Tag Archives: Lawrence

Paradise Gardens

My piece on Lawrence Gardens Lahore was quoted in this interesting article on Persian Gardens. Raza Rumi

I just looked at a picture of the Taj Mahal in my bathroom and smiled to myself at the wonderful memories of strolling in that garden around that wonderful marble tomb which brought to mind two Shalimar Gardens, and a variety of other baghs I have visited in Pakistan and India. Kashmir boasts a host of places that are heavenly. The Royal Spring Garden, Chashme Shahi Garden which is dedicated to the Mogul Emperor Shah Jahan is a really lovely place, but it is but a sister garden to two others there in Kashmir, the Shalimar Gardens and Nishat Gardens that I visited, and Nasim Bagh where we put up our tent. The former, Cashme Shahi gets its name from the great female saint of Kashimir, Rupa Bhawani whose name included the family name Sahib, thus Cashme Sahibi. It has been many decades since I have wandered through these gardens, but they were in fact pairidaeza enclosures which would in English make one cry out, Wow! or in Urdu Wah! This is heavenly.

In the March 28, 2008, “Lahore Nama”, there is a wonderful piece that caught my mind and heart, because I used to wander with friend and family in a huge garden in Lahore. It begins, ‘I am homesick so I am posting an old piece on the Majestic Lawrence Gardens of Lahore. …. The writer of the “Lahore Nama” piece then ends this lovely article with words that I could not improve upon, for the emotion they bring or the memories they instill in me. “On a personal note, I have walked for years in the Lawrence Gardens–in solitude and with people. My fondest memories of Lahore are in one way or another linked to this splendid place. Often, my soul wanders there to experience the solace and reconnection that the human spirit yearns for.” (Emphasis mine) Whenever I have wanted to hear the sound of trees, in Lahore or in Landour, I have not been disappointed. Have you ever heard a whispering pine? The bulbuls also love gardens and seem to feature in so many Persian, Urdu and Hindustani poetry.

Do not enter Lawrence Gardens without a permit

Raza Rumi

The NEWS have published this editorial entitled – morality brigade -on how public spaces are being denied to the youth in Lahore. This is deplorable and needs to be questioned…

A bizarre notice, worded in Urdu and installed at the Bagh-e-Jinnah in Lahore, warns students that they are not allowed to enter the public garden, unless they are on an educational trip. For this they must bring a letter from the head of their institution. It is assumed the purpose behind the directive is to prevent young men and women from meeting at the city’s largest garden or taking a stroll beneath its leafy trees. The bar on students amounts to a restriction on their right, as equal citizens, to free movement. It also deprives them of space to enjoy a picnic or to study in a pleasant, relatively noise-free environment. Dozens of students can be seen in the park at exam time poring over their books on a bench or revising lessons as a group. No one should be deprived of these simple pleasures of life. It is also a fact that many students lack a conducive study environment at home.

As for the idea of ‘morality’, the restriction simply means that couples seeking to spend time together will go elsewhere. If they do enter the sprawling gardens they presumably face harassment from police, often present there. We must also ask who has authorized the sign? No law exists to prevent students either skipping classes or from meeting those of the opposite gender. The kind of misguided morality we see behind this notice has already inflicted grave damage on our society. The Punjab government needs to take note of it, and adopt measures to ensure no one’s rights are curtailed. Arbitrary measures such as those at the Bagh-e-Jinnah act to stifle life, add unnecessarily to the suffocating atmosphere we live in and encourage extremists who have in the past attempted to impose their own brand of morality on all of us, in some cases by using bombs and other means of violence. Continue reading

Great music lives on in Lahore

by Raza Rumi

This is the magic of Lahore and its deep-rooted cultural mores. No other city can boast of such individuals, movements and trends. Hopefully, the music will live on. The interest of younger generations and their experiments with various forms of music hold great promise

Last week the breezy environs of the majestic Lawrence Gardens once again swayed to the tunes of Hindustani classical music. A week long music festival organised by the All Pakistan Music Conference attracted musicians, vocalists and enthusiasts from all parts the country, as well as from the imagined “enemy” India. How could it not be the case when musical traditions emerged out of a cultural synthesis of 700 years or more?

