Tag Archives: India

From Delhi to Lahore: the other side of the border

Here’s a post that readers might enjoy…

I landed in Lahore and my friends were waiting outside the airport for me. I was scared for sure because I was alone in Pakistan. I could not believe I was in Pakistan. The country I heard so much of. I could not say that it was like Delhi because it was too small as compared to Delhi but at the same time, it made me feel I was in India. Whenever I saw billboards I used to feel no I am in Pakistan. I thought every girl would be in burqa or cover their head but to my shock nothing was like that. At 1 am, I started my journey for Islamabad but I felt Lahore never sleeps. I never saw Delhi ISBT to have so many people there at 1 am. Biggest shock came when I saw a bus hostess in luxury bus at 1:30 am. I never imagined that an Islamic country would allow that.

Bhagat Singh’s alma mater: decaying but not forgotten

By Afnan Khan

LAHORE: Bradlaugh Hall, where one of South Asia’s most influential revolutionaries – Bhagat Singh – once studied is, today, the focus of a campaign to not only rescue it from disrepair but to rename it and other landmarks of Lahore after him. Named after the social reformist and radical member of British parliament Charles Bradlaugh, the college was built on October 30, 1900, to provide secondary higher education to students from all walks of life. In the decades following Partition, the institute has had its share of turmoil, according to residents of Rattigan Road who briefly recounted its history to Daily Times. Shortly after 1947 Bradlaugh Hall was used to store foodstuffs; it then found life as a steel mill up until the 1980s, when it reopened as a technical education centre, the Milli Technical Education Institute. Continue reading

Lahore Coffee House

Raza Rumi (published in The Friday Times)

Before his death in July 2009, KK Aziz had accomplished one mission
that he had set for himself, i.e. to write about the Lahore Coffee
House, the glorious nursery of ideas. Luckily, despite his failing
health, Aziz finished a draft that was meant to be a shining part of
his autobiographical kaleidoscope. “The Coffee House of Lahore: A
Memoir, 1942-57” was published in 2008 and Aziz, in the opening
chapters, tells us about the genesis of his passion to document this
memorable phase of our contemporary history. Continue reading

Lahori malangs shine at SAARC festival in Chandigarh

From Shahzada Irfan

CHANDIGARH, India:  A thunderous applause and endless admiration followed the dhamal performance of malangs from the shrine of sufi poet Shah Husain in Lahore, in the city’s Tagore Hall on Saturday.
The malangs, who came here to participate in the second SAARC Folklore Festival, have become an instant hit and are being requested by the organisers for repeat performances, on public’s request. Continue reading

Merchant collection nets £653,000, necklace at £55,200

Oct. 8: Indian-born producer-director Ismail Merchant’s personal art collection sold for £653,000 at an auction by Christie’s in London.

The highest price was paid for the painting by Hungarian artist August Theodor Schoefft, entitled The Thugs of India halt at the shrine of Ganesh, which was sold for £91,250 to a private British collector. The unusually large painting was estimated to sell for £70,000-100,000. Continue reading

Sikhs from India in Pak to mark anniversary of Guru Arjun Dev

Lahore (PTI) Scores of Sikhs from India arrived at the Wagah border on Tuesday to participate in events marking the death anniversary of fifth Guru Arjun Dev here.

A total of 260 Sikhs from India were greeted by officials of Pakistan’s Evacuee Trust Property Board and Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee at the border point to take part in the events at Lahore’s Gurdwara Dera Sahib.

Over 1,000 Indian Sikhs were originally scheduled to attend the events, but security fears amid recent terror attacks in Pakistan’s eastern city reportedly kept many of them away. Continue reading


The geographical entity in the north-western region of India called Punjab, the land of five rivers, has been and still is an integral part of the common pool of Indian culture. Its arts and crafts also form an important part of the deep-rooted artistic tradition of India and are equally rich and significant.

The culture of Punjab prior to the partition of 1947 was a mixture of three strains one flowing frorn Kangra hills, the second from south-western area from Multan to Lahore, and the third from Peshawar w Lahore. Continue reading

Mystique of treasures

Source here

ON March 10, 1957, in a run down house in Model Town, Lahore, died the last grandchild of the greatest ruler of the Punjab, Maharajah Ranjit Singh. The few remaining ‘treasures’ of the Lahore Darbar still left with Princess Bamba, mainly oil paintings of the 19th century, were ‘gifted’ to the government. They are today displayed in Rani Jindan’s Palace in the Lahore Fort.

