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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 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 as ‘Shahi Reflection‘.

17 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).

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