Thursday, February 3, 2011

Lahore : A Heart of Punjab Pakistan

 Lahore is Pakistan's second largest city, and the capital of the north-eastern Punjab province. It is widely considered the country's cultural capital. The heart of Lahore is the Walled or Inner City, a very densely populated area of about one square kilometre. Founded in legendary times, and a cultural centre for over a thousand years, Lahore has many attractions to keep the tourist busy.















 Attractions
There are many noteworthy attractions in Lahore and visitors should aim for at least two full days site seeing. Attractions include Lahore Fort, Shalamar gardens, Badshahi Mosque and Lahore Museum. Another activity of interest to visitors is attending a cricket game. The Gadaffi Stadium located in Lahore hosts international games. Cricket is a game that Pakastanis are passionate about and the games are attended by lively crowds. Shopping Bazaars are an exciting experience and there are many to chose from, such as Kashmiri, Suha, Anarkali, Ichra and Chatta. At the bazaars you can find all you could wish for, such as bracelets, clothes and tea. Go treasure hunting amongst the hustle and bustle of the crowds to find the perfect souvenir. There are shopping centers that are worth a visit, such as New Auriga Shopping Centre and Saliq trade Center.


Accommodation

There is a variety of accommodation options to suit all budgets. Cheaper guest houses are the ideal way to meet other travelers. Dorm rooms are also available in budget lodgings, and middle range accommodation is available for visitors seeking something more comfortable. For visitors wanting to relax in luxury there are upmarket hotels in Lahore.

Transport


You can reach Lahore overland by bus or train. Located in Lahore is a busy International Airport, making traveling to Lahore by plane an option. Travel around the city by auto rickshaws, which have negotiable fares. It is best to travel to the city center by auto rickshaw and from there explore the tourist attractions by walking. There is a public bus system, but it can be difficult to negotiate if you are not familiar with the bus routes. Taxis are another option, but most of them do not have meters.

Language

Punjabi and Urdu are the common languages spoken in Lahore, although Lahore has a high level of education and English is widely spoken. Visitors to Lahore should be able to get by speaking English, especially in tourist areas.


History
Legend has it that it was founded about 4,000 years ago by Loh, son of Rama, the hero of the Hindu epic, the Ramayana. Reminiscence of its hoary past are the remains of a subterranean temple attributed to Rama, in the northern part of the Royal Fort. Historically, it has been proved that Lahore is at least 2,000 years old. After Islam came to South Asia, it became a center of learning, and attracted some of the region's greatest mystics, writers and artists. The people of Lahore, when they want to emphasize the uniqueness of their town say “Lahore, Lahore aye” (”Lahore is Lahore”). Lahore is the city of poets, artists and the center of film industry. It has the largest number of educational institutions in the country and some of the finest gardens in the continent.Apart from being the cultural and academic center of the country, Lahore is the showcase for Mughal architecture in Pakistan. For more than 200 years, beginning from about 1524 AD, Lahore was a thriving cultural center of the great Mughal Empire. Mughal Emperors beautified Lahore, with palaces, gardens and mosques.

Hieun-tasng, the famous Chinese pilgrim has given a vivid description of Lahore which he visited in the early parts of the 7th century AD. Lying on the main trade and invasion routes to South Asia, Lahore has been ruled and plundered by a number of dynasties and hordes. Muslim rule began here when Qutub-ud-din Aibak was crowned in Lahore in 1206 and thus became the first Muslim Sultan of the subcontinent. It waxed and waned in importance during the Sultanate.

However, it touched the zenith of its glory during the Mughal rule from 1524 to 1752. The Mughals, who were famous as builders, gave Lahore some of its finest architectural monuments, many of which are extinct today.

It was Akbar’s capital for 14 years from 1584 to 1598. He built the massive Lahore Fort on the foundations of a previous fort and enclosed the city within a red brick wall boasting 12 gates. Jahangir and Shah Jahan (who was born in Lahore) extended the fort, built palaces and tombs, and laid out gardens.

Jahangir loved the city and he and his wife Noor Jahan are buried at Shahdara. Aurangzeb (1658-1707), gave Lahore its most famous monument, the Badshahi Masjid (Royal Mosque) and the Alamgiri gateway to the fort.

During the eighteenth century, as Mughal power dwindled, there were constant invasions. Lahore was a suba, a province of the Empire, governed by provincial rulers with their own court. These governors managed as best they could though for much of the time it must have been a rather thankless task to even attempt. The 1740s were years of chaos and between 1745 and 1756 there were nine changes of governors. Invasions and chaos in local government allowed bands of warring Sikhs to gain control in some areas.

Lahore ended up being ruled by a triumvirate of Sikhs of dubious character and the population of the city invited Ranjit Singh to invade. He took the city in 1799. Holding the capital gave him enough legitimacy to proclaim himself the Emperor. Descriptions of Lahore during the early 19th century refer to it as a “melancholy picture of fallen splendor.”

The British, following their invasion of Lahore in 1849, added a great many buildings in “Mughal-Gothic” style as well as bungalows and gardens. Early on, the British tended to build workaday structures in sites like the Fort, though later they did start to make an effort to preserve some ancient buildings. The Lahore Cantonment, the British residential district of wide, tree-lined streets and white bungalows set in large, shaded gardens, is the prettiest cantonment in Pakistan. Since Independence in 1947, Lahore has expanded rapidly as the capital of Pakistani Punjab.

All this makes Lahore a truly rewarding experience. The buildings, the roads, the trees and the gardens, in fact the very air of Lahore in enough to set the mind spinning in admiration.A poet has written about this phenomenon one experiences in the environs of Lahore. When the wind whistles through the tall trees, when the twilight floods the beautiful face of the Fort, when the silent canal lights up to herald the end of another chapter in history, the Ravi is absorbed in harmony, mist fills the ancient streets, and the havelis come alive with strains of classical music, the spirit of Lahore pervades even the hardiest of souls.

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