HARKING BACK: ‘Guzars’ that made up the south of Akbar’s Lahore

By Majid Sheikh

Dawn Oct 9, 2016

Once the Mughal emperor Akbar walled in the Lahore Fort and its city with burnt bricks for the first time, the great historian Abu’l Fazl commented: “Now Lahore has become the resort of people of all nations and the centre of extensive commerce”.

Governance at the micro level within the walled city was tackled by having nine ‘guzars’ – or areas of movement – each having a ‘mansab’ as administrator. In the last piece we had discussed the first, and by far the most important, of the ‘guzars’ named after General Shahbaz Khan, or ‘Mang Khan’, located all the way around the Lahore Fort. In this piece we will touch upon the three middle southern ‘guzars’, which ran from the present Mochi Gate to the inside of the ‘ghatti’ where the original mud wall ran to the east of Bhati Gate Bazaar. These three ‘guzars’ were named ‘Guzar Bahar Khan’, ‘Guzar Wachoo Wali’ and ‘Guzar Dhal’. Each has its own unique origin.

Once he had designated his nine ‘guzars’ inside the walled city, which were part of the 36 ‘guzars’ of Lahore region, each one had to generate a minimum pre-determined income for the emperor. The division of each ‘guzar’ was into ‘mohallahs’, which had ‘koochas’ consisting of ‘galis’. Hence every area was clearly marked and named in accordance with its history, or tradition. Names, it seems, stick no matter what rulers wish, and wise rulers invariably respect such history whether they like them or not.

The ‘guzar’ of Bahar Khan has a unique background for Bahar Khan Lohani was the Moghal ‘subedar’ (governor) of Bihar who had a distant relationship through a Rajput wife to Akbar. On Bahar Khan’s death his minor son became the ruler with Sher Shah Suri becoming the minor ruler’s regent. The growing power of Suri invited Mughal wrath, but he was able to overcome all threats. Slowly Suri posed a threat to the Mughal ruler and ultimately prevailed. Akbar was born while in exile during that period and grew up with an inborn admiration for Bahar Khan Lohani, whose son he always felt had been wronged by Sher Shah Suri.

The ‘guzar’ of Bahar Khan encompassed the area from the east of the present Bhati Gate, encompassing the oldest gate, namely Lohari Gate, and ended in the middle of the wall between Lohari and Shahalami. The dividing line was the ‘nullah’ that still runs there. Originally this ‘nullah’ ran inside the old mud walls to the east. To the north it touched the ‘guzar’ of Shahbaz Khan, to its east was Guzar Waacho Wali and to the west was Guzar Talwara, which we will touch upon next week. So this ‘guzar’ encompassed the oldest gateway and the main residential area of the elite.

To the east is Guzar Waacho Wali. The name ‘waacho wali’ has two probable sources, for one cannot vouch for the exact one. Firstly, is the fact that before Akbar this area was near the eastern edge of the mud-walled ancient city and had a considerable buffalo and cow population which served the population. To source the name ‘waacho’ my dear friend Mushtaq Soofi worked on it and commented: “Sardar Khan’s ‘Punjabi-Urdu Dictionary’ has a word ‘waach’ which is sourced from the Punjabi word ‘baach’, hence ‘waachh’ is a singular and the plural would be ‘wachhan’. So ‘waachhan wali’ would be a place where buffaloes are kept.” This seems very much in line with the situation on the ground as it existed then.

It seems that once Akbar’s city was finished this name stuck, though the buffalo colony shifted for some time to the ‘Guzar Rarra’ at the eastern-most corner of the city as it was an empty space, and once buildings came up in the reign of Shah Jehan, this cattle colony again shifted to ‘Gowal Mandi’ just to the south of the walled city. Today we all know that place as the centre of excellent food thanks to the thousands of Kashmiris who migrated there during the reign of the Moghals, and much later of Maharajah Ranjit Singh.

The second possible source of the name ‘waacho wali’ could also be because of a Kashmiri set of families that shifted here during Akbar’s time. The leading families were the Kaul, the Dar and the Waacho families of Kashmir, as they were among the well-off Kashmiris who shifted to Lahore when it was developed by the Mughals. There is no doubt that this family continued to live in this mohallah till 1947, when they fled to India during the Partition riots. But it seems most probable that the name ‘waacho wali’ comes from the cattle colony that existed here for hundreds of years.

The third ‘guzar’ that stretched between Mochi Gate and from the edge of Guzar Bahar Khan was named Guzar Dhal, or the ‘guzar’ of the shield. Now this is an odd name for a ‘guzar’, but it has its own unique history. Many do not realise that this name, as well as the ‘guzar’ on the western side which was ‘Guzar Talwara’, were the shield and the sword of the Mughal Army. The infantry, mostly Rajput warriors from the Bhats, were the sword, and the ‘dhal’ were the Turkmen, or Kakayzai horsemen that were the vanguard of the Mughals.

In the Mongol tradition of fast-moving horsemen who used the famous Lahori bows and arrows, this ‘guzar’ very soon established a major bow and arrow manufacturing industry in Akbar’s days. Even today we have the ‘mohallah teerandazan’ or the ‘mohallah kamangaran’ and such similar names all associated with shields, bows and arrows. Just to the south of this ‘guzar dhal’ were long strips of land where these riders practiced. Mind you earlier Qutabuddin Aibak had died riding his horse while playing polo, or ‘choogan’. So the ‘dhal’ element is very much there to be seen. Much later once the British came to this area, Qizilbash horsemen settled here, which was a reinforcement of a tradition that by this time was hundreds of years old. But the setting up of areas of influence, separated according to their profession, was very much evident. The western portion of ‘guzar dhal’ was the old city while the expanded Akbar-era walls provided a new empty space for these horsemen and their weapon industry.

With time as the city established itself and by the time Aurangzeb came to power, these names started being replace by newer ones, much more in keeping with what we know them today. Instead of ‘guzars’ it were the gateways that determined the territory within. The Sikhs stuck to this demarcation and the British merely extended the names of gateways by demarcating them as areas within a police station’s territory. In a way Akbar’s ‘area of movement’, hence ‘guzars’, were being followed. That determination still exists.



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