The origin of Lahore can be traced back somewhere between 1st and 7th centuries A.D. It is, however, inferred by historians that Lahore was actually founded by Loh e son of Rama, characterized as the Hindu god in Ramayana. According to Sir Robert Montgomery, Lahore rose to importance between 2nd and 4th centuries. According to the Greek geographer, Ptolemy, Lahore was founded somewhere at the end of the 1st century. According to the book ood-e-Aalamahore appeared as a town in 882 AD.
The people of Lahore, when they want to emphasize the uniqueness of their town say "Lahore is Lahore". The traditional capital of Punjab for a thousand years, it had been the cultural center of Northern India extending from Peshawar to New Delhi. This preeminent position it holds in Pakistan as well. 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.
The city as we know it today, reached its peak of glory during the Moghul rulers, especially in the reign of Akbar the Great, who made it his capital. His son, Jahangir, is buried in its outskirts and his mausoleum is one of the places frequented by tourists and Lahorites alike. Close by is the mausoleum of the famous Moghul Empress, Nur Jehan, who is known for introducing the rose plant and for initiating several cultural movements in the Sub-Continent.
Akbar the Great held his Court In Lahore for 14 years from 1584 to 1598, and built the Lahore Fort, as well as the city walls which had 12 gates. Some of these still survive. Jahangir and Shah Jehan, the builders of the Taj Mahal in Agra and the Shalamar Gardens in Srinagar and Lahore, built palaces and tombs. The last great Moghul Emperor, Aurangzeb (1838 - 1707) built Lahore's most famous monument, the great Badshahi Mosque. At that time the river Ravi, which now lies a few miles away from Lahore, touched the ramparts of the Fort and the Mosque. A stream still flaws there and is known as the "Old River". The Sikhs ruled it in the 18th and 19th centuries, and though it was their capital, they had a habit of damaging the Muslim monuments and took little interest in gardens. It is said that they took enough marble from the Moghul monuments of Lahore to build the Golden Temple at Amritsar twice over. Most of the gems that decorated the palaces and the forts were also taken out.
British were responsible for the desecration of many of Lahore's tombs and monuments. At one stage the Attorney General maintained an office at the Shah Chiragh Mosque, dak bungalows were built for the weekends at Shalamar Gardens. Anarkali's tomb was used as an office and later consecrated as a place of worship called St. Adrew's Church. It can also be conjectured that Lahore was an industrial center in the Moghul period. The famous guns which lie in front of the Central Museum and other places were molded in the foundries of Lahore. Their perfection shows that the industry was quite advanced. Within the walled city you may come across old Havelis or the spacious houses of the rich, which give you an inkling of the style of the rich and notables in the Moghul reign. Efforts are being made to preserve some of the buildings, along with their environments, but a great deal needs to be done to maintain them for posterity.
The British during their reign (1849 -1947) compensated Lahore, by harmoniously combining Mughal, Gothic and Victorian styles of architecture. Victorian heritage is only next to Mughal monuments. The GPO and YMCA buildings built to commemorate the golden jubilee of Queen Victoria - an event marked by the construction of clock towers and monuments all over India. They built some important buildings, like the High Court. the Government College, the Museums, the National College of Arts, Montgomery Hall, Tollinton Market, the Punjab University (Old Campus) and the Provincial Assembly. At one end of The Mall stands the University - perhaps the largest center of education in Asia. The city has built a new Campus in the quieter environments on the Canal Bank, but the old University buildings are still functioning.
Students from all over Pakistan come here to receive education. Their activities completely over shadow other aspects of the cultural life. Moti Masjid or Pearl Mosque beyond the audience hall was for the exclusive use of royal ladies carved from marble having the luster of pearls. Nearby "Naulakha", a marble pavilion is inlaid with floral motifs and precious gems. Sheesh Mahal (Palace of Mirrors) built in 1631 is the most richly decorated building inside Lahore Fort. it is named for the elaborate mosaic of convex mirrors set in Stucco work tracery and the gilded interior. Built by emperor Shah Jehan, for his empress and his harem, fretted marble work screens hiding the occupants from view. Lahore offers some delightful picnic spots. Tourists can find shady groves and green carpets at Shalamar Gardens, Jehangir's Tomb and the Jinnah Gardens, the Jallo Park the newly built lqbal Park and Changa Manga Forests. Boats can be hired at the river Ravi, or at Baradari, another of the river-side pleasure-houses built by the Mughals and an ideal place for relaxation.
Old Names of Lahore
- Samandpal Nagiri