Lahore has got a special place in every person’s heart and this is the reason it will always be the city of hearts and dreams. I spent 20 years of my life in Lahore and cherished every single memory I have, the friends I made there; they are all so uniquely kind and generous. I had my life-changing moments there. On Sunday I would get my self lost in the labyrinth of the old city. I used to sit there imagining the glory of the old Lahore, seeing the ghosts walking in the streets, people greeting Eid to each other, vendors selling spices and other edibles and the entire experience was mesmerizing. not too many people know the history of the city so let’s take a journey back in time and explore the real Lahore.
The early history of Lahore is obscure, inauthentic, and attributed to myths and tales. Virtually no historical reference of the city is available in travelogues; history books and archaeological excavations historical chronicles do not provide any account of such a city when Alexander’s forces traversed Punjab in the 4th century B.C.
There could have been a small town or settlement of Hindu “Shahiya” dynasty at the place where modern-day Lahore exists, and of which a little reference is available in the travelogue of Chinese traveler Hieun Triang who visited India in 630 A.D. However, within the next few hundred years, Lahore would blossom into a cultural capital of the Indian Subcontinent.
Little is known of the history of the settlement before the Muslim period. Hindu legend attributes the founding of Lahore to Lava, or Lōh, son of Rāma, for whom it is said to have been named Lōhāwar. The city of “Labokla” mentioned in Ptolemy’s 2nd-century Guide to Geography may have been Lahore.
Lahore witnessed turbulence, peace and tranquility, cultural festivity, conquers devastations, and destruction in different periods of history. But it always remained significant after its birth as a metropolis in the 11th century. Its strategic importance had never even been ignored and it remained a provincial capital to date.
Lahore attained its magnificence during the Mughal period from 1521 to 1752 A.D. It fell to the forces of Ahmed Shah Abdali in 1572; there was a period of Chaos and confusion. Lahore escaped the horrors of Nadir Shah paying a sum of 20 Lacks but was plundered and looted by Sikh Sardar Lehna Singh of Bhangi Misal for more than 30 years.
Lahore grew under Emperor Babur; from 1584 to 1598, under the emperors Akbar the Great and Jahangir, the city served as the empire’s capital. Lahore reached the peak of its architectural glory during the rule of the Mughals, many of whose buildings and gardens have survived the ravages of time.
There come Ranjit Singh and fifty years’ SIKH rule from (1798 – 1848). The Sikh rule after Ranjit Singh was turbulent and factional fighting destroyed peace and prosperity of Lahore and then finally the British took over it in 1848 and after 99 years of British rule, Lahore became the second-largest city and cultural capital of Pakistan.
All major monuments, buildings, Havelis, and gardens of Lahore are of the Mughal period, during which Lahore touched its glory. The only contribution of the Sikh period is Ranjit Singh Smadh.
British ignored the walled city of Lahore and created a new Lahore on its southern side. This includes The Mall, Civil lines, and Cantonment. They constructed several buildings with an architecture blended with Muslim and Gothic motives.
The walled city of Lahore, the original seat of political authority and cultural traditions is one of the most colorful cities of the region. A few like Isfhan and Dehli match a little to its excellence.
The walled city has pages of history imprinted on its buildings, monuments, mosques, and maize like a network of streets. Colorful cultural life has shades of almost every ruling elite and generation like music, food, dance, political awareness, religious sentiments, and poetic flair of common people.
Modern Lahore remained a victim of negligence and lack of renovation. No preservation effort has been made by the ruling governments for over five decades. The historic buildings and facades of Lahore’s old city are not being rescued from further deterioration. The overall jurisdiction of the walled city included various heritage and historical buildings, including a sacred gurdwara, Hindu temples, and old mosques. There is a population of almost 300,000 living within the walled city today.
The old city is known for its unique and ancient wooden balconies, temples, gurdwaras, Havelis, narrow winding streets, and busy bazaars.
Lahore is known as the city of gardens and some call it the city of hearts owing to the friendly and hospitable nature of the local people. The dark and think alleys of Lahore still enchant its visitors.
The mist and magnificence of the old city augment with the fragrance of clay and old wood. The streets are still infused with cultural values and artifacts. Various vendors selling traditional cuisine and street food in the alleys of Bhaati and Mochi Gate mesmerize the visitors. If you want to experience the real culture of the old Mughal and post-British era, walled city is your destination.but the urbanization and rapid development has faded the archaic touch of the important buildings and monuments. A planned and well choreographed revamping would certainly restore the lost glory of the historic city.
Lahore requires extensive renovation and restoration and in this regard, several initiatives have been kicked off. For instance ‘The Walled City of Lahore’ initiative has helped promote cultural activities and tourism in the city. The initiative allows visitors, both local and foreign, to get acquainted with the history, architecture, lifestyle, and community of old Lahore.
From the old days of the Mughal Empire to British colonial rule, visitors walk through the various heritage sites that speak about the original structure as well as the additions made during the Sikh rule and transformations of the British colonial period. Complete restoration will galvanize the glory of the ancient city which can endorse tourism and cultural researches.