Lahore (/ləˈhɔːr/ lə-HOR; Punjabi: لہور [ˈlɔ̀ːɾə]; Urdu: لاہور [laːˈɦɔːɾ]) is the second most populous city in Pakistan after Karachi and 26th most populous city in the world, with a population of over 13 million. It is situated in the northeast of the country close to the International border with India. It is the capital of the province of Punjab where it is the largest city. Lahore is one of Pakistan’s wealthiest cities with an estimated GDP (PPP) of $84 billion as of 2019. It is the largest city and recent historic, modern-day cultural center of the wider Punjab region, and is one of Pakistan’s most socially liberal progressive, and cosmopolitan cities.
Lahore’s origins reach into antiquity. The city has been controlled by numerous empires throughout the course of its history, including the Hindu Shahis, Ghaznavids, Ghurids, and Delhi Sultanate by the medieval era. Lahore reached the height of its splendor under the Mughal Empire between the late 16th and early 18th century and served as its capital city for many years. The city was captured by the forces of the Afsharid ruler Nader Shah in 1739, then fell into a period of decay while being contested between the Afghans and the Sikhs. Lahore eventually became the capital of the Sikh Empire in the early 19th century and regained some of its lost grandeur. Lahore was then annexed to the British Empire and made the capital of British Punjab. Lahore was central to the independence movements of both India and Pakistan, with the city being the site of both the declaration of Indian Independence and the resolution calling for the establishment of Pakistan. It experienced some of the worst riotings during the Partition period preceding Pakistan’s independence. Following the success of the Pakistan Movement and the subsequent partition of British India in 1947, Lahore was declared the capital of Pakistan’s Punjab province.
Lahore exerts a strong cultural influence over Pakistan. It is a UNESCO City of Literature and a major center for Pakistan’s publishing industry; Lahore remains the foremost center of Pakistan’s literary scene. The city is also a major center of education in Pakistan, with some of Pakistan’s leading universities based in the city. For many years, Lahore was home to Pakistan’s film industry, Lollywood, though in recent years most filming has shifted to Karachi. Lahore is a major center of Qawwali music. The city also hosts much of Pakistan’s tourist industry, with major attractions including the Walled City, the famous Badshahi and Wazir Khan mosques, as well as several Sikh and Sufi shrines. Lahore is also home to the Lahore Fort and Shalimar Gardens, both of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Lahore’s modern cityscape consists of the historic Walled City of Lahore in the northern part of the city, which contains several worlds and national heritage sites. Lahore’s urban planning was not based on geometric design but was instead built piecemeal, with small cul-de-sacs, katrahs, and galis developed in the context of neighboring buildings. Though certain neighborhoods were named for particular religious or ethnic communities, the neighborhoods themselves typically were diverse and were not dominated by the namesake group.
Lahore’s urban typology is similar to other ancient cities in South Asia, such as Peshawar, Multan, and Delhi – all of which were founded near a major river, and included an old walled city, as well as a royal citadel.
By the end of the Sikh rule, most of Lahore’s massive haveli compounds had been occupied by settlers. New neighborhoods occasionally grew up entirely within the confines of an old Mughal haveli, such as the Mohallah Pathan Wali, which grew within the ruins of a haveli of the same name that was built by Mian Khan. By 1831, all Mughal Havelis in the Walled City had been encroached upon by the surrounding neighborhood, leading to the modern-day absence of any Mughal Havelis in Lahore.
A total of thirteen gates once surrounded the historic walled city. Some of the remaining gates include the Raushnai Gate, Masti Gate, Yakki Gate, Kashmiri Gate, Khizri Gate, Shah Burj Gate, Akbari Gate, and Lahori Gate. Southeast of the walled city is the spacious British-era Lahore Cantonment.
Lahore is home to numerous monuments from the Mughal Dynasty, Sikh Empire, and the British Indian Raj. The architectural style of the Walled City of Lahore has traditionally been influenced by Mughal and Sikh styles.
Sir Ganga Ram is considered the ‘Father of Modern Lahore’.
The leafy suburbs to the south of the Old City, as well as the Cantonment southwest of the Old City, were largely developed under British colonial rule, and feature colonial-era buildings built alongside leafy avenues.
By the arrival of the Sikh Empire, Lahore had decayed from its former glory as the Mughal capital. Rebuilding efforts under Ranjit Singh and his successors were influenced by Mughal practices, and Lahore was known as the ‘City of Gardens’ during the Ranjit Singh period. Later British maps of the area surrounding Lahore dating from the mid-19th century show many walled private gardens which were confiscated from the Muslim noble families bearing the names of prominent Sikh nobles – a pattern of patronage which was inherited from the Mughals.
While much of Lahore’s Mughal-era fabric lay in ruins by the time of his arrival, Ranjit Singh’s army plundered most of Lahore’s most precious Mughal monuments and stripped the white marble from several monuments to send to different parts of the Sikh Empire. Monuments plundered of their marble include the Tomb of Asif Khan, the Tomb of Nur Jahan, and the Shalimar Gardens were plundered of much of its marble and costly agate. The Sikh state also demolished a number of shrines and monuments laying outside the city’s walls.
Sikh rule left Lahore with several monuments and a heavily altered Lahore Fort. Ranjit Singh’s rule had restored Lahore to much of its last grandeur, and the city was left with a large number of religious monuments from this period. Several havelis were built during this era, though only a few still remain.
As the capital of British Punjab, British colonialists made a lasting architectural impression on the city. Structures were built predominantly in the Indo-Gothic style – a syncretic architectural style that blends elements of Victorian and Islamic architecture, or in the distinct Indo-Saracenic style. The British also built the neoclassical Montgomery Hall, which today serves as the Quaid-e-Azam Library.
Lawrence Gardens were also laid near Civil Station and were paid for by donations solicited from both Lahore’s European community, as well as from wealthy locals. The gardens featured over 600 species of plants and were tended to by a horticulturist sent from London’s Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew.
The British authorities built several important structures around the time of the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1887 in the distinct Indo-Saracenic style. The Lahore Museum and Mayo School of Industrial Arts were both established around this style. Other prominent examples of the Indo-Saracenic style in Lahore include Lahore’s prestigious Aitchison College, the Punjab Chief Court (today the Lahore High Court), the Lahore Museum, and the University of Punjab. Many of Lahore’s most important buildings were designed by Sir Ganga Ram, who is sometimes called the “Father of modern Lahore.”
Parks and Gardens
The Shalimar Gardens were laid out during the reign of Shah Jahan and were designed to mimic the Islamic paradise of the afterlife described in the Qur’an. The gardens follow the familiar charbagh layout of four squares, with three descending terraces.
The Lawrence Garden was established in 1862 and was originally named after Sir John Lawrence, a late 19th-century British Viceroy to India. The Circular Garden, which surrounds the Walled City on three sides, was established in 1892.
The many other gardens and parks in the city include Hazuri Bagh, Iqbal Park, Mochi Bagh, Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park, Model Town Park, Race Course Park, Nasir Bagh Lahore, Jallo Park, Lahore Zoo Safari Park, Changa Manga, a man-made forest near Lahore in the Kasur district. Another example is the Bagh-e-Jinnah, a 141-acre (57 ha) botanical garden that houses entertainment and sports facilities as well as a library.