Saturday July 13, 2024

Preserving treasure trove of the cultural capital

By Abdul Rashid Shakir
August 27, 2023

How mesmerizing were the chants of “Lahore Lahore Eiy” and “Jinne Lahore Nai Takya, Jammiya Nai” atop double-decker bus of Punjab Tourism Department, built especially for an enriching tour of the Lahore city in order to acquaint riders with the cultural heritage, architectural landmarks and historical footprints of the past. Mall Road, Jail Road, Ferozpur Road, Data Darbar (Ali Hajveri Shrine), and Greater Iqbal Park housing three historical sites of Minar-e-Pakistan, Badshahi Masjid and Lahore Fort were the major attractions en route.

Rich culture of Punjab, including circus, theater, death well, vending kiosks, food stalls, merry-go-round and other adrenaline-inducing swings and rides, was attracting tourists of all ages, gender and interests. Strolling in the spacious grassy lawns, boating in the winding lake, colorful dancing fountains, well-lit buildings and engaging background music were adding a lot to make this excursion really memorable and worthwhile.

The Government of the Punjab, under the leadership of its active and agile Caretaker Chief Minister Syed Mohsin Raza Naqvi, is taking remarkable measures not only to preserve Punjab’s rich cultural heritage but also to promote its valuable historical treasure. Its recent decision to recover, develop and open for tourism 12 historical gates of the Walled City of Lahore, besides rehabilitating other historical sites in Punjab like Ram Piyari Mahal Gujrat, Ranjit Singh Haveli Gujranwala and Kharak Singh Haveli Lahore is a major initiative in this regard. The Government has directed the Walled City of Lahore Authority (WCLA) to work expeditiously on resurrecting the old cultural glory of the Punjab province.

Reminiscent of the heydays of Mughal, Sikh and British empires, 12 giant historical gates of the Walled City of Lahore include Delhi Gate, Roshnai Gate, Bhati or Bhatti Gate, Sheranwa or Khizri Gate, Lohari or Lahori Gate, Kashmiri Gate, Akbari Gate, Yakki or Zakki Gate, Masti Gate, Shah Alam Gate, Mochi Gate, Texali or Taxali Gate.

Connected with a thirty feet high fortified wall, these 12 Gates along with a Mori (A small hole in the wall) were the 13 entrances or passageways to the Walled City or ‘Androon-e-Shehr’ Lahore.

Out of these 13 Gates or entrances of Lahore, only 6 survived ravages of time while other 7 have gone extinct.

Existing Gates including Delhi Gate, Bhati Gate, Sheranwala Gate, Kashmiri Gate, Lohari Gate and Mori Gate were actually reconstructed during the British era. Only Roshnai Gate stands in its original form. On the other hand, the traces of the remaining gates namely Taxali Gate, Masti Gate, Yakki Gate, Mochi Gate and Akbari gate ceased to exist.

Data Darbar (Shrine of Hazrat Ali Hajveri, RA) is located right outside Bhati gate; Wazeer Khan Mosque is located inside Delhi Gate, and can also be approached from Kashmiri Gate; Muslim Masjid, tomb of Qutb-Ud-Din Aibak, and the most famous Anarkali bazaar are situated in front of Lohari Gate; Hazuri Bagh is located right beside Roshnai gate; and the narrow alleys of Sheranwala or Khizri Gate throng with various necessities of life.

The largest wholesale and retail market of Lahor, ‘Akbari Mandi’, is located close to the place where Akbari Gate is supposed to be; another busiest and biggest wholesale market of Lahore, Shah Almi market, is located inside Shah Alam or Shah Almi Gate. The area is filled with different bazaars including Rang Mahal, Soha Bazaar, Kanari Bazaar and Dabi Bazaar. Everything from garments to footwear, and jewelry to crockery can be found here.

Masti Gate is located right behind Lahore Fort, and is famous for its food like Rabri Wala Doodh. Mochi Bagh, a major site for political gatherings, was located inside Mochi Gate. Nisar Haveli and Laal Haveli are major landmarks of the area.

Taxali or Texali Gate is named after Taxol (Royal Mint) which used to exist near the gate. However, neither the Gate nor the mint exist today. Famous eateries like Phajja Paye and Halwa Puri are found here. Yakki or Zakki Gate is famous for a school for blind individuals nearby, apart from numerous Havelis.

Mori Gate was the smallest gate of the Walled City, hence named Mori which means a small hole in Urdu. Had the Mori Gate existed, it would have been found between the Lahori and Bhati Gates. Urdu Bazaar is located across the Mori Gate. Rehabilitation and maintenance of these historical gates would not only preserve the rich cultural heritage of Lahore but would also project a softer image of the country by promoting various cultural and tourist activities in the area. These deadline-driven interventions of the Punjab Government would not only attract scores of local tourists but would also lure in history-loving foreign visitors.

The Walled City of Lahore Authority (WCLA) is doing a commendable job in preserving the rich cultural heritage and architectural monuments of the glorious bygone days of the history of the Subcontinent. It is a semi-governmental organization established by the Government of the Punjab under The Walled City of Lahore Act 2012 for the conservation, development, and management of the Walled City of Lahore besides looking after heritage sites in the entire province.