Ava Lavinia Gardner dancing in Lahore while filming “Bhowani Junction”.
Image via Multipix
Most people would think of Diwali being celebrated in Pakistan as an exclusively Hindu event, and mostly focused around Sindh where the majority of the Hindu population of Pakistan resides. However, this time around we made it a point to celebrate this holy festival in our university in order to celebrate diversity that exists amongst us, and as a gesture of respect for a sizable Hindu community that resides in LUMS.
Since most of the problems in the country revolve around a collective lack of empathy and intolerance, it becomes all the more important to hold such events to promote amalgamation and unity between people of different faiths that live with us. Continue reading
“I have been in the field of design education for almost 23 years now. I was born, brought up, educated, and married in Lahore. I live here and eventually whenever that is, hope to die here too. I feel Lahore has shaped and moulded me into what I am today. Data Darbar, Mian Mir Sahab’s Mazaar, Bibi Pak Daman, Mela Chiraghaan, Masjid Wazir Khan’s tiled decoration, Maryam Zamani mosque’s frescoes, Taaveez Dhaagay on different mausoleums around Lahore, hence my thread and Taweez collection of various motif and design all speak profoundly of the cultural and the socio-political concerns that are owned and celebrated in my works. Shahi Qila’s Haathi darwaza, the old city with all its enclosed gardens and alleys, colonial buildings on the mall, Shalamar Bagh’s picture wall, Alhamra by Nayyar Ali Dada, Lahore Museum, National College of Arts, popular Punjabi food, the cinema hoardings that I experienced when going to school on a Tonga, the trucks and the colorful imagery ….these are all part of my being. This imagery constantly informs my work. The basant that we have lost, how we no longer can accept and appreciate diversity is an ongoing tragedy for me, I am constantly incorporating these in my works through metal, stones and cloth.”
See complete article here.
This report was first published here
LAHORE The city of Lahore, along with its ancient traditions and culture, is also known for its mouth-watering cuisine which predates even the British Raj. But Partition, apart from tearing apart Lahoris, also affected the city’s cuisine. For example, the traditional das kulcha, which existed in the Mughal era, gradually faded out and disappeared. Continue reading
I cannot recall anything that thrilled me more than kite flying in my boyhood days. Whenever I observed my kite soaring towards the clouds, I experienced a sense of power and mastery over the elements. Perhaps, in a way, I identified myself with the kite itself flying so free and so high above me, far from the madding crowd, enveloping me in a spirit of freedom and adventure, I felt that kites also signified a hope, a desire for escape, fancy dreams entrusted to a breath of wind and connected to a string and the hand that clasped it.
Those were the days when kite fighting instead of kite flying was in vogue. Pecha larana, or to entrap another kite by pouncing upon it from above or below or sideways, depending on its position, was the most exciting part of the sport. The skill lay in crossing dore with an opponent until the vanquished kite, cut loose, floated helplessly over the rooftops. The victor and the teammate would announce the defeat of the rival with loud cries of Bo-Kata, and throw a challenge for a return pecha. The defeated rival would accept the challenge and stir up a fresh kite into the sky. The rules of the game did not permit entrapping the kite till it was high above in the sky. It required great manoeuvring to entangle or disentangle one’s kite from the clutches of the opponent. Sometimes, we heard a shrill commotion on the rooftops and saw boys running with bamboo poles to catch a drifting kite. A falling kite in a street or bazar also created a stir and passer-by of all ages would run to catch the booty as a prized possession. Some boys who could not afford to buy kites often amused themselves by watching pechas and catching the falling kites.
Every mohalla in Lahore had its own acknowledged khilaris (expert kite-flyers). As soon as they launched their kites, it was a signal for the small-timers to pull back their kites and leave the field open for them. They dared not venture to disturbed the khilaris, each of whom had established his sphere of influence. I was also a small khilari who after accepting a challenge from a rival would enter the battle only at an agreed time.
There was a style of kite flying called kaincha that entailed cutting the twine of the rival kite by dragging and pulling it with a sudden jerk. This was a practice followed by some boys who had very little twine and were looked upon with contempt by the khilaris who would sometimes even give them a beating for attacking their kites in this fashion.
We always looked forward to Basant, the king of all festivals in Lahore. About two weeks before its arrival, the kite shops were specially decorated and a large variety of kites of different colours, shapes and sizes were displayed along with small and large pin nabs and artistically wound dore in numerous attractive colour combinations, large stocks of kites were also brought from Lucknow for the occasion. The kite makers and dore producers worked round the clock. The khilaris used to pile up their stocks of kites and dore well in advance to avoid the last minute rush. Second in importance to basant was the Lodhi festival held on Makar Sankranti, which usually falls on 13th January. On that day we had kite flying on a large scale, a full-dress rehearsal for Basant, which falls usually in the first week of February. Basant signaled the end of the winter season in Lahore and the onset of spring.