Princess Bamba died a virtual pauper. She refused to leave Lahore. Her father, Maharajah Dulip Singh, had been robbed of his ‘rightful’ treasures by the British government, leaving him to die in 1893 in Paris, as a bankrupt refugee. Continue reading

People’s history of the Punjab: Humanism and equality

The poetry of Shah Hussain explored the socio-political dimensions of Punjabi society

Shah Abdul Latif Bhita’i was a contemporary poet of Bulleh Shah

Dr Manzur Ejaz writing for TFT

Islamic extremism is not new in the subcontinent: At one time even the Emperor Akbar, the most liberal among Mughal rulers, was forced to ban alcohol under the pressure of the religious establishment. However, at that time the difference was that an alternative ideology was also evolving, but this is not the case in the political discourse of today. The Pakistani state has successfully created a disconnection from the tradition of an alternative ideology by promoting the religious version of the ruling Muslim elites – most Muslim rulers were conservative Sunnis – and Mullahs.
The alternative ideology in the Punjab started with the Chishtia’s challenge to the establishment through the rebellious poetry of Baba Farid-ud-din Masood Ganj-e-Shakar (1175-1266). Baba Guru Nanak, following this tradition, critiqued the political economy as well as the system of ideas prevailing in both Hindu society and ritualistic Muslim religion. Nanak negated the political system more directly than anyone else had done in the Punjab before him.

Baba Nanak (1469-1539) was very methodical in his intellectual discourse. In his Japji Sahib, he undertook the rebuttal of the presumptions of the Hindu religion and its philosophy. He negated the Muslim practice of ritualistic practices, but because of Islam’s monotheism his criticism of it was not as harsh as it was against Hinduism. Furthermore, since he absolutely negated casteism and gender differentiations, his main target was Hindu philosophy and its practices. Probably, this is the reason that Muslims wanted to bury him according to Islamic tradition.

On the political level Baba Nanak’s main criticism was against foreign invaders and their religious pretensions. Baba Nanak is the only poet who described the invasion of the Mughal Emperor Babar, (1483-1531). He observed that Babar did not differentiate between Indian Muslims and Hindus and dishonoured their women indiscriminately. According to him, Babar arbitrarily destroyed mosques and mandirs. In conclusion he sums up:

Pap ki janj ley Kabloon dhaia, jori mangay dan vey lalo

([He] mounted an invasion with his sinful party (army) and he demands donations by force)

Baba Nanak also provided a deep insight into the exploitative economic and social systems in India. This was one of the main reasons that he attracted so many Punjabi artisans to his teachings. The class of poor Jat peasants joined him at a later stage. Baba Nanak’s complete comprehension of the system became the basis of a religious and nationalist resistance in the Punjab, while the works of Sufis were not able to induce an organized movement that could sustain itself. This had positive developments in the Punjab as far as putting an end to the invaders from the North was concerned, but Sikhism lost its edge in due course because it became just another organized religion with all the usual ritualistic aspects. Nonetheless, this negative development does not diminish Baba Nanak’s significance as a thinker espousing an alternative ideology to the one enforced by orthodox Islam and Hinduism. Continue reading

That Punjab is lost forever…

In a personal email, my friend AC wrote these lines. I was quite moved by the tenor of the text and the exceptionally sensitive understanding of our past from a second generation post,-partition Punjabi. This post makes an important point as we have been discussing issues of history as well as the senseless point-scoring that goes on in the blogosphere by avid nation-state-ists. Raza Rumi.

Comments on India-Pakistan-related blogs all to quickly devolve into “Hindus this” and “Muslims that.” It’s just so useless. We should be enjoying and rejoicing in each other’s existence rather than incessantly lamenting past wrongs, real and perceived. An Indian on your blog is asking why Hindu Bengalis didn’t exterminate Muslims as effectively as the Sikhs and Hindu Punjabis did; a Pakistani is claiming that the Congress actively sought to wipe out the Muslim population across all of India.

