Alert Sign Dear reader, online ads enable us to deliver the journalism you value. Please support us by taking a moment to turn off Adblock on

Alert Sign Dear reader, please upgrade to the latest version of IE to have a better reading experience



Your Name:

Recipient Email:

The 16th day of April 1853 is special in the Indian history. The day was a public holiday. At 3:30 pm, as the 21 guns roared together, the first train carrying Lady Falkland, wife of Governor of Bombay, along with 400 special invitees, steamed off from Bombay to Thane.

Ever since the engine rolled off the tracks, there have been new dimensions to the distances, relations and emotions. Abaseen Express, Khyber Mail and Calcutta Mail were not just the names of the trains but the experiences of hearts and souls. Now that we live in the days of burnt and non functional trains, I still have a few pleasant memories associated with train travels. These memoirs are the dialogues I had with myself while sitting by the windows or standing at the door as the train moved on. In the era of Cloud and Wi-fi communications, I hope you will like them.

To read the first part of this blog, click here: Lyallpur – A city on the hill (part I)

enter image description here The house of Chauhadry Bhagwan Das, Barrister At Law, Lyallpur (May 1922). The year of construction can be seen inscribed on the plaque.

And after 1947, it was never the same. Many prosperous families migrated and surnames like Khanna, Chawala and Maggoo were lost in the junkyard of memory, much like the disused articles in attic.

With new found freedom, Lyallpur woke up to its commercial side and within years, the Industrial boom set the new socio-cultural tone. The vacuum created by migration was filled by a relatively ambitious class.

The first blow to its liberal cosmos came, when a circular passage, which ran though inner sides of eight bazaars, was blocked. A tent was pitched, initially for prayers, and after sometime, the foundation stone of the mosque was laid. This was followed by the house of Imam and finally a madressah raised its head. Anyone who objected this blockade was silenced with threats of heresy. Naively, every encroachment in the land of pure starts with the mosque. Men who block the passages in the name of religion never realise that, literally, religion means passage. Taking the lead, Khalsa College was christened to Municipal College and Company Bagh was nationalised to Bagh-e-Jinnah.

The city initially responded to the social cause of Peoples Party, but soon realised the hoax slogans of subsistence. Its dynamic leader furnished his pan-Islamic dream at the cost of a legacy when he named the city after the Saudi monarch. The citizens of Faisalabad, unfortunately, were not as resilient as those of Jacobabad who took it to streets when the name-change was proposed. Disillusioned and exhausted, the city never looked left after Bhutto. Though the names were changed in the revenue record but for Dadi, Faisalabad, Municipal College and Bagh-e-Jinnah remained Lyallpur, Khalsa College and Company Bagh.

enter image description here The Gurudwara in Faisalabad is located between the inner circuits of two Bazars.

While Indulgences (certificates of Pardon) meant money could wash away the catholic sins of 17th century Europe, donating to mosques translated to compensation for Islamic sins in early 80′s Faisalabad. A dictator had taken over the country and chose to draw legality from religion. During all those years, donating hefty amounts and collecting sacrificial hides became a virtue and doing it publicly secured a seat in the parliament as well. Other cities survived this onslaught because of their rich history but having grown from a market, Faisalabad could quite not resist. The monsoon of jihad catalyzed the wild growth of madressahs and the Rayals that financed this venture, brought along the hard-line belief. The ship had started to sink.

Firstly, the dialogue vanished, then the study circles and literary traditions and gradually the city was transformed. The question of religion, now, is synonym to question of violence. The city lives with no room for dialogue and no space for reason. Any debate on this issue starts up with mild mannerism but, in a subtle way, tones get harsher, words start offending and temples begin to pulsate. Faisalabad may not wear black in mourning of Muharram but turns so green in Rabiul Awal festivity that it fails to spot the oozing blood.

While the rich don’t care and the poor don’t bother, the middle class, a universal safeguard for any social tendency, is too absorbed in Metros and coffee shops to check the diminishing tolerance. Different mosques of different sects dot each corner and are busy turning the inquisitive minds into hobbits of their respective belief. The small thinking fraction is either too indifferent or too preoccupied to notice.

The city, no more belongs to calm people of art and craft but rather reminds one of the Bible belt where religion and business have converging axis. Regardless of blasts that rip through the country, Faisalabad remains unaffected because the clergy and the trader are friends from ages. Exploiting the repentance of rich in the name of Shariah, even today, any religious organisation can collect funds to their hearts content, if they walk in any of the markets.