The celebrations on Basant day would commerce well before daybreak, when specially constructed box kites carrying lighted candles like lanterns were set afloat in the sky. These moving lights in the sky made an enchanting sight and signified the inauguration of the great kite-flying festival of Lahore, unmatched anywhere else in the world. Rooftops and terraces were crowded with men, women and children of all ages. It was also a custom to wear yellow turbans on Basant day. The women, young and old, also sported yellow chunnis which lent a new charm to the festival atmosphere. By daybreak the sky would be ablaze with thousands of kites of different colours, shapes, sizes and designs. The whole atmosphere of the city also reverberated with the triumphant shouts of Bo-Kata and the blowing of the trumpets to proclaim victories in kite-fighting battles. There were famous khilaris in said Mitha, Wachhowali, Machhi hata, Sutar Mandi, Rang Mahal and other areas of Lahore. They challenged one another for paichas. The Basant festival was also held outside near Haqikat Rai’s Samadh, where crowds from neighbouring villages joined the city crowds and enjoyed kite flying. There were also renowned Khilaris who played for heavy staked in Minto Park. The winners were admired for their dexterity and skills in gauging the winds as well as for the perfection in the tactics of manoeuvring, surging, shielding and stretching during the kite flying.
The battle for Pakistan’s identity is playing out in Lahore’s streets and – oddly, on its thoroughfares and intersections. On 23rd March, this year, a group of civil society representatives gathered at Lahore’s Shadman Chowk to commemorate the 82nd death anniversary of Bhagat Singh, a Sikh freedom fighter renowned for his revolutionary struggle as part of the independence movement, and who became stuff of legend when he was hanged by the British in 1931 after a brief but eventful insurrection against colonial rule. The gathering, however, was disrupted by members of a religious group which was holding a protest aimed at denouncing the idea of renaming the chowk after Bhagat Singh, simultaneously.
The chowk and the adjacent area used to be Lahore’s central jail during the British Raj, and Bhagat Singh is believed to have been hanged at the site of what is now Shadman Chowk.
Late last year, a group of Lahoris made progress in getting local officials to rename a busy traffic circle for Bhagat Singh, a Sikh revolutionary who. They see it as a chance to honor a local hero who they feel transcends the ethnic and sectarian tensions gripping the country today — and also as an important test of the boundaries of inclusiveness here.
But in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, questions of religious identity also become issues of patriotism, and the effort has raised alarm bells among conservatives and Islamists. The circle was named in 2010 for Chaudhry Rehmat Ali, a Muslim student who coined the name Pakistan in the 1930s, and there was an outcry at the news that it might be renamed for a non-Muslim.
“If a few people decide one day that the name has to be changed, why should the voice of the majority be ignored?” asked Zahid Butt, the head of a neighborhood business association here and a leader of the effort to block the renaming.
The fight over the traffic circle — which, when they are pressed, locals usually just call Shadman Circle, after the surrounding neighborhood — has become a showcase battle in a wider ideological war over nomenclature and identity here and in other Pakistani cities.
Although many of Lahore’s prominent buildings are named for non-Muslims, there has been a growing effort to “Islamize” the city’s architecture and landmarks, critics of the trend say. In that light, the effort to rename the circle for Mr. Singh becomes a cultural counteroffensive.
“Since the ’80s, the days of the dictator Gen. Zia ul-Haq, there has been an effort that everything should be Islamized — like the Mall should be called M. A. Jinnah Road,” said Taimur Rahman, a musician and academic from Lahore, referring to one of the city’s central roads and to the country’s founder. “They do not want to acknowledge that other people, from different religions, also lived here in the past.”
A recent nationwide surge in deadly attacks against religious minorities, particularly against Ahmadi and Hazara Shiites, has again put a debate over tolerance on the national agenda. Though most Sikhs fled Pakistan soon after the partition from India in 1947, the fight over whether to honor a member of that minority publicly bears closely on the headlines for many.
A push to honor Mr. Singh has been going on here for years. But it was not until the annual remembrance of his birth in September that things came to a head. A candlelight demonstration to support renaming the traffic circle had an effect, and a senior district official agreed to start the process. As part of it, he asked the public to come forward with any objections. The complaints started pouring in.
