This author spent his formative years within the walled city of Lahore. Recently, he visited Shah Alam Market on an errand.
As usual, whenever he is within the Circular Road, which the British built after demolishing most of the surrounding wall, he was overtaken by nostalgia of a bygone era, as is always the case with him when visiting this part of Lahore. He asked his companions to wait at a roadside food stall – to be precise, a pathoora-channa stall (fried flour bread served with spicy grams curry) – before embarking on a short, slow walk through an adjoining side street up to Lahori Gate. Strolling through the narrow streets, his mind wandered to the long-gone his childhood era of early 1960s, when Lahore didn’t extend beyond the Mall in the east and Samanabad on the Multan Road in the south. Gulberg, Cantonment and Model Town were detached settlements. Kahna, Kacha and Raiwind, now within Lahore, were faraway towns.
Lahore has a rich historical heritage. Walking through its claustrophobic winding streets is a stroll through history, where each cobblestone tells many tales. The walled portion of the city is spread over an area of only about 2.5 km² with a circumference of just about 6 km. In comparison, Model Town is 14 km2 in area and 14 km in circumference, while DHA is much larger. Yet, the Walled City was and continues to be the heart of Lahore. The city has become a metropolis and extended over 500 km2 with a circumference of 100 km but most of its new areas are like the noveau riche; flashy but lacking culture and identity. Lahore has been, and shall always be, the walled city and its immediate surroundings.
Revisiting Shah Alam Market was a unique experience. It joins Rang Mahal Chowk with the Bansaan Wala (Bamboo) Bazaar, roughly dividing the city into eastern and western halves. Several areas and sections of this market had been gutted in fires during communal violence in the middle of August 1947. After partition, it was rebuilt or renovated as the only double tracked road within the walled city. It has covered walkways in the shopping plazas on both sides along its entire length from Rang Mahal to the circular Road. In the 1960s, when horse-driven tongas, bullock-pulled carts, bicycles, a few Vespa scooters, double-decker buses and an occasional car used to ply its metalled tracks, it would appear as wide as a hockey field. Now, the merchandise of shops – some no more than little shacks but doing a roaring wholesale business – overflows onto the walkways. Both sides of the road have double parked vehicles, with cars in the first row and motorcycle-pulled minitrucks in the second. Motorcycles and tri-wheel rickshaws, the better transports to venture into the city, are parked in the thousands. As a result, the road appears as clogged as the numerous meter-wide inner-city lanes. The walled city has become a huge wholesale market of goods of every type, from grains to electric goods, hosiery, toys, shoe parts, artificial jewellery, gold jewellery, cloth, bridal dresses, ready-made clothes, metal utensils, plastic bottles, perfumes, condiments, and everything in between.
As a pre-teen child, this author wasn’t aware that his walking route to his school from Androon Suter Mandi to Lahori Gate is now considered to be the original site of Lahore
This recent visit to the Lahore walled city kindled many memories of the early 1960s; the time when this writer grew up in this part of the city in Paniwala Talab and Gujar Gali. He, along with his cousins and friends – some of them no more; some living on borrowed time – would roam through city’s twisting lanes and bazaars several times a day on the way to school or on many household errands: which, in absence of refrigerators and in view of a large family, were numerous and frequent.
Lahore of today has become a megapolis. Raiwind in the south, Jallo and Barki in the east and Shahdara in the northwest have become its suburbs. In the process, it has lost coherence, homogeneity, uniformity and character; traits whose loss is evident to Lahoris and becomes apparent to visitors. Eastern Lahore, where DHA has spread nearly up to the Indian border, is today as different from the western half consisting of Samanabad and Gulshan Ravi as is Rawalpindi, a town that this author visits often, from Islamabad, where he currently resides. Northern Lahore, comprising Qila Lachman Singh, Badami Bagh, Shad Bagh, Misri Shah etc. has nothing in common with the southern part comprising Izmir and Bahria Towns.
Up to the mid-1960s, when Lahore was still a manageable city, two broad references were used to describe the city. One was Androon Shehr (inner city), meaning bazaars and kuchas inside the wall, and Beiroon Shehr (external city), meaning the city’s extension during the initial British rule up to and a little beyond the Mall. Gulberg, Model Town and Cantonment were practically separate towns. The habitations beyond the canal had to be specified by their names.
Lahore’s walled city had a wide wall on its periphery with twelve gates. Some gates, such as Delhi Gate on the Shahi-Guzargah (Royal boulevard), are wide and high enough to accommodate elephants with a howdah on their top. In addition to the periphery wall, there are remnants of an outer moat. It has been filled up now but – except where it has been encroached upon – it has been preserved as green areas. The ground outside Mochi Gate, where political gatherings were held till 1970s, the green area outside the eastern side from Mochi to Akbari and Delhi Gates and on the western side, from Bhaati to Taxali Gates are still park lands – though much neglected. As late as the reign of Emperor Aurangzeb, the River Ravi flowed along the northern walls of the Akbari Fort and Alamgiri Mosque, and outside the Kashmiri, Sheranwala and Masti (Maseeti, named after Marium-Zamani Mosque) gates. That riverain path is still maintained as green belt and its western part up to Minar-e-Pakistan has now been converted to the well renovated Iqbal Park.
While growing up in Gumti Bazaar in the walled city, this author studied for a year in a Municipal Corporation Primary School somewhere inside Pappar Mandi (Crackers Market). Pappar Mandi is a narrow Bazaar with shop-ware overflowing into the congested claustrophobic street. Its width of five to seven feet is lined with two to three stories high buildings on both sides. Every building has shops on ground floor with a narrow passage for stairs to the houses on top. The Bazaar, originally called Chakla Bazaar (Brothel Bazaar), has an interesting history that merits a separate piece.