The leading light of APMC was Hayat Ahmad Khan, whose sad demise in 2005 was interpreted as an end to the glorious tradition of subcontinental streams of music in Pakistan. However, 83 years of hard work and philanthropic contributions was not in vain. He left behind a powerful institution and a network of committed individuals and aesthetes who have kept the torch ablaze. Not a small feat in the troubled waters of a Pakistani cultural landscape constantly under attack by nation-state ideology and extremism that consider music to be too “Indian” or, even worse, un-Islamic.

This is the greatest irony of our existence: the Muslims in India contributed to what is known today as Indian classical music and innovations such as the sitar and the tabla. The Qawwal bache trained at the shrine of Nizamuddin Auliya in Delhi under the tutelage of Amir Khusrau became the founders of what was to later evolve as the sophisticated Khayal style of music. In dire times of the Sultanate and Mughal periods, these musicians had to take refuge in the princely states, and this is how the various gharanas, or schools of music, originated. This loose network of musicians organised along the lines of kinship or teacher-pupil bonds, sustained by court patronage and eclectic and secular in appeal, led to some fine moments. Tansen at Akbar’s court, Mohammad Shah Rangeela’s patronage and later the Kingdom of Oudh defined the high-points of this fused and seamless culture beyond religion, communal and sectarian divides.

To keep this tradition alive in post-independence Pakistan was a Herculean task. Pakistan was a moth-eaten and truncated country in the words of its founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah. The psychological trauma and barbarity of the Partition had jolted everyone and the traditional patronage of the state was missing. It was under these circumstances that on September 15 1959, music-inspired citizens met at the famous Coffee House of Lahore and launched a voluntary organization called The All Pakistan Music Conference. Eminent personas such as Roshan Ara Begum were among the illustrious list of its founders.

It should be noted that this was also the age when the maestro Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan migrated to India and Roshan Ara Begum was almost about to give up the passion of her life. Thus Continue reading

Lahore’s Lawrence Gardens

I am homesick so I am posting an old piece on the majestic Lawrence Gardens of Lahore.

Lahore ‘s Lawrence Gardens, baptised the Bagh-i-Jinnah in the post-independence era, represent the quintessential Raj ethos.Lawrence Gardens

Built primarily for the sahibs and memsahibs, the park has managed to maintain its dream-like beauty for a century and a half. The colonial maps drawn up in the mid-nineteenth century show that eastward of Charing Cross, Gardens existed on the right. In the place of the Freemasons’ Hall, there was once a ‘circular garden’; and what is now the Lahore Zoo was another park called the New Garden.

This was followed by the Agricultural and Horticultural Society Garden, which was the original name of the city’s beloved Lawrence Gardens. The Agriculture Horticulture Society of India established it in 1860 and years later, in 1904, the department of agriculture assumed maintenance responsibilities.

Since 1912, approximately seven acres of the park have been managed by the Government College, Lahore. To this day, it maintains a delightful botanical garden replete with a greenhouse and experimental fields.

The annexation of the Punjab in 1849 and the successful control of the 1857 uprising in many regions of northern India resulted in the consolidation of the British Empire. Due to its strategic location, the Punjab was central to the architecture of the colonial power. Lahore was to become a major outpost of the empire. Therefore, the sahibs had to create social and cultural spaces for themselves in otherwise unfriendly and unfamiliar surroundings. A garden in the heart of British Lahore was essential.

True to the colonial policy, the new garden would be a continuation of the Mughal tradition of creating baaghs as the aesthetic expression of self-indulgence. This project, however, was to reflect the expanse of the Empire. Thousands of saplings of different exotic species were imported from many colonies around the world. By 1860, all the necessary preconditions – such as identifying and acquiring hundreds of acres of land – had been met. Continue reading