Traders of Shadman Market, the local trade group led by Mr. Butt, threatened a strike. Chillingly, warnings against the move were issued by leaders of the Islamic aid group Jamaat-ud-Dawa, largely believed to be a front for the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba. Clerics voiced their opposition during Friday Prayer.
The issue quickly became a case for the city’s High Court, which said it would deliberate on a petition, initiated by Mr. Butt and a coalition of religious conservatives, to block the name change. That was in November, and the case still awaits a hearing date. The provincial government has remained in tiptoe mode ever since. “It is a very delicate matter,” said Ajaz Anwar, an art historian and painter who is the vice chairman of a civic committee that is managing the renaming process.
Mr. Anwar said some committee members had proposed a compromise: renaming the circle after Habib Jalib, a widely popular postindependence poet. That move has been rejected out of hand by pro-Singh campaigners.
Mr. Rahman and other advocates for renaming the circle paint it as a test of resistance to intolerance and extremism, and they consider the government and much of Lahore society to have failed it.
“The government’s defense in the court has been very halfhearted,” said Yasser Latif Hamdani, a lawyer representing the activists. “The government lawyer did not even present his case during earlier court proceedings.”
The controversy threatens to become violent. On March 23, the anniversary of Mr. Singh’s death, police officers had to break up a heated exchange between opposing groups at the circle.
Mr. Rahman and the other supporters have vowed to continue fighting, saying it has become a war over who gets to own Pakistan’s history.
“There is a complete historical amnesia and black hole regarding the independence struggle from the British,” Mr. Rahman said, adding of the Islamists, “They want all memories to evaporate.”
Iqbal Hussain’s new work reveals a darkly poignant preoccupation with death, an artistic crisis born of the violence in our midst. But this work may yet survive the changing cultural topography of Pakistan, says Raza Rumi
Being stuck in an awful traffic jam on Lahore’s Mall Road is an everlasting nightmare. This was the road which once housed the tempestuous and famously poly-amorous painter Amrita Shergil, as well as the grand old man of Indian writing in English, the legendary Khushwant Sigh, among other lost symbols of our bygone past. But mine was not a fruitless journey: I was heading to the Zahoor ul Akhlaq Gallery at the National College of Arts (NCA), where Iqbal Hussain’s new work was being displayed. I would not hav e gone to see this exhibition had I not heard about the significance of the show from the proficient curator of the gallery Qudsia Raheem. I liked to meet Iqbal Hussain in the throes of the walled city where he has reinvented a space for himself among his own people — entertainers, artists, traders, sex workers and a multitude of local and global visitors. Iqbal Hussain has been successful through his personal endeavors to put Lahore’s old city and its infamous red light district on the world map. He has achieved this primarily through his stupendous paintings and sublime rooftop views of Mughal monuments from the Cooco’s Den Café he owns and manages.
Iqbal Hussain’s work over the decades has brought to life the shades and aspects of sex workers from Heera Mandi around whom Hussain grew up. Most importantly, he is proud of his heritage and origins and, unlike the hypocritical and self-denying society in which he lives, he has publicly claimed ownership of this background. His work has obsessively captured the many narratives about the women who are central to Heera Mandi. In doing this, Hussain has humanized the portraits of the “dancing girl”, the aging prostitute and the honorable livelihood earner. Contrary to the religious decrees on such women, or the excessive romanticization of dancing girls in our culture, Hussain’s subjects are nothing but human. They are real and vulnerable while blessed with the ability to sing, dance and celebrate life and sex. In our socially conservative culture, made even more so since the advent of Victorian values in what was then British India, such characters have been the recipients of much derision. Hussain, through his momentous collection of paintings, has countered every stereotype and cliché that comes to mind about such women. Continue reading
By Ishtiaq Ahmed:
For a legend to evolve, it needs people who for some emotional and psychological reasons need to associate themselves with an individual.
The beautiful Indian film industry actress of yesteryears, Shyama now lives a reclusive life in Mumbai, but in her heyday, she was a much sought after artiste. She played the lead role in many films, notably Aar Paar (1954), but her forte was as a supportive actress in which she excelled in many great films. Among them I include Shabnam (1949), Patanga (1949), Tarana (1951), Sazaa (1951), Chhoo Mantar (1956), Chhoti Bahen (1959), Barsaat ki Raat (1960), Bahu Rani (1963), Dil diya Dard liya (1966) and many more. In Sharada (1957), she won the Filmfare Best Supporting Actress Award. Personally for me, her role as Shipalee, who loves the rebel, Raj (Balraj Sahni) in Zia Sarhadi’s Marxist classic, Hum Log (1951), is unforgettable, especially the picturisation on her of the song Chhun, chhun, chhun baje payal mori, which Roshan had composed so sweetly.
