The early history of Lahore is obscure, inauthentic and attributed to myths and tales. Virtually no historical reference of the city is available in travelogues, history books and archeological excavations Historical chronicles do not provide any account of such a city when Alexander’s forces traversed Punjab in 4th century B.C. There could have been a small town or settlement of Hindu “Shahiya” dynasty at the place where modern day Lahore exists, and of which a little reference is available in the travelogue of Chinese traveler Hieun Triang who visited India in 630 A.D. However, within the next few hundred years, Lahore would blossom into a cultural capital of the Indian Subcontinent.
The name of Lahore sparkled in historic references in 1021 A.D, when Mehmood of Ghazna conquered it from Trilochan Pala, King of Hindu Shahyia Dynasty of Kabul. His famous confidante slave Ayaz remained in charge of the city and he was the person who actually built city of Lahore to the zenith of an important town with a mud citadel around it. Lahore for the first time found the importance of the capital of Ghaznavid dominance east of Indus in 1036 A.D. and Ayaz later called Malik Ayaz, the founder of modern Lahore was appointed as Governor or “Hakim”. The first historic reference about Lahore is also found in a Muslim historian Al beruni’s book Tarikh-ul-Hind. Thus the modern, metropolis and cultural capital Lahore is a born Muslim city. The archaeological excavations made in 1959 in front of Dewan-e-Aam, Lahore Fort authenticate this view. The tomb of Malik Ayaz, the founder and first Governor of Lahore metropolis is in Rang Mahal area.
Lahore witnessed turbulence, peace and tranquility, cultural festivity, conquers devastations and destructions in different period of history. But it always remained important after its birth as metropolis in eleventh century. Its strategic importance had never even been ignored and it remained a provincial capital till date. Lahore attained its magnificence during Mughal period from 1521 to 1752 A.D. It fell to the forces of Ahmed Shah Abdali in 1572, there was a period of Chaos and confusion. Lahore escaped the horrors of Nadir Shah paying a sum of 20 Lacks but was plundered and looted by Sikh Sardar Lehna Singh of Bhangi Misal for more than 30 years. There comes Ranjit Singh and fifty years’ SIKH rule from (1798 – 1848). The Sikh rule after Ranjit Singh was turbulent and factional fighting destroyed peace and prosperity of Lahore and then finally the British took over it in 1848 and after 99 years of British rule Lahore became second largest city and cultural capital of Pakistan.
All major monuments, buildings, Havelis and gardens of Lahore are of Moughal period, during which Lahore touched its glory. The only contribution of Sikh period is Ranjit Singh Smadh. British ignored the walled city of Lahore and created a new Lahore on its southern side. This includes, The Mall, Civil lines and Cantonment. They constructed a number of buildings with an architecture blended with Muslim and Gothic motive. The walled city of Lahore, the original seat of political authority and cultural traditions is one of the most colorful cities of the region. A few like Isfhan and Dehli match a little to its excellence. The walled city has pages of history imprinted on its buildings, monuments, mosques and maize like network of streets. Colorful cultural life has shades of almost every ruling elite and generation like music, food, dance, political awareness, religious sentiments and poetic flair of common people.
This colorful social life of the walled city is on its rapid decay and unauthentic, irregular growth of buildings and plazas is replacing old ornamental beautiful buildings and has also played havoc to the picturesque beauty of walled city.
Lahore Through Centuries
850 – 900 A.D.
Lahore became the capital of a reigning Brahman family, though governed by the Governor of Multan
1000 – 1100 A.D.
Sabuktagin, the king of Ghazna invaded the country and defeated Raja Jai Pal the Monarch of Lahore in 998 A.D.
Mahmud Ghaznavi, the son of Sabuktagin, invaded Punjab and defeated Raja Jai Pal in 1001 A.D. Mahmud Ghaznavi invaded the Punjab again and defeated Raja Anand Pal the son of Raja Jai Pal in 1008 A.D.
Lahore was invaded by Nalatgin the governor of Multan in 1034 A.D. he was however, expelled within two years. Malik Ayaz, the founder of Ghaznavide dominions was made the governor of Lahore in 1036 by Mahmud Ghaznavi.
1100 – 1200 A.D.
During the reign of Masud II (1099 – 1114) Lahore was declared the capital of the Ghaznavi Empire. The Governor of Lahore Muhammad Bahlim rebelled in 1119 A.D. after the death of Masud II.
Muhammad Gahuri invaded Lahore in 1186 A.D.
1200 – 1300 A.D.
Muhammad Gahuri died in 1206 A.D. and Qutab-ud-din Aibak was crowned as Sultan at Lahore. Sultanate was established at Lahore and it became the capital.
