13 gates of the Walled City were built to keep the grand city of Lahore safe from invaders. Each gate had a specific purpose and department allocated to it. Many of the gates today only exist in the pages of dusty old books. Some destroyed by the British and some by time.
Our journey today begins at Dilli Darwaza, or Delhi Gate. Constructed during the reign of Akbar in the Eastern part of the city. It was one of the busiest entrances, primarily because it was the route used by Royalty to reach the Lahore fort. The path is known as the Shahi Guzargah or the Royal Trail. The surrounding area houses many buildings of historical significance like the Royal hamaams/bath and the Wazir Khan mosque that is one of the jewels in the crown.
Masjid Wazir Khan
The construction of this mosque began in 1634, and it took 7 years to complete. It is a work of art and it features a style of mosaic that is known as kash i kaari (from the city of kashan in Iran). The exterior and the interior of the mosque borrow heavily from Persian architecture and this can be seen throughout and very prominently in its choice of colours and motifs. The inside of the largest dome is richly decorated with frescoes that depict the allusion of what Paradise is. The mosque was commissioned by the court’s chief Hakeem/ Physician Alim Uddin Ansari. He was known known as Wazir khan and later became the Viceroy of Punjab.
Wazir Khan owned considerable land around Delhi Gate and one of the main reasons for the construction of the mosque was also to encompass and secure the shrine of Miran Badhah, a 13th century Sufi saint who had come from Persia.
The mosque also include an area for shops and these were mostly bookbinders or calligraphers. The entrance of the mosque is decorated with Persian calligraphy which was the official language of the courts during the Mughal Era. The calligraphy inside is in Arabic, and features Islamic texts and verses from the Quran. The name of the calligraphist Yusuf Kashmiri are also inscribed alongwith the year. It stands today resplendent in its grandeur and glory.
(Masjid Wazir Khan)
Named after the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam, the Shah Alam Gate no longer exists. It was situated between Mochi (cobbler) Gate and Lahori Gate. It used to be known as the “Berwala Gate”, and it was burned down during the 1947 partition riots. In its place is the Shah Alam Chowk or intersection and this is the location of Shah Alam Market. The locals say it in one breath and most people just pronounce it as Shalmi Market. It is one of Lahore’s biggest commercial markets and there is nothing you cannot find at Shah Alam Market, including any siblings lost in a mela! Bang in the middle of the road, is a mosque. It is just there with roads on both sides. It is a small structure and this mosque is known as Masjid Shab Bhar.
Allama Iqbal the famous poet wrote a verse which has now become timeless to the strange events that unfolded to build this mosque.
مسجد تو بنا دی شب بھر میں ایماں کی حرارت والوں نے
من اپنا پرانا پاپی تھا برسوں میں نمازی بن نہ سکا
Masjid to bana di shab bhar mai, Imaan ki hararat waalon nai
Mann apna purana papi tha, basrson mai namazi ban na saka.
The mosque was built in a single night by the fervour of the believers
We are sinners from ages, time could not make us pious.
During the British rule, this little unclaimed plot of land became a heated dispute amongst the Hindus and Muslims. The Hindus wanted to build a temple, and the Muslims wanted to build a mosque. The area was heavily populated by Hindu and Sikh merchants at the time. But despite that it just became a matter of spite and it was decided that the matter would be put to the court. The ruling of the British judge was that he would come and inspect the property the next day, before he passed his ruling. Overnight, the Muslim community under the leadership of a local Pehlwan, poled all their resources and built the mosque. The next morning when the British Judge came to inspect the property, he saw a Mosque standing before hi.The law stated that places of worship cannot be demolished, and so the Mosque stayed. The words shaab bhar, literally mean throughout the night.
(Masjid Shab bhar)
The Badshahi Masjid or the Emperor’s Mosque is one of Lahore’s iconic landmarks. It is the second largest mosque in Pakistan, and it was constructed in 1671. It was commissioned by the Emperor Aurangzeb and it took two years to build. It has a red sandstone veneer which attributes to it rosy pink hue. the finest marble was used exclusively in the construction. The main entrance faces the Alamgiri gate of Lahore fort in the west and Roshnai gate in the south. The famous poet Alam Iqbal’s tomb is located at the main entrance. When Ranjit Singh captured Lahore, he converted it into stables and quarters for his soldiers.
When the British seized power, they demolished the inner study hujras/rooms (after the 1857rebellion) with the claim that they did not want them to be used for “anti-British” activities.
The Badshahi Masjid is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Its architecture is similar to Shah Jehan’s Jama Masjid of Delhi, but on a much grander scale. The interior of the mosque has intricate carvings in the style of Manbatkari/ stucco tracery, frescoes and inlaid marble work and panelling. Very different from the kashikari of Wazir Khan mosque. Only two inscrptions have been etched on the Mosque, at the entrance and in the main prayer chamber.
(The main entrance hallway of Badshahi Masjid)
(A view of Badshahi Masjid from Shish Mahal)
The quirkiness of Lahori’s has given birth to a few sayings and the one that suits is best is“Jinne Lahore nahi vekhiya, unnu kuch nahi vekhiya”, and that means He who has not seen Lahore, has seen nothing.