Shyama was born as Khurshid Akhtar in Baghbanpura, Lahore on June 7, 1935. She hails from Lahore’s most populous biradari of Arains, who before the partition of India were the main Muslim landowning biradari in Lahore district besides the Sikh Jatts who were almost entirely in the rural tehsils of Lahore district. The pioneer of the Lahore film industry and later, a legendary filmmaker in Bombay, A R Kardar was also a Lahore Arain belonging to the Zaildar family of Bhaati Gate. Another Arain at Bombay film industry was the gorgeous Begum Para. Her father, Mian Ehsan-ul-Haq of Jullundur, was a judge who joined the princely state of Bikaner, now northern Rajasthan, where he became chief justice of its highest court.
For several reasons, the Arains were radicalised towards fundamentalist Islam and that created extremely conservative values among them. I know this because I myself was born in that group. I shall probe this and the overall trend of other Punjabi Muslim castes and biradaris towards ‘Arabisation’ in a forthcoming series.
Anyhow, among old-timers of Lahore, Shyama remained a legend. For a legend to evolve, it needs people who for some emotional and psychological reasons need to associate themselves with an individual. Each time I am in Lahore, I find some addition to the legend of Shyama. Yet, all this happens in gossip and whispers and not in media where there is a hush-up, even among those who write in films about Shyama.
This is because her fans, especially those from her biradari, cannot disown her because she attained fame and ruled hearts once upon a time. That in itself does not sit well with Islamism, but she violated some more taboos. She married the famous Bombay cinematographer, Fali Mistry, a Parsee. Her two sons have been raised as Parsees. One lives in New York and the other in London.
I talked to her in her Mumbai home on June 2, 2012 from Stockholm. The same day I had spoken to Kamini Kaushal who also lives in Mumbai. Shyama’s father Chaudhry Mehr Din was a fruit merchant who set up business in Bombay. Shyama’s family shifted to Bombay when she was only two. The megastar Dilip Kumar’s father was also a fruit merchant in Bombay, so those who are into novelty hunting can probe the connection between fruit and films. I would only stick to the facts.
Shyama was only a child when she left Lahore so she has no personal association or memories of Lahore. By the way, the same is true of the late Suraiya who died in Mumbai some years ago. In 2001, I was in Mumbai and knocked on her door, pleading for an interview but Suraiya refused it. On that occasion, Shyama was not in town.
And now, some gossip about Shyama’s Lahore connection. One is that she was at college in Lahore and then went to Bombay. Another, that she was engaged to Chaudhry Abdullah, popularly known as Chaudhry Thhailla of Mozang, Lahore. Another is that she visited Lahore in 1960 and was given a rousing reception.
According to Shyama, she visited Lahore only in the 1990s and stayed with Madam Noorjahan, whom she met in Bombay at the age of 10 when she visited the sets of Zeenat (1945). She was recruited to take part in the famous qawwali Aahein naa bhareen shikwa naa kiya by Noorjahan’s first husband, Syed Shaukat Hussain Rizvi. She had come to the sets to watch the shooting with a bunch of schoolgirls and was offered the job. That gradually paved the way for more roles.
Shyama told me she had an older sister and brother who were settled in Lahore, but when she came in the 1990s, they were not alive anymore. Therefore she did not meet any relatives in Lahore. I know, however, that her cousin, Naseer Maliki, who worked at the Lahore Television Station, used to talk about her. He was a good friend of my brother-in-law.
On March 26, 2004, I met Ripudamman Singh in his shop at Rambagh Bazaar, Amritsar. He gave me an eyewitness account of what happened in that town in the 1947 riots (The Punjab Bloodied, Partitioned and Cleansed; Oxford University Press, Karachi, 2012). He told me that in the early 1960s, he met a Muslim woman and her daughter who wanted to see their old home in Amritsar They had come from Lahore and were going to take the train to Bombay next day. He brought them home. She told him that she was a relative of Shyama and was going there to meet her. Hence, until then at least, Shyama did have contact with her Lahore relatives. All this had faded from her memory when I talked to her.
Posted by Raza Rumi
A TV journalist prepared this bold documentary for a news channel but it was never aired for obvious reasons – electronic media remains conservative about taboo subjects. The documentary provides great insights into the way women live, work and identify themselves as sex-workers in Lahore’s oldest red-light district known as Heera Mandi (Diamond Market) ironically next to the great Badshahi mosque. Coverage of Multan in the later parts is also interesting.
