Walking through the changing face of Taxali

By Majid Sheikh

Dawn, Mar 30 , 2014


The once walled city of Lahore had all its famous gates and its famous ‘walls’ intact. Inside the secure walls were the bazaars and their ‘chowks’ – crossroads. Today all the outer walls have gone and so have over half the gates. Which way the remaining gates go, your guess is as good as mine is.

In this piece let me dwell on the famous bazaars and the ‘chowks’ of just one portion of the walled city, for it truly represents life that once was inside the old city. Given the ‘traders’ drive to bulldoze civic decisions, a lot of famous ‘bazaars’ and ‘chowks’ have disappeared. Let us resurrect a few famous ‘chowks’ and ‘bazaars’ of one area only, so that our readers can understand how history has moved.

Last Tuesday I spent time walking through the Taxali area, and came away feeling sad at the changes, most of them for the worse. Changes always happen, for it is in the nature of life.

The Taxali Gate is the sole western inlet to the old city, named so after a mint set up by Shah Jehan. That mint now exists beyond the Shalimar Gardens. We enter Bazaar Sheikhupurian, which leads to what is now called Novelty Chowk, named because of a cinema that existed there.

This was demolished last year. Before this cinema came up this was called Chowk Chakla, which was the original name of the first ‘chowk chakla’ inside Lahori Gate, now piously renamed Chowk Bukhari. Imagine! Life for some is black and white. For the sane, it always was shades of grey.

From this crossing, we head towards Tehsil Bazaar, which once housed the civil court of the walled city.

The last traces of that ‘tehsil’ can be seen as incorporated as part of a very small house. Along the bazaar was the exquisite Mosque Shah Jehani, a beautiful mosque built with money provided by the Mughal emperor.

Just last year this was secretly pulled down and now a ‘madressah’ exists with owners who have a simple small mosque to one side.

The historic mosque, built by Aurangzeb while the nearby Badshahi Mosque was being built, has been rebuilt in flashy white tiles. Last week when I visited the place, the aggressive ‘maulvi’ refused to open the door.

From this bazaar we head towards what was called Thatti Mouhalan Bazaar with a similarly named ‘chowk’.

That crossing is now piously renamed Omar Chowk. Mind you just in the back street, now hidden by new plazas is the once famous ‘Masjid-e-khurd Wazir Khan’, built in the reign of Shah Jehan. Locals call it ‘Nikki masjid Wazir Khan. It is still intact and has exceptional ‘kashi kari’ work.

From this Omar Chowk we head along what was once called Gali Tibbi Bazaar, which was renamed ‘Gali Judge Latif’, after the famous historian Syed Muhammad Latif. The first printing press in Lahore was set up in this ‘gali’ by a gent locally called Shaba, who with time became famous as Sir Shahabuddin.

As we walk along, we pass the shrine of Pir Raza Shah Qadri. This was once an independent structure and now exists on the first floor of a new trading plaza. The local ‘night workers’ hold this seer in very high esteem.

This ‘gali’ leads to Tibbi Chowk, also named Chakla Hakeemanwala. This crossing leads to Tibbi Bazaar, named after the mound that forms this portion of the walled city.

In addition, a century ago, this place was home to some of the finest intellectuals of Lahore, among them were the Khawaja brothers, namely Nabi Bakhsh, Kareem Bakhsh and Ameer Bakhsh.

They hosted poetry and heated discussions every evening. Just down the ‘gali’ lived Muhammad Hussain Azad.

Mind you, Khawaja Rahim Bakhsh’s son was a well-known Lahore barrister Ferozeuddin, known locally as ‘Khoona Pleader’.

This colourful character was the brother-in-law of Allama Iqbal. One can imagine the intellectual level of the debates held there, for the son of Khawaja Karim Bakhsh wrote a classic Urdu dictionary titled ‘Jaameul Lughat’.

We now are entering a portion of the famous Bazaar Hakeeman that falls in the Taxali area.

The first house along this ‘bazaar’ was the residence of the well-known ‘hakeem’ of Shah Jehan, a physician by the name of Hakeem Ilmuddin, who besides being the royal physician was also an able administrator and in the very good books of the emperor.

The name of the bazaar is derived from the famous Hakeem Ilmuddin.

It was much later that the Fakir brothers became famous in the reign of Maharajah Ranjit Singh (1799-1839), for this bazaar continues into the Bhati Gate area with the same name leading to Kucha Fakir Khana, where the Fakir Khana Museum exists.

Today Fakir Saifuddin lives and works in this famous house, keeping the family name going.




Back To Majid Sheikh's Columns

Back To APNA Home Page