Sunday, February 26, 2012

Travel Pakistan: The Many Gates of Lahore Walled City

Lahore is a beautiful city to visit. It is a city of history or a history in city - take it both ways and it is true for Lahore. It figures out in all prominent and important historical documents and when talking of emperors, prince and princesses besides architecture and gardens. Lahore was most prominent during ad after the Mogul period and has thus is often termed as the showcase of Mogul architecture as each successive Mogul emperor had his share of adding beautiful buildings and gardens to add grandeur and beauty to Lahore.

While the marvels of Mogul architecture are spread all over Lahore, the Walled City of Lahore is one complex that encloses in itself the real Lahore which has thrived since time immemorial. One really doesn't know how old is the old Lahore enclosed in its once high walls with numerous entrances in all its sides. As per Wikipedia, and according to carbon dating evidence of archaeological findings in the Lahore Fort, the time period for in-habitation of Lahore could be anything as early as 2,000 BCE. 

Map of  Walled City of Lahore [ Map: Wikipedia ]
The life in the walled city of Lahore truly reflects the actual and indigenous culture of Lahore. The walled city is dominated in the NNW by the massive Lahore Fort or the Shahi Qila (Royal Fort), while many beautiful structures, buildings and mosques, like the Wazir Khan Mosque and the Golden Mosque (Sunehri Masjid) inside the walls of old Lahore still stand majestically, though some in dilapidated condition now.

While it would take post after post to talk of life and architecture of the old city of Lahore, I will talk of the many gates that lead into the walled city.

In all there were thirteen gates around the walled city. All gates were built with typical arched style and were unique in their individual capacity. Each gate was given a particular name that described its facing, location and speciality in the overall context of Lahore. These thirteen gates were named as: Akbari Gate, Bhati Gate, Delhi Gate, Kashmiri Gate, Lohari Gate, Masti Gate, Mochi Gate, Mori Gate, Roshnai Gate, Shahalmi Gate, Shairanwala Gate, Taxali Gate, and Yakki Gate.

The gates guarded the walled city for as long they could sustain the onslaught of its invaders. However, these succumbed to the British Raj, when after occupation of Lahore by the British in the 19th century. While destroying many historical buildings like any ruthless warriors like the Chengiz Khan, nearly all gates were also demolished in order to 'de-fortify' Lahore. The only gate that survived the Britsh wrath was the Roshnai Gate, which is located between the Badshahi Mosque and the Lahore Fort.

Although, an effort was later made to rebuild these gates and restore these to their original shape, many were lost forever. Shahalmi Gate burnt to ground during the riots of 1947 while Akbari Gate was demolished for repairs but never built again. As of today, only six gates, namely Bhati Gate, Delhi Gate, Kashmiri Gate, Lohari Gate, Roshnai Gate, and Shairanwala Gate survive. Though recently a repair and renovation was undertaken, some gates are in pretty bad shape and require much attention and repair work.

Starting from the north clockwise, the first gate is the Masti Gate, just right of the Lahore Fort. No one knows why this gate was called so, but some historians contend that the name is a corruption of 'Masjadi Gate' referring to the mosque of the Mariyam Zamani Begum, mother of Emperor Jahangir, situated in its immediate vicinity. A little trace of this gate in its renovated form can still be seen.

Tonga coming out of the Kashmiri Gate
Next to Masti Gate is the Kashmiri Gate - Since the gate faces in the direction of Kashmir, the gate draws its name accordingly. Inside the gate, there is the famous Kashmiri Bazaar. There is also a girls college, which is housed in a big haveli which once belonged to a royalty and is a exotic piece of Mogul architecture.

The next gate almost in NNE direction is the Sheran Wala Gate. 'Sher' in Urdu language means lion. Thus the name means the gate of the lions. It is said that during the reign of Ranjit Singh he had kept here two domesticated lions and the gate came to be called Sheran Wala Gate.

Yakki Gate is the next gate in the NE direction. Like he Masti Gate, the name of this gate is also distorted. The original name was 'Zaki' - after the name of a saint who according to tradition died fighting against the Mughals, while gallantly defending the city. It is said that even after his head was cut off at the gate, his trunk continued fighting for sometime, and then fell close by. Head and the trunk of the saint was buried at their fallen places separately and both are revered to this day. No traces of this gate are found now.

Beautiful painting of Dehli Gate
Dehli Gate almost faces due east in the direction of now Indian city of Dehli. As part of the reconstruction of selected sites of Walled City, this gate has also been renovated. Many a historical places such as Shahi Hamam (Royal Bath), Chitta Darvaza (White Door), a number of old havalies and the famous Masjid Wazir Khan are situated inside this gate. The remains of the old gate still exist as “Chitta Darwaza” (the White Gate) about a hundred meters away from the present gate.

Rare picture of the Akbari Gate taken in 1962 [ Photo shared by Shiraz hassan at Lahore Nama ]

Akbari Gate comes next, named after the Emperor Akbar who rebuilt the town and the citadel. No traces of it exist today. How did it vanish, there is not much available. May be the gate due to neglect had collapsed and then no one took care of it, except clearing the rubble. However, the nearby famous market place "Akbari Mandi" takes its name from Emperor Akbar and is one of thriving main wholesale market of grains in Lahore, like the Jodia Bazaar of Karachi.

