Walled City of Lahore, Pakistan

The Walled City of Lahore, or “Androon Shehr” (Urdu: اندرون شہر‎), is the section of Lahore, Punjab, in Pakistan, that was fortified by a city wall during the Mughal era. It is located in the northwestern part of the city.

The origins of the original Lahore are unspecific. According to carbon dating evidence of archaeological findings in the Lahore Fort, the time period may start as early as 2,000 BCE. Lahore had many names throughout its history. Mohallah Maulian represents one of the two most probable sites of the original Lahore. Sootar Mandi (the yarn market) inside Lahori Gate, had been called Mohallah Chaileywala Hammam located in Machli Hatta Gulzar, just off Chowk Chalka.

As late as 1864, the Lahori Mandi area had been known among the old folk of the Walled City as kacha kot, the mud fort, a name derived from the gradient of the land, the water flow, and the formation of mohallahs, kuchas, and kattrahs. The curve of Koocha Pir Bola merges with Waachowali Bazaar, the Lahori Bazaar merges with Chowk Lahori Mandi, and Chowk Mati merges with Papar Mandi, giving a sense of a mud fort. Along Lahori Bazaar, a short distance from Chowk Chakla, the street opens slightly, revealing a half-buried archway of pucca bricks and mud.

The mud fort may have been built by Malik Ayaz, the first Muslim governor of Lahore. Lahori Gate served as the main entrance to Ayaz’s mud fort. Chowk Sootar Mandi constituted one important center of Kacha Kot. The lay of the streets also suggest the boundaries. At the time of Mughal Emperor Akbar, the original wall of the Walled City of Lahore stood, on the western side, to the right of Bazaar Hakeeman in Bhati Gate. On the eastern side to the left of Shahalam Gate, curved eastwards and formed a “kidney-shaped” city that depended on the flow of the curving River Ravi. Thus the Lahore of the kacha kot era has continued to expand in three major leaps of expansion, each with an almost 400-year gap. The eras of Raja Jaipal of Akbar and of Maharaja Ranjit Singh mark the high points of that expansion.

The story of kacha kot has been determined by those factors. The oldest buildings in the entire Walled City exist in this area, among them the old exquisite mosque known even now as Masjid Kohana Hammam Chaileywala. A huge hammam may have stood during the kacha kot period. The tomb of Pir Bola (Gali) still exists. Little remains of the original mud fort.

The Walled City of Lahore covers an area of 256 ha with a population of 200,000. The city walls were destroyed shortly after the British annexed the Punjab in 1849 and were replaced with gardens, some of which exist today. The Circular Road links the old city to the urban network. Access to the Walled City is still gained through the 13 ancient gates, or their emplacements.

The convoluted and picturesque streets of the inner city remain almost intact, but the rapid demolition and frequently illegal rebuilding taking place throughout the city is causing the historic fabric to be eroded and replaced by inferior constructions. Historic buildings are no exception, and some have been encroached upon. The few old houses in the city are usually two or three stories tall, with brick façades, flat roofs, richly carved wooden balconies and overhanging windows.

Walled City of Lahore had 13 gates: Akbari Gate, Bhati Gate, Delhi Gate, Kashmiri Gate, Lahori Gate, Masti Gate, Mochi Gate, Mori Gate, Roshnai Gate, Shahalmi Gate, Shairanwala Gate, Taxali Gate, and Yakki Gate. All of these gates survived until the 19th century. In an effort to defortify the city, the British demolished almost all of the gates except Roshnai Gate. This was done in the aftermath of 1857 Uprising, after the Siege of Delhi, during which the same treatment was meted to the Walled City of Delhi, the Mughal Capital (5 of the 13 Gates of Old Delhi survive today, while the rest including Lahori Gate (not the Lahori Gate of Red Fort) were demolished by the British). Some were rebuilt in simple structures, except for Delhi Gate and Lahori Gate. Shahalmi Gate burnt to ground during the riots of 1947 while Akbari Gate was demolished for repairs but never built again. Today, out of 13, only Bhati Gate, Delhi Gate, Kashmiri Gate, Lahori Gate, Roshnai Gate, and Shairanwala Gate survive, yet many are in urgent need of repairs and restoration.