My family saw some real hell in partition, but I have to tell you, that generation has always shown a keener interest in stories of my travels to Pakistan than their children or grandchildren. My grandparents’ generation experienced the catastrophe of partition firsthand, lost much wealth, and lost many years of their lives to rebuilding. But they were schooled in Urdu and left homes and friends behind, so I assume there was a feeling of affiliation as well. They saw humans at their worst yet at the same time held in their hearts memories of what was best in the people they knew — stories of courage, generosity, and affectionate friendships. So it is their kids who seem to bear the most personal grudges against Pakistanis. Easy to dehumanize people you have never known, I suppose.

Also, it seems everyone’s story is different. I recently heard the family accounts of a Pakistani friend from Islamabad whose family migrated from Delhi; he said that his grandparents had no real recollection of living amongst or knowing any Hindus. (That would make sense; Shahjahanabad and its environs were an overwhelmingly Muslim place pre-1947.) In that sense, perhaps Punjab was different… more social intermingling, more religious and cultural ferment over the centuries thanks to the colliding influences. That Punjab is lost forever…

The image depicting is from the LIFE magazine archives: “Men placing bodies in mass grave as bulldozer stands ready to cover them up with dirt after [communal] attacks …”
Location: Wagah, Pakistan Date taken: October 1947 Photographer: Margaret Bourke-White

Sultan Mahmud Ghaznavi’s invasion and its consequences

A 17th century depiction of Sultan Mahmud Ghaznavi holding court

The ill-fated Somnath temple, restored many moons later

Ghaznavi’s tomb

Sultan Mahmud Ghaznavi

The medieval Ghazni

Romila Thapar, the renowned historian of antiquity, argues that the temple of Somnath may never have been attacked by Mahmud or that his attack was of little significance. It was the British House of Commons that brought it to life by demanding that the gates of Somnath be brought back from Ghazni. The funny thing is that when these gates arrived from Ghazni in India it was found that they were made in Turkey. The gates were then put in storage for white ants to feast upon!

Instead of ending caste-ism, the new Muslim rulers of Punjab added another layer to it: they became a super caste overriding all others … while the converted peasantry continued to till the land for the benefit of Muslim warlords from the north, lower class neo-Muslims were employed in court stables and other lowly jobs. Nothing changed for the newly converted Muslim peasantry

Dr Manzur Ejaz writing for The Friday Times’ series entitled: People’s history of the Punjab

Punjab’s fate started changing in the 11th century when Abu Mansur Sebüktegin, a slave king of Ghazni, began invading Raja Jaypal’s Punjab empire which stretched from Kabul eastwards, covering most of northern India. After two inconclusive wars between Jaypal and Sebüktegin, the latter died and his son Mahmud (971-1030) ascended the throne in Ghazni. It was during Mahmud’s several incursions into the Punjab that Muslim rule was established and Lahore became the province’s capital.

Ghazni and areas around it mainly depended upon trade of various goods as well as slaves for its commerce. Renowned from Ghazni to Central Asia these slave markets dealt mainly in slaves captured in remote parts of Central Asia and Russia and later, most numerously, in India. Mahmud’s father, Sebüktegin was himself a Turk slave captured when he was 12 and sold to Alaptigin. When he grew up, his talents were recognized and he married Alaptigin’s daughter and became his general and then his successor. Ghazni and its adjoining areas needed abundant agricultural products and slaves to prosper. This was one of the main reasons why the Punjab, with its rich resources and large population of would-be-slaves, was such an attractive target for the Ghaznavids.

Legend has it that Jaypal, to uphold his honour, burned himself on a pyre after Mahmud defeated him twice (and according to some thrice). Some Hindutva historians maintain that Jaypal and his family were enslaved and taken to Ghazni but the great Raja committed suicide before he was put on the market. However, this is probably not true because after Jaypal, his son Anandpal took over the reins of the empire and continued resisting Mahmud. Eventually, Anandpal was overwhelmed and Mahmud established a government in Lahore.

Mahmud did not only overwhelm Punjab’s Hindu dynasty, he also attacked Multan’s Muslim state in the same manner. Muslim apologists who consider Mahmud a but shikan (an idol destroyer) and great preacher of Islam forget to mention his destruction of Muslim rulers in Multan and elsewhere. And hardline Islamists go further, and vigorously support his invasions because Multan was ruled by Shias and Ismailis whom they do not consider to be real Muslims. Present-day Taliban are following this same tradition.

