Picture of the Day: Reflecting on Lahore

Posted on July 5, 2006
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Architecture, Culture & Heritage, History, Photo of the Day, Religion
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Adil Najam

I had a tough time trying to decided which of Jawad Zakariya’s photographs to feature here today. I decided on this one because of the comments that were posted on this picture at Flcikr. The picture itself is of the Badshahi Mosque in Lahore, with Ranjit Singh’s Samadhi on the left, both reflected in some rain water.

I think it is a terrific picture, but many of the commentators on Flickr thought that, photographically, it would have been better if he had focused only on the mosque and removed Ranjit Singh’s Samadhi from the frame. As a photograph, it may well have been (and, in fact, he does have one of those too). But as social commentary, it would have lost its meaning. The beauty of this picture is that it so eloquently highlights something that many of us–even those of us who are from Lahore–can miss all too often: the multi-religious and religiously diverse history of Lahore.

Sitting side-by-side, these two pieces of architecture–the most glorious mosque built by the mighty Mughals and the mausoleum of Lahore’s greatest Sikh ruler–encapsulate the essence of Lahore as the multi-religious, multi-cultural metropolis that it was. Here is a captivating reminder of the social milieu in which Muslims and Islam–particularly in Lahore–developed in an earlier generation.

Jawad Zakariya is one amongst many of an amazingly talented generation of Pakistani photographers displaying their work on Flickr.com. His photographs have this ‘picture-perfect’ postcard quality to them (and not just because of the border he uses). In fact, the masthead displayed on ATP this first week of July is also from one of his photographs.

Originally uploaded by jzakariya on Flickr.com as ‘Shahi Reflection‘.

18 Comments on “Picture of the Day: Reflecting on Lahore”

  1. Omni says:
    July 5th, 2006 4:07 pm

    Hello from the United States!! :-)


  2. MSK says:
    July 5th, 2006 4:19 pm

    This is a powerful picture. And thanks, Adil, for pointing out the significance of having the two buildings in this. I must confess, I would have missed it myself. Thanks.

  3. Pakistani says:
    July 5th, 2006 5:59 pm

    How can you call Ranjit Singh ‘Lahore’s Greatest Sikh Ruler’. His reign was a reign of terror and mismanagement. Is Ranjit Singh someone you ‘Lahoris’ are proud of ?

  4. July 5th, 2006 7:25 pm

    I understand, and liked, the spirit behind the picture. Thanks.

  5. July 5th, 2006 7:39 pm

    Dear Pakistani, Maharaja Ranjit Singh was a great Punjabi ruler. He was not called ‘Sher-i-Punjab’ for nothing. He united the Punjab under one government and was able to become a major force in all of India, extending his rule as far north as Peshawar. His influence–architectural, cultural, and political–on today’s Punjab is profound… not only in Lahore, which was his Capital, but also in Amritsar. I am not sure what you mean by his reign of ‘terror’ (he was, to the extent that all rulers of his day, e.g., the Mughals, used terrible means to perpetuate their rule). However, this is the first I am hearing of his so-called mismanagement. So, do please tell us why you seem so offended by his mention?

  6. Owais Mughal says:
    July 5th, 2006 11:50 pm

    The photo definitely shows Pakistan’s religious tolerance. Same could not be said about Ranjeet singh for sure though. It is said that for a short time he had converted Badshahi mosque into horse stable. I was told this by the official English speaking guide at the mosque. Don’t know how true it is though. The Discovery Channel’s guide on Pakistan also blames Ranjit Singh as the person who laid the seeds of dispute in Kashmir by awarding the state of Jammu to Gulab Singh in 1819. Gulab Singh’s descendents continued to rule in Kashmir until 1952 when princely states were abolished.

  7. July 6th, 2006 1:47 am

    The story about Ranjit Singh turning parts of the Badshahi Mosque into a stable is often told, especially in Lahore. However, despite trying, I have not been able to get to the historical accuracy of the story (maybe some reader can help). For example, another story that is told equally often is about how on conquering Lahore (from other Sikhs) the first thing Ranjit Singh did was to go to the mosque to offer prayers and this won him the hearts of the Muslim population. Another version one finds is that, like most conquerors, he was initially quote brutal in Lahore but later realized that the way to rule his diverse population was to respect their practices and that eventually he became a much-loved figure. I imagine that there is some truth to all these versions but that none is exactly correct. My gut inclination is to assume that the use of the mosque as stable might have happened not by him but by the Sikh rulers who preceded him (who by all accounts were quite despotic, which is reportedly what led the ‘notables’ of Lahoreâ€

  8. sepoy says:
    July 6th, 2006 2:07 am

    As a historian, I must say that Ranjit Singh cannot be excised out of Lahore… as for the stable/mosque story… I have yet to find anything in contemporary sources.

    Nice pic!

  9. Altamash Mir says:
    July 6th, 2006 3:24 am

    Theres is story associated with Ranjit Singh’s foreign minister (a muslim) named Fakir Azizuddin, who had a meeting with the British Governor-General. When Lord Auckland asked Fakir Azizuddin which of the Maharaja’s eye was missing, he replied: “the Maharaja is like the sun and sun has only one eye. The splendour and luminosity of his single eye is so much that I have never dared to look at his other eye.” The Governor General was so pleased with the reply that he gave his golden wrist-watch to the Maharaja’s Minister at Simla.

  10. July 6th, 2006 5:03 am

    janaab, Lahore sirf Ranjeet Singh he nahin…. kuch masjid ki bhi baat karain….

  11. Chirag says:
    July 20th, 2006 5:18 pm

    TO ALLL MY BROTHERS AND SISTERS se this pic shows we alll are one . somewhere down the line we have same links.we all have been a target of politics lets unite! cos all of us have to go to one place tht is to god! and yes sab log mitti mein he millenge be it a muslim,hindu,christain,sikh allll of us are one!!!!!