The towns of Gobindpura and Harcharanpura mourn their past. There was a time when an open space was left for community gatherings between the two bazaars. A Gurudwara stood between Katcheri bazaar and Rail Bazaar while a temple watched over the passage between Rail Bazar and Karkhana Bazaar. The street to temple is taken over by the hosiery retailers and a school houses the Gurudwara. Gurumukhi script on the front has been washed away with rains but the Seva Karai plaques are still visible. Black boards have been erected in yellow walls of Gurudwara. The house of Guru is now the house of learning.

enter image description here The remnants of Central Cooperative Bank Limited formed 1921.

While I sat with the old banyan, a thought crossed my mind. A time will come, any sooner, when Faisalabad will divorce Lyallpur. It will disconnect itself from Bhagat Singh and conveniently choose to forget Sundar Singh Lyallpuri. The time will come when a child will stand around the Rail Bazar Gumti and ask his father “Who was James Broadwood Lyall?”.

“Why is this arched gate called Qaisari Darwaza?”

Unfortunately, the father will not have any answer, for he, too, was born in Faisalabad and not Lyallpur.

I was struck with the thought that slowly and gradually everything will be lost, but then, does it really matter. Except few historical cities (and that too for commercial purposes), every city has changed. Life moves on . . . and so shall the train.

When night grows dark, the old streets of Sanat pura and Grunanak pura transmit some Morris Code. These are the SOS messages from a sinking ship which can only be deciphered by the wind that blows over the canal.

“MAY DAY …MAY DAY…The city is, no more, a city on the hill…”

Author Image

Muhammad Hassan Miraj is a federal government employee.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (40) Closed

Asif Malik May 07, 2013 01:38pm

Miraj, Will u explain me the title of your Blog "City on the Hill"