Sultan Mahmud may have been made a grandiose Muslim icon by the later historians of the Slave Dynasty to legitimize their own rule in India. Similarly, Hindu nationalists exaggerated his killing and plundering to support their own agenda. Muslim historians claim he looted unbelievably large amounts of gold, silver and diamonds from Hindu temples (as in the alleged two hundred maunds of gold from Nagarkot mandir). Hindu nationalists take the same exaggerated numbers and give it their own spin. Muslims call Sultan Mahmud an iconoclast because of his destruction of Somnath temple while Hindus take it as the greatest insult to their religion. However, Romila Thapar, the renowned historian of antiquity, after examining Persian, Gujrati and Sanskrit texts and manuscripts from the temple itself argues that Somnath may never have been attacked by Mahmud or his attack was of little significance. It was the British House of Commons that brought it to life by demanding that the gates of Somnath be brought back from Ghazni. The funny thing is that when these gates arrived from Ghazni in India it was found that they were made in Turkey. The gates were then put in storage for white ants to feast upon!

Sultan Mahmud’s character may have been idealized or demonized by opposing ideologues but it is clear that he targeted Hindu temples that were known for hoarding wealth. Hindu temples were known as depositories of accumulated wealth because they levied high taxes on worshippers and invested heavily in trade, reaping profits from, in most cases, Arab Muslim traders who had settled in the coastal cities of India much before Mahmud was born. In addition, Mahmud’s conquest of Punjab provided multitudes of slaves for Ghazni’s slave market. These slaves were used for private pleasure and for different craft industries manufacturing for the Silk Route trade.

Mahmud’s duels with Indian rulers and elites were very interesting. High caste Hindus, ready to be co-opted or to spy for him, were left alone to stick to their own religion. Many high caste Hindus opportunistically converted to Islam: we have seen the same phenomenon of opportunism during the Muslim rule that followed and even during the Sikh Raj in the Punjab. Therefore, by and large, the same ruling elite retained power after Mahmud established his writ in the Punjab. Nonetheless, many scholars and skilled and talented people ran away towards the south. Al-Beruni, Mahmud’s chronicler wrote: “Mahmud utterly ruined the prosperity of the country …This is the reason too why Hindu sciences have retired far away from parts of the country conquered by us and have fled to places, which our hand cannot yet reach, to Kashmir, Benaras and other places.”

Al-Beruni also notes the change in gender relations after Mahmud’s conquest of the Punjab. According to his observation, Punjabi men always used to consult their wives about important matters. However, in Central Asian male chauvinistic society, women were not considered worthy of advice or consideration in important matters. After Mahmud’s occupation of Punjab, women began to lose their previous important status.

Most of all, the Hindu peasants, artisans and those belonging to lower castes bore the brunt of Mahmud’s invasions. After every conquest, most of the fighting men were killed and women and children were taken as slaves to be sold in the Ghazni market. Keeping in mind his talent for exaggeration, the famous historian Continue reading

Ramachandra Guha’s Lahore Diary

Lahore Diary by Ramachandra Guha (published by Outlook)

A Frontier Malgudi
The day before I was due to depart for Lahore, a publisher friend sent me a story by a writer she referred to as “a sort of Pakistani R.K. Narayan”. I read it on the flight, and found that for once a publisher had sold an author short. Through the character of an ordinary electrician, Daniyal Mueenuddin had uncovered the violence and callousness of everyday life in rural west Punjab of Pakistan. True, the elegance of the prose matched that of the Mysore master. But the world was more brutal, and hence more credible. However, the world I was about to enter was altogether more civil and genteel. Lahore is Pakistan’s most cultured city. In three intense days, I met a cross-section of Pakistan’s thinking classes—journalists, activists, lawyers and economists. Naturally, our talk was dominated by the tensions then prevailing. I sensed, among these sensitive and hospitable people, a triple fear: the fear of their city being overrun by Taliban-style fundamentalists; the fear of their government being taken over once more by the military; the fear that after the recent terror attacks, their country would be shunned and scorned by India, and the world. Continue reading


– The middle class of Lahore feels encircled and beleaguered


In the summer of 2008, I accepted an invitation to participate in a meeting of historians to be held in Lahore. On November 24, after months of trying, I finally got a visa from the Pakistan high commission in New Delhi. Two days later, terrorists based in or coming from Pakistan struck in Mumbai. Inevitably, tensions escalated between the two countries.

