Mysteries and stories galore

October 30, 2016

Muhammad Naeem Murtaza’s book raises the curtains on many an unheard-of incident in the history of Lahore

Mysteries and stories galore

Whenever you read a book on Lahore -- or Lhore, as the city’s name is spelt in many chronicles and testimonies -- it only makes you more inquisitive about the place. As per Imperial Gazetteer of India (Vol 16, p106), the Greco-Egyptian writer Claudius Ptolemy (100AD-170AD) discussed Lhore in his famous book, ‘Geography,’ while travelling back via river Chandar Bhag (presently Chenab) towards Ravi. Being a seat of learning, power and modernity through ages, the city still haunts the researchers. Archeologists have even discovered settlements of pre-Harappan times (4,000-5,000 BC) along the Ravi’s bank. Muhammad Naeem Murtaza’s latest book, titled ‘Waqayat e Lahore,’ compiles 590-odd incidents, from Qutbuddin Aibak (1150-1210) to present times, and covers almost 866 years of the city’s history.

In the next edition, perhaps, Murtaza can add what Ptolemy, 7th-century Chinese traveller Hiuen Tsiang, 9th-century Moroccan geographer Muhammad al-idrisi and Turk writer Hudūd al-Ālam min al-Mashriq ilá l-Maghrib said about the city.

Murtaza compiled this book to pay tribute to his beloved city. Sadly, in many entries, the references are weak and in some cases they call for more research. (In the preface, Murtaza humbly accepts his shortcomings.) But overall, ‘Waqayat e Lahore’ introduces many new, unheard-of incidents related to Lhore.

Big ships in Ravi

The book talks of a time when big ships were famously seen in our rivers but thanks to the over-estimated canal system, barrages and fixed bridges, this trade was destroyed. The author reproduces an incident regarding Mughal King Akbar’s campaign in the 1590s of the famous Lahori Bandar (Dahro) near Thatta (presently in Sindh). The name of a Lhori port is mentioned in numerous books and chronicles by the Portuguese and Persians; in later years, it too was changed.

As the story goes, a special ship, called "Akbari," was prepared with 3,000 wooden plates. It could bear 15,000 mounds of weight. If you read Turkish admiral Siddi Ali Raise’s ‘Travels of an Admiral’ (1538), Scottish traveller Alexander Burnes’s ‘Travels in Bukhara,’ and many others, you shall understand the story of the river channel trade pretty well.

700 traitors hanged in Lhore

Khusro, the son of Mughal King Jehangir, fought against his father. He was arrested and his 700 companions were hanged. From Nulakha Garden (near the Railway Station) uptill the Lahore Fort, the traitors were hanged, as the King stared down at the hangings from Shah Burj. The fifth guru of Sikhs, Guru Arjun, also supported Khusro, and was killed.

‘Waqayat e Lahore,’ compiles 590-odd incidents, from Qutbuddin Aibak (1150-1210) to present times, and covers almost 866 years of the city’s history.

In colonial literature, the incident of killing of the sacred Guru was used smartly to aggravate the Sikh-Muslim conflict in the Punjab. Interestingly, propagandists forgot the killing of Khusro and his Muslim companions because that could deconstruct their misleading narrative. In Lahore, we still have a Mohallah Guru Arjun Nagar near Gwalmandi.

Abdali -- Hero or tribal head

Sabir Shah was a majzob of Mashhad (Iran). Abdali went to him and Shah predicted his Kingship. The prophecy came true and Abdali accorded him a royal status in return. Later, Sabir came to Lhore but he was killed under suspicion of being an agent of Abdali.

In January 1748, Abdali attacked Lahore and destroyed Begumpura. He wanted to loot other areas also but a group of Lahoris gave him enough money and he postponed his ‘jihad.’

In early 1760s, Abdali conducted another raid in Lhore and, after his return, appointed Kaboli Mal, a Punjabi Hindu based in Mochi Gate, as his representative. Such incidents are enough to deconstruct official narrative based on religious nationalism.