Shah May 07, 2013 06:11am
There is nothing wrong in renaming places from the dark dark colonial days when we were made second class citizens in our own country. The country next door has done the same to a lot of places.
Bikkar S BRAR May 06, 2013 10:02pm
Dear Miraj Sahib, Wonderful and well written article. A bold message to people who are destroying the city for their selfish motives. Kind regards BRAR BS
jagmeet singh May 07, 2013 04:48am
My family has roots has in LYALLPUR and what roots they are. They fascinate , anger and baffle me. I am 54 now and all my childhood and growing up years in every single family gathering be it a happy or sad one ( wedding / funeral , name giving ceremony - anything ) when the older set of people started talking invariably within moments the topic and content moved to LYALLPUR. It was like hearing stories of an exotic Eden. The sad thing is , they never recovered , the sense of loss pervaded their every moment of existence and though most of them have passed on and I probably belong to the last generation in India which will know what Lyallpur was. Yes we need to move on in life and yes nothing lasts not even us , but I think in retrospect by naming it FAISALABAD , Pakistan did the right thing. Buried alone in a Paupers grave Lyallpur at least has died a dignified death which Faisalabad can never give. JAGMEET SINGH DELHI INDIA
Narinder Parvana May 06, 2013 10:25pm
Lyallpur Khalsa College is a big name in education in Jalandhar (East Punjab) and so is Lyallpur Book House in Ludhiana ( East Punjab)
Umair Afzal Khan May 07, 2013 08:16am
An excellent article. This is what we call the "lost history" or rather the "ignored history". People living in Faisalabad or in other parts of Pakistan have already forgotten "Bhagat Singh " and others you have mentioned in the above article. What we now have is "cleansed" version of our pre-1947 history as perspectives have changed over the years after living in a country with a sort of religious monoculture and where ideas are formed only as a reaction to events.
surrinder gill USA May 06, 2013 10:53pm
Hor main tenu ki aakha. Once again salute to you and your pen. Thanks for giving some photos. Please continue it as through them we in touch with cities of my lovely Punjab which we may not see in our lives. God should bless Punjab and all Punjabis on both sides of Wagha.
SBB May 06, 2013 07:14pm
The delivery of this story is amazing. I'm sure for a few days the Saudis were very happy that a city was named after their monarch. But what after those few days? You have a rare and admirable gift... thank you!
Rahul, Indai May 06, 2013 10:38am
very touching and sad and really good to see some sane voices working in the pakistani government. my maternal grandfather has lived in Lyallpur and his cycle shop in delhi was named after his loved City (Lyallpur Cycle Works). he has vanished from the world and as per writer the city has also vanished, rest in peace.
Khan of Kalabagh May 06, 2013 07:31pm
its not about ending of something whether good or bad, its how it ending in the end, which is dejected.
Khan of Kalabagh May 06, 2013 07:34pm
really Lyallpur feels so great while pronouncing it, i still remember my Grandmother, who wont utter Faisalabad or Attock, she would say that these names doesnt convey the exact essence of what these cities stand for.....
kam May 06, 2013 06:15pm
What a picture in words. salaam, Miraj Sahib. Week after week you bring out the peaceful India that was once. There was no religious bigotries working overtime to capture young minds. Then there was no road to political power through religious places. Waiting for the next week,
Gulbaz Mushtaq May 06, 2013 05:56pm
Dear Sir, You are correct. Not only the people and places are vanishing but good old values are also disapearing. While change in life is very positive, it is not right on the cost of good old past. Sadly, not only our cities but we have also been baptised to become a new nation. (Needless to mention, our historians have also baptised out history). Love and respect for you on educating us about our lost treasure. Gul
Zahid May 06, 2013 08:51am
Moving and sentimental. I was also born in 'Faisalabad' and not in Layallpur. Irrespective of the history assoiciated to this name, Layallpur sounds melodious and romantic unlike Faisalbad that only echos the 'tthak tthak' of powerlooms.
pathanoo May 06, 2013 04:51pm
Just keep writing, Muhammad Hassan Miraj. Eagerly waiting for the next article.
Zahid May 07, 2013 08:38am
Sardar ji (I know I'm taking liberty, apologies in case it is displeases you)! I belong to Layallpur and your words moved me just as much as this article. My grandparents migerated from Hoshyarpur. They both passed away long ago but I can still recall their sentences like 'jad asi ojjad k aye' .....'jad asi des hunde si'...'saada des boht sohna si'. They both were uneducated and could not transform their thoughts into words but they always called the country of their birth as 'Des' and always labelled the partition as 'ujaada'.
Iftikhar May 06, 2013 05:04pm
Your article makes me sad but its true. I spent my many childhood vacations in a village near Lyallpur (yes, it is till Lyallpur to me also). It is sad to see this once beautiful city engulfed by religious and sectarian intolerance. Pakistan needed few more years of Jinnah to put us on the right path but unfortunately we ended up with Ayub, Bhutto, Zia, Musharraf and mullahs. Like so many others, I also long for light at end of the tunnel
Bilkul Murtad Singh May 07, 2013 08:45am
Beta Shah you mean we are first class citizens today. why don't i feel it.
Stranger May 06, 2013 08:16am
Whats so surprising ( or dejecting ) in this. All things come to an end - good and bad alike.
Bilkul Murtad Singh May 07, 2013 08:50am
Hoshiarpur is a very nice place with the himalayas in the distance.
Khan of Kalabagh May 06, 2013 04:07pm