The Lahore Fort, locally referred to as Shahi Qila citadel of the city of Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan. It is located in the northwestern corner of Lahore, adjacent to the Walled City. Sites within the fort include Sheesh Mahal, Alamgiri Gate, Naulakha pavilion, and Moti Masjid. The fort is 1,400 feet long and 1,115 feet wide. In 1981, the fort was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with the Shalamar Gardens.

The Badshahi Masjid (Urdu: بادشاھی مسجد), or the Emperor’s Masjid, was built in 1673 by the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb in Lahore, Pakistan. It is one of the city’s best known landmarks, and a major tourist attraction epitomizing the beauty and grandeur of the Mughal era.

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Capable of accommodating over 55,000 worshipers, it is the second largest Masjid in Pakistan, after the Faisal Masjid in Islamabad. The architecture and design of the Badshahi Masjid is closely related to the Jama Masjid in Delhi, India, which was built in 1648 by Aurangzeb’s father and predecessor, emperor Shah Jahan.

The Wazir Khan Mosque in Lahore, Pakistan, is known for its extensive faience tile work. It has been described as “a mole on the cheek of Lahore”. It was built in seven years, starting around 1634-1635 AD, during the reign of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jehan. It was built by Shaikh Ilm-ud-din Ansari, a native of Chiniot, who rose to be the court physician to Shah Jahan and later, the Governor of Lahore. He was commonly known as Wazir Khan (the word wazir means “minister” in Urdu language). The Masjid is located inside the Inner City and is easiest accessed from Delhi Gate.

Data Durbar is the tomb of Hazrat Syed Abul Hassan Bin Usman Bin Ali Al-Hajweri, the Sufi saint of South Asia, where hundreds of thousands of people come each year to pay their respects and to say their prayers. It is located in Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan. The large complex also includes Jamia Hajveria, or Hajveri Masjid.

Other well known Masjids inside the Walled City are Suneri Mosque, the Masjid of Mariyam Zamani, Doongi Masjid and the tomb of Maharaja Ranjit Singh of the Sikh Empire.

There are many havelis inside the Walled City of Lahore, some in good condition while others need urgent attention. Many of these havlis are fine examples of Mughal and Sikh Architecture. Some of the havelis inside the Walled City include:

Mubarak Begum Haveli Bhatti Gate
Chuna Mandi Havelis
Haveli of Nau Nihal Singh
Nisar Haveli
Haveli Barood Khana
Salman Sirhindi ki Haveli
Dina Nath Ki Haveli
Mubarak Haveli – Chowk Nawab Sahib, Mochi/Akbari Gate
Fakir Khana haveli, bhatti gate.

Other landmarks:
Shahi Hammam
Samadhi of Ranjit Singh
Tomb of Malik Ayaz
Lal Haveli beside Mochi Bagh
Mughal Haveli (Residence of Maharaja Ranjeet Singh)
Haveli Sir Wajid Ali Shah (Near Nisar Haveli)
Haveli Mian Khan (Rang Mehal)
Haveli Shergharian (Near Lal Khou)

The Punjab government in cooperation with Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) is working on restoring the Royal Trail (Shahi Guzar Gah) from Akbari Gate to the Lahore Fort with the help of World Bank under the Sustainable Development of the Walled City of Lahore (SDWCL) project. The project aims at the Walled City development, at exploring and highlighting economic potential of the Walled City as a cultural heritage, exploring and highlighting the benefits of the SWDCL project for the residents, and at soliciting suggestions regarding maintenance of development and conservation of the Walled City.

In the April 2012, the Government of Punjab passed the Walled City of Lahore Authority ACT and declared the Walled City of Lahore as an autonomous body to run the functions of the entire Walled City of Lahore.

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