Qutab-ud-din Aibak died in 1210 A.D. in Lahore
In 1211 Lahore became the bone of contention between Altamish at Delhi, Nasir-ud-din Kabacha at Multan and Taj-ud-din Yalduz at Ghazni,. Lahore was captured by Yalduz from Kabacha in 1215 but Altamish defeatred him in the following year and was master of the city. On the death of Altamish in 1236 A.D. Malik Ala-ud-din Jani of Lahore rebelled and was defeated and killed.
In the 13th centuray Lahore laid at the mercy of Mongols. It was captured by Mughals in 1241 A.D. and put to ransom in 1246 A.D. The city of Lahore was rebuilt by Balban in 1270 A.D. but in 1258 the Mongols returned again and in a battle Balban’s Prince Muhammad was killed at the banks of river Ravi and famous poet Amir Khusro was also arrested. Later on during the reign of Ala-us-din Khilji, Ghazi Malik, Tughlaq Shah was appointed the Governor of Lahore.
1300 – 1400 A.D.
Lahore was captured by Khokhars in 1342 A.D. and again in 1394 A.D. when it was recovered by Sarang Khan.
1400- 1500 A.D.
Lahore was captured by a detachment of Taimur’s army. Lahore was degenerated till it was rebuilt in 1422 AD by Mubarak Shah. In the same year Lahore was attacked by Khokhars again however the attack was repulsed and they tried their luck once again in1431 and 1432 AD but they failed to capture Lahore.
During the Khilji and Tughlaq period (1288 to 1414 A.D.) Lahore did not play any important role in the political history for almost 126 years.
The Mughals continued to ravage the surroundings of the country and also managed to penetrate till Delhi but were repulsed by Zafar Khan, the brave general of Alla-ud-din Khilji, in 1298 AD. By 1310 AD a large number of Mughals were settled outside Lahore and they named their town as Mughalpura. The Mughals were considered to be the richest settlers of the suburb.
Lahore enjoyed a period of peace under the Pathans. But during the reign of Ibrahim Lodhi, who was an ill-tempered emperor, many of the ‘Umerah’ (nobles) were disgusted at his ill-treatment with them. Exploiting the situation among the ‘Umerah’, Daulat Khan, the Governor of Lahore, revolted against Ibrahim Lodhi. In order to get rid of Ibrahim Lodhi, Daulat Khan invited Babar to invade India. When Babar reached Lahore, some of the Lodhi’s chieftains who were loyal to Ibrahim Lodhi, encountered Babar’s army. Because of this encounter, Babar thought that he was deceived by the Daulat Khan Lodhi. Inspite of the resistance, Lahore was captured by Babar in 1524 A.D. As he was infuriated by the encounter, he ordered the city of Lahore to be ransacked and some parts of Lahore were put on fire.
During the reign of Humayun, his younger brother took the possession of Lahore and became the ruler of Punjab, Kabul and Kandhar. Lahore served as the military headquarters during the struggle between Humayun and Sher Shah Suri.
In 1554 A.D. after an exile of fourteen years, Humayun returned victoriously to Lahore, where he was warmly welcomed by the inhabitants. After the death of Humayun, at Delhi, in 1556 A.D. and the succession of Akbar, the peace of Lahore was again messed up. This time by Hakim, the younger brother of Akbar, seized Lahore but was expelled soon. In 1581 A.D. he made another attempt but the siege was lifted by advance of Akbar in person.
From 1584 A.D. to 1598 A.D. Akbar made Lahore his headquarters and undertook the conquest of Kashmir and operations against Afghans.
The emperor constructed two buildings outside the city for the entertainment of devotees of every kind. One was called Kahirpur for Jews, Garbs (fire worshippers)and Muslims and other Dharampura for Hindus. He held weekly meetings in which Bir Bal, Abul Faizi and other independent thinkers were called. Akbar revived the old Persian festival in honor of the sun and appointed Abul Faizi the superintendent of the fire temples.
The literary circle was very active during Akbar’s rule. Muslim history from the earliest period till the thousandth year of Hijri was compiled, revised and finished by Akbar’s directives. The list of poets and divines, who wrote within the walls of Lahore between 1584 -1598 A.D., is too long, but there is one among them who deserves special attention in the history of Lahore, namely the historian Nizammuddin Ahmed the author of Tabaqat-e-Akbari.
Nizammuddin died in 1594 A.D. and was buried in his garden at Lahore. The tomb of this celebrity can no longer be traced. Todar Mal, Akbar’s able Revenue officer and Oriental Financer also died in Lahore.
