli was destroyed during the partition violence. But some Sikhs visit it even today to remember the long forgotten ghosts. Dr Khan, the Chief Minister of One Unit, got the Baowli renovated during his government. Haveli Mian Khan, also located here, now has almost hundred small houses in its premises. Settlement Department gave the houses on claim while some were built.

Kashmiri Bazaar was the hub of trade in pre-partition days. There was a press and several famous shops in this locality. Being a Hindu majority area the trade and business of this area was also controlled by Hindus. Now the building is encircled by garment shops, gold market and crockery.

This article was originally posted here written by Sarah Sikander.

Lahore Lore

Mobeen Ansari

Mobeen Ansari’s sensitive photography tells tales of vibrant lives lived out amidst wistfully neglected structures

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History speaks out..

 

Lahore is not my city. This allows me to view it with a mixture of foreignness and belonging; as simultaneous insider and outsider – removed enough to be endlessly fascinated by it, close enough to be able to photograph it consistently. The Badshahi, Wazir Khan and Lahore Fort may be clichéd photographic pursuits but I never get enough of the new angles and insights they afford me each time.

Early morning view of Wazir Khan Mosque

Early morning view of Wazir Khan Mosque

I went on my routine old Lahore photography trips around fajr time each time I drove down to Lahore from Islamabad; had been doing that for a few years, but i wanted to get into the heart of these neighbourhoods, really peek into people’s lives and capture their stories. One day I got lucky. Walking into Masjid Wazir Khan – it was my second time there – I struck up a conversation with the Imaam of the masjid, sharing with him my curiosity about the man said to have built the mosque – Ilm-ud-Din Ansari. Since I shared his surname I wondered if I also shared his lineage. The Imaam asked for my ID card, squinted at my full name and asked me to follow him deep into the neighborhood, into alleys beyond Delhi Darwaaza that I could never have discovered on my own. He knocked at a door and asked for keys, I think to different areas of the mosque; one of these keys he gave to me, of a minaret I had never expected to be allowed to climb, knowing as I did that it is ordinarily closed to all visitors.

Back at the mosque I lugged my heavy camera bag up the high Mughal-era steps. The suffocating dankness of the minaret gave way to a clear Lahori dawn that I observed from a unique vantage point. The height afforded fascinating aerial glimpses into the lives of the residents of the old city sprawled out below me.

Andron Lahore on the occassion of 12 Rabbiul Awal

Andron Lahore on the occassion of 12 Rabbiul Awal

 

Once every week I go to Lahore for work – meetings, shoots etc. So I had gone to Lahore for one night only for a meeting. When I got done with my work I met up with a friend from college who was also in town. Both of us had laptops and camera bags but no car. We had dinner, took a rickshaw to a cinema to watch a movie, and at midnight came out into the freezing and foggy Lahore night. We walked and rickshawed (changing six of them!) till we reached his place, warmed ourselves with some chai and set out for androon Lahore, managing to get there just before dawn. It was the morning of the 12th of Rabi-ul-Avval (the Prophet’s birthday) and the night’s lights hadn’t been turned off as yet. In the eerie twilight glow, before many people had woken up we roamed the labyrinthine alleys of androon sheher and experienced it like never before in the magical hours between sleeping and waking. Why I am so obsessed with going to these places early in the morning is because there’s no rush at that time and you can see history clearly.

run-down houses in Lahore

run-down houses in Lahore

Click here to see wonderful collection of pictures by the writer:

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.

Irfan 7

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.

Irfan 1

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.

Irfan 4

“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.