Monday, June 28, 2010

Lhore, Lhore Hai (There is no city like Lahore) – Part II (The Walled City)

I talked of Lahore in general and about its history in my previous post. But the mention of Lahore would remain incomplete if one doesn’t know what goes inside the “actual Lahore” or the city that’s was once surrounded by the wall and its twelve openings through mighty gates. The walled city or the “Androon-e-shehr (the inner city)” is what actually Lahore is. I you want to meet the true Lahorites in their original habitat, you need to visit the walled city. Here the true culture, architecture and life of Lahore is actually resides. This is the place which the famous British writer Rudyard Kipling mentions in his story “The Gate of a Hundred Swords.”

The walled city or the Old Lahore is congested with very narrow alleys, crowded, dangerously overhanging balconies – yet it is warm, receptive, hospitable and original. The true "Lahori" life is visible everywhere when one walks through its narrow winding alleys. In early morning, the traditional breakfast of "Halwa and Poori" is seen being made by the corner of the street. One really enjoys the paper thin "Poori" - made of flour and fried in boiling hot oil with a "Bhaaji" - a dish made of grams and potatoes with pickle and onions, followed by "Halwa" - a sweet made of sooji, sugar and ghee. After this rather heavy feast, Lahories never forget to drink a large glass of "Lassi" - made from yogurt, sugar and water in one gulp. This is something you cannot do, but ask anyone standing next to you and he would demonstrate – although on your expense. While in the morning vendors and shops sell Halwa Poori, Nihari, Hareesa and Paye, in the evening the venu changes and spicy seekh kababs, chiken tikka, fried fish, various varities of chicken and meat are available for dinner. For sweet dish you can have kheer, rabri, ras gullay, ras malai (in summers) and various hot sizzling halwas in winters. I will write more about these foods and their recipes separately.

An other historical heritage of the Walled City was its wall and the 13 gates (actually there are 12 main gates – but some also include Mori Gate as the 13th gate, which was basically used as an outlet of the sewage water). Over a period of time the wall has withered away along with some of the gates. The gates are generally known in the name of places they are facing or any important building in their vicinity (read details of the gates on the link given below). During the British era, the height of the walls was reduced from 30 to 15 feet. However, these walls gradually vanished, leaving their gates as the only reminiscent and glory of the past.

Today, the Walled City heritage is seriously threatened. The physical decay and the demolition and rebuilding in the Walled City are constantly diminishing its historic fabric. In order to preserve its historical and cultural associations, the Government of Pakistan and the World Bank in 1983 prepared a cultural heritage conservation plan through the World Bank's Lahore Urban Development Project, which focused on the repair and restoration of the Delhi Gate (a principal entrance to the Walled City), the Delhi Gate Bazaar and the Shaahi Hammam (Royal Baths), located just inside the Delhi Gate. But despite all efforts, the Walled City is decaying and people moving out to better and new localities, while real lovers of Lahore still cling to their heritage – it is because of them that life in the Walled City continues to thrive despite all odds and dangers.

Read More:
Lahore Walled City (Pakistanpaedia)