An insight into Lahore

The old walled city is in the shape of a parallelogram, with the imposing Fort carved out in its north-western corner. In ancient times the river Ravi used to flow along the northern wall of the city and the fort. As the river, notorious for its changing course, rolled on towards further north away from the city, the fort was extended mainly for defence.

The Ravi floods, however, posed threat to the city and, at least for once, its encroachment caused so much alarm that in 1662 the Emperor Aurangzeb Alamgir made an huge embankment of bricks and mortar along its left bank, running for about 6 kilometers, and thus saved the city from the mass destruction. The Ravi further changed its course and is presently flowing about two to three kilometers north of the old city. The old course of the river, or the buddha Ravi as is locally known has either been usurped for habitation or given to large and beautiful parks where Minar stands.

The archaeological excavation carried out in 1958 in the south eastern part of the present fort of Lahore yielded, among other things, a gold coin of Sultan Mahmud of Ghazna, portraying the period of its abundance at its earlier stages.

Emperor Akbar during his 14 years stay at Lahore 1584 to 1598 enclosed the fort with a brick wall to serve as fortification. He also founded palace buildings, which activity continued throughout the golden period of the Mughalas as his successors enlarged and added to the construction towards north and west to the citadel.

The old, or walled, city is over two kilometers in length and above one kilometer in breadth, which also includes the fort in its north western corner. The history city has a circumference of almost seven kilometers where a wall interspersed by thirteen gates runs majestically.

The building activity did not limit itself to the confines of the city wall even during the long historic period of its existence. Many palaces, pleasures gardens, living quarters, tombs and mosque were constructed in the near, or a little far, suburbs of the city. The British added systematically by constructing a huge chhowani or cantonment towards south of the main city.

The old and walled city had effectively controlled accesses. It could be entered rthrough thirteen gateways, provided in the huge wall at intervals throughout its peripheral run. The gateways were differently named.

Situated on the east bank of the River Ravi, the wonderful city of Lahore adds to the charisma of Pakistan. Legend traces its origin to Loh, the son of Rama Chandra, the hero of the Ramayana, but history records that it began as a dependency of the 8th century AD Hindu ruler, Lalitiditya. In the early 11th Century it came under Muslim rule and evolved as a center of Islamic culture and learning as well as trade and commerce. In the 13th century it was depopulated and razed to the ground by the Tartar-Mongol hordes of Genghis Khan.

Lahore was a cultural and intellectual center during the Moghul and British eras. Such atmosphere still pervades, but it is the diversity and contrast of the different sections of Lahore, which make it the most eventfully interesting part of Pakistan.

Lahore is the second largest city of Pakistan and the provincial capital of Punjab. Apart from being the cultural and academic centre for the country, Lahore is the Mughal show-window of Pakistan. in the Mughal days a 9-meter high brick wall surrounded the Old city it had a rampart running around it which almost connected with the River Ravi to serve as protection for the city. A circular road around the rampart gave access to the city through thirteen gates. Some of the imposing structures of these gates are still preserved. In the bazzars of the Old City one can still find tiny shops where craftsmen can be seen busy turning out master-pieces in copper, brass, silver and textiles in traditional fashion.


The News, April 27, 2004( By Farooq Munawar)