Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Chelsea of Lahore – Bhati Gate

Bhati gate

There was a time when caravans of fragrances used to pass by the streets of Lahore, but today it is a fuss created by direction less crowd. The remaining old cultural identities are dependent on the very few literary and cultural events. Bhaati Gate of old Lahore has always been famous as the centre of literature, knowledge, and art. One can easily experience the glimpse of the real cultural flavour of Lahore and old heritage right after crossing the gate. The twisting narrow streets, weaker structures, and doors with classic designs are the storytellers of the great past. Because of the literary activities of Bhaati gate Hakeem Ahmed Shuja declared it as “Chelsea of Lahore”.

This gate is situated at the north of the old city; Mori Gate is at the right side whereas Taxali Gate is on the left. There was a Tonga station and an empty ground, alongside the gate, where circus shows used to held. On the left of the gate the mosque and tomb of Ghulam Rasool is situated, He is famous as “Billion Wali Sarkaar” (Master of Cats).

In the books of history the account of this gate can be seen in the mid of 3rd century with reference to the Conqueror Raja Karpal Rao. Karpal built a castle with the name of “Bhatnair”. His offspring called Bhutti and Bhaati. In “Lahore ka Chelsea” (Chelsea of Lahore) Hakeem Ahmed Shuja writes;

The real name of the gate is Bhutti gate, and it is the point where Bhutti Warriors of Multan camped before the arrival of Mughals and with time, “Bhutti “spoiled into “Bhaati”.

In 11th century when Hazrat Data Ali Hajveri came to Lahore from Ghazni, he stayed near this gate. Outside the gate near Circular Road the Tomb of Data Sahab and Qarbala Gamy Shah is situated. Another narrative about the name of this gate is the presence of Bhutti Clan who used to live there for centuries. This clan was famous of the art of lock making.

A hookah shop
Many theatre companies were working in the ground near the gate until 1930. These companies started to die after 1930 when film and cinema came to Lahore; first cinema of Lahore was also built during that period. Lollywood, or Lahore film industry have its foundations in that part of the city.

The old “Uchi Masjid” (Tall Mosque) is situated inside the gate. As per books, the spiritual mentor of Baba Bulleh Shah, Shah Inayat Qadri was the Imam of this mosque. However, there is no detail about that when and who built this mosque.

Bhaati Gate, apparently, based on double arches of Gothic style. There are barracks and verandas on the both sides of the gate, these barracks are the part of old wall of the city. This gate is longer than rest of the gates of Lahore and it is 187 feet long.

This gate was re-built during British rule, tough in this construction the defence perspective and the real aesthetics of the gate were not considered. Bhaati Bazaar links to the road to Taxali Gate via Bazaar Hakeeman, and Tibi Bazaar.

This gate is also famous because Koocha Faqeer Khana and Faqeer Khana museum. Faqeer family was an honoured family since Maharaja Ranjeet Singh era, and this family has been part of Sikh court for years. This family is still residing near this gate; the house of Faqeer family has been converted to a museum. This is the biggest private nature museum of South East Asia. This museum holds memorable antiques belong to Sikh and British era. The Imam Bargah of Sayida Mubarik Begam (wife of Syed Mratab Ali) is situated near Faqeer Khana. The mansion of Faqeer Syed Iftikhar Udin shares walls with this imam bargah. The immediate neighbour to this building is the mansion of Syed Imam Udin; he was a highly rank officer at Qila Gobind Garh during Sikh era. The graves of Syed Mratab Ai Shah and his wife Sayda Mubarik Ali are in the compound of this mansion. Today this Mansion has been turned into an art gallery and a school, where students are trained, free of cost, in painting, calligraphy, and sculpture making. The Mosque built by Hakeem Abdullah Ansari is also standing near these mansions. This mosque is the reason behind the name of “Bazaar e Hakeeman”.

Bhaati gate used to be the home of intellectuals, the “Pesa Akhbar” (penny Newspaper) was issued from this very place by Munshi Mehboob Alam, the famous magazine “Makhzan” of Sir Abdulqadir was first issued from here, famous Urdu drama writer Agha Hashar has also been resident of this area. As per the information in the book, “Lahore Ka Chelsea” (Chelsea of Lahore) Allama Iqbal lived in Jalottian Mohala his apartment was on the upper story of the shop of Ghaseto Halwai (confectioner); he lived here from 1900 to 1905 while he was Assistant Professor at Government College.

Iqbal House inside Bhati gate

There used to be literary and poetic sittings at Bazaar e Hakeeman in those days, famous intellectuals, scholars, poets, and politicians of Lahore such as Molana Muhammad Hassan Jalandhri, Sir Abdulqadir, Allama Iqbal, Sir Shahab Udin, Sir Muhammad Shah Din, Sir Muhammad Shafi, and Faqeer Iftikhar Udin were regular part of those sittings. In 1901 when the first edition of Makhzan was published, Iqbal’s first natural poem “Hamala” was featuring in it. All those poems that Iqbal wrote before going to England and later on the published in “Bang e Dara” were written while he was living in Bhaati Gate.

The mansion of Session Judge Syed Muhammad Latif, who is more famous because of his book “Tareekh e Lahore” (History of Lahore), is also inside Bhaati gate and that is why that part of Bhaati is called Judge Bazaar. The press of Sir Shahab Udin was also in this Bazaar. The Muslim League representing newspaper named “Khalid” was also a product of Bhaati. The owner of “Tehzeeb e Niswan” Magazine Syed Mumtaz Ali is also among the big names who lived there, his house was in Koocha Tehseel. Moreover, Molana Hassan Azad (he was the son of Molvi Abdul Baqir, the owner and editor of oldest Urdu daily of Delhi) also lived there for a short span of time. The editor of “Nerang Kheyal” Hakeem Yusuf Hassan lived in the area of Barood Khana. Molana Zafar Ali khan lived in Kucha Sabz peer when he returned from Hyderabad Dakan, and he issued a magazine called “Punjab review” from here. The plays of Agha Hashar and his company been staged at Hari Krishn Theatre for many years. Famous Urdu poet Saghar Sidiqui also spent a great part of his life there. Bhaati has also been home for famous Urdu Fiction writer Ghulam Abbas, Choudhry Barkat Ali, and Nazeer Chaudhry, the editors of literary journals “Adab e Lateef” and “Sawera”, and Muhammad Tufail, the editor of “Naqoosh”.

old architecture

Today things have totally changed, the literary sittings have vanished, and Lahoris are witnessing the death of this chapter of Lahore’s culture. The historical Bazaars and streets are prey of mismanagement and insecurity, as they are being ruined to accommodate the increasing demands of the city. Lahore desperately need an architect who have a vision to keep the real flavour of Lahore alive, else this historical city will not be able to save its historical belongings.

Originally Published in Daily Waqt.
Thanks to Rai M. Azlan for translating it from Urdu to English
Photography by: Afzal Abbas