The Public Sculptures of Historic Lahore

Posted on April 17, 2007
Filed Under >Raza Rumi, Architecture, Culture & Heritage, History, Society, Travel
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Lajpat Rai Statute moved from lahore to SimlaRaza Rumi

Lahore’s eclectic past was dazzling. Prior to the partition of India, it was a cosmopolitan centre and later retained its primacy as Pakistan’s cultural capital though it lost its inclusive atmosphere. This is a city where Bapsi Sidhwa’s characters lived, Allama Iqbal wrote and recited his high-poetry and Amrita Sher-Gil painted her immortal compositions.

Years of British rule also resulted in erection of sculptures at public places, not an uncommon practice in the Empire. Most of these relics of the past are no more. Some have been conserved while others were removed.

Another prominent sculpture was that of Lala Lajpat Rai (1865-1928), that stood near the famous Kim’s Gun or zamazama – the surviving cannon on the Mall, Lahore. Rai, while leading a procession with Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya to demonstrate against the Simon Commission, faced brutal baton charge and died of fatal injuries on November 17, 1928.This statue is no more there and was moved to Simla and re-erected there in 1948.

The statue of Professor Alfred Woolner, professor of Sanskrit, and vice-chancellor of Punjab University (1928 and 1936) still stands in Lahore outside the University of the Punjab on the Mall, Lahore. Perhpas the only one at a public place.

Victoria statue now in Lahore museumWoolner statue outside Punjab Univeristy Lahore

The statue of Queen Victoria at the Charing Cross, installed in 1902, is in the Lahore Museum now.

The statue of Sir John Lawrence, the first Governor of the Punjab and later the Governor General of British India (1864-69), holding a sword in one and pen in the other hand, was erected in front of the Lahore High Court. This statue, created by Sir Joseph Boehme, was inaugurated sometime in 1887. On the base of this statue was inscribed Will you be governed by the pen or sword?’

During 1920s, there was an agitation for the removal of this statue, which the Lahorites considered a disgrace to the nationalist movement for India’s independence. Luckily, this statue survived and probably can be found in Foyle College (now Foyle and Londonderry College) with a broken sword in one hand, damaged during an agitation in Lahore. Further, one statue of Lawrence stands in Waterloo Place in central London and another in Calcutta.

A leading philanthropist of Lahore who symbolised its cosmopolitan past was Sir Ganga Ram. Sir Ram’s statue was also on the Mall road – a befitting tribute to a man whose landmarks still survive in Lahore. What happened to this statue has been narrated by Saadat Hassan Manto, the celebrated Urdu short story writer, in one of his short stories on the frenzy of communal riots of 1947. Manto writes that an inflamed mob in Lahore, after attacking a Hindu mohalla, ‘turned to attacking the statue of Sir Ganga Ram, the Hindu philanthropist. They first pelted the statue with stones; then smothered its face with coal tar. Then a man made a garland of old shoes climbed up to put it round the neck of the statue. The police arrived and opened fire. Among the injured were the fellow with the garland of old shoes. As he fell, the mob shouted: “Let us rush him to Sir Ganga Ram Hospital.” How very ironic!

There was also a sculpture of King Edward (VII) riding a horse. This statue had been erected in front of the front of the King Edward Medical College, but it is no more there.

I respect the opinion of those who hold that sculptures are not in strict accordance with Islamic tradition. A sensible way is to preserve them as pieces of heritage like what has happened in Iran. I often wonder why public sculptures exist in Muslim majority countries such as Indonesia or Bangladesh?

Raza Rumi is an international development professional and an avid literati. More can be found at Raza Rumi’s blog: Jahane Rumi. The author is grateful to Sheraz Haider for his research on this subject.

23 Comments on “The Public Sculptures of Historic Lahore”

  1. Anwar says:
    April 17th, 2007 9:08 am

    There is always something nice to know and learn about Pakistan on this site. I was pleasantly surprised to read this post.
    Scattered around the country there are ample historic markers of the philanthropic contributions of “infidels” that need to be recognized and honored.
    Those who live in the past stay there and those who learn from the past move forward. Let us hope that by honoring these great people the new generation of Pakistanis will follow their example to a better tomorrow.

  2. Mohammad N Awan says:
    April 17th, 2007 10:32 am

    Though I was only familar with the name of Sir Ganga Ram as an enginner and philinthropist who built Sir Ganga Ram Hospital and Horse train but today I got more information from your website. All the historic buildings which are the pride of lahore were designed by him. there is also Sir Ganga Ram hospital in Dehli also. We should preserve our heritage.

  3. Daktar says:
    April 17th, 2007 11:08 am

    I am glad to hear that the Lajpat Rai and John Lawrence statues are safe and have been moved elsewhere. One day, I hope, that we will be able to acknowledge every part of our heritage and develop the self-confidence as a nation to embrace all aspects of our identity without thinking that doing so will somehow threaten our current identity.

  4. Pervaiz Munir Alvi says:
    April 17th, 2007 11:58 am

    In Lahore at the old Charing Cross, on a grassy knoll in front of the Assembly Hall stands a beautiful white marble Gazebo or canopy that used to house the statue of Queen Victoria. The land mark locals used to refer as ‘Malka Da Buut’. In our religious fervor we removed the statue and placed a copy of Quran under the canopy in a glass box. The process is commonly known as ‘Islamisation’.

  5. Farrukh says:
    April 17th, 2007 12:14 pm

    Interesting that the toop (Kim’s gun) remains but statues of philanthropists disappear. I guess guns do express our current predicament better than philanthropy!