In 1594, Akbar quit Lahore forever. During his reign, he enclosed Lahore with a strong 30 feet high wall. The fort was rebuilt and palaces were added. That was the golden period of Lahore and people enjoyed it.
A few years after Jahangir’s succession to the throne in 1605 A.D., his own son, Prince Khusro seized the suburbs of Lahore and besieged the fort with the involvement of the fifth Sikh Guru, Siri Arjan Dev.
Jahangir defeated his son at Lahore and set up his court in Lahore in 1622 A.D. The emperor however, died in 1627 and was buried in Lahore.
When Janahgir died, Shahjahan was in Deccan. Grabbing the opportunity, Shahr Yar, the son-in-law of Empress Noor Jahan, proclaimed himself as the emperor. He took custody of the treasury at Lahore and disturbed millions of rupees in order to win the favours of various chieftains. Shahjahan rushed back to Lahore, captured Shar Yar and Shahjahan was proclaimed as the emperor of Lahore in 1628 A.D. Lahore prospered between 1628 – 1657 A.D., and the city was being governed by capable persons like Mardan Khan and Hakim Illum-ud- Din known as Wazir Khan.
In 1638, Noor Jehan, the famous wife of Jahangir, died and was buried in Lahore close to her brother Asif and husband Jahangir’s tomb.
Shahjahan was attached to Lahore as it was his birthplace. The emperor held his courts at Lahore during 1628, 1631 and 1635 A.D. Shahjahan in 1638 A.D. graced Shalimar Gardens which were laid out on his orders. During Shahjahan’s period Lahore was at the height of its splendor.
Emperor Aurangzeb enters Lahore, but due to his preoccupation in the south, Aurangzeb did not give much time to Lahore.
The city of Lahore saw another uprising by Dara Shikoh (brother of Aurangzeb). He captured Lahore and distributed huge amount from the royal treasury among the nobles to win their favours, but this uprising was crushed by Aurangzeb himself.
In 1662 the city was damaged by river Ravi. On the orders of Aurangzeb, a massive embankment of brick-work was constructed for about 4 miles along the eastern bank of the river in order to protect the city.
The emperor held his courts in Lahore from 1668 – 1669 AD and ordered construction of the Basdhahi Mosque.
Emperor Aurangzeb ruled Lahore for fifty years (1658-1707) but for most of the time he was in Deccan. Soon after his death in 1707 A.D. Sikhs rose into insurrection and Lahore was once again under serious threat.
Bahadur Shah Zafar the last Mughal emperor and son of Aurangzeb marched into Lahore to crush the rebellion but died before defeating the militant Sikhs. So Lahore witnessed another war for throne between Jahandar and Azimushan the two sons of Aurangzeb. Azimushan was defeated and with that the decline of Lahore began. Ultimately Jahandar took possession of the throne. His life and rule was shortened by his nephew Farukhsher, son of Azimushan, who defeated him after seven months and killed him.
In 1738 A.D. the city if Lahore escaped the horrors of death and destruction as Nadir Shah was bribed heavily by the Governor of Lahore.
Lahore suffered extensively as it was again invaded by the Afghans particularly Ahmed Shah Abdali the successor of Nadir Shah. Lahore was finally sold to Bhangi Sikh Lanha Singh by Ahmed Shah Abdali in 1770 A.D.
The Bhangi Sardars plundered Lahore for more than thirty years and Lahore was invaded again in 1797 A.D. by Afghans, this time by Shahzaman, the grandson of Ahmed Shah Abdali.
Until the establishment of Sikh kingdom by Ranjit Singh, Lahore was subjected to periodical invasions. It was reduced from mighty city to a walled township.
At length the inhabited portion of the city was confined to the area surrounded by the wall of Akbar, and outside, were ruins and devastations. The only signs of life were two Sikh forts, built to overview the country.
1800 – 1900 A.D.
Ranjit Singh ruled Lahore (1798 to 1839). During the Sikh rule, Mughal monuments in Lahore suffered extensively. He also added many cities and towns to his dominions. Ranjit Singh turned the Sarai which separated the Fort and palace from the Badshahi Mosque into a private garden. Few un-slightly temples of Siva, were erected in honor of a favorite wife or dancing girl, along with some additions in the Lahore Fort that lacked aesthetics.
One of the latest specimen if Sikh architecture is the mausoleum of Ranjit Singh, his son and grandson.
Ranjit Singh died in 1839 in Lahore and successors ruled Lahore for next seven years.
East India Company transferred its powers to the British crown and Lahore in 1846 A.D. became the part of the British Empire.
The British rule continued till 1947 when Pakistan was made independent.