LAHORE (31º-35'N, 74º-20'E), pronounced Lāhaur, provincial capital of West Punjab in Pakistan, lies on the left bank of the River Rāvī. Hindu tradition attributes its founding to Lava, son of Lord Rāma, but it is neither mentioned in the Greek accounts of Alexander's invasion (326 BC) nor described by Strabo (63 BC-AD 23?) or Pliny (AD 23-79). The earliest recorded mention is by the Chinese traveller, Hiuen Tsang, who visited it in AD 630. He describes it as a large Brāhmaṇical city. Alberūnī speaks of Lahore as a province, but not as a town. It must have been an unimportant town of the Hindushāhī kingdom at the close of the tenth century, for it was not the object of attack in any of Mahmūd of Ghaznī's plundering raids (997-1026). However, in 1036 Lahore was made capital of the Ghaznivid dominions east of the Indus, and during the reign of Masūd III (1099-1114) it became the capital of the empire. Since then Lahore has remained the capital of the whole or part of the Punjab. Muhammad of Ghor put it to ransom in 1181 and occupied it in 1186. During the Sultanate period (1206-1526), while it grew in importance, strategic as well as commercial, it had to bear the brunt of foreign invasions. The Mongols sacked it in 1241 and put it to ransom in 1246. Balban rebuilt it in 1270, but the Mongols hit it again in 1285. That Bābar ransacked it in 1524 is testified by a line in Gurū Nānak (1469-1539) : "For a pahar and a quarter, i.e. for about four hours the city of Lahore was given up to death and destruction" (GG, 1412). It was under the great Mughal emperors, Akbar, Jahāṅgīr, Shāhjahāṅ and Auraṅgzīb (1556-1707) that Lahore reached its zenith. Travel accounts of Europeans attest to its splendour during this period. The city grew both in area and population. Akbar enlarged and repaired the Fort and surrounded the town with a wall. Jahāṅgīr added the khwābgāh or sleeping chambers, the Motī Masjid or pearl mosque and the tomb of Anārkalī, sweet-heart of his youth whom, according to tradition, his father, Akbar, had maliciously bricked alive in a wall. Shāhjahāṅ added another smaller khwābgāh with several octagonal towers, the largest of which, Musamman Burj, with its Naulakhā pavilion and Shīsh Mahal, later became the reception chamber of Mahārājā Raṇjīt Singh. Other buildings constructed during the reign of Shāhjahāṅ (1627-58) and famous for their khāshī or inlaid pottery panelling work include mosques of Wazīr Khān and Dāī Aṅgā, and the Chauburjī Ḍeoṛhī or four turreted gateway built in 1641 by the princess Zeb un-Nisā, daughter of Auraṅgzīb. In the Lahore Fort the khāshī panelling covered a total surface of over 6,600 square metres. Shālāmār Gardens, 6 km east of the city, were laid out in 1667 by 'Alī Mardān Khān, the celebrated engineer of Shāhjahāṅ. Under Auraṅgzīb, however, Lahore began to decline. The only building of note added by him was the Jāmā Masjīd, besides a 5 km long embankment to prevent inundation caused by the River Rāvī, which however changed course soon after and left the town at a considerable distance. After a period of uncertainty with the invasions of Nādir Shāh and Ahmad Shāh Durrānī, Lahore regained its glory and importance under Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh, who occupied it in 1799 and made it his capital. After the annexation of the Punjab to the British empire in 1849, several innovations were introduced. For civil administration, a municipality was created in 1867, water works opened in 1881, rainage system was completed in 1883 and electricity soon after. Several schools and colleges appeared and the University of the Pañjāb was established in 1882. Lahore cantonment was separated from the civil station. Troops from the Anārkalī area moved to the new site, 5 km away, in 1851-52.