'' When night grows dark, the old streets of Sanat pura and Grunanak pura transmit some Morris Code. These are the SOS messages from a sinking ship which can only be deciphered by the wind that blows over the canal.
Khan May 06, 2013 03:53pm
True punjabi mindset not a Pakistani mindset , if you do not like the "independence " but call it partition nobody has stopped you from leaving? Secondly Punjab is the epic centre of religious extremism and all the banned outfits are stationed there, terrorizing rest of the Pakistan and exporting it outside the Pakistan. Jaag punjabi Jaag too neih Pakistan ko laga dia hai daag
makrajadr May 07, 2013 07:39am
sir you are as much lyallpuri as bhagat singh somewhere somebody will chronicle what came to a pass and mr mairaj is doing it
jagmeet singh May 07, 2013 02:59pm
Somehow my reply never got posted, so writing again- Zahid Saab I can relate to each word you have written (and some which you have not written) and can feel the emotions......I too have experienced it. I know the words you have written are as dear to you as your parents were. One must appreciate the lives our parents lived - sometimes they succeeded , sometimes they failed but they were still stronger than us. I hate partition , I hate what Pakistan did to itself , but deep down I know what belonging to soil means. I know I will die in India ( I was born in India in 1959 ) , I will never visit Pakistan and yet deep down I know I belong to the " mitti " of Lyallpur. Emotional outburst.........perhaps..........but this is what I felt. Khuda Hafiz
makrajadr May 07, 2013 07:40am
not in this way sir time must move and does all the time but descerating history! surely not
Sandeep May 07, 2013 09:19am
My father, who passed away recently, used to talk of Lyallpur a lot. Their family used to live in Samundri and he went to school in Lyallpur. One day I may visit the place. Would love to contact somebody from there who would have known their family.
Bilkul Murtad Singh May 07, 2013 09:20am
Miraj mere azizi, I must congratulate you in making the effort to dust off and clear the cobwebs that have settled on Punjab's glorious past. Its great to see Punjabiyat abhi zinda hai.
Koi-Kon May 07, 2013 10:03am
You are welcome!!
Koi-Kon May 07, 2013 10:04am
Thank You!!, Your words made my day...
Koi-Kon May 07, 2013 10:05am
Thank you for your kind words.
irshadahmad May 07, 2013 11:05am
I would have loved if they had / planned a new city closer to Lyallpur and named it whatever they wnated. Build Neew and name whatever you want, dont change names and destroy the romance of History for next generations
sunilgupta May 07, 2013 11:08am
The community which respects the sentiments of both the races i.e Hindus & Muslims is rare across the subcontimnent. Really touched by ur words Mr .Kasim . My parents too migrated from Mirpur(J&K)had fond rememberances of people & place. Hamara Mirpur vesa tha ,aisa tha.I wish partion could not hv happened & Hindus & muslims could hv lived peacefully with each other.Thts the dream now.............
Tajammal May 07, 2013 01:31pm
The Kapoor family of Indian film industry was also belonged to Samundri, but the grand father of Rat Kapoor, Shammi Kapoor and Shashi Kapoor, Mr. Bashishar Nath Kapoor (father of Prithvi Raj Kapoor) was in police service, he spent his almost all the service life in Peshawar. He and his son Prithvi Raj Kapoor could also spoke Pushto and Prithvi Raj was also called himself a 'HINDU PATHAN'
jagmeet singh May 07, 2013 02:35pm
Dear Miraj, I have read each and every article of yours and am proud for what you are doing. Information is power and the information you have given in all the small small anecdotes , remembrances , titbits of history and laments will one day clear the cobwebs of some people at least.. Even if a couple of hundred people on both sides have understood what you are trying to SAY , I think it is an effort worth it. I know others before have requested you to compile these articles into a book I would again make a humble request .............look it as an option. I will be willing to buy it in cash from the nearest bookshop in Delhi. God Bless JAGMEET SINGH DELHI
Shadi Katyal May 08, 2013 12:53am
I thank Miraj sahib for his open and frank history of Lyallpur. I wish he had written or may write about the Agriculture college and story ofg LSS cotton which was prodived by Labh Singh and thus known by his name. The Agriculuite institue did a lot for the farmers on those days wsho were mostly Sikh. Talking of trains, I recall when we went on a special train from Lyallpur to Kanpur as a guest of the wedding of one of the Khushi Ram Behari Lal's son. All those memories are there like it happened yesterday. Time moves on and we have memories to live with. Thanks Miraj sahib for such memories.
Ali May 08, 2013 05:20am
I am from Faisalabad and I have never read or heard any story of Faisalabad as beautifully narrated as this one. Hats off to you Miraj Sb!
Asim May 08, 2013 05:34am
I read this blog, rushed to read first part, read first part thrice and then re read the 2nd part yet I am still mesmarized. Although I was bor and spent most of my early life in this place but I myself could never see Lyallpur the way you have explained it Miraj Sb. God bless you.
Ahmed May 08, 2013 05:38am
Its a very informative and touchy writeup. The city is now thriving on the behest of industrial and commercial boom but yes it is rightly pointed out that the city lost its cultural touch.
Raza May 08, 2013 05:46am
I am from Faisalabad and living abroad for last 10 years. Last time I went to my home was 8 years back. Your article has forced me to go back and I will travel to Faisalabad in coming days. Thanks for reminding me what I was missing so bad.
Shah May 08, 2013 07:18am
Mr Singh, I do not know why you feel like a second class citizen but I live my life as a free man - and one day, I hope, all sons and daughters of Adam will feel the same!