  12. jas bains says:
    February 23rd, 2007 12:19 pm

    the stories of Ranjit being a tyrant originate from pakistani’s who seek to create an fundamentally islamic history of themselves and can not conseed to a person of another faith helping them in any way. Sad how to be pakistani now implies to hate india (vice versa also).

  13. Khuram says:
    February 7th, 2009 10:42 am

    I have no intention of disappointing Adil Najm or hurt his feelings about Ranjit and his rule but he needs to go back to a recent post, which for some reason I do not find now,showing 19th century photo of Lahore Railway Station.You will find here what Ranjit and his army did to Badshahi Mosque;http://www.ualberta.ca/~rnoor/gallery.html

  14. Raza Noor says:
    March 22nd, 2009 2:40 pm

    Since, my website has been sited here in one of the comments about Rnajit Singh, I felt it prudent to submit a comment of my own on what I have read about Lahore’s history and the fate of its historical monuments under different rules.

    Adil has already mentioned a few stories that exist about what happened with Badshahi Mosque under Ranjit Singh. As a Lahori, who has been reading quite a bit about its history, initially I was also guilty of falling under the exaggerated misconceptions about the Sikh rule (for me here, I will consider Ranjit Singh’s rule as the true Sikh rule as the rulers before him were a bunch of warlords or misls who were kicked out by him when he was invited to take the city by the populace). There appears to be some truth to the misuse of Mughal buildings under Ranjit but most of it was mainly due to the fact that much of that was going on before he came in. The story about Badshahi Mosque being turned into a stable stems from the time of the three Sikh warlords who had taken over Lahore. The pilfering of marble and stones from Mughal monuments from what I can formulate was not done for revenge purposes but for the lack of resources. With the British having taken control of much of what was east of Sutluj River, there was no marble available to be mined for buildings commissioned during Ranjit’s rule and therefore, it was taken from what was already available in previous constructions. At times, it was obtained from already decaying buildings as they had been looted already while at other times there were lapses of judgement in knocking about and damaging some of the preserved monuments. History books, mostly written during British Raj, even by non-Muslims are filled with crediting Ranjit Singh or his ministers for damaging Lahore’s monuments but that I think for the most part stems from the new regime discrediting the previous one.

    In my understanding, Lahore’s population owes much thanks to Ranjit for saving it from being completely plundered by the Sikh warlords and the Muslim Afghan looters and saving it from the clutches of the British for many years. His love for the city can be seen from the fact that he chose Lahore as his final resting place. One of the only two emperors who made Lahore their final abode, the other being Jahangir.

  15. June 12th, 2009 8:41 am

    The comments entered by various readers of ATP are anti Ranjit Singh and I don’t blame them. This is what we have been forced to read. Unfortunately most of us Pakistanis do not read much of history books and that too by different writers with different backgrounds. Unfortunately historians too have their own biases. The Muslims try to paint him as a despot who ruined the Muslim especially Mughal constructions in Lahore. The Sikhs believe he was an ideal Raja who had nothing wrong with him. Like any other being, he too had his positive as well as negative sides. But by and large he was a ruler who did justice to his subjects; irrespective of what religion they had.

    His foreign minister Fakir Syed Aziz-ud-din was a Muslim and he was the person who primarily contributed in framing of his foreign policy matters. His army generals were Sikhs, Hindus and Muslim too. I think barring the fact that he was a non Muslim, he is as much part of Lahore’s magnificent past as the one under Muslim rulers was. Again its so unfortunate that we see every thing through a religion tinted lens. We are all proud Muslims and as proud Pakistanis we should equally take pride in what is our Pakistani heritage, be it the Muslim, the Hindu or the Sikh one.

    Nayyar Hashmey

  16. Shameel Baloch says:
    September 26th, 2010 4:50 am

    It is great injustice to compare the Badshahi Mosque with the Samadhi of Ranjit Singh. From a pure architectural standpoint, by size and beauty alone, Ranjit Singh’s tiny Samadhi does not stand in front of the Badshahi Mosque. Secondly, from an architectural context alone, it is a crime to construct a building, which is out of context, next to a monument of architectural and historical significance. Ranjit Singh’s Samadhi is an encroachment built bang in the centre of the Roshnai gate, thereby destroying the entrance to Hazuri Bagh. Could it not have been built anywhere else in Lahore. It’s like constructing a building on the front gate of the Louvre or the Taj Mahal.

    Also, the damage to Lahore’s Mughal architecture by the Sikhs is a historical fact even recognized by the British. It was the British who first noted that the inlaid Jewels of Lahore Fort were taken away, indeed, stolen by the Sikhs and placed in the Golden Temple in Amritsar. It is also a fact that Ranjit Singh’s Army used the courtyard of the Badshahi Mosque as stables for its horses and placed canons on the four minarets of the Mosque from which they used to do canon practice on the Lahore Fort. It was Ranjit Singh who dismantled the Baradari from nearby Jehangir’s Tomb in Shahdara (cracking it in the process) and placing it in the middle of Hazuri Bagh where he used to hold his court.

    Facts are facts.

  17. Watan Aziz says:
    September 26th, 2010 5:19 am

    On the matter of historical facts, should this be written as Lahore’s greatest Sikh ruler or the greatest Sikh ruler of Lahore?

    Ranjit Singh hailed from Gujranwala.

  18. April 17th, 2015 11:08 am

    [...] Singh was the governor of Kashmir and NWFP at the time, representing Maharaja Ranjit Singh who sat in Lahore. He was a clever and ruthless administrator. His forces under the command of [...]

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