Kite Flying in Lahore during Festival of Basant (photo from Pakistntoday.com.pk)
There is a Persian saying that if there was no Lahore, Isphahan (Iran) would have been half of the world. There is yet another ancient proverb, “Even if Persia’s Shiraz and Isphahan were united, they wouldn’t make one Lahore.” So true till date and anyone who visits Lahore for once, always misses the warmth of its people and the lively environment that prevails all over the city, be it the posh localities or the narrow gullies of old Lahore. Lahore is the city of poets, artists and the center of Pakistan film industry and city of gardens since some of the finest gardens in the continent are found here. It has the largest number of educational institutions in the country, which includes the century old Punjab University and the Government College and University.
Lahore, or Laha-war, Laha-noor, Loh-pur, Mahmood-pur or Lohar-pur, has existed even in 1000 BC, when it was founded by Prince Loh, son of Rama Chandra. In 630 AD, the city was visited by Hieun Tsang, who remarked it as a Great Brahman City. However Lahore rose to its glory in the times of the Mughal Empire and thereafter when many a landmark appeared on its landscape. In 1021 AD, Mahmood Ghaznavi Captured Lahore. From 1186-1206, Shahab-ud-Din Ghauri conquered and reigned Lahore and brought it under the Ghorid Empire. In between 1241-1310, the Mongols ransacked Lahore many a time, while Tamerlane plundered Lahore in 1398.
In 1524 Zaheer ud Din Babur, the first Mughal emperor captured Lahore and hence founded the Mughal empire which lasted till 1857, when British took over the entire Indian Sub-Continent. Lahore rose to its peak of glory in the reign of Mughal emperor Akbar, who made it his capital and held his court In Lahore for 14 years from 1584 to 1598, and built the Lahore Fort, as well as the city walls which had 12 gates. Some of these still survive. His son, Jahangir, is buried in its outskirts. Close by is the mausoleum of the famous Mogul Empress,Noor Jahan, who is known for introducing the rose plant and for initiating several cultural movements in the Sub-Continent. The last great Mogul emperor, Aurangzeb (1838 – 1707) built Lahore’s most famous monument, the great Badshahi Mosque. At that time the river Ravi, which now lies a few miles away from Lahore, touched the ramparts of the Fort and the Mosque.
After Aurangzeb’s death in 1712, the Afghans and the Persians came to rule Lahore when Nadir Shah Durrani, the King of Persia captured Lahore. Between 1748-67, Nadir’s successor, Ahmad Shah Abdali invaded Lahore eight times and it was during this time that the famous gun “Zamzamma” or better known as the “Banghian di Tope” (Bhangies Gun) or the Kim’s Gun was manufactured on the orders of Ahmed Shah Abdali. The Moguls transformed Lahore into a city of Gardens and beautiful landscape.
Lahore used to be a fortified city of twelve massive gates, whose names have outlived the largely pillaged walls. It has been a great city for at least a thousand years, but not when it was conquered, manhandled, occupied and ransacked by the Sikhs when they took advantage of the Mogul decline in the eighteenth century to seize the Punjab in 1764. During the Sikh’s rile, Lahore was ruthlessly robbed of its beauty and all precious stones and artifacts from the Mughal buildings were plundered and taken to Amritsar for the construction of the Golden Temple. The British annexed it into the British hold in 1849 and transferred to the British Empire in 1857.
Lahore the second largest city in Pakistan and the provincial metropolis of Punjab, besides its rich history is perhaps the only city in Pakistan where so many historical imprints can be found and visited. It may not be wrong to say that Lahore is the “Show-Window” of the pre-Muslim era, erstwhile Mughal and British Empires, besides a modern fast developing city. Unfortunately, the once beautiful and elegant Lahore was brutally mauled and plundered by a number of rulers after the decline of the Mughal empire. But despite everything, it never lost its glory, majestic outlook and traditional grandeur. Seeing is believing, especially during the Spring, when Lahore wears the colorful cloak of beautiful flowers and celebrates the famous festival of Basant.