Living in a one-room apartment in the Gujjar Gali (Street of Milkmen) on the top floor of an elegantly 3-story tall building, built by a Hindu jeweller in early 1940s, this author could take either of two routes to his school.
With school bag on his shoulders and a takhti (wooden slate) in his hands, he would walk through the cow-dung littered lane to Maya (wealth) Bazaar, turn left where now stands the well-known Jaida Lassi Wala (Javed Buttermilk Shop) and trudge along the Androon Suter Mandi or Suter Mandi Bazaar (Cotton Yarn Market). About a hundred meters short of Lohari Gate, near the building where once Allama Iqbal lived, the route would turn left to Bukhari Street, then go past Bukhari Chowk, originally named Chowk Chakla (the Brothels Crossing), Pappar Mandi Chowk and Chowk Mati to a school in a bylane of Pappar Mandi Bazaar. Along this way lies the Lodhi era Neeven Masjid (Low Mosque, so named as it is about 20 feet below road level) and the Sikh-era Moran Masjid (originally named Masjid-e-Tawaifan but called by Lahoris as kanjri-di-Maseet, meaning prostitute’s mosque). This was a walk of about three quarters of a kilometre.
Alternatively, this author’s father would carry him on the rear stand of his bicycle, with two younger brothers sitting in front, through Gujjar Gali in the opposite direction, Chatta Bazaar (Covered Market), Soha Bazaar (Goldsmith’s Market), turn right on to Shah Alam Road (named after the third last Mughal Emperor) at the grave of Malik Ayaz (First Muslim Governor of Lahore), go past Haveli Saadullah Khan (the Prime Minister of Emperor Shah Jahan and which houses the Rang Mahal Missionary School) till the Pappar Mandi turn where now stands the famous Baba Kulfi Wala (Baba, the ice-cream seller), and from where the now demolished Hindu Temple on the Circular Road was visible. This cycle ride was of a little over one kilometre. The school was located a few scores of meters inside the bazaar.
Eastern Lahore, where DHA has spread nearly up to the Indian border, is today as different from the western half consisting of Samanabad and Gulshan Ravi as is Rawalpindi, a town that this author visits often, from Islamabad, where he currently resides. Northern Lahore, comprising Qila Lachman Singh, Badami Bagh, Shad Bagh, Misri Shah etc. has nothing in common with the southern part comprising Izmir and Bahria Towns
As a pre-teen child, this author wasn’t aware that his walking route to his school from Androon Suter Mandi to Lahori Gate is now considered to be the original site of Lahore. Kanhya Lal Kapoor writes in his Urdu book, Tarikh-e-Lahore on page 13 that Sultan Mahmud had burned the city of Lahore and murdered all its citizens due to their resistance to his invasion. His nominated governor Malik Ayaz rebuilt the city and his fort inside Lahori gate was one of the first structures. Writing for the Naqoosh ‘Lahore Number’ of February 1962, Professor Shujauddin mentions on page 36 that Malik Ayaz is the founder of current Lahore. There is scant record of the site of city that Mahmud burned; a sign that it was razed completely.
Both K.L. Kapoor and Shujauddin derive some of their references from Hadeeqatul-Aulia (published 1878) by Mufti Ghulam Sarwar Lahori who mentions at Serial number 211 that there was a bloodbath of Muslims of Lahore by Raja Anangpal during the reign of Bahram Shah Ghaznavi (r. 1117 to 1152) when the Ghauri insurrection against the Ghaznavids had gained momentum in Eastern Khurasan. Mufti mentions these killings in the area inside Mochi and Akbari Gates between Takia Sadhu near Nisar Haveli (from where the Muharram Zuljinnah procession begins), Masjid Cheenianwali near Chauhatta Mufti Baqar (named after a Mufti during reign of Emperor Shah Jahan) and Sirianwala Bazaar (now also known as Bazaar Ghazi Ilm Din Shaheed). The Naqoosh article mentions that this massacre occurred earlier during the reign of Masud Ghaznavi.
The above history confirms one fact; that Malik Ayaz repopulated the city after his master sacked it and the area between Shah Alam Bazaar and Akbari-Delhi Gates were inhabited rapidly. The location of the grave of Malik Ayaz also suggests that the site would either have been a graveyard or an open ground because the reigning Governor of a powerful Sultanate would have been given an honourable state burial at an appropriate location, and not in a recess in a congested place; as its current location has become. The existence of Rang Mahal of Saadullah Khan, Wazir Khan Mosque, Shahi Hamam (Royal Bath), Mubarak/Nisar Haveli (not to be confused with Mubarak Haveli on Bazaar Hakeeman in Bhatti Gate) and the names of streets such as Bazaar Sadakaran (announcer’s street), Bazaar Jarahan (Physician’s street), Bazaar Sawaran (Riders’ street), Bazaar Tazabian (Acid Sellers/Chemists Street), Kucha Chabak Swaran etc in the part of the city to the east of Shah Alam Chowk suggests that the area became densely populated at least as far back as the early 17th century during the reigns of Jahangir and Shah Jahan reign.
The walled city of Lahore, as I stated earlier, is a small place but full of history. Nowhere else, except in Delhi, Cairo, Baghdad, Athens or Rome can one go past so much of history over a walk of only a few kilometres.
Parvez Mahmood retired as a Group Captain from the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) and is now a software engineer. He lives in Islamabad and writes on social and historical issues. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org