The narrator obviously has his biases – the usual refrain of middle class Muslims of the subcontinent – but he tries hard to remain neutral and investigative. There is a good dose of Mujras inserted into the series for the viewers; and tit bits of the Hollywood/Bollywood melodrama on the oppressed ‘tawaif’ (prostitute). Whilst tragedies bring these women to the sex-trade, not all of them lament their lives. If anything, Mirza Ruswa’s Umrao Jan (way back in the nineteenth century) was pretty comfortable and empowered by her profession. Similarly, one of the interviewees says: “money is the father, mother and everything for tawaifs”. The head of Kanjar biradri says that girls are taught to be ‘men’, earning ‘horses’ fooling their clients! Not to be missed.
My favourite is the ‘client’ who confesses how intoxicating it is to be “in love” with a sex worker. One gets tired of ‘using’ a wife all the time he says. Wish this documentary had been aired.
The language of these videos is Urdu so it might not be accessible to all the visitors here.
LAHORE: Over 2,900 Sikh Yatrees from India and thousands of others from all over the world including America, Canada , UK, Europe, and from parts of Sindh have reached Nankana Sahib to participate in the celebrations which will continue till November 11.
Photo by : Daily Express.
Artist: Faisal Rana ft. Deep Singh
Song: Dus Sharabiya
Dus Sharabiya is international collaboration between Pakistani artist Faisal Rana and Indian artist Deep Singh. Dus Sharabiya is about Lahore, even we would call Dus Sharabiya, ‘The Song Of Lahore’
Photograph of the Punjab Public Library in Lahore from the ‘Bellew Collection: Photograph album of Surgeon-General Henry Walter Bellew’ taken by George Craddock in the 1870s. The Punjab Public Library was established in the late 19th century
Posted by: Shiraz Hassan
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
“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
The Taliban would not be amused. On a sunny winter afternoon in Lahore, the local culturati have turned out in force for the annual show at the National College of Arts. In the main courtyard young men and women mingle easily, smoking and sipping from cans of Red Bull. Some of the men sport ponytails, and one has a pierced eyebrow.
Nearby is a life-size sculpture of a couple holding hands on a swing. Inside, the image of a male torso, viewed from one angle, morphs into a female breast. Yet there is no mistaking the stamp of the subcontinent. Women wear traditional thigh-length tunics over their jeans, and some cover their hair. There are also miniature paintings, which traditionally might capture a hunting scene; here they portray other scenes, as in one bold depiction of a bearded cleric reclining on a couch in front of a bombed-out school.
The jumble of styles and influences—the stew of peoples and faiths Rudyard Kipling captured so vividly in his novel Kim—is a hallmark of Lahore, Pakistan’s second largest city and capital of Punjab Province. The wealthiest and most populous of the country’s four provinces, Punjab is where East meets West and everything in between. Even the brutal and bloody partition of British India in the mid-20th century could not destroy Punjab’s cosmopolitan brio. Continue reading
Lahore Fort also known as Shahi Qila (Royal Fort)
No one knows exactly when Lahore Fort was built but it was first mentioned around 1021 AD when Mahmud of Ghazna conquered it. Over the centuries Lahore was conquered many times. Lahore has also been an important city for a long time. The best time for Lahore was during the Mughal reign from 1525 to 1721. Jalal-ud-Din Muhammad Akbar (Akbar the Great) built the present structure as we know it today. Jahangir and Shah Jahan constructed palaces in the Fort and Emperor Auranzeb Alamgir built the Badshahi Mosque which is opposite the Alamgiri Gate of the Fort. This is the huge entrance which has two large pillars which resemble elephants feet.
I visited in November 2008 and at this time of the year the weather is very pleasant. As a result, hundreds of school children go on visits to museums and monuments. Not only schoolchildren but families too. During this time there was a Sikh gathering at the Gurdwara which is next to the Fort and Mosque and there were many Sikhs visiting too.
Faiz was not just a phase
The poet, who died in 1984, remains well loved in the city he made his home for
By Kamila Hyat’s story for The Gulf News
Lahore: A celebration of what would have been the 99th birthday of poet Faiz Ahmad
Faiz is on in Lahore, with a series of art exhibitions, poetry recitations and more.
The poet, who died in 1984, remains well loved in the city he made his home for
A museum set up in a private house as ‘Faiz Ghar’ (the house of Faiz) pays tribute to the
poet while his verses remain a feature in many school text-books. Continue reading