Valuemag takes a stroll down memory lane commemorating sixty-one years of Independence…
By Marian Joseph Sharaf
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.”
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.
This article was originally published in the print edition of Valuemag, issue 4, August 2008