Lahore is not just about shady trees, murky canals and traditional food. It is also rich in cultural heritage with historical landmarks of the Mughal, Sikh and colonial eras dotted across its landscape.
One such magnificent landmark is Haveli Barood Khana, which is commonly known as Mian Salahuddin’s Haveli. Once the biggest arsenal in Lahore, the 17th century Mughal style haveli has now become the venue for glitzy and cultural evenings and is a haven for the city’s aesthetically charged, thanks to Mian Yousaf Salahuddin, undoubtedly the cultural guru of Lahore.
Mian Yousaf Salahuddin, popularly known as Yousaf Salli, is the grandson of Allama Muhammad Iqbal and Mian Amiruddin. Talking about the historical significance of the haveli, he said it came into prominence in the Ranjeet Singh period. It was built for the Sikh army’s commanding general around 230 years ago and was more of a corps commander house. It was the biggest arsenal outside Lahore Fort and built directly facing the fort as it was the tradition that arms, ammunition, gun powder, etc., had to be kept with the army chief. Part of the haveli was used as the general’s residence while the rest was used as offices and as an ammunition depot.
“Towards the end of the Sikh period my ancestors migrated from Kashmir to Sialkot and then to Lahore. The Haveli Barood Khana came into our family’s possession around 1870. They bought this haveli as well as some other property in the Walled City. Not much is known about its architectural details but many alterations have been made over the years.
“The haveli was divided in two portions — Zanan Khana and Mardan Khana. My family built two rooms to link the two portions of the haveli; this was done probably around 1901. The Mardan Khana was eventually turned into a cinema house owned by the family. The roof of the haveli is made of wooden planks. It also has a room with lots of glass work which we used to call Sheesh Mahal. There is a prayer room that was used to keep the Sikh holy book (Granth Sahib). There are two murals of the Sikh general fighting demons.
“I have fond memories of the haveli and I still remember when we used to sleep on the rooftop and listen to naat and qiraat at the Badshahi Masjid. There used to be no maddening traffic and we could easily hear the tik-tok of a passing-by tonga.
At some point the British acquired property close to the haveli to build a water tank — Pani Wala Talab — to supply water to the whole of the city. It was the highest spot of the Walled City. The haveli is located between Pani Wala Talab and Koocha Langay Mandi. En route you will find some interesting extant historic structures. Turning left (east) from Shahi Mohallah Bazaar the corner is dominated by Jamia Masjid Hanifia and shrine of Pir Hazrat Baba Nauguzah.
“One of my forefathers, Mian Karim Buksh, who bought the haveli, was one of the richest people of Lahore and historians, Kanhyia Lal and Justice Latif, have mentioned him in their books as a wealthy and self-made man. He went into the construction business along with a Hindu partner and built many of the city’s landmarks like the railway station, the Government College and the high court. Before his death in 1905, he, along with the other well-off notables of Punjab set up Anjuman-i-Islam which later became Anjuman Himayat-i-Islam which ran many educational institutions. They pooled money to run educational institutions on the pattern of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan’s Aligarh movement.
“Following Sir Syed Ahmad Khan’s movement, the Mulsims in India had realised that without education they could not achieve any success. Most of the Muslims were poor and they could not afford to send their children to school. To achieve the goal, the Anjuman-i-Islam brought Maulana Kasuri, grandfather of Mian Mahmud Ali Kasuri, a great religious scholar at that time, to Lahore from Kasur. Maulana stayed in the haveli where Mian Mahmud Ali Kasuri was born. Dr Nazir Ahmad, principal of the Government College, who was the first cousin of Mian Mahmud Ali Kasuri also grew up in this haveli.
“The haveli played a major role as a base camp for the movement launched under the banner of Anjuman-i-Islam. It has been host to many greats of that time who channelled their energies and used all resources to raise the literacy rate among the Muslims of Punjab. Dr M. D. Taseeer also grew up in the haveli. Then there were Allama Iqbal and Chaudry Ahmad, father of Faiz Ahmad Faiz. My grandmother’s father, Mian Nizamuudin, who was at that time head of the family, was a close friend of Faiz’s father.
“The Anjuman-i-Islam used to hold all its meetings at the haveli. Maulana Altaf Husain Hali, Maulana Shaukat Ali and Maulan Muhammad Ali Johar used to stay at the haveli. Then there was Sheikh Abdullah who lived in this haveli all his student life. My family had an old connection with his in Kashmir. The friendship between Dr Taseer, Sheikh Abullah and Faiz Ahmad Faiz blossomed in the haveli. Luminaries, writers, poets and intellectuals like Ismat Chughtai used to stay at the haveli as it was a hub of activities that helped contribute to the cause of the Muslims of India.
“It is a known fact that Quaid-i-Azam raised a voice for a separate land for the Muslims of India under the banner of Anjuman Himayat-i-Islam. It was the Anjuman that invited the Quaid to Lahore and he also stayed at the haveli. In the Punjab of that time not many people knew the Quaid.
“From heads of states to Lady Diana to Bollywood big-shots all have stayed at the haveli. The family is trying its best to preserve it and it is hoped that it will be made a trust someday.”