         Lahore's connection with Sikh history dates from the days of Gurū Nānak, who visited it during his travels across the country. Gurū Rām Dās (1534-81) was born in Lahore. Gurū Arjan's martyrdom (1606), a momentous event in the history of the nascent community, also took place here. Gurū Hargobind, Nānak VI, visited Lahore more than once. With the removal of the principal seat of gurūship to distant Kīratpur in the Sivālik foothills early in 1635, a direct clash with the provincial government of Lahore was averted during the following half century, but militarization of the Sikhs under Gurū Gobind Siṅgh (1666-1708) alerted the Lahore government. It sent out several expeditions against them reinforcing the Sirhind sarkār in whose jurisdiction the new Sikh centres, Kīratpur and Anandpur, fell. After the death of Gurū Gobind Singh, the entire Sikh population of the Punjab rose in open rebellion under the leadership, first of Bandā Siṅgh Bahādur and then under several local leaders subsequently organized into misls or fighting units which united to form the Dal Khālsā. The successive governors of Lahore tried to suppress the Sikhs. They were driven out of their homes and hunted out of their jungle resorts. Those captured in battle or through informers were brought to Lahore where they were herded together in dark, narrow cells, and tortured to death in what was known as Nakhās Chowk or market square for the buying and selling of horses. A shahīdgañj or memorial to the martyrs now marks the site. However, the Sikhs' power continued to increase. Barely five months after the Vaḍḍā Ghallūghārā or the great holocaust of 5 February 1762 in which the Sikhs lost over 20,000 men in a single day, they extended their depredations up to the walls of Lahore, while Ahmad Shāh Durrānī, the victor of Pānīpat in 1761, sat helpless at Kalānaur. On 16 May 1764, the Sikhs of the Bhaṅgī misl occupied Lahore itself, and although Ahmad Shāh retook it during his next invasion in December 1766, the Bhaṅgī chiefs reoccupied it on the return of the invader to his own country in July 1767, and ruled it for the next 30 years. Shāh Zamān, a grandson of Ahmad Shāh Durrānī, entered Lahore on 1 January 1797, but was forced to retreat homeward after twenty days. He again occupied it on 30 November 1798 but had to retire on 4 January 1799. This time, on his way back home, he gave Lahore to the Sukkarchakkīā chief, Raṇjīt Siṅgh, as a formal grant. Raṇjīt Siṅgh (later Mahārājā) occupied Lahore on 7 July 1799. Lahore remained the capital of the Punjab province after its annexation to the British dominions. On the partition of India in 1947, Lahore was allocated to Pakistan.

         Several historical Sikh shrines were located in Lahore. Some of them are being maintained by the Waqf Board of Pakistan and are occasionally visited by Sikh pilgrims from India. They include :

        (1) GURDWĀRĀ PĀTSHĀHĪ I within the walled city in mohallā Sirīāṅvālā commemorating the visit of Gurū Nānak and marking the site. where Seṭh Dunī Chand, a wealthy merchant,received instruction from him.

        (2) GURDWĀRĀ JANAM ASTHĀN GURŪ RĀM DĀS in Chūnī Maṇḍī locality marks the birthplace of Gurū Rām Dās, Nānak IV.

        (3) DHARAMSĀLĀ GURŪ RĀM DĀS and DĪWĀN KHĀNĀ GURŪ ARJAN SĀHIB are located in Chūnī Maṇḍī area.

        (4) GURDWĀRĀ DEHRĀ SĀHIB marking the site of the martyrdom of Gurū Arjan close to the Fort is the principal Sikh shrine of Lahore, and is one of the few gurdwārās in Pakistan which continued to be attended by Sikh officiants even after the partition of the country in 1947. Gurū Arjan, tortured to death under the orders of Emperor Jahāṅgīr, breathed his last on Jeṭh sudī 4, 1663 Bk/30 May 1606 in the River Rāvī which then flowed close to the Fort here. The shrine was established by Gurū Hargobind and the present building, a typical model of Sikh architecture, was raised by Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh. The death anniversary of the Gurū is still observed here on Jeṭh sudī 4 (May-June) every year.

        (5) SHĀHĪD GAÑJ BHĀĪ MANĪ SIṄGH commemorating the martyrdom in 1737 of Bhāī Manī Siṅgh also stands close to the Fort to the east of it.

        (6) BĀOLĪ SĀHIB, a well with steps leading down to water level, constructed by Gurū Arjan is in the Ḍabbī Bāzār area.

        (7) SHĀHĪDGAÑJ BHĀĪ TĀRŪ SIṄGH and SHAHĪD GAÑJ SIṄGHAṆĪĀṄ are also close to each other along Laṇḍā Bāzār, near the main railway station.

        (8) There are two gurdwārās dedicated to Gurū Hargobind. One is near Bhāṭī Gate and the other is in Muzaṅg in the southern suburbs of the city.

        (9) SAMĀDH (mausoleum) of MAHĀRĀJĀ RAṆJĪT SIṆGH, near Gurdwārā Dehrā Sāhib, has also become a place of pilgrimage for Sikhs. The Government of Pakistan permit large batches of Sikhs from India and other countries to forgather there to observe the death anniversary of the Mahārājā on 27 June every year.


  1. Baqir, M., Lahore Past and Present. Lahore, 1952
  2. Latif, S.M., Lahore. Lahore, 1892
  3. Thornton, T.H., and J.L. Kipling, Lahore. Lahore, 1876
  4. Imperial Gazetteer of India, Provincial Series, Punjab. Calcutta, 1908
  5. Punjab District Gazetteers, Lahore District. Lahore, 1916
  6. Mushtaq, M., "Lahore : Major Urban Regions", Pakistan Geographical Review. 1967

Ian J. Kerr