By Tania Qureshi
Daily Times : May 11, 2018
Don’t confuse this gate with the main entrance of Lahore Fort, Akbari Gate. Here I am telling you the story of the Walled City’s Akbari Gate which was named after the Mughal King Jalal-ud-Din Muhammad Akbar who was the third Mughal Emperor. From 1584 A.D. to 1598 A.D. Akbar made Lahore his headquarters and the fort was re-built with burnt bricks. That was the time when he added the thirty feet high city wall and thirteen gates. When the Sikh took over Punjab, Maharaja Ranjit Singh rebuilt the wall in 1812 and surrounded it with a deep broad ditch but the gates were there. Akbari Gate and the food grain market inside it both were named after Akbar as they were established in the same period. Another Akbari Gate is of the Lahore Fort which was the main entrance to the fort until the Alamgiri Gate was added by Aurangzeb Alamgir the successor of Shah Jahan.
Coming to the Akbari Gate of walled city Lahore, the original Mughal era gate was demolished when the British took over Punjab. Later in 1900s the gates were reconstructed by the British but the wall was demolished and a circular road with a garden was built which still exist today. In 1947, there were fierce riots in the city of Lahore that led to the destruction of many gates but Akbari Gate is said to survive till 1960s. The gate was completely destroyed and pulled down but the only tavern (inn) attached to it was left. The walls of the tavern were attached with the gate but there is no sign of the gate now, and even the location of the gate is lost. However, the Akbari Gate police station is housed in the old building of the inn. You can always go there and take a look at it while imagining its past glory. This Gate was located on the eastern side of the walled city between Delhi Gate and Mochi Gate of walled city and it is easily accessed from the circular road.
As you reach this gate you will see that it is one of the busiest places in Lahore because of the famous Akbari Mandi (market) outside the gate. The market goes up to Delhi Gate. Akbari Mandi is the largest spice market in Asia and the most interesting fact attached to it is that the British East India Company started the trade of spices from there
As you reach this gate you will see that it is one of the busiest places in Lahore because of the famous Akbari Mandi (market) outside the gate. The market goes up to Delhi Gate. Akbari Mandi is the largest spice market in Asia and the most interesting fact attached to it is that the British East India Company started the trade of spices from there. You must be thinking why this market was built outside the gate, well; this region of subcontinent was famous for the scrumptious spices and various grains. The market was located outside the gate so that the travelers and buyers can purchase items without entering into the city. The movement of capturing this place was started by the British in Akbar’s era as they made several requests to him for starting the trade. But the clever advisors of Akbar did not let it happen and thus the British East India Company became successful after several years when the Mughals were getting weaker. From then till now Akbari Mandi is the biggest spice market in Asia and you can also understand the historic significance of it.
The place is mesmerizing and breathtaking, you will find thousands of spices and grains there, some of which we have never seen in the greater Lahore. This is the only place where you would find every kind of item used in Asian cooking. The most fascinating scene in this gate is of the different modes of transportation that are operational there, the old ones and the new ones. There are horse, mule, and donkey driven carts carrying the loads of goods and items belonging to Akbari Mandi. The streets are so narrow that heavy vehicles cannot make their way into them and till now animal driven carts or hand carts are used.
The gate is heavily commercialized but still we come across several residential units. These are the havelis or ages old houses with beautiful architecture. Some streets will surely take you into the past. As you take your way inside the gate, and remaining on the main trail you will come across Bazaar Nohriyan. Taking a right from there you will go to Kharadi Mohallaha, Haveli Shamsher Singh and Sheeda Halwai Wali Gali. Now comes an interesting turn and from there the street will take you to Chitta Gate near Pir Said Suf Shrine and finally you will land at the Royal Trail where you will come across the magnificent Wazir Khan Mosque. Right there you will also see the Dina Nath’s Well and from there going towards Chowk Kotwali you can make your way straight to Lahore Fort crossing Pakistan Cloth Market, Azam Cloth Market and Chunna Mandi. This is an interesting route with Asia’s biggest cloth markets, shops and stalls of interesting eatable items.
Let me tell you another interesting route again from Bazaar Nohriyan. If you want to explore another path, from Bazaar Nohriyan you can take a left turn from where you will go to Chowk Nawab Sahib. Chowk Nawab Sahib named after the Nawab Ali Raza Qazalbash who was an aristocrat of Punjab. From this Chowk, you can go straight to the Mochi gate streets where you will see the Mubarak Haveli, Nisar Haveli and Mohalla Shian. Mochi gate is the next one from Akbari Gate and the interesting narrow winding streets can lead you there covering a short distance. Near Chowk Nawab Shah, is the Lakar Mandi from where again you can go to Royal Trail inside Delhi Gate through Chohatta Mufti Bakar. Imagine the networking of the city streets and trust me such cities are very rare in the world.
You will see interesting havelis, monuments, bazaars and shops on your way. The hospitable residents and traders of this city will welcome you and offer a cup of tea or lassi in these hot summers. This attitude of the people is a unique feature of walled city and I guess it is nowhere else in Pakistan. This place is a must visit site and it will be good if you plan a trip on Sunday or early morning during the week days as the traffic is horrible and I think the government needs to design a traffic management plan for encouraging tourists to visit these sites.