My meeting was scheduled for the first week of January. Should I go? Must I go? With these questions on my mind, I went off to the Niligiris on a family holiday. A few days before the new year dawned, the ministry of external affairs issued a travel advisory, asking Indian citizens not to travel to Pakistan. My mother, for whom this 50-year-old is, well, still a boy, urged me to heed the advisory. An aunt added that I had no business to visit an “enemy country”, one which, as she put it, “was full of Muslims”. But their sentiments and reservations were vetoed by my teenage daughter, who insisted that I must go to Pakistan, if only to show that “not all of us hate all of them”.

If I chose finally to go ahead with my visit, it was partly out of a sense of professional obligation — some colleagues had been kind enough to invite me, and I could not let them down — and partly out of curiosity — what would Pakistan be like at a time like this? Continue reading

SIR GANGA RAM: A Brilliant Man of Punjab

Ranpreet Singh Bal ji has sent this exclusive post for Lahore Nama. I am most excited about the fact that Lahore Nama is inviting contributions and increasing readership. Raza Rumi

Ganga Ram was an engineer who designed majestic buildings of Lahore, Amritsar, Patiala and other cities in joint India. He had his early schooling from Amritsar.
This fact has been highlighted in his biography “ Sir Ganga Ram” A man for all seasons, authored by Dr. F.M. Bhatti and reprinted by Sir Ganga Ram heritage foundation Lahore.

While Sir Ganga Ram is still an icon for the residents of Lahore where he got higher education and constructed beautiful structures there.

Ganga Ram was born in 1851 in Mangtanwala about forty miles from Lahore and fourteen miles from Nankana Sahib, his father who was Assistant Sub inspector at a Police station later moved to Amritsar.

He was sent to nearby private school near Darbar Sahib in Amritsar. Sir Ganga Ram mastered in calligraphy and Persian. He passed his matriculation from Government High School and joined the Government College Lahore in 1869.

Afterwards he obtained a scholarship to the Thompson Engineering College Roorki in 1871, where he passed with the Gold medal in 1873. Continue reading

Like Lahore, Chandigarh now has its own Night Food Street

If the choicest of Punjabi dishes at Gawal Mandi in the Pakistani city of Lahore seem too far away, take heart. A similar Night Food Street has been set up closer home in Chandigarh for those who relish rich and spicy fare.
Like Lahore, Chandigarh now has its own Night Food Street
Opened over a week ago at Sector 14, it has been seeing a mad rush of people every evening after sunset, with students, families and even visitors from Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh making a beeline for it.
“I went there twice last week but both the times, I couldn’t manage to get a set. It was that crowded,” said Daljit Dhillon, a resident. Continue reading

Group urges more meetings for Punjabi’s from India and Pakistan

A Seminar on the book “ Humanity Amid Insanity” took place in the Wilson Room of Portcullis House, House of Commons in London was very successful in which MPs, authors and prominent members of the Punjabi Community and University students took part.

It was arranged by the Punjabis In Britain  All Party Parliamentary Group. The seminar was addressed by the Chair of  A.P.P.G. John McDonnell MP, authors Tridivesh Singh Maini who is Senior writer for Express Group of Newspapers in India, Tahir Malik who is Chief of News at Waqt TV Lahore in Pakistan and Yasmin Khan , a lecturer in politics at Royal Holloway University. Continue reading

Lahore’s proud son: Sardar Dyal Singh Majithia

Internet is simply amazing. I received this excellent article by Ranpreet Singh Bal on Lahore’s great son whose name lives on despite the changes of borders, tumult of history and bitterness of the violence. Many thanks, Bal-ji! (Raza Rumi)

One of the greatest sons of Punjab in the second half of 19th century Sardar Dyal Singh Majithia was a versatile and amazing personality.

His father General Lehna Singh Majithia was one of the Generals in Ranjit Singh’s army, who was an engineer and Chief of the Ordinance department of the Maharaja.

