Harking Back: Symbolic name that preceded Bhati Gate’s

By Majid Sheikh

Dawn Oct 16, 2016

When we talk about old Lahore in nostalgic terms, invariably we mention Bhati Gate and its peculiar Punjabi slang. The same can be said about Mochi Gate. In terms of historic analysis, both areas are relatively recent and do not belong to ‘ancient’ Lahore.

As we scan the Lahore of Mughal emperor Akbar, who stayed in the city from 1584 to 1598 for 14 years, it makes us realise that major portions of the walled city that we consider as ‘old’, definitely not ‘ancient’, are in reality not more than 425 years old.

We have been tracing the creation of the nine forgotten ‘guzars’ of Lahore, ones that the Mughal emperor made once he had expanded the walled city, increasing it to more than double its size. In this piece we will take a brief look at another three ‘guzars’, probably its most critical, for they covered new areas created, ones that were outside the original mud walls before the new brick wall came up.

To the west, where now exists Bhati Gate and its entire inner area, the new wall created what was named as ‘Guzar Talwara’. To the east, again outside the original walls came up ‘Guzar Rarra’, and to the north-east came up ‘Guzar Ishaq’. All of these have very interesting origins.


First let us look at ‘Guzar Talwara’. On the face of it the popular notion was that it represented the ‘talwar’ – sword – of the Mughal as did the ‘dhal’ – shield that was the name of ‘Guzar Dhal’ of the present Mochi Gate area. While the shield name is correct, the ‘Talwara’ name has a story that might surprise many, as it did me when I set off to research it.

Akbar was born at Umerkot in Sindh in October, 1542, when his father Humayun was in exile after Sher Shah Suri had defeated the Mughal army. He came to Lahore where his brother Mirza Kamran refused to help him and so he set off towards Sindh. When Suri died Humayun managed to reconquer Delhi in 1555. However, he died the very next year and Bairam Khan was made 13-year old Akbar’s regent. In reality Mughal India was ruled by Bairam Khan.

As Akbar came of age he set about loosening the ‘grip’ of Bairam Khan on him. As Akbar continued to consolidate his rule he found Bairam Khan as a major hindrance to his plans and by 1559 he dispensed of him by sending him on a military expedition. There Bairam Khan revolted and Akbar set off to defeat him. After a number of skirmishes Bairam Khan took refuge in the fort of Talwara in Hoshiarpur. Akbar’s forces surrounded the fortress and Bairam held himself for some time, only to surrender in October 1560. The emperor pardoned his former regent and ordered that he go to Hajj. However, while on his way he was murdered by a commander of the ruler of Alwar, Haji Khan Mewati, a Lohani Pathan.

So it was that the very word ‘Talwara’ became symbolic as a place where the powerful surrender to Akbar. Most accounts claim this was the reason the Bhati Gate area was named ‘Guzar Talwara.’ Another account states that as Akbar had managed to quell the Bhat Rajputs of the areas west of Lahore, and they were invited to settle in Lahore, the Bhats were mainly sword-yielding infantrymen, hence the name ‘talwara’.

It was during that period that the great Mughal financial wizard Todar Mal built his house in Bhati Bazaar. Most accounts point that the present-day Fakirkhana was built on the foundations of his original house. It was during Aurangzeb’s time that the area was renamed Bhati Gate to honour the Bhat Rajputs of Lahore. Mind you Lahore has always been, since the beginning of known history, a Rajput city.

If we move to the empty spaces that made up the east of the expanded walled city of Lahore, we have the entire area named as ‘Guzar Rarra’, which in simple Punjabi means an ‘empty space’. Once the wall was completed this area remained empty, with a cattle colony coming up to the south. In most Mughal manuscripts this area is named as ‘rarra’ only, with an early account naming this place where the village of ‘Rarra Telian’ existed.

As the village was incorporated inside the walls, it retained its name Rarra Telian in the early accounts, with the mere name Rarra Guzar being given once names were formalised. What strikes the mind is that how could an area near where the River Ravi flowed be ‘rarra’? The only reason could be, as seen from later accounts, that no village was allowed to be inhabited for one ‘kos’ for security reasons. The fact also is that the village Rarra Telian has been described as an empty village.

Lastly, let us dwell on the name Guzar Ishaq, which comprised the area to the north of the new-walled city from Masti Gate to Sheranwala-Yakki. Originally, this area was known as Guzar Khizr, after the patron saint Khwaja Khizr. As the river had a port at today’s Sheranwala Gate, where all the trade flowed through to Lahore, the name was very appropriate. The name Guzar Ishaq has a most interesting story. The entire land from outside the old mud-walled city right up to past the present Shalimar Gardens belonged to the Arain family, and was called Ishaqpura, a name after the owner Mian Ishaquddin Arain, whose ancestors best known today, among others, is Mian Misbahur Rehman.

Hence Akbar named the area as ‘Guzar Ishaq’ as the land was handed over to the emperor by the Arain family. When Akbar’s son Shah Jehan built his beautiful garden, this area of Ishaqpura was taken over from the family on lease. The Mian family retained ownership of the gardens till 1958 when Gen. Ayub took it over because the Mian family opposed his dictatorship.

We have so far covered seven of the nine ‘guzars’ of Akbar’s Lahore. The two remaining, ‘Guzar Jhajja Diwan’ and ‘Guzar Maachi Hatta’ will surely follow. But what is most interesting is how many other facts flow from these descriptions. It is now clear that the river port where Khzri Gate later came up was well outside the old city. But that story of the river and its trade is another one.




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