Walled City, Lahore

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 Lohari Gate, had been called Mohallah Chaileywala Hammam located in Machli Hatta Gulzar, just off Chowk Chalka.

As late as 1864, the Lohari 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 Lohari Bazaar merges with Chowk Lohari Mandi, and Chowk Mati merges with Papar Mandi, giving a sense of a mud fort. Along Lohari Bazaar, a short distance from Chowk Chakla, the street opens slightly, revealing a half-buried archway of pucca bricks and mud.

The famous mud fort may have been built by Malik Ayaz, the first Muslim governor of Lahore. Lohari 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 expanding of the mud fort had its origins in three factors:

  • the way the Ravi has flown and how and when it has been changing its course,
  • the existence of the Lahore Fort and how power has flowed from the rulers, and
  • the manner the population and economy of the old original Walled City has changed over time, grown, or even shrunk, depending of invasions, droughts and famines in the countryside.

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.

alled City of Lahore had 13 gates: Akbari Gate, Bhati Gate, Delhi Gate, Kashmiri Gate, Lohari 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. Some were rebuilt in simple structures, except for Delhi Gate and Lohari 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, Lohari Gate, Roshnai Gate, and Shairanwala Gate survive, yet many are in urgent need of repairs and restoration.