Val­uemag takes a stroll down mem­ory lane com­mem­o­rat­ing sixty-one years of Inde­pen­dence…

By Mar­ian Joseph Sharaf

 

K

nown as ‘Heart of Pak­istan’, Lahore is the provin­cial cen­tre of Pun­jab and the sec­ond largest city after the met­ro­pol­i­tan Karachi. Sit­ting on the banks of River Ravi, the his­tory of Lahore can be traced as far back as the 17th cen­tury A.D. Accord­ing to the book Lahore-Illustrated Views of 19th Cen­tury by F S Aijazud­din, “The orig­i­nal foun­da­tion of Lahore or Loh-war (from the San­skrit word Awar or fort) was attrib­uted, accord­ing to a pop­u­lar myth, to Lav or Loh, one of the sons of leg­endary Rama. Chi­nese trav­eler Hieuen Tsang, who vis­ited the Pun­jab almost five hun­dred years later in 630, spoke of a large city near Jalandra…with a com­mu­nity of increas­ing promi­nence – whether a town or a city or even per­haps a small province – located close to Ravi.”

 

Lahore

Mag­a­zine lay­out: M. Asif, Pho­tos by GM Shah

It is stated that after the death of Aurangzeb in 1707 and until the emer­gence of the Sikhs as a polit­i­cal force in the Pun­jab with the estab­lish­ment of the decep­tively diminu­tive Suk­er­chakia chief­tain Ran­jit Singh at the end of 18th cen­tury, Lahore was rel­e­gated to a sub­or­di­nate posi­tion. It con­tin­ued to thrive com­mer­cially but sank to a provin­cial level in the eyes of the local gov­ern­ment cen­tered at Delhi and in the smaller minds of its viceroy who gov­erned the Pun­jab in its name.

 

Today, Lahore is a home to a pop­u­la­tion of approx­i­mately 10 mil­lion. It is the prin­ci­pal com­mer­cial and bank­ing cen­tre of the Pun­jab Province and has spread across the out­skirts of Sheikupura towards the north of Lahore and Kasur towards the north east. It is one of the most acces­si­ble cities due to the his­toric Grand Trunk (GT) Road and the National Motor­way that was com­pleted in 1997. Lahore has the high­est num­ber of under­passes in the coun­try that the gov­ern­ment has built to ease con­ges­tion and pre­vent traf­fic jams.

 

The indige­nous archi­tec­ture of Lahore reflects the his­tor­i­cal cul­ture of the Mughal Empire and British Raj, the styles of which are a mix­ture of Vic­to­rian and Islamic archi­tec­ture often referred to as ‘Mughal Gothic.’ The city’s mod­ern look that exists out­side the walled Lahore is con­tro­ver­sially con­tra­dic­tory; the 13 gates are badly ruined. The last decade has seen the face of Lahore change at an angle of 360 degrees. The roads are jam packed with leased cars, despite ‘Lahore Bachao’ schemes scarcity of trees has added to the pol­lu­tion. More and more plazas are being con­structed out of which more than half are still vacant. The unplanned expan­sion of Lahore has devoured many of the agri-land while merg­ing into indus­trial zones that have con­t­a­m­i­nated drink­ing water and increased the per­cent­age of dis­eases. The once green banks of River Ravi are laden with junk from the fac­to­ries and its sur­round­ing res­i­dents. It’s actu­ally funny to see buf­faloes float­ing in the river, which is a chan­nel for drink­ing water.

 

The city, how­ever, is grow­ing glitzy with every pass­ing day. A hub of tra­di­tional fash­ion Lahore has the best designer wear with flag­ship stores open­ing every sec­ond week. Known as the ‘city of food’ because of its fine cui­sine, there is a large vari­ety to choose from; Gawal­mandi – desi food street to MM Alam Road – mod­ern cui­sine style to Japan­ese and Thai food at five star hotels to name the top ones. Despite the envi­ron­men­tal dis­as­ter that is affect­ing Lahore, (if the town plan­ners do not recon­sider their strate­gies), Lahore remains the most hip and hap­pen­ing city where the day never ends.

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***

This arti­cle was orig­i­nally pub­lished in the print edi­tion of Val­uemag, issue 4, August 2008


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