BY YASMEEN AFTAB ALI
A visit to the Lahore Fort is spellbinding. The temple within,Loh-awar or the “Fort of Loh”, takes one back to the legendry oral traditions of the origin of the beautiful city of Lahore. Legend says that in the ancient times there was a city most beautiful that was named Lavapuri (City of Lava in Sanskrit language) founded by Prince Loh or Lava, son of Sita and Rama, the city of Kasur famed to be founded by his twin brother Prince Kusha. The details are conced in theRamayana. An exotic fabled poem based on 24,000 verses. It is believed however that the oldest ever ocument written on Lahore originates in 982 and is housed in the British Museum. Anonymously written, it was nslated into English by Vladimir Fedorovich Minorsky in 1927. The document is titled, “Hudud-i-Alam” (The egions
of the World).
Lahore historically emerges as the Capital of Punjab under Anandapala, the Hindu King. It was however under the Mughal era that Lahore was given the presents of beautiful buildings by the dynasty’s emperors.
Though dilapidated today, they still stand witness to the glory of the bygone era.
However, Lahore underwent many name changes over the vestiges of time.
Its history lies covered under layers of decades, intriguing and as enchanting as the city itself.
The city of Lahore that enchants millions with its blend of the modern with the antiquity, beckons the visitors to explore its historical buildings, the beautiful lawns and delicious food.
Visiting the narrow alleys of the vibrating Anarkali Bazaar, the oldest marketplace of Lahore, overflowing with goods of all description — clothes, linen, shoes, jewellery, perfumes, books, traditional foods… the list is endless — one cannot but stop and think about Anarkali, the beautiful slave girl after whom the bazaar is named. Some say her real name was Sharf-un-Nisa, others say it was
Nadira Begum. A beautiful young woman, said to be an exquisite dancer, she was awarded the title of Anarkali in Emperor Akbar’s court as a tribute to her great beauty. A startling information is shared by William Finch, a British trader visiting India between 1608 and 1611, in his travelogue. According to him, Anarkali was one of the wives of Emperor Akbar and he fathered a son by her called Danial Shah. When Salim returns home Emperor Akbar develops a suspicion of an incestuous relationship between Anarkali and Salim and orders her buried alive in
the Lahore Fort walls. After Salim (or Jehangir), as history remembers him, becomes king, he builds a splendid tomb in memory of the woman he loved. Why would not then Jehangir mention his great love in Tuzk-e-Jehangiri remains a mystery? Neither does Anarkali find a mention by any historian of the time in their accounts.
A conflicting account of who built Anarkali’s tomb is found in Noor Ahmed Chishti’s bookTehqiqaat-i-Chishtia (1860). He writes, ““Anarkali was a beautiful and favourite concubine of Akbar the Great and her
real name was Nadira Begum or Sharf-un-Nisa. When she died of natural causes or poisoned by other jealous haram ladies, Akbar ordered to create this grand tomb.” The monument like other heritage sites needs
urgent attention of authorities to renovate and restore it to their previous glory. The tomb of Anarkali stands within what is currently the enclosure of the Punjab Secretariat and has all but lost its glorious decorations.
Visiting a tiny shop of fake antiques and sold as such in Anarkali, I noticed a door at the back of the shop. After seeking the permission of the proprietor to see what lay beyond, I couldn’t believe the view that met my eyes: a huge bricked floor compound leading to a house. A
house obviously many hundreds of year old with beautiful wooden latticed windows adorned with coloured glass, beautiful arches and filigree worked walls. It was the proprietor’s home.
The tomb of Dai Anga, nurse to Emperor Shah Jehan, is another monument crumbling. Situated behind the Gulabi Bagh Gateway, she also founded the Dai Anga Mosque. Constructed in 1671 AD, the walls of the mosque
are beautifully inscribed with Quranic verses. It boasts of a central chamber encircled with eight rooms embellished with exquisite mosaic work, now damaged over years due also to weather, stand unattended in shambles.
Bansi Dhar Mandir at Anarkali used to boast of huge living quarters in its glorified years. Now, the beautiful temple with ornately designed walls is in shambles, the residential quarters taken over by squatters and the building itself is in a dire need of repair and reconstruction. There are sixteen temples on record in Lahore city alone, yet in state of desperate need of attention by the authorities.
The city boasts of four Jain temples and four Sikh zurdwaras. The reason for this is simple. Before the creation of Pakistan, Lahore had a population with a cross mix of Sikhs, Hindus, Jain and Muslim residents. These are a part of our heritage and part of history of Lahore.
Located near one of the seven gates of the Walled City of Lahore, Bhati Gate to be exact, is the shrine of the renowned sufi saint Abul Hassan Ali Hajvery is built better known as Daata Ganj Bakhsh. Built in late eleventh century, as late as 1990’s it was a place where
devotees and visitors could walk in with ease. One could feel the pulse of the city in the shrine. The heavy smell of incense hanging in the air in clustered small shops next to the entrance with rose petals and flower wreaths and sheets for the devotees to buy as offering at Daata sahib’s grave within, huge cauldrons of food being cooked
outside by cooks for affluent devotees to pay for and feed to hundreds of poor and hungry waiting for someone to come by.
The shops are still there selling their wares, so are the cauldrons cooking but the Daata Darbar today is a far cry from the yesteryears.
The entrance is separate for men and women, leaving shoes outside with shoe keepers you walk through long marbled corridors covered to save the visitors from sun and rain, to enter into a huge compound which
then leads to the closed enclave that houses the grave of the sufi saint. Outside the enclave covered but otherwise un-walled are carpets laid out and chairs with tables for those who cannot sit down to read the Quran, copies of which are available in hundreds.
Once inside the enclave the area is quieter, carpeted with an open cupboard at one end full of copies of Quran, most visitors sitting and reciting it. The carpet is continuously cleaned by workers. The grave is surrounded by an iron closure with small windows allowing devotees to offer Fateha. Affixed inside the window is a good sized steel
locked box in bright green, asking the devotees to put in money (optional). Now and then one hears a muffled sob, flowing tears or wailing by those there. What cannot be denied in spite of the strapping is the aura of spiritual vibe permeating the atmosphere, a calmness of nerves.
One cannot possibly do justice to the richness of Lahore’s
architecture, history and culture. It is too widespread over decades to be done justice with, in a few hundred words. “Monuments are the grappling-irons that bind one generation to another.” (Joseph Joubert, a French moralist and essayist).- SARIA NEWS.
SARIA News © 2015-2018. All Rights Reserved.