Mochi Gate was situated between Shah Aalmi and Akbari Gate. It is said that the gate is named in honour of Moti, a Hindu guard of the gate during the Mughal era. Later the name was distorted and became Mochi. But a more plausible explanation of the name is that Mochi in Urdu means a cobbler and it may have derived its name from cobblers that may have once thrived in the area. There is a prominent grave of a saint, which in olden times was in one of the cubical of the gate.At the entrance of the gate is a ground / garden called Mochi Bagh (garden), which during elections is a popular place for the political leaders to make speeches. The gate does not exist anymore.

Shah Aalmi Gate, located almost due south is named after Mohamad Moazam Shah Alam Bahader Shah, the son and successor of Aurangzaib. The gate was also said to be known as Bherwala Gate  once, but its popular name remains the Shah Almi gate. The gate does not exist now as it was burnt down in the partition riots of 1947. While the name still remains, it is synonymous to the famous Shah Almi market, which is a thriving business centre of Lahore.

Restored Lohari Gate
Lohari Gate draws its name from the word Lohar (Loha in Urdu means iron, thus Lohar means the blacksmith),  since there were many blacksmiths in the area in the olden days. Another explanation is that the gate takes its name from Lahore and was once called Lahori Gate, but has over a period of time distorted to Lohari Gate. Since the gate faces present Ichra, which was the actual Lahore in Hindu Raj, it is known as Lahori Gate. This gateway still exists in its renovated form and is famous for being one of the main entrances of the city. The out way from the famous Anarkali bazaar leads directly to this gate. 

I have visited the inside of Lohari Gate many times in my childhood as one of our relatives lived there in the famous 'Koocha Munjh Kuttan.'

Next to Lohari Gate is the Mori Gate. Although never a gate like the rest of the 12 gates, the so-called 13th gate, named as Mori Gate, was in old time a place used as outlet for the refuse and the sweepings of the city.

Bhaatti Gate as of now [ Photo: Tahir Iqbal / Flickr ]
Bhaati Gate is one of the most famous gates of the walled city. It is said that the real culture of old Lahore actually thrives inside the area of Bhaati Gate. "Bhatties" - one of the leading sub-caste of Rajputs once abounded the area of walled city, where this gate was constructed. Therefore the gate derived its name accordingly. This gate is situated at the south-western bend of the city in its renovated form. 

Still there are references that the word Bhatti is distorted name of Bhutti Gate. Riaz M Azlan, in his post "Chelsea of Lahore: Bhati Gate" at Lahore Nama writes:
In the books of history the account of this gate can be seen in the mid of 3rd century with reference to the Conqueror Raja Karpal Rao. Karpal built a castle with the name of “Bhatnair”. His offspring called Bhutti and Bhaati. In “Lahore ka Chelsea” (Chelsea of Lahore) Hakeem Ahmed Shuja writes; The real name of the gate is Bhutti gate, and it is the point where Bhutti Warriors of Multan camped before the arrival of Mughals and with time, “Bhutti “spoiled into “Bhaati”.
Tahir Iqbal underneath his above photo of Bhatti Gate adds:
Bhaatti Gate is one of the two oldest entry points into the Walled City which controlled the only major north-south thoroughfare during Ghaznavid period. When the Emperor Akbar expanded the city eastward and divided it into nine districts or Guzars, Bhati Gate and its bazaar marked the boundary between Guzar Mubarak Khan (east) and Guzar Talwarra (west). It was called Bhati Gate because it opens in the direction of Sandal Bar named after Rai Sandal Khan a Bhatti Rajput who lived there in ancient times.
The famous poet and philosopher Dr Allama Mohammad Iqbal used to live inside Bhaati Gate when he was doing his graduation from the famous Government College. 

For some unknown reasons, whenever referring to the Lahorites, mention of this gate is the first one that comes to the mind. People of Bhatti gate are lively and they love to eat heavy and good food mainly Sri pai, halva puri and lasi. The favorite sport among the people here is wrestling. Famous wrestler Kala Maro also belongs to Bhatti gate. 

Just outside of Bhati Gate is Data Durbar, the mausoleum of the Sufi saint Ali Hajweri (also known as Data Sahib Ganjbaksh). Every Thursday evening musicians used to gather here to perform Qawwali music, but these days qawalies have been replaced with Naats and religious sermons.

There is so much to write about Bhatti Gate, that it requires another full post about it, which I shall in time, God willing.

The Taxali Gate, located opposite the famous Lady Wellington's Hospital, takes its name from "Taxal" or Mint once located nearby during the Mogul period. It once provided access through the wall that extended the western length of the city. It was heavily fortified and was designed to protect the city from any attack from the west-ward." With the passage of time this gate has completely vanished. 

There is a very famous shoe market located here known as Sheikupurian Bazar. There are a variety of foods available in and around this gate - one of the most beloved being Sri Pai from Fazal Din aka "Phajja." 

Roshnai Gate [ Photo: SaffyH / Flickr ]
And the last and most well kept and untouched by the British during their defortifying campaign is the Roshnai Gate (photographed above), situated at the northern extreme of the city, adjacent to the Lahore Fort. Since it was generally lit at night, it got its name from the Urdu word "Raushni" (the light). Being the principal entrance form fort to city, it was most frequented by the high gentry, courtiers and royal servants. Being part of the Fort-Mosque complex, it has been renovated with lot of care and stands out from all the rest of the gates.

From Masti Gate to Roshnai Gate, the loop of walled city of Lahore completes. While I have been to the areas inside the Bhaati and Lohari Gates, I intend going from the other entrance to the inside of Lahore City someday and write about the grandeur of the once thriving city of Lahore which now consists of mostly dangerously dilapidated old building built astride narrow alleys.

Restored White Gate / Dehli Gate
I may add here that ehe 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.

Walled City of Lahore (Pakistanpaedia)
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