Coin of Moraan, the dancer

Moraan was a learned dancer. Maharaja Ranjeet Singh married her in 1802. The Lhore Darbar released a coin in her name. It was called "Moraan Shahi."

Moraan was a Muslim girl but the Maharaja did not force her to change her religion. She built a mosque near Shahalmi Gate. She is buried in the Miani Sahab graveyard.

Anarkali tomb converted into Church

When the British annexed Lhore Darbar in 1849, they knew very well that it was thickly populated by Muslims. But an incident happened in 1851 that disturbed the new rulers. The English rulers converted the tomb of Anarkali (presently in the Punjab Civil Secretariat complex) into Saint James Church. The move was strongly resisted by the Lahoris but court historians excluded it from the official narrative.

Ban on Liquor; January 1947

The British Raj was still intact. Sir Evan Meredith Jenkins was the Governor while Khizar Hayyat Tiwana was the Premier of Punjab. Deputy Excise and Taxation officer Lahore issued an order to all restaurants which said that no one should give liquor to students.

Aamir 1

Obscenity, Prostitutes and Music

There are many entries in the book that address the mind-set that eventually steered Pakistan towards extremism in so many ways. In January 1950, a case was registered against great Urdu writer Saadat Hasan Manto regarding obscenity. On October 9, 1953, trade tax was imposed in Shahi Mohallah. But on March 12, 1956, Lahore Corporation discussed an idea to abolish Shahi Muhallah. The idea was rejected. But in General Ayub’s period, the registration of Shahi Mohallah residents began in November 1958. It is said that there were 218 prostitutes and 400 dancers among the residents. The purpose of data collection was to destroy them. In October 1963, the district government restricted the movement of prostitutes and transgenders. Finally, on September 18, 1964, Governor West Pakistan Nawab Kalabagh ordered the police to vacate Tibbi Galli in an hour and half. The residents of Tibbi Galli recorded their protest in front of Punjab Assembly on January 7, 1965.

In an interesting development, in March 1963, a Lahori Parsi member Begum Nargis Jan moved a motion in Lahore Corporation to adopt Punjabi as medium of instruction in schools but the members not only rejected it but also imposed a ban on dances in hotels.

The book records many more interesting incidents of Lhore. For instance, the setting up of the first hospital for mental patients in Ranjit Singh’s time (1836), the construction of modern water supply system (1873), the foundation of Muslim Press Association (1911), the formation of an association of tailor masters (1924), the mourning meeting in memory of Mahatma Gandhi organised at Islamia College, which was presided over by CM Punjab (January 1948), the removal of the statues of Lawrence (1950) and Queen Victoria (1951), conflict on the date of Eid (1953), death of the last princess of the Punjab, Lady Bamba Jindaan (1957), petition against Basant (1959), the foundation of first TV station of Pakistan in Lahore (1964), the founding meeting of PPP (1967), change of name from Tilak Nagar to Data Nagar (1970), displacement of Pre-Christ ancient magnetic pillar from Jain Mandir to Lahore Museum (1975), beginning of Samjohta Express (July 1976), the death of the first wife of Liaqat Ali Khan (1983), the historic reception of Benazir Bhutto (April, 1986), the death of ex-president of Kashmir K H Khurshid (1988) in public transport, the arrival of the first Indian PM at Minar-e-Pakistan (Feb 1999), the visit of Dina Jinnah (2004), the Lahore-Amritsar Bus service (Dec 2005), the fiery protest against sketches (February 2006), the ban on Basant by Supreme Court (March 2006), the reopening of Pak Tea House (March 2013), and the opening of the Chinese Consulate (2015).

Yet Murtaza seems to have missed much more. But what he compiled is a gift to all who love Lahore.

Author: Muhammad Naeem Murtaza
Publisher: Shalimar Publications
Price: Rs 400
Pages: 280

Mysteries and stories galore