LAHORE (31°35`N, 74°20`E), pronounced Lahaur, provincial capital of West Punjab in Pakistan, lies on the left bank of the River Ravi. Hindu tradition attributes its founding to Lava, son of Lord Rama, but it is neither mentioned in the Greek accounts of Alexander`s invasion (326 BC) nor described by Strabo (63 BC AD 23?) or Pliny (AD 23-79). The earliest recorded mention is by the Chinese traveller, Hiuen Tsang, who visited it in AD 630. He describes it as a large Brahmanical city. Alberuni speaks of Lahore as a province, but not as a town. It must have been an unimportant town of the Hindushahi kingdom at the close of the tenth century, for it was not the object of attack in any of Mahmud of Ghazni`s plundering raids (997-1026).However, in 1036 Lahore was made capital of the Ghaznivid dominions cast of the Indus, and during the reign of Masud III (1099-1114) it became the capital of the empire. Since then Lahore has remained the capital of the whole or part of the Punjab.

Muhammad of Ghor put it to ransom in 1181 and occupied it in 1186. During the Sultanate period (1206-1526), while it grew in importance, strategic as well as commercial, it had to bear the brunt of foreign invasions. The Mongols sacked it in 1241 and put it to ransom in 1246. Balban rebuilt it in 1270, but the Mongols hit it again in 1285.That Babar ransacked it in 1524 is testified by a line in Guru Nanak (1469-1539): “For a pahar and a quarter, i.e. for about four hours the city of Lahore was given up to death and destruction” (GG, 1412).

It was under the great Mughal emperors, Akbar, Jahangir, Shahjahan and Aurarigzeb (1556-1707) that Lahore reached its zenith. Travel accounts of Europeans attest to its splendour during this period. The city grew both in area and population. Akbar enlarged and repaired the Fort and surrounded the town with a wall. Jahangir added the khwabgah or sleeping chambers, the Moti Masjid or pearl mosque and the tomb of Anarkali, sweetheart of his youth whom, according to tradition, his father, Akbar, had maliciously bricked alive in a wall.

Shahjahan added another smaller khwabgah with several octagonal towers, the largest of which, Musamman Burj, with its Naulakha pavilion and Shish Mahal, later became the reception chamber of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Other buildings constructed during the reign of Shahjahan (1627-58) and famous for their khashi or inlaid pottery panelling work include mosques of Wazir Khan and Dai Anga, and the Chauburji Deorhi or four turreted gateway built in 1641 by the princess Zeb un Nisa, daughter of Aurangzib. In the Lahore Fort the khashi panelling covered a total surface of over 6,600 square metres.

Shalamar Gardens, 6 km east of the city, were laid out in 1667 by `All Mardan Khan, the celebrated engineer of Shahjahan. Under Aurangzib, however, Lahore began to decline.The only building of note added by him was the Jama Masjid, besides a 5 km long embankment to prevent inundation caused by the River Ravi, which however changed course soon after and left the town at a considerable distance. After a period of uncertainty with the invasions of Nadir Shah and Ahmad Shah Durrani, Lahore regained its glory and importance under Maharaja Ranjit Singh, who occupied it in 1799 and made it his capital.

After the annexation of the Punjab to the British empire in 1849, several innovations were introduced. For civil administration, a municipality was created in 1867, waterworks opened in 1881, drainage system was completed in 1883 and electricity soon after.Several schools and colleges appeared and the University of the Panjab was established in 1882. Lahore cantonment was separated from the civil station. Troops from the Anarkall area moved to the new site, 5 km away, in 1851-52. Lahore`s connection with Sikh history dates from the days of Guru Nanak, who visited it during his travels across the country.

Guru Ram Das (1534-81) was born in Lahore. Guru Arjan`s martyrdom (1606), a momentous event in the history of the nascent community, also took place here. Guru Hargobind, Nanak VI, visited Lahore more than once.With the removal of the principal seat of guruship to distant Kiratpur in the Sivalik foothills early in 1635, a direct clash with the provincial government of Lahore was averted during the following half century, but militarization of the Sikhs under Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708) alerted the Lahore government. It sent out several expeditions against them reinforcing the Sirhind sarkar whose jurisdiction the new Sikh centres, Kiratpur and Anandpur, fell.

