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Lahore's Sheranwala Gate




In the good old days there were three important gates in Lahore, towards the River Ravi: Kashmiri Gate, Sheranwala Gate and Yaki Gate.

The Ravi used to flow right by the front of Sheranwala Gate. It was built during the era of Akbar. During the days of the Sikh Empire, it was damaged as the other gates were, but the British Raj rebuilt this one in particular. This gate is at the south-eastern part of the city wall. We can see the building of Khdamudin Bint Public School, and Molvi Ahmad Ali Masjid and at the left side there is Govt Islamia High School Shairanwala situated, it was built by Anjuman Himait e Islam in 1889. On the outer side of gate Masjid Ghosia Hanfia Bagh wali is located.

The old name of this gate is Khizri Gate; its been said that Hazrat Khizer stepped in the River Ravi after passing through this gate. Now it is called Sheranwala gate (Lions gate). Tthe reason for this name is that in the era of the Emperor Ranjit Singh, cages of his two lions were put there. During the British rule, the cages were removed but the name remains the same.

The main path of this gate is steep and the reason is the gate's proximity to the river. This path leads to the Pakistan Cloth Market, where the Old Court Yard is located, and Masjid Wazir Khan is also nearby. An expert describes the map of the gate as  consisting of one main thoroughfare going through it, with two rooms built on each side. The structure of the gate is different from the others  because there is no window as the Delhi or Lohari gates have. And it is a single story building. There are two pillars on the outer side supporting the arch. The ceiling is built slightly higher. These days this gate is a victim of deviations and it has lost its original facade. If it remains neglected, it might even lose its original character completely.

The Chuna Market located inside the gate has always got governmental importance. In 1822, during the Sikh Era, the Ravi used to flow beside the gate. Maharaja Ranjit Singh had 444 lions. About 77 acres of land was specified for these lions near Ram Gali (street), outside the gate at the bank of river. After 1830, due to some geographical changes, the river changed its course. With the change of flow a large area become dry.

In 1840, the District Police Lines centre was built over here by its founder, Hawaldar Subhan Khan. That is why the Sheranwala Gate area has has been devided into three parts: Khizri Mohala, Line Subhan Khan, and Nawan (new) Mohala.

It was a trend in Lahore that saints and holy men who built mosques near the gates of the city, lived there. This gate has also been a point of attraction for both political and film personalities.

Many grand mansions were built inside the area by Maharaja Ranjit Singh: the mansions of Khushal Singh and Dhyan Singh situated in the Chuna Market being the most notable. Today these buildings are used as educational institutes under the name of "Govt Fatima Jinah College for Women".

The current building of the college reflects the great art work done in the Sikh Era. In 1864,  classes of Government College Lahore were conducted in these buildings, and they used as such till 1877. The college was then shifted to a new building and the older, historical buildings suffered through neglect.

In 1986, the heritage buildings were given to the Education Department and the Girl's College came into being then.

This gate is full of historic heritage. The streets and the old building have many tales to tell of the old days and the characters who peopled the city then. But they are continue to be in dire need of conservation. 

In the meantime, the old structures are being further damaged through deviations and illegal construction. If no serious steps are taken forthwith, we may not have them around for long.  


[Courtesy: The Daily Jang, My Land Pakistan]

February 7, 2010

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