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Home Page > English Wichaar > The Gates of Lahore: 1-Delhi Gate

The Gates of Lahore: 1-Delhi Gate

Mudassar Bashir

March 3rd, 2014

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Gates of the Walled City of Lahore

You could not step twice into the same river; for other waters are ever flowing on to you. (Heraclites)
“Man is a social animal” and can not live alone. Human history shows a constant evolution of different lifestyles as adaptation to the environment is a continual, cultural and learned process. At first, humans started dwelling in caves and forests and they were merely hunter- gatherers. As populations grew, there was an increased demand of food and greater dependence on plants. This led to the independent development of agriculture at different points of human history in different lands particularly near the banks of rivers and streams.
Earlier, the humans settled into small villages and then these villages grew into towns and big cities. Most of these towns and cities were fortified with walls and ditches to defend them from potential aggressors. Walls may only be crossed by appropriate city gates. Initially, these fortifications were simple constructions of wood and earth, which were later replaced by mixed constructions of stones piled on top of each other without mortar. From very early history to modern times, walls have been a near necessity for every city. Uruk in ancient Sumer (Mesopotamia) is world’s oldest known walled city. Some settlements in the Indus Valley Civilization were also fortified. By about 3500 B.C., hundreds of small farming villages dotted the Indus floodplain. Many of these settlements had fortifications and planned streets. The stone and mud brick houses of Kot Diji were clustered behind massive stone flood dykes and defensive walls, for neighboring communities quarreled constantly about the control of prime agricultural land. Mundigak (c. 2500 B.C.) in present day south-east Afghanistan has defensive walls and square bastions of sun dried bricks. These walls had gates to control the traffic moving in and out of the cities. Lahore like other ancient cities was fortified by a wall with thirteen gates to control the traffic flow. The gates and wall was first constructed in Mughal King Akbar’s times and the fortification was thirty feet high. Later, Maharaja Ranjit Singh reconstructed the fortification but decreased its height to fifteen feet. The city wall was accompanied by the ditches to reinforce the defense system. The ditches were topped up with the mud and gardens were planted around the city in the British period. These gardens were the center of cultural activities such as horse racing, wrestling, classical and folk music playing, kite flying etc. Minarets of the Shahi Mosque, Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s Smadhi, the brilliance and magnificence of the Royal Fort and the peaceful flow of the river Ravi along its walls made it a very charming and picturesque place to visit. Our main object is to discuss the gates of Lahore, so we start our discussion with the Delhi Gate and going along the Circular Road, end it on the Akbari Gate. The history, origin, identification and other related topics will be discussed and explored in details.

1-Delhi Gate
The Delhi Gate was once the main entrance to the walled city of Lahore and people mostly coming from the east used to enter the city through this gate. It is named as Delhi gate because of its opening on the highway from Delhi to Lahore. The gate was first built during the Mughal era. On its left, there is famous food grain market “Akbari Mandi” named after Mughal emperor Akbar. According to an Italian tourist who visited this market in the Mughal era, camels and elephants were commonly used as beasts of burden. It shows it was so big and vast but now it is just the opposite.

The Delhi Gate is one of those gates which were reconstructed during British period. The remains of the old gate still exist in depleted and destitute condition known as “Chitta Darwaza” (white gate). The other buildings attached with the old gate were demolished as well in the British period. Not far from the gate, is famous Mosque Wazir Khan. This mosque was built in the Mughal era and is famous for its engravings on the walls and roof. A few steps from the mosque is the mausoleum of Sayyed Sakhi Suf, a venerable sufi saint. Beside it; there is also the tomb of Imam Gamoon, another sufi saint.

The upper storey of the gate was used by the government officers and policemen. There used to be a gigantic wooden gate mentioned in many history books which was used to open and close the gate. Although the gate suffered a lot during 1947 riots, it has been renovated and is still a flourishing place. After 1947, the building of the gate and the royal bath adjacent to it were used as a school building. It was also used as a party hall for marriage and religious ceremonies. But now the royal bath is under the custody of the department of archaeology however, the building of the gate is still used as a girls’ school. Interior of the gate is dome shaped but the roof is plain and even. The entrance is bordered by windows and doors of the neighbouring houses. On top of the windows, there are nests of pigeons, a characteristic feature of the old city’s life. Lower and ground floors are occupied by the janitors and attendants. Some rooms are under the custody of the health department. At the entrance, on both sides of the gate, there are shops and movable wheel barrow shops. They sell food stuff such as vegetables, fruits, ghee, oil and other items of daily use such as detergent powder, soap and shoes etc., Bangles, artificial jewelry, anklets, bracelets, earrings, lockets, necklaces and other metal ornaments are sold on the wheel barrow shops. From Delhi Gate to Chitta Darwaza, there are so many shops selling a variety of things. Under the Chitta Darwaza, there are people selling rosaries and caps on the bicycles. The bullock carts, the donkey carts, horse coaches, the wheel barrows and the labourers etc that the twenty first century is still centuries away from this place.

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