  6. April 17th, 2007 2:02 pm

    I have no idea why public sculptures should be trashed just because a few extremist “scholars” have an issue with them.

    We need to get out of this medieval nonsense.

    In our foolish efforts to go back to the 7th century, we are having to destroy much of our heritage from the 19th and 20th centuries.

  7. Raza Rumi says:
    April 17th, 2007 3:58 pm

    It is heartening to see the variety of comments here. This is what makes me an optimist! Thanks to all for raising a voice in favour of protecting our heritage and honouring history.

  8. Hamza says:
    April 17th, 2007 5:53 pm

    Mr Rumi, I wish I could share your optimism. While I am all in favor of protecting our historical landmarks, public statues and sculptures alike, there are a small but increasingly powerful few in our society that are committed to imposing their views on us all. Given the power of the IJT on the workings of Punjab University, how soon will it be before the last remaining public statue in Pakistan is removed? I’ll leave that as a rhetorical question. Yet, given the increasing extremism in our society, aka Lal Masjid, and the government’s unwillingness to combat it, it may be sooner than we think.

  9. Ahmed2 says:
    April 17th, 2007 10:39 pm

    Thanks Rumi for a beautiful and nostalgic post. Sadly, I share Hamza’s pessimism. Even 8 swallows (here) do not make a summer.

  10. Samdani says:
    April 18th, 2007 1:39 pm

    I am much more optimistic than others.

    The fact that we are talking about it is one sign. The sculptires of Pakistani movement leaders in Islamabad that we were talking about last week was another. And I hear there is now a thriving sculpture department at NCA in Lahore and elsewhere. I think teh national is fianlly awakening and coming to its senses after the dark ages of Zia and his friends.

  11. Pervaiz Munir Alvi says:
    April 18th, 2007 2:09 pm

    “….after the dark ages of Zia and his friends.”

    General-President Zia-ul-huq’s body may not have been recovered from the 1988 air crash, but his long shadow still casts over much of Pakistan. Almost all of the present social ills in Pakistan could be traced back to the ‘Zia era’. Let us not forget that Mian Mohammad Nawaz Sharif was a protege of Zia. Even today Zia’s son Mr. Ijaz-ul-huq is a federal minister of the religious affairs in the present ‘enlightened and moderate’ government of another General-President. Rascals in, Rascals out. Place a statue in a public place and hooligans will destroy it overnight.

  12. April 19th, 2007 2:21 am

    I agree with Alvi sahib.

    The Zia era was indeed a time of social regression and ossification.

  13. Zobaria says:
    April 19th, 2007 9:45 am

    Very informative post. Evokes the memories of my childhood when I would accompany my father and bother for a walk in the evening. Passing by Woolner’s statue, my brother, always the eager teacher and storyteller, made it a point to makeup a story about Woolner and saying that I better believe it. I did … until now when you have told me the truth. I will take my brother to task for it. Thank you!!!

  14. Wasiq says:
    April 27th, 2007 11:06 am

    I agree with comments about the long shadow of General Zia but let us get this straight.

    Zia gave a specific direction to Islamization and empowered the Mullahs. But he did not “invent” bigotry in Pakistan. Bigotry was alive and well from day one, as the Manto story cited above bears out.

    The partition riots, the Anti-Ahmediya agitation of 1953, and the frequent anti-Hindu actions in esrtwhile East Pakistan were all orchestrated and encouraged by pre-Ziaul Haq rulers (including, of all people, Generals Ayub Khan and Yahya Khan).

  15. basit says:
    August 30th, 2007 11:11 am

    I agree with Alvi sahib.

    The Zia era was indeed a time of social regression and ossification.

  16. September 17th, 2007 3:51 am

    This is just the right way to document various cultural values related to the various urban sculptures of Lahore . People should be aroused to document and preserve the Cultural Heritage of Lahore on various e-forums, for the world to relive the glorious past of this rich and diverse ancient city.
    These personal experinces and perceptions about the layers and layers of cutural landscapes of Lahore are important for better understanding of this city.

  17. Yasir Butt says:
    December 6th, 2007 5:05 am

    It is pivotal effort from you, to provide us a flavour of our history (especially of lahore)
    In my view we should praise our heros regardless they muslim, hindu, or sikh.
    I have great regards for all great angels such as Sir Ganga Ram,
    Husband of Gulab daivi, and son of Shaukat Khanum


  18. sohail shahzad says:
    December 7th, 2007 2:25 pm

    Sir Ganga Ram is really a pride not only for us Lahorites but for all the Pakistanis. He is indeed an example for all of us today who are most of the time busy in material pursuits but unfortunately have no sense of sacrifice and sharing. I wish we recognise the services of Sir Ganga Ram and many more like him in a better way …

  19. Maria says:
    September 10th, 2009 5:10 am

    Hi,, I iked your blog… can u please tell me the name of the short stor of Manto in which he narrated this event?

  20. anyz says:
    October 15th, 2009 3:02 am

    I heared Sir Ganga Ram family is still supporting the Sir Ganga Ram hospital financially.

  21. Ron says:
    December 17th, 2009 8:15 am

    Ever wondered why non-Muslim relics in orthodox Muslim countries are either decimated or relegated to oblivion, vis-a-vis Muslim structures in non-Muslim countries? Food for thought, huh?

  22. annie says:
    March 26th, 2010 1:23 am

    Thanks for sharing this interesting and very informative article.

  23. behzad says:
    April 17th, 2011 2:34 pm

    I am visiting this blog first time.. awesome theme and material… plus this lahore post i liked the most….

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