After the death of Guru Gobind Singh, the entire Sikh population of the Punjab rose in open rebellion under the leadership, first of Banda Singh Bahadur and then under several local leaders subsequently organized into misls or fighting units which united to form the Dal Khalsa.The successive governors of Lahore tried to suppress the Sikhs. They were driven out of their homes and hunted out of their jungle resorts. Those captured in battle or through informers were brought to Lahore where they were herded together in dark, narrow cells, and tortured to death in what was known as Nakhas Chowk or market square for the buying and selling of horses.

A shahidganj or memorial to the martyrs now marks the site. However, the Sikhs` power continued to increase.Barely five months after the Vadda Ghallughara or the great holocaust of 5 February 1762 in which the Sikhs lost over 20,000 men in a single day, they extended their depredations up to the walls of Lahore, while Ahmad Shah DurranI, the victor ofvPanipat in 1761, sat helpless at Kalanaur. On 16 May 1764, the Sikhs of the Bhangi misl occupied Lahore itself, and although Ahmad Shah retook it during his next invasion in December 1766, the Bhangi chiefs reoccupied it on the return of the invader to his own country in July 1767, and ruled it for the next 30 years.

Shah Zaman, a grandson of Ahmad Shah Durrani, entered Lahore on 1 January 1797, but was forced to retreat homeward after twenty days.He again occupied it on 30 November 1798 but had to retire on 4 January 1799. This time, on his way back home, he gave Lahore to the Sukkarchakkia chief, Ranjit Singh, as a formal grant. Ranjit Singh (later Maharaja) occupied Lahore on 7 July 1799. Lahore remained the capital of the Punjab province after its annexation to the British dominions. On the partition of India in 1947, Lahore was allocated to Pakistan. Several historical Sikh shrines were located in Lahore.

Some of them are being maintained by the Waqf Board of Pakistan and are occasionally visited by Sikh pilgrims from India.They include: 1) GURUWARA PATSHAHI 1 within the walled city in mohalla Sirianvala commemorating the visit of Guru Nanak and marking the site where Seth Duni Chand, a wealthy merchant, received instruction from him. 2) GURDWARAJANAM ASTHAN GURU RAM DAS in Chuni Mandi locality marks the birthplace of Guru Ram Das, Nanak IV. 3) DHARAMSALA GURU RAM DAS and DlWAN KHANA GURU ARJAN SAHIB are located in Chuni Mandi area. 4) GURDWARA DEHRA SAHIB marking the site of the martyrdom of Guru Arjan close to the Fort is the principal Sikh shrine of Lahore, and is one of the few Gurudwaras in Pakistan which continued to be attended by Sikh officiants even after the partition of the country in 1947.

Guru Arjan, tortured to death under the orders of Emperor Jahangir, breathed his last on Jeth sudi 4, 1663 Bk/30 May 1606 in the River Ravi which then flowed close to the Fort here. The shrine was established by Guru Hargobind and the present building, a typical model of Sikh architecture, was raised by Maharaja Ranjit Singh. The death anniversary of the Guru is still observed here on Jeth sudi 4 (MayJune) every year. 5) SHAIHD GAN] BHAI MANI SINGH commemorating the martyrdom in 1737 of Bhai Mani Singh also stands close to the Fort to the cast of it. 6) BAOLI SAHIB, a well with steps leading down to water level, constructed by Guru Arjan is in the Dabbi Baxar area.

7) SHAHIDGANJ BHAI TARU SINGH and SHAHiD GANJ SINGHANIAN arc also close to each other along Landa Bazar, near the main railway station.8) There arc two Gurudwaras dedicated to Guru Hargobind. One is near Bhati Gate and the other is in Muzarig in the southern suburbs of the city. 9) SAMADH (mausoleum) of MAHARAJA RANJIT SINGH, near Gurdwara Dehra Sahib, has also become a place of pilgrimage for Sikhs. The Government of Pakistan permits large batches of Sikhs from India and other countries to forgather there to observe the death anniversary of the Maharaja on 27 June every year. 6. Mushtaq, M., “Lahore: Major Urban Regions,” Pakistan Geographical Review. 1967

References :

1. Baqir, M., Lahore Past and Present. Lahore, 1952
2. Latif, S.M., Lahore. Lahore, 1892
3. Thornton, T.H., and J.L. Kipling. Lahore. Lahore, 1876
4. Imperial Gazetteer of India, Provincial Series, Punjab. Calcutta, 1908
5. Punjab District Gazetteers, Lahore District. Lahore, 1916