For three generations the family had provided generals to the maharaja’s Army. Majithia Sardars family was so eminent that when Viceregal Durbar was held in Lahore in 1864, of the 603 people invited, Dyal Singh then age 16 was allotted 55th seat and his uncle Sardar Ranjodh Singh Majithia being 103rd.

Anarchist situations that prevailed in Punjab after the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1839, forced General Lehna Singh Majithia to leave Lahore.

After travelling Hardwar, Banaras, Jagannath Puri and Calcutta the family settled down in Banaras, where Dyal Singh his only son was born in 1848. Continue reading

A house, Partitioned?

By Ahmad Rafay Alam

I was born into one of those families that presumes one completes their studies in a Western university.  And so it was that I found, like the many other Pakistani law students who read law in the United Kingdom, preparing for my bar qualification as a student barrister at Lincolns’ Inn.  Though the bar was dreadfully boring and, as I later discovered back home, totally irrelevant to the Pakistani legal system, I was lucky to find accommodation in the Goodenough Trust’s William Goodenough House in London’s quiet McLenburgh Square.

Under one of the terms of the trust governing the William Goodenough House, accommodation is open only to post-graduate students from outside the United Kingdom.  This was refreshing because, in place of the drunken undergraduate shenanigans common at other student accommodation, “Willie G” offered an amusing alternative in the drunken shenanigans of international post-graduate students.

Willie G had quite a few Pakistani residents.  United, I suppose, by a shared social and cultural background, we forged the type of deep friendships one forges when they live thousands of miles from home.  Of course our revelry came at the cost of our grades.  I once heard an admissions tutor comment about how it was dangerous to recruit more than a dozen Pakistanis into any academic program: “They form a cricket team and never do any work.”  Though we never formed a cricket team – a good idea, in hindsight – the sentiment echoes true enough.

It was when I was in Willie G that I met and became friends with Martand.  Martand was from India, and for a Pakistani like me he was a great way to get to know about India, the country next door that figured so prominently in defining what my country was.  At the time, I had never been to India.  I had no notion of what India was like or what Indians were like other than the opinions I’d picked up in school text books, novels, television, the press, movies.  You get the picture.  Like anyone else, I suppose, I was coloured by the prejudice of history.  In the case of India and Pakistan, nothing attracts more prejudice than the fractural events of Partition. Continue reading

An evening at Wagah Border

Vandana K Mittal
First published here

WHAT WAS once just one portion of the thousands of kilometers long border that India and Pakistan share has over the years evolved into a place almost of pilgrim for both nations. I am not sure whether the name Wagah comes from some village or bit of land on ‘our’ side or ‘their’ side but there sits, right bang in the middle of the fertile Punjab fields that are planted with same crops by farmers of both sides at the same time, creating a seamless green carpet.

I first visited this border post in early 1972 as a child. The war had ended just a few months earlier and we lived in a small place called Khasa just about 25 kilometers from the Indo-Pak border.
We were shown around the border post by a Sikh officer of the Border Security Force. It was evening time and the sun was about to set. The lowering of the flag was about to take place and the Indian soldiers blew the bugle, marched to the gate and in a flurry of dramatic steps and salutes lowered the tri-color. The Pakistani soldiers came next but minus the fanfare and took their flag away quietly. We were told by the officer that because Pakistan had surrendered to the Indian forces, as per international convention, only India was allowed to lower the flag each evening ceremoniously. I do not remember how long this state of affairs lasted because on all subsequent visits I saw the two sides lowering their flags in the same manner with equal fan fare. Continue reading

On common ground – Amritsar and Lahore

Tridivesh Singh Maini

Recently, Kuldip Nayar, while speaking at a seminar in Amritsar, proposed that the Punjab assemblies of both India and Pakistan pass separate resolutions condemning the barbaric crimes committed during Partition. But a few issues need to be considered. First, why only the Punjab assemblies? Why shouldn’t the parliaments of both India and Pakistan apologise? Unless of course Nayar feels that Partition conditioned only the two Punjabs. And why shouldn’t there be an apology for the partition of Bengal?

Secondly, if it comes to apologies, bigger crimes have been perpetrated on citizens of both countries by their respective governments — the events of 1984 and those in Gujarat in 2002 — apart from other blunders that caused suffering to every Indian and Pakistani in some form or the other. Not passing resolutions on these would qualify for “double standards”. Continue reading