Of the thousands of persons who have contributed over the centuries to the consolidation of Lahore that we know today, two stand out above the rest. They being Malik Ayaz, the governor appointed by the invading Mahmud of Ghazni, and the Mughal Emperor Akbar. Ayaz, almost 1,000 years ago, built a high thick mud wall around the Walled City and the Lahore Fort. Almost 500 years later the Emperor Akbar built the first burnt brick wall that we see today around the fort, and what littler remains of the Walled City. A lot is known about what Akbar did, though little is known about the Walled City of Malik Ayaz. This piece is about the logic of the original Walled City of Lahore, where it existed and what became of it.
The high mud walls around the old city of Lahore had one central gateway, that being Lohari Gate, the eastern gate that faces the northern end of Anarkali Bazaar. To one side on the west was Mori Gate, from where the city refuse and dead bodies were taken to be dumped into the River Ravi, which then curled round the walls, moved to the west and then eastwards which today is Mohni Road. It then headed towards its old course which today we call the 'Bodha Ravi'- the old River Ravi.
The city was arranged in a neat pattern. On each side of a 'bazaar' were 'mohallahs', and each 'mohallah' was divided from another by a broader lane. Within 'mohallahs' were 'kuchas', whose lanes led from one to another. Within each 'kucha' were a number of 'kattrahs'- a cul-de-sac â€“ which was serviced by the very narrowest of lanes. Even today if you enter a 'kattrah' you could at the best of times touch the walls of the houses opposite one another. This was then, and this remains the pattern on which the old Walled City of Lahore emerged.
The question that surely comes to mind is just how were 'mohallahs' and 'kuchas' divided. The answer is amazingly simple. The determining factor was the lay of the land. Lahore is built on a number of undulating mounds. The gradient of the land determines the direction in which the water flows. As a child I remember once walking through the old city with my father, who knew the city better than me and knew who lived in almost every house what to speak of the history of every family, and him teaching me how to follow the direction of the water flow if I wanted to get out of the maze of lanes and streets to reach the outer walls.
It is the water flow that determined the size of every 'mohallah', for as it twisted and turned it created its own natural boundaries. On these were built the streets and lanes. Now let us return to the mud-walled city of Malik Ayaz. The grave of Ayaz is at Chowk Rang Mahal, a small room houses the remains of one of the greatest men to have lived and built old Lahore. The main gateway was Lohari Gate, and as you enter you are in 'Kocha Katcha Kot'. This, many believe, was one of the ancient and original names of Lahore. The main bazaars all tend to meet at a 'chowk', which further bifurcates and tends towards 'kuchas'. The logic is very clear. Let me explain.
Beyond the main Lohari Bazaar one tends towards Chowk Mati which in turn heads towards Chowk Lohari Mandi. On the other hand Chowk Mati heads towards Papar Mandi. Sadly, the traders of Papar Mandi have, in their aggressive ways, knocked through the old walls and created a 14th gate of Lahore. The law of the land is not strong enough yet to block this massive illegality. In the same way if you reach Kucha Pir Bhola, it heads towards Waachowali Bazaar.
Thus we see the uniform logic of the old Walled City, where the boundaries of each 'mohallah' is determined by the water flows. Within this main area, the oldest and most densely populated part of the old Walled City, we have the oldest mosque Masjid Kohana Hammam Chaileywalla. In all probability an old 'hammam' â€“ bath â€“ existed at this place.
The changes that have taken place in the Walled City over time have been determined by three basic factors. Firstly, the direction of the ever-changing River Ravi determined the size and shape of the city. Secondly, the ruler residing in the Lahore Fort, and his objectives determined to a great extent the size and shape of the city. Lastly, the population density was determined by the number of invasions, by droughts and by famines that followed. In recent times with droughts and famines overcome by better food distributional policies, the 'trader factor' has emerged as the most important factor that is destroying the very cultural and social fabric of the old Walled City. With the present rulers unable to restrict trading and manufacturing to commercial areas, we see old residential areas being destroyed by the day. My research tells me that the present ruler is hand in glove with the traders. History will, surely, not treat him kindly.
A recent research determined that almost 72 per cent of 'protected buildings' or 'structures of note' have been demolished by this expanding trading class over the last 30 years. At this rate almost all 'protected' structures will cease to exist within the next 15 years. Such is the threat that Lahore faces. Let me explain with two examples. Of the 13 gateways that existed when the British took over in 1849, today only six remain, they being Bhati, Delhi, Kashmiri, Lohari, Roshnai and Sheranwalla. Of these four the British rebuilt.
In the same way like the six gateways left, the old Walled City has now only six major 'havelis' left, they being Mubarak, Asif Jah, Wazir Ali Shah, Choona Mandi, Nau Nihal Singh and Lal, or Chandu de Haveli. All of these major 'havelis' need major conservation work undertaken to save them. Other relatively smaller 'havelis' also exist, some with very high architectural significance, all of which need immediate attention.
The Lahore of Malik Ayaz has yet to be explored, for it was a smaller version of the Lahore that Akbar left. A major archaeological undertaking is needed immediately, so that old foundations can be reached and what remained saved. The Lahore of Malik Ayaz has yet to be explored, for we have yet to reach that exciting portion of Lahore that we are losing because of our neglect. Only when we appreciate our past in pragmatic ways will we be able to build a better future.