A place people still come to see
I entered the huge arched door with fruit vendors sitting around, trust me the aroma was awesome. Even the fruits of the Walled City are different from the ones sold in the greater Lahore. They have a tempting fragrance and look much fresh, may be because of the nearby fruits wholesale markets. I saw some rooms and windows hidden behind the vendors and plenty of posters marketing the local herbal medicines. That was the first sight standing inside Lohari Gate. Yes, there I was at one of the gateways to the Walled City of Lahore.
This gate was named after the city Lahore. However, according to another school of thought, numerous “Lohars” (Blacksmiths) had their shops just outside the gate, for which the gate became popular as Lohari gate. Some historians and writers are of the view that early in the 11th century, the city was badly affected by the wars between Mahmud of Ghazna and Raja Jai Pal. At one time, it was even unpopulated. When Malik Ayaz was appointed viceroy of North India, he made Lahore the seat of government. It was at that time, when the people started inhabiting this part and since then the gate was recognised as Lahori Gate. There is also a controversy on the name of the gate, few call it “Lahori” and some say its “Lohari”, because of these myths, I will take it up as Lohari in my writing, as I have heard it the same way. The marble slab placed on the gate is strange too, and bears both the names, as you can see in the picture, showing the details of reconstruction of the gate in Hindi and English languages.
It is considered one of the earliest gates of Lahore. Some books state that initially there were only five entrances to the Walled City and Lohari Gate was one. Historians also record that Lohari area was the original fort built during the rule of Mahmood of Ghazna, and the streets do look like a labyrinth similar to different Forts. Anyhow, who knows the past unless some strayed soul of those times meets us! By the way, this is something interesting about the Walled City, people do come across strange characters who are actually dead hundreds of years ago, I have experienced that myself but it would be lengthy to elaborate my experiences here, so let’s stick to Lohari Gate.
It is considered one of the earliest gates of Lahore. Some books state that initially there were only five entrances to the Walled City and Lohari Gate was one
The gate was initially built during the period of Mughal Emperor Akbar (again a controversy as some say it existed in Malik Ayaz’s time as well. This can only be verified by excavating the foundations, which I think cannot be done). Mughal Emperor Akbar was the one who had built a fortified wall around the city with thirteen gates, and Lohari was one of the gates. During the Sikh riots the gate got smashed and was rebuilt in the British period with small bricks on the same old style. The rooms were built in the upper storey for officials; presently these rooms are being used as offices of Walled City Lahore Authority. The gate still has wooden arches. The roof top is spacious with a podium in the centre. I guess the roof was used for assembly, but I would suggest that this place can be utilised as an open air theatre now.
There is another interesting fact for you, before the Sikh era, the red light area was located inside the Lohari Gate and most of the rich dancers had built beautiful Havelis there. Chowk Matti was also named after a known dancer “Matti Bai”. With the passage of time, the Red Light area was shifted to Chowk Jhanda, then Tibbi Gali and eventually the Heera Mandi was established. At some places we still find beautiful Havelis which were originally the dancing houses owned by different dancers. One famous Haveli which is now under the use of cobblers is the Noori Haveli. It was also a dancing house of “Noori Bai”.
Near the entrance of this gate is Muslim Masjid, named after a Muslim scholar Mollana Muhammad Bakhsh Muslim. The gem stone market near the same cannot be ignored. From this market you will find a variety of stones or gems you wish for. The biggest optical market of Lahore is also located there.
The amazing part of my tour to Lohari Gate was that I saw groups of people visiting the place to enjoy the food and witness the relics of history. Neevin Masjid, Chowk Bukhari, Chowk Jhanda, metal workers market and the famous Lal Haveli Square are a must see there
Currently inside the gate there are innumerable typical Lahori food spots. Haji Sahib Nahari walay, Sheikh Chatkhara and Sweets, Mehar Bashir Halwae and Hafiz Channay are some of the most famous food spots of the area. Lohari Gate itself has a food street, while rambling and wandering around the streets you can taste all types of tempting foods and local drinks like lassi.
The amazing part of my tour to Lohari Gate was that I saw groups of people visiting the place to enjoy the food and witness the relics of history. Neevin Masjid, Chowk Bukhari, Chowk Jhanda, metal workers market and the famous Lal Haveli Square are a must see there. A haveli has been adopted by the National College of Arts as a Conservation Bethak. Regular classes of conservation and restoration techniques are held there. Amidst the narrow streets and shops there is a Hindu temple as well, though it is not a functional one, but it is well intact. Unfortunately it is not a tourist site as it is locked like most of our mosques, but I wish it is developed as a tourist site.
Lohari Gate is the best example of living cultural and heritage. I hope it does not get into the shackles of commercialisation like many other parts of the Walled City, although much has been taken over by commercialisation now. I suggest a plan to be devised for saving the roots of the heritage.