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.
Posted in Basant, Bazaars, culture, Events, festivals, Memories, Walled City
Tagged Basant, Lahore, Lahore: A Sentimental Journey, Pakistan, Pran Nevile
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’
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A rare image of Lahori Gate, one of the 13 gates of Lahore. It was taken by an unknown photographer in 1900.
Posted by: Shiraz Hassan
Posted in Architecture, Bazaars, Memories, Mughal, Punjab, Raj
Tagged Architecture, heritage, India, Lahore, old Lahore, Pakistan, Punjab, Walled City
Posted by Raza Rumi
I grew up in Androon Shehr (old city) of Lahore in the 1980s.
Most of my childhood and teenage years were spent in my Nana Jan’s house located at Lodge Road in Old Anarkali. It was an old but large house, left by a Hindu migrant family, located inside a narrow street of hundreds of years old neighborhood with Jain Mandir (when it existed) just two blocks away and Mall Road merely a ten minutes walk.
Nana used to tell us that Gayan Chand, the head of that Hindu family, spent three long years building this house and it was a strange twist of fate that finally when it got completed in 1947 and he was just about to move in, partition took place. Not only did he lose his newly built house but he also had to flee the city where his forefathers had lived for centuries. Just like Nana Continue reading
I have been having these vivid dreams. Places and conversations continued from Lahore. Waking up every morning is quite a disorienting experience. The landscapes are stuck, the tape paused. I guess it can all be ascribed to jet lag or to this rather unmoored feeling that envelopes me. Whatever the case may be, I find myself existing, still, in Lahore.
Lahore is an imperial city and often, an impersonal city. It is aloof to most visitors and residents. It breathes around you, moving at a hectic pace here and just somnambulant there. But it has never seemed distant to me or impersonal. I have memories imprinted on almost every nook and cranny of that city of rooftops and minarets. This is Lahore.
But, no. That isn’t really Lahore. Those rooftops and minarets are but a blink of an eye in the history of this city. It will forget them soon enough.
No, Lahore is much more organic.
This has grown, in what must have been once, the widest swath of the flattest earth on god’s green world. Perhaps the alley that swallowed it some 80 years ago was itself a stream before that. I don’t know. This alley, now, is a long one. The front is used for parking motorcycles and suzuki 80s. The back lies forgotten except for the mechanics who have set up their shops in the shade of the tree. Continue reading
Posted in heritage, Lahore, Memories, photos, society, travel
Tagged city, History, Lahore, Memories, minarets, nostalgia, Pakistan, rooftops
Khalid Hasan writing for the Friday Times
I first came upon Pran Nevile when Saeed Ahmed Khan, a gentleman from Lahore, whom I unfortunately never met but with whom I used to correspond, told me about him. He said the two of them were classmates back in the old days and the best of friends. He also sent me two or three clips of Pran Nevile’s Lahore reminiscences. Some time later, I was able to lay my hands on his book, Lahore, a sentimental journey, and we began to write to each other. Some years ago, he came to the United States and we met. On my last visit to New Delhi I spent time with him and his family and we talked about many things, but mostly Lahore. Pran Nevile is and has been a “ chalta phirta Lahore” as Saadat Hasan Manto was a “chalta phirta Bumbaii”.
Pran told me that in all the years he had been away from Lahore, there wasn’t a day when he had not remembered and longed for the city where he was born, where he had played as a child, where he had spent his early youth and where he had gone to college. Lahore has been the love of his life. Last year when he came to Lahore, his third visit, he brought his grandson and his daughter-in-law with him so that he could show them “my city.” This time, what had brought him back was the release of the official Pakistan edition of his Lahore book. Pran Nevile also recorded a long interview with the progressive journal Awami Jamhoor Forum, in the course of which he remembered Lahore as it was and as he had found it.
Pran said it had taken him 51 years to return to Lahore. The year of his return, something he had waited for and dreamed about all along, was 1997. When asked if he agreed that Lahore (which to him has always been “Le-hore”) had changed, he replied, “That may be true but man himself has changed, so has the world. Hasn’t London changed in the last 50 years? There is no city in the Subcontinent that has remained the same during these 50 years. Change is part of life. I don’t say that those times were better and these times are not. Every age has its high and low points. While the present generation should know the past, the old generation should learn from the present and move on. I am not one of those who find fault with everything contemporary. I don’t bore the young of today by telling them, for example, that pop music is rubbish and there has been no voice like that of the old Nur Jehan. I never bring these things up, which is why the young like me.”
Pran said he was delighted with the way the city looked today. “The way you have maintained and taken care of the Mall’s upkeep is a wonderful sight to behold. From Charing Cross to Tollinton Market, the Mall has been preserved. What changes have been brought about, I find most pleasing. The Dinga Singh Building, which is Lahore’s hallmark, is still where it was. The High Court, the Sir Ganga Ram Trust Building, the Laxami Mansion, the Dyal Singh Mansion are all still standing.” He recalled that when some people wanted to demolish Tollinton Market, he too joined hands with the Lahore Conservation Society to save this historic 125-year old Lahore landmark. After all, it was built by the people of Lahore and it belonged to them. Nobody had any right to bring it down. Continue reading
Posted in culture, heritage, History, Lahore, Lifestyle, Memories, Partition, Walled City
Tagged DayalSingh College, Khalid Hasan, Lahore, Nisbat Road, Pakistan, Pran Neville, Saeed Ahmad Khan
Desh Kapoor writes at desicritics:
She must have walked on the same streets that were once walked by my father. Maybe the fruits that had falled from the trees that had once fed my grandfather had also been tasted by her. Now, she was standing right in our house bringing the air of Lahore with her. Rubab Saleem (blogs at Pakistan Times
) was visiting us in Houston and I could not miss being mesmerized by the situation. It was ridden with quiet nostalgia in my mind.Both my parents and their forefathers came from Lahore. While my father’s family was from Lahore proper, my mother’s family came from Sheikhupura, near Lahore. While my father and his parents migrated in 1920’s due to my grandfather’s Government job, my mother’s side came during partition. I would sit down with my Nanaji for hours discussing his childhood and youth. I still remember him picking up the Hindustan Times with a story on the terrorist training camps for the Khalistanis in 1980’s with a map of the various places where those camps were and pointing those places to me. “Here I played my first hockey match”… and “Here I went to college”.. etc. He had travelled wide and well in that land and was fluent in Farsi and Urdu (oral and written).
After all these decades, the Internet had accomplished me to do another thing. Sort of close the loop that had been left open – a young girl from Lahore finally brought that whiff of that city – which has a special place in Punjabiyat of South